Tales of Lonely Trails by Zane Grey
Chapter IV. Tonto Basin
Five more long arduous days we put in chasing bears under the rim from Pyle's Canyon to Verde Canyon. In all we started over a dozen bears. But I was inclined to think that we chased the same bears over and over from one canyon to another. The boys got a good many long-range shots, which, however, apparently did no damage. But as for me, the harder and farther I tramped and the longer I watched and waited the less opportunity had I to shoot a bear.
This circumstance weighed heavily upon the spirits of my comrades. They wore their boots out, as well as the feet of the hounds, trying to chase a bear somewhere near me. And wherever I stayed or went there was the place the bears avoided. Edd and Neilsen lost flesh in this daily toil. Haught had gloomy moments. But as for me the daily ten-or fifteen-mile grind up and down the steep craggy slopes had at last trained me back to my former vigorous condition, and I was happy. No one knew it, not even R.C., but the fact was I really did not care in the least whether I shot a bear or not. Bears were incidental to my hunting trip. I had not a little secret glee over the praise accorded me by Copple and Haught and Nielsen, who all thought that the way I persevered was remarkable. They would have broken their necks to get me a bear. At times R.C. when he was tired fell victim to discouragement and he would make some caustic remark: "I don't know about you. I've a hunch you like to pack a rifle because it's heavy. And you go dreaming along! Sometime a bear will rise up and swipe you one!"
Takahashi passed from concern to grief over what he considered my bad luck: "My goodnish! No see bear to-day?... Maybe more better luck to-morrow." If I could have had some of Takahashi's luck I would scarcely have needed to leave camp. He borrowed Nielsen's 30-40 rifle and went hunting without ever having shot it. He rode the little buckskin mustang, that, remarkable to state, had not yet thrown him or kicked him. And on that occasion he led the mustang back to camp with a fine two-point buck on the saddle. "Camp need fresh meat," said the Jap, with his broad smile. "I go hunt. Ride along old road. Soon nice fat deer walk out from bush. Twenty steps away--maybe. I get off. I no want kill deer so close, so I walk on him. Deer he no scared. He jump off few steps--stick up his ears--look at horse all same like he thought him deer too. I no aim gun from shoulder. I just shoot. No good. Deer he run. I aim then--way front of him--shoot--deer he drop right down dead.... Aw, easy to get deer!"
I would have given a great deal to have been able to describe Haught's face when the Jap finished his story of killing that deer. But such feat was beyond human ingenuity. "Wal," ejaculated the hunter, "in all my days raslin' round with fools packin' guns I never seen the likes of thet. No wonder the Japs licked the Russians!" This achievement of Takahashi's led me to suggest his hunting bear with us. "Aw sure--I kill bear too," he said. Takahashi outwalked and outclimbed us all. He never made detours. He climbed straight up or descended straight down. Copple and Edd were compelled to see him take the lead and keep it. What a wonderful climber! What a picture the sturdy little brown man made, carrying a rifle longer than himself, agile and sure-footed as a goat, perfectly at home in the depths or on the heights! I took occasion to ask Takahashi if he had been used to mountain climbing in Japan. "Aw sure. I have father own whole mountain more bigger here. I climb high--saw wood. Leetle boy so big." And he held his hand about a foot from the ground. Thus for me every day brought out some further interesting or humorous or remarkable feature pertaining to Takahashi.
The next day added to the discouragement of my party. We drove Verde Canyon and ran the dogs into a nest of steel-traps. Big Foot was caught in one, and only the remarkable size and strength of his leg saved it from being broken. Nielsen found a poor, miserable, little fox in a trap, where it had been for days, and was nearly dead. Edd found a dead skunk in another. He had to call the hounds in. We returned to camp. That night was really the only cheerless one the men spent around the fire. They did not know what to do. Manifestly with trappers in a locality there could be no more bear chasing. Disappointment perched upon the countenances of the Haughts and Copple and Nielsen. I let them all have their say. Finally Haught spoke up: "Wal, fellars, I'm figgerin' hard an' I reckon here's my stand. We jest naturally have to get Doc an' his brother a bear apiece. Shore I expected we'd get 'em a couple. Now, them traps we seen are all small. We didn't run across no bear traps. An' I reckon we can risk the dogs. We'll shore go back an' drive Verde Canyon. We can't do no worse than break a leg for a dog. I'd hate to see thet happen to Old Dan or Tom. But we'll take a chance."
