The Game and the Nation--Last Act
It has happened to you, has it not, to wake in the morning and wonder for a while where on earth you are? Thus I came half to life in the caboose, hearing voices, but not the actual words at first.
But presently, Hathaway! said some one more clearly. Portland 1291! This made no special stir in my intelligence, and I drowsed off again to the pleasant rhythm of the wheels. I he little shock of stopping next brought me to, somewhat, with the voices still round me; and when we were again in motion, I heard: Rosebud! Portland 1279! These figures jarred me awake, and I said, It was 1291 before, and sat up in my blankets.
The greeting they vouchsafed and the sight of them clustering expressionless in the caboose brought last evenings uncomfortable memory back to me. Our next stop revealed how things were going to-day.
Forsythe, one of them read on the station. Portland 1266. They were counting the lessening distance westward. This was the undercurrent of war. It broke on me as I procured fresh water at Forsythe and made some toilet in their stolid presence. We were drawing nearer the Rawhide station--the point, I mean, where you left the railway for the new mines. Now Rawhide station lay this side of Billings. The broad path of desertion would open ready for their feet when the narrow path to duty and Sunk Creek was still some fifty miles more to wait. Here was Trampass great strength; he need make no move meanwhile, but lie low for the immediate temptation to front and waylay them and win his battle over the deputy foreman. But the Virginian seemed to find nothing save enjoyment in this sunny September morning, and ate his breakfast at Forsythe serenely.
That meal done and that station gone, our caboose took up again its easy trundle by the banks of the Yellowstone. The mutineers sat for a while digesting in idleness.
Whats your scar? inquired one at length inspecting casually the neck of his neighbor.
Foolishness, the other answered.
Yourn? Mine. Well, I dont know but I prefer to have myself to thank for a thing, said the first.
I was displaying myself, continued the second. One day last summer it was. We come on a big snake by Torrey Creek corral. The boys got betting pretty lively that I dassent make my word good as to dealing with him, so I loped my cayuse full tilt by Mr. Snake, and swung down and catched him up by the tail from the ground, and cracked him same as a whip, and snapped his head off. Youve saw it done? he said to the audience.
The audience nodded wearily.
But the loose head flew agin me, and the fangs caught. I was pretty sick for a while. It dont pay to be clumsy, said the first man. If youd snapped the snake away from yu instead of toward yu, its head would have whirled off into the brush, same as they do with me. How like a knife-cut your scar looks! said I.
Dont it? said the snake-snapper. Theres many that gets fooled by it. An antelope knows a snake is his enemy, said another to me. Ever seen a buck circling round and round a rattler? I have always wanted to see that, said I, heartily. For this I knew to be a respectable piece of truth.
Its worth seeing, the man went on. After the buck gets close in, he gives an almighty jump up in the air, and down comes his four hoofs in a bunch right on top of Mr. Snake. Cuts him all to hash. Now you tell me how the buck knows that. Of course I could not tell him. And again we sat in silence for a while--friendlier silence, I thought.
A skunkll kill yu worse than a snake bite, said another, presently. No, I dont mean that way, he added. For I had smiled. There is a brown skunk down in Arkansaw. Kind of prairie-dog brown. Littler than our variety, he is. And he is mad the whole year round, same as a dog gets. Only the dog has a spell and
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