“What do you make it to be?” asked Jerry, as Ned was staring through the glass.
“Yes, steers. Thousands of ’em. And they seem to be headed this way.”
“Let me take a look,” said Jerry. “You’re right,” he added, after an inspection. “They seem to be coming on rather fast, too. I guess we’d better get out of here. Cattle on the prairies don’t like to see persons who are not on horseback. They are not used to a man unless he’s mounted, and I’ve read that a man on foot may cause a stampede.”
“I hope they don’t run in this direction,” remarked Bob. “It’s going to be unpleasant for us if they do.”
“We’d better get out of here,” advised Ned. “Come on, fellows.”
“That’s easier said than done,” retorted Jerry.
“The cattle are all around us. I don’t see how we’re going to get through them. If we go too close we may stampede ’em at once, whereas, if we stay here, they may pass by us, or change their direction.”
“What’s the matter with the cowboys?” asked Rob. “Why don’t they head the animals the other way when they see we’re right in the path?”
“Probably the cattlemen are on the outer edges of the herd,” said Jerry. “The cowboys can’t see us, and they’re simply driving the steers on.”
“But what makes them go in a circle?” asked Bob.
“Probably the men are driving them all in to a central point to take account of stock, or something like that,” was Jerry’s answer. “But, instead of standing here talking of it we’d better be doing something. What do you advise, Professor?”
Uriah Snodgrass, who had discovered some queer kind of a jumping bug in the grass, had lost all interest in the approaching steers, but, at this question, he looked up.
“What did you ask?” he said, making a grab for the bug, and catching it.
“What do you think we’d better do?” asked Ned. “This is getting serious.”
“What is? Oh, the steers. Why, they are getting a little too close, aren’t they?”
They were, for a fact, and the animals in the foremost ranks, catching sight of the little party on the hill, broke into awkward gallop. As far as the boys could see, they beheld nothing but waving tails, heaving heads, armed with long sharp horns, and the movement of brown bodies, as the thousands of steers came on with a rush.
“We’d better—” began the professor, who was walking slowly along, his eyes fixed on the ground, in search for another of the queer bugs. “Look out!” he suddenly cried. “Stand back boys!”
Hardly had he spoken than there sounded, high and shrill above the dull rumble of the oncoming cattle, a queer, buzzing noise.
“Rattlesna " exclaimed Ned.
“Yes, a whole nest of them, in a prairie dog’s hole,” added the professor. “I nearly stepped into them. There must be thirty or forty.”
The boys looked to where he pointed. There, in a sort of depression, near a little hollow, on the edge of what is called a prairie dog village, they saw an ugly wiggling mass, which, as their eyes became more used to the colorings, was seen to be a number of the deadly rattlesnakes.