After that there fell a moment's silence. I could see from Edd's face what a serious predicament this was. Nothing was plainer than his fondness for the hounds. Finally he said: "Sure. We'll take a chance." Their devotion to my interest, their simple earnestness, warmed me to them. But not for all the bears under the rim would I have been wittingly to blame for Old Dan or Old Tom breaking a leg.
"Men, I've got a better plan," I said. "We'll let the bears here rest for a spell. Supplies are about gone. Let's go back to Beaver Dam camp for a week or so. Rest up the hounds. Maybe we'll have a storm and a cold snap that will improve conditions. Then we'll come back here. I'll send Haught down to buy off the trappers. I'll pay them to spring their traps and let us have our hunt without risk of the hounds."
Instantly the men brightened. The insurmountable obstacles seemed to melt away. Only Haught demurred a little at additional and unreasonable expense for me. But I cheered him over this hindrance, and the last part of that evening round the camp-fire was very pleasant.
The following morning we broke camp, and all rode off, except Haught and his son George, who remained to hunt a strayed burro. "Reckon thet lion eat him. My best burro. He was the one your boy was always playin' with. I'm goin' to assassinate thet lion."
On the way back to Beaver Dam camp I happened to be near Takahashi when he dismounted to shoot at a squirrel. Returning to get back in the saddle the Jap forgot to approach the mustang from the proper side. There was a scuffle between Takahashi and the mustang as to which of them should possess the bridle. The Jap lost this argument. Edd had to repair the broken bridle. I watched Takahashi and could see that he did not like the mustang any better than the mustang liked him. Soon the struggle for supremacy would take place between this ill assorted rider and horse. I rather felt inclined to favor the latter; nevertheless it was only fair to Takahashi to admit that his buckskin-colored mustang had some mean traits.
In due time I arrived at our permanent camp, to be the last to get in. Lee and his father welcomed us as familiar faces in a strange land. As I dismounted I heard heavy thuds and cracks accompanied by fierce utterances in a foreign tongue. These sounds issued from the corral.
"I'll bet the Jap got what was coming to him," declared Lee.
We all ran toward the corral. A bunch of horses obstructed our view, and we could not see Takahashi until we ran round to the other side. The Jap had the buckskin mustang up in a corner and was vigorously whacking him with a huge pole. Not by any means was the mustang docile. Like a mule, he kicked. "Hey George," yelled Lee, "don't kill him! What's the matter?"
Takahashi slammed the mustang one parting blow, which broke the club, and then he turned to us. We could see from dust and dirt on his person that he had lately been in close relation to the earth. Takahashi's face was pale except for a great red lump on his jaw. The Jap was terribly angry. He seemed hurt, too. With a shaking hand he pointed to the bruise on his jaw.
"Look what he do!" exclaimed Takahashi. "He throw me off!... He kick me awful hard! I kill him sure next time."
Lee and I managed to conceal our mirth until our irate cook had gotten out of hearing. "Look--what--he--do!" choked Lee, imitating Takahashi. Then Lee broke out and roared. I had to join him. I laughed till I cried. My family and friends severely criticise this primitive trait of mine, but I can not help it. Later I went to Takahashi and asked to examine his jaw, fearing it might have been broken. This fear of mine, however, was unfounded. Moreover the Jap had recovered from his pain and anger. "More better now," he said, with a grin. "Maybe my fault anyhow."
Next day we rested, and the following morning was so fine and clear and frosty that we decided to go hunting. We rode east on the way to See Lake through beautiful deep forest.
