At my fiftieth attempt to enter into conversation with him, I unexpectedly succeeded. I believe I was indicating the points of interest. You can see farther in Arizona than any place I know, so there was no difficulty about that. I’d pointed out the range of the Chiracahuas, and Cochise’s Stronghold, and the peaks of the Galiuros and other natural sceneries; I had showed him mesquite and yucca, and mescal and soapweed, and sage, and sacatone and niggerheads and all the other known vegetables of the region. Also I’d indicated prairie dogs and squinch owls and Gambel’s quail and road runners and a couple of coyotes and lizards and other miscellaneous fauna. Not to speak of naming painstakingly the ranches indicated by the clumps of trees that you could just make out as little spots in the distance—Box Springs, the O.T., the Double H, Fort Shafter, and Hooper’s. He waked up and paid a little attention at this; and I thought I might get a little friendly talk out of him. A cowboy rides around alone so much he sort of likes to josh when he has anybody with him. This “strong silent” stuff doesn’t go until you’ve used around with a man quite some time.
I got the talk, all right, but it didn’t have a thing to do with topography or natural history. Unless you call the skate he was riding natural history. That was the burden of his song. He didn’t like that horse, and he didn’t care who knew it. It was an uncomfortable horse to ride on, it required exertion to keep in motion, and it hurt his feelings. Especially the last. He was a horseman, a jockey, he’d ridden the best blood in the equine world; and here he was condemned through no fault of his own to straddle a cross between a llama and a woolly toy sheep. It hurt his pride. He felt bitterly about it. Indeed, he fairly harped on the subject.
“Is that horse of yours through bucking for the day?” he asked at last.
“Certain thing. Tiger never pitches but the once.”
“Let me ride him a ways. I’d like to feel a real horse to get the taste of this kangaroo out of my system.”
I could see he was jumpy, so I thought I’d humour him.
“Swing on all at once and you’re all right,” I advised him. “Tiger don’t like fumbling in getting aboard.”
He grunted scornfully.
“Those stirrups are longer than the ones you’ve been using. Want to shorten them?”
He did not bother to answer, but mounted in a decisive manner that proved he was indeed a horseman, and a good one. I climbed old crow bait and let my legs hang.
The jockey gathered the reins and touched Tiger with his heels. I kicked my animal with my stock spurs and managed to extract a lumbering sort of gallop.
“Hey, slow up!” I called after a few moments. “I can’t keep up with you.”
Brower did not turn his head, nor did Tiger slow up. After twenty seconds I realized that he intended to do neither. I ceased urging on my animal, there was no use tiring us both; evidently the jockey was enjoying to the full the exhilaration of a good horse, and we would catch up at Box Springs. I only hoped the boys wouldn’t do anything drastic to him before my arrival.