Tales of Lonely Trails by Zane Grey
Chapter III. Roping Lions in the Grand Canyon
A strange procession soon emerged from Left Canyon and stranger to us than the lion heads bobbing out of the alfagoes was the sight of Navvy riding in front of the lions. I kept well in the rear, for if anything happened, which I calculated was more than likely, I wanted to see it. Before we had reached the outskirts of pines, I observed that the piece of lasso around Spitfire's nose had worked loose.
Just as I was about to make this known to Jones, the lion opened a corner of his mouth and fastened his teeth in the Navajo's overalls. He did not catch the flesh, for when Navvy turned around he wore only an expression of curiosity. But when he saw Spitfire chewing him he uttered a shrill scream and fell sidewise off his horse.
Then two difficulties presented themselves to us, to catch the frightened horse and persuade the Indian he had not been bitten. We failed in the latter. Navvy gave us and the lions a wide berth, and walked to camp.
Jim was waiting for us, and said he had chased a lion south along the rim till the hounds got away from him.
Spitfire, having already been chained, was the first lion we endeavored to introduce to our family of captives. He raised such a fearful row that we had to remove him some distance from the others.
"We have two dog chains," said Jones, "but not a collar or a swivel in camp. We can't chain the lions without swivels. They'd choke themselves in two minutes."
Once more, for the hundredth time, Emett came to our rescue with his inventive and mechanical skill. He took the largest pair of hobbles we had, and with an axe, a knife and Jones' wire nippers, fashioned two collars with swivels that for strength and serviceableness improved somewhat on those we had bought.
Darkness was enveloping the forest when we finished supper. I fell into my bed and, despite the throbbing and burning of my wrist, soon lapsed into slumber. And I crawled out next morning late for breakfast, stiff, worn out, crippled, but happy. Six lions roaring a concert for me was quite conducive to contentment.
Emett interestingly engaged himself on a new pair of trousers, which he had contrived to produce from two of our empty meal-bags. The lower half of his overalls had gone to decorate the cedar spikes and brush, and these new bag-leg trousers, while somewhat remarkable for design, answered the purpose well enough. Jones' coat was somewhere along the canyon rim, his shoes were full of holes, his shirt in strips, and his trousers in rags. Jim looked like a scarecrow. My clothes, being of heavy waterproofed duck, had stood the hard usage in a manner to bring forth the unanimous admiration of my companions.
"Well, fellows," said Jones, "there's six lions, and that's more than we can pack out of here. Have you had enough hunting? I have."
"And I," rejoined Emett.
"Shore you can bet I have," drawled Jim.
"One more day, boys, and then I've done," said I. "Only one more day!"
Signs of relief on the faces of my good comrades showed how they took this evidence of my satisfied ambition.
I spent all the afternoon with the lions, photographing them, listening to them spit and growl, watching them fight their chains, and roll up like balls of fire. From different parts of the forest I tried to creep unsuspected upon them; but always when I peeped out from behind a tree or log, every pair of ears would be erect, every pair of eyes gleaming and suspicious.
Spitfire afforded more amusement than all the others. He had indeed the temper of a king; he had been born for sovereignty, not slavery. To intimidate me he tried every manner of expression and utterance, and failing, he always ended with a spring in the air to the length of his chain. This means was always effective. I simply could not stand still when he leaped; and in turn I tried every artifice I could think of to make him back away from me, to take refuge behind his tree. I ran at him with a club as if I were going to kill him. He waited, crouching. Finally, in dire extremity, I bethought me of a red flannel hood that Emett had given me, saying I might use it on cold nights. This was indeed a weird, flaming headgear, falling like a cloak down over the shoulders. I put it on, and, camera in hand, started to crawl on all fours toward Spitfire.
I needed no one to tell me that this proceeding was entirely beyond his comprehension. In his astonishment he forgot to spit and growl, and he backed behind the little pine, from which he regarded me with growing perplexity. Then, having revenged myself on him, and getting a picture, I left him in peace.