I saw a deer trotting away into the woods. I jumped off, jerked out my gun, and ran hard, hoping to see him in an opening. Lo! I jumped a herd of six more deer, some of them bucks. They plunged everywhere. I tried frantically to get my sights on one. All I could aim at was bobbing ears. I shot twice, and of course missed. R.C. shot four times, once at a running buck, and three at a small deer that he said was flying!
Here Copple and Haught caught up with us. We went on, and turned off the road on the blazed trail to See Lake. It was pretty open forest, oaks and scattered pines, and a few spruce. The first park we came to was a flat grassy open, with places where deer licked the bare earth. Copple left several pounds of salt in these spots. R.C. and I went up to the upper end where he had seen deer before. No deer this day! But saw three turkeys, one an old gobbler. We lost sight of them.
Then Copple and R.C. went one way and Haught and I another. We went clear to the rim, and then circled around, and eventually met R.C. and Copple. Together we started to return. Going down a little draw we found water, and R.C. saw where a rock had been splashed with water and was still wet. Then I saw a turkey track upon this rock. We slipped up the slope, with me in the lead. As I came out on top, I saw five big gobblers feeding. Strange how these game birds thrilled me! One saw me and started to run. Like a streak! Another edged away into pines. Then I espied one with his head and neck behind a tree and he was scratching away in the pine needles. I could not see much of him, but that little was not running, so I drew down upon him, tried to aim fine, and fired. He leaped up with a roar of wings, sending the dust and needles flying. Then he dropped back, and like a flash darted into a thicket.
Another flew straight out of the glade. Another ran like an ostrich in the same direction. I tried to get the sights on him. In vain!
R.C. and Copple chased these two speeding turkeys, and Haught and I went the other way. We could find no trace of ours. And we returned to our horses.
Presently we heard shots. One--two--three--pause--then several more. And finally more, to a total number of fifteen. I could not stand that and I had to hurry back into the woods. I saw one old gobbler running wildly around as if lost, but I did not shoot at him because he seemed to be in line with the direction which R.C. and Copple had taken. I should have run after him until he went some other way.
I could not find the hunters, and returned to our resting place, which they had reached ahead of me. They had a turkey each, gobblers about two years old Copple said.
R.C. told an interesting story of how he had run in the direction the two turkeys had taken, and suddenly flushed thirty or forty more, some big old gobblers, but mostly young. They scattered and ran. He followed as fast as he could, shooting a few times. Copple could not keep up with him, but evidently had a few shots himself. R.C. chased most of the flock across several small canyons, till he came to a deep canyon. Here he hoped to make a killing when the turkeys ran up the far slope. But they flew across! And he heard them clucking over there. He crossed, and went on cautiously. Once he saw three turkey heads sticking above a log. Wise old gobblers! They protected their bodies while they watched for him. He tried to get sidewise to them but they ran off. Then he followed until once more he heard clucking.
Here he sat down, just beyond the edge of a canyon, and began to call with his turkey wing. It thrilled him to hear his calls answered on all sides. Here was a wonderful opportunity. He realized that the turkeys were mostly young and scattered, and frightened, and wanted to come together. He kept calling, and as they neared him on all sides he felt something more than the zest of hunting. Suddenly Copple began to shoot. Spang! Spang! Spang! R.C. saw the dust fly under one turkey. He heard the bullet glance. The next shot killed a turkey. Then R.C. yelled that he was no turkey! Then of that scattering flock he managed to knock over one for himself.
Copple had been deceived by the call of an amateur. That flattered R.C., but he was keenly disappointed that Copple had spoiled the situation.
During the day the blue sky was covered by thin flying clouds that gradually thickened and darkened. The wind grew keener and colder, and veered to the southwest. We all said storm. There was no sunset Darker clouds rolled up, obliterating the few stars.
We went to bed. Long after that I heard the swell and roar and crash and lull of the wind in the pines, a sound I had learned to love in Buckskin Forest with Buffalo Jones. At last I fell asleep.
Sometime in the night I awoke. A fine rain was pattering on the tent. It grew stronger. After a while I went to sleep again. Upon awakening I found that the storm had struck with a vengeance. It was dull gray daylight, foggy, cold, windy, with rain and snow.
I got up, built a fire, puttered around the tents to loosen the ground ropes, and found that it was nipping cold. My fingers ached. The storm increased, and then we fully appreciated the tent with stove. The rain roared on the tent roof, and all morning the wind increased, and the air grew colder. I hoped it would turn to snow.
Soon indeed we were storm bound. On the third day the wind reached a very high velocity. The roar in the pines was stupendous. Many times I heard the dull crash of a falling tree. With the ground saturated by the copious rain, and the fury of the storm blast, a great many trees were felled. That night it rained all night, not so hard, but steadily, now low, now vigorously. After morning snow began to fall. But it did not lay long. After a while it changed to sleet. At times the dark, lowering, scurrying clouds broke to emit a flare of sunshine and to show a patch of blue. These last however were soon obscured by the scudding gray pall. Every now and then a little shower of rain or sleet pattered on the tents. We looked for a clearing up.
That night about eight o'clock the clouds vanished and stars shone. In the night the wind rose and roared. In the morning all was dark, cloudy, raw, cold. But the wind had died out, and there were spots of blue showing. These spots enlarged as the morning advanced, and about nine the sun, golden and dazzling, beautified the forest. "Bright sunny days will soon come again!"
It was good to have hope and belief in that.
All the horses but Don Carlos weathered the storm in good shape. Don lost considerable weight. He had never before been left with hobbled feet to shift for himself in a prolonged storm of rain, sleet and snow. He had cut himself upon brush, and altogether had fared poorly. He showed plainly that he had been neglected. Don was the only horse I had ever known of that did not welcome the wilderness and companionship with his kind.
We rested the following day, and on the next we packed and started back to Dude Creek. It was a cold, raw, bitter day, with a gale from the north, such a day as I could never have endured had I not become hardened. As it was I almost enjoyed wind and cold. What a transformation in the woods! The little lakes were all frozen over; pines, moss, grass were white with frost. The sear days had come. Not a leaf showed in the aspen and maple thickets. The scrub oaks were shaggy and ragged, gray as the rocks. From the rim the slopes looked steely and dark, thinned out, showing the rocks and slides.
When we reached our old camp in Barber Shop Canyon we were all glad to see Haught's lost burro waiting for us there. Not a scratch showed on the shaggy lop-eared little beast. Haught for once unhobbled a burro and set it free without a parting kick. Nielsen too had observed this omission on Haught's part. Nielsen was a desert man and he knew burros. He said prospectors were inclined to show affection for burros by sundry cuffs and kicks. And Nielsen told me a story about Haught. It seemed the bear hunter was noted for that habit of kicking burros. Sometimes he was in fun and sometimes, when burros were obstinate, he was in earnest. Upon one occasion a big burro stayed away from camp quite a long time--long enough to incur Haught's displeasure. He needed the burro and could not find it, and all he could do was to hunt for it. Upon returning to camp there stood the big gray burro, lazy and fat, just as if he had been perfectly well behaved. Haught put a halter on the burro, using strong language the while, and then he proceeded to exercise his habit of kicking burros. He kicked this one until its fat belly gave forth sounds exceedingly like a bass drum. When Haught had ended his exercise he tied up the burro. Presently a man came running into Haught's camp. He appeared alarmed. He was wet and panting. Haught recognized him as a miner from a mine nearby. "Hey Haught," panted the miner, "hev you seen--your gray burro--thet big one--with white face?"
"Shore, there he is," replied Haught. "Son of a gun jest rustled home."
The miner appeared immensely relieved. He looked and looked at the gray burro as if to make sure it was there, in the solid flesh, a really tangible object. Then he said: "We was all afeared you'd kick the stuffin's out of him!... Not an hour ago he was over at the mine, an' he ate five sticks of dynamite! Five sticks! For Lord's sake handle him gently!"
Haught turned pale and suddenly sat down. "Ahuh!" was all he said. But he had a strange hunted look. And not for a long time did he ever again kick a burro!
* * * * *
Hunting conditions at Dude Creek had changed greatly to our benefit. The trappers had pulled up stakes and gone to some other section of the country. There was not a hunting party within fifteen miles of our camp. Leaves and acorns were all down; trails were soft and easy to travel; no dust rose on the southern slopes; the days were cold and bright; in every pocket and ravine there was water for the dogs; from any stand we could see into the shaggy thickets where before all we could see was a blaze of color.
In three days we drove Pyle's Canyon, Dude Creek, and the small adjoining canyons, chasing in all nine bears, none of which ran anywhere near R.C. or me. Old Dan gave out and had to rest every other day. So the gloom again began to settle thick over the hopes of my faithful friends. Long since, as in 1918, I had given up expectations of bagging a bear or a buck. For R.C., however, my hopes still held good. At least I did not give up for him. But he shared somewhat the feelings of the men. Still he worked harder than ever, abandoning the idea of waiting on one of the high stands, and took to the slopes under the rim where he toiled down and up all day long. It pleased me to learn, presently, that this activity, strenuous as it was, became a source of delight to him. How different such toil was from waiting and watching on the rim!
On November first, a bitter cold morning, with ice in the bright air, we went back to Pyle's Canyon, and four of us went down with Edd and the hounds. We had several chases, and about the middle of the forenoon I found myself alone, making tracks for the saddle over-looking Bear Canyon. Along the south side of the slope, in the still air the sun was warm, but when I got up onto the saddle, in an exposed place, the wind soon chilled me through. I would keep my stand until I nearly froze, then I had to go around to the sunny sheltered side and warm up. The hounds finally got within hearing again, and eventually appeared to be in Bear Canyon, toward the mouth. I decided I ought to go round the ridge on the east side and see if I could hear better. Accordingly I set off, and the hard going over the sunny slope was just what I needed. When I reached the end of the ridge, under the great dome, I heard the hounds below me, somewhat to my left. Running and plowing down through the brush I gained the edge of the bluff, just in time to see some of the hounds passing on. They had run a bear through that thicket, and if I had been there sooner I would have been fortunate. But too late! I worked around the head of this canyon and across a wide promontory. Again I heard the hounds right under me. They came nearer, and soon I heard rolling rocks and cracking brush, which sounds I believed were made by a bear. After a while I espied Old Tom and Rock working up the canyon on a trail. Then I was sure I would get a shot. Presently, however, Old Tom left the trail and started back. Rock came on, climbed the ridge, and hearing me call he came to me. I went over to the place where he had climbed out and found an enormous bear track pointing in the direction the hounds had come. They had back-trailed him. Rock went back to join Old Tom. Some of the pack were baying at a great rate in the mouth of the next canyon. But an impassable cliff prevented me from working around to that point. So I had to address myself to the long steep climb upward. I had not gone far when I crossed the huge bear track that Rock and Old Tom had given up. This track was six inches wide and ten inches long. The bear that had made it had come down this very morning from over the ridge east of Bear Canyon. I trailed him up this ridge, over the steepest and roughest and wildest part of it, marveling at the enormous steps and jumps he made, and at the sagacity which caused him to choose this route instead of the saddle trail where I had waited so long. His track led up nearly to the rim and proved how he had climbed over the most rugged break in the ridge. Indeed he was one of the wise old scoundrels. When I reached camp I learned that Sue and several more of the hounds had held a bear for some time in the box of the canyon just beyond where I had to give up. Edd and Nielsen were across this canyon, unable to go farther, and then yelled themselves hoarse, trying to call some of us. I asked Edd if he saw the bear. "Sure did," replied Edd. "One of them long, lean, hungry cinnamons." I had to laugh, and told how near I had come to meeting a bear that was short, fat, and heavy: "One of the old Jasper scoundrels!"
That night at dark the wind still blew a gale, and seemed more bitterly cold. We hugged the camp-fire. My eyes smarted from the smoke and my face grew black. Before I went to bed I toasted myself so thoroughly that my clothes actually burned me as I lay down. But they heated the blankets and that made my bed snug and soon I was in the land of dreams. During the night I awoke. The wind had lulled. The canopy above was clear, cold, starry, beautiful. When we rolled out the mercury showed ten above zero. Perhaps looking at the thermometer made us feel colder, but in any event we would have had to move about to keep warm. I built a fire and my hands were blocks of ice when I got the blaze stirring.
That day, so keen and bright, so wonderful with its clarity of atmosphere and the breath of winter through the pines, promised to be as exciting as it was beautiful. Maybe this day R.C. would bag a bear!
When we reached the rim the sunrise was just flushing the purple basin, flooding with exquisite gold and rose light the slumberous shadows. What a glorious wilderness to greet the eye at sunrise! I suffered a pang to realize what men missed--what I had to miss so many wonderful mornings.
We had made our plan. The hounds had left a bear in the second canyon east of Dude. Edd started down. Copple and Takahashi followed to hug the lower slopes. Nielsen and Haught and George held to the rim to ride east in case the hounds chased a bear that way. And R.C. and I were to try to climb out and down a thin rock-crested ridge which, so far as Haught knew, no one had ever been on.
Looked at from above this ridge was indeed a beautiful and rugged backbone of rock, sloping from the rim, extending far out and down--a very narrow knife-edge extended promontory, green with cedar and pine, yellow and gray with its crags and rocks. A craggy point comparable to some of those in the Grand Canyon! We had to study a way to get across the first deep fissures, and eventually descended far under the crest and climbed back. It was desperately hard work, for we had so little time. R.C. was to be at the middle of that ridge and I at the end in an hour. Like Trojans we worked. Some slippery pine-needle slopes we had to run across, for light quick steps were the only means of safe travel. And that was not safe! When we surmounted to the crest we found a jumble of weathered rocks ready to slide down on either side. Slabs, pyramids, columns, shale, rocks of all shapes except round, lay toppling along the heaved ridge. It seemed the whole ridge was ready to thunder down into the abyss. Half a mile down and out from the rim we felt lost, marooned. But there was something splendidly thrilling in our conquest of that narrow upflung edge of mountain. Twice R.C. thought we would have to abandon further progress, but I found ways to go on. How lonely and wild out there! No foot save an Indian's had ever trod those gray rocks or brown mats of pine needles.
Before we reached the dip or saddle where R.C. was to make his stand the hounds opened up far below. The morning was perfectly still, an unusual occurrence there along the rim. What wild music! Then Edd's horn pealed out, ringing melody, a long blast keen and clear, telling us above that he had started a bear. That made us hurry. We arrived at the head of an incline leading down to R.C.'s stand. As luck would have it the place was ideal for a bear, but risky for a hunter. A bear could come four ways without being seen until he was close enough to kill a man. We hurried on. At the saddle there was a broad bear trail with several other trails leading into it. Suddenly R.C. halted me with a warning finger. "Listen!"
I heard a faint clear rifle shot. Then another, and a fainter yell. We stood there and counted eleven more shots. Then the bay of the hounds seemed to grow closer. We had little time to pick and choose stands. I had yet to reach the end of the ridge--a task requiring seven-league boots. But I took time to choose the best possible stand for R.C. and that was one where a bear approaching from only the east along under the ridge could surprise him. In bad places like this we always tried to have our minds made up what to do and where to get in case of being charged by a wounded grizzly. In this instance there was not a rock or a tree near at hand. "R.C. you'll have to stand your ground and kill him, that's all," I declared, grimly. "But it's quiet. You can hear a bear coming. If you do hear one--wait--and make sure your first shot lets him down."
"Don't worry. I could hear a squirrel coming over this ground," replied R.C.
Then I went on, not exactly at ease in mind, but stirred and thrilled to the keen charged atmosphere. I had to go around under the base of a rocky ledge, over rough ground. Presently I dropped into a bear trail, well trodden. I followed it to a corner of cliff where it went down. Then I kept on over loose rock and bare earth washed deep in ruts. I had to leap these. Perhaps in ten minutes I had traveled a quarter of a mile or less. Then spang! R.C.'s rifle-shot halted me. So clear and sharp, so close, so startling! I was thrilled, delighted--he had gotten a shot. I wanted to yell my pleasure. My blood warmed and my nerves tingled. Swiftly my thoughts ran--bad luck was nothing--a man had only to stick at a thing--what a fine, sharp, wonderful day for adventure! How the hounds bayed! Had R.C. sighted a bear somewhere below? Suddenly the still air split--spang! R.C.'s second shot gave me a shock. My breast contracted. I started back. "Suppose it was a grizzly--on that bad side!" I muttered. Spang!... I began to run. A great sweeping wave of emotion charged over me, swelling all my veins to the bursting point. Spang! My heart came to my throat. Leaping the ruts, bounding like a sheep from rock to rock, I covered my back tracks. All inside me seemed to flutter, yet I felt cold and hard--a sickening sense of reproach that I had left my brother in a bad position. Spang! His fifth and last shot followed swiftly after the fourth--too swift to be accurate. So hurriedly a man would act in close quarters. R.C. now had an empty rifle!... Like a flash I crossed that slope leading to the rocks, and tore around the cliff at such speed that it was a wonder I did not pitch down and break my neck. How long--how terribly long I seemed in reaching the corner of cliff! Then I plunged to a halt with eyes darting everywhere.
R.C. was not in sight. The steep curved neck of slope seemed all rocks, all trees, all brush. Then I heard a wild hoarse bawl and a loud crashing of brush. My gaze swerved to an open spot. A patch of manzanita seemed to blur round a big bear, standing up, fighting the branches, threshing and growling. But where was R.C.? Fearfully my gaze peered near and all around this wounded bear. "Hey there!" I yelled with all my might.
R.C.'s answer was another spang. I heard the bullet hit the bear. It must have gone clear through him for I saw bits of fur and manzanita fly. The bear plunged out of the bushes--out of my sight. How he crashed the brush--rolled the rocks! I listened. Down and down he crashed. Then the sound changed somewhat. He was rolling. At last that thumping sound ceased, and after it the roll of rocks.
"Are you--all right?" I shouted.
Then, after a moment that made me breathless, I heard R.C. laugh, a little shakily. "Sure am.... Did you see him?"
"Yes. I think he's your bear."
"I'm afraid he's got away. The hounds took another bear down the canyon. What'll we do?"
"Come on down," I said.
Fifty yards or more down the slope we met. I showed him a great splotch of blood on a flat stone. "We'll find him not far down," I said. So we slid and crawled, and held to brush and rocks, following that bloody trail until we came to a ledge. From there I espied the bear lodged against a manzanita bush. He lay on his back, all four paws extended, and he was motionless. R.C. and I sat down right there on the ledge.
"Looks pretty big--black and brown--mostly brown," I said. "I'm glad, old man, you stuck it out."
"Big!..." exclaimed R.C. with that same peculiar little laugh. "He doesn't look big now. But up there he looked like a hill.... What do you think? He came up that very way you told me to look out for. And if I hadn't had ears he'd got right on me. As it was, when I heard little rolling stones, and then saw him, he was almost on a level with me. My nerve was all right. I knew I had him. And I made sure of my first shot. I knocked him flat. But he got up--let out an awful snarl--and plunged my way. I can't say I know he charged me. Only it was just the same as if he had!... I knocked him down again and this time he began to kick and jump down the slope. That was my best shot. Think I missed him the next three. You see I had time to get shaky. If he had kept coming at me--good night!... I had trouble loading. But when I got ready again I ran down and saw him in that bush. Wasn't far from him then. When he let out that bawl he saw me. I don't know much about bears, but I know he wanted to get at me. And I'm sure of what he'd have done.... I didn't miss my last shot."
We sat there a while longer, slowly calming down. Wonderful indeed had been some of the moments of thrill, but there had been others not conducive to happiness. Why do men yearn for adventure in wild moments and regret the risks and spilled blood afterward?