Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

a sheep with a hound, and it was a mere accident, for we ran across the sheep by chance. Plunk belonged to Mr. Evans, who at that time owned the ranche-house. He was the best dog for that kind of work I ever saw or heard of, for if he once 'treed' a sheep he would hold him there for days. He got into many scrapes, poor beast ; he was so eager, he would follow sheep anywhere, and on one or two occasions got into positions from which he could not have extricated himself without human aid. And in that way he met his fate. He got after a band of sheep one day, and followed them away off out of sight and out of hearing. No distant note of baying came to the anxious ear of his master, who searched all that day for him fruitlessly till nightfall, and all the next day and many days equally in vain. Poor Plunk was never seen or heard of again. He must either have fallen over some cliff, or have jumped down upon some ledge from which he could not descend or ascend again, and there perished slowly and miserably of starvation.

The mountain sheep is a magnificent animal, and the ram carries a splendid head. He is wild-looking and picturesque, and exactly suits the character of the country in which he is found. I know nothing finer in nature than the massive form of a big old ram standing on some jutting point of a precipitous cliff amidst the grandeur of the mountains which are his home. It requires a good deal of patience and perseverance to hunt the mountain sheep successfully. As a rule they are to be found on the highest peaks and the most inaccessible positions of the range, though in the rutting season,

if you are fortunate enough to find a locality inhabited by sheep and undisturbed by man, they will come down and may be met with and killed with comparative ease. To bunt the animal with success, you must have a tolerably accurate idea of his manners and customs. The mountain sheep in Colorado come down to the foothills in the early spring, and return with their lambs about a month or six weeks old in the month of June or July. The old rams stay up on the mountains, and seem to seek the highest crags for shelter, even during the terrible storms of winter. Of course the snow never lies on the more precipitous parts of the inountains, and there is plenty of long grass for them to feed upon, and they appear to prefer the shelter they obtain among the caves and caverns of the rocks to coming down lower on to more snow-encumbered regions, and seeking safety amongst the timber. They are very fond of alkali, like all other animals, and will run great risks to get a lick of salt every now and then ; they will also come down to feed occasionally on little plains and parks at the foot of the mountains.

I have shot many, many sheep at one spot close to the margin of a shallow brackish pond. Finding that they generally came down about eight or nine o'clock in the morning, I used to get there about seven, and sit down and wait patiently for them. I have seen them over and over again descend the mountain, skylarking among themselves, galloping down a few hundred yards and then stopping and looking out carefully all over the country. Finally they would descend to the pond, and, after some hesitation and a great deal of caution, would walk boldly out on the plain, and begin to lick the alkali and browse a little on the

grass. They would stop down sometimes an hour or two if undisturbed, and I have often watched them simply to see what they would do. After a time they would scamper off again, butting each other with their heads in sport, and at last would clamber up the mountain-side and disappear. The great thing in sheep-hunting is to get above them ; it is no use whatever trying to stalk a big ram by endeavouring to get up to him from underneath, because he is certain to see you. The only chance, if you know where he is likely to be, is to climb up above him and work gradually down ; then you have a fair likelihood of coming upon him, for he is accustomed to look below for danger.

It is labour lost to follow their tracks. There is a certain great old ram that I know of which nobody has been able to kill yet. I have never seen him, but I know the size of his foot accurately.

I followed him all day once some years ago, and he fooled me beautifully. I started out alone about seven o'clock one winter's morning, and had not ridden more than three or four miles from the house in Estes Park when I struck a very large sheep track plainly visible in the snow.

I followed it a little while, till it seemed to be so fresh that I dismounted, tied up my horse, and proceeded on foot. The track was gigantic, and as it led right in the direction of the habitation of this particular old ram, I knew it must be his foot; so I determined to follow him all day if necessary on the chance of a shot. I left my bag and luncheon, took off my coat, and prepared myself for a long and arduous climb.

As bad luck would have it, the sheep was travelling along a very steep mountain side all covered with loose stones, and though I was in moccasins, which are the best wear for hunting, I could not move without making a noise, and I started my sheep. After walking about half an hour I came to the place where he had started, but followed on all the same, in the hope of getting sight of him, and presently came another spot where he had stood and looked about him. He had no doubt caught sight of me, for he had started off on a dead jump straight down a very steep ravine, at least a thousand feet deep and equally precipitous on the other side. I could make out his tracks going down, but could not see anything of him, although I sat down and carefully examined the opposite face of the mountain with my glasses. So down I went, and presently struck his tracks again going up the other side. It was a terribly hard mountain to climb. It had once been clothed with a thick covering of pine trees which had all been burnt and blown down, and the ground was completely strewn with trunks of trees, smooth and slippery. I do not suppose that my foot touched the ground one-fourth of the distance, for I was obliged to walk along the trees, and hop and jump from one to the other, after the manner of a squirrel. Added to which inconvenience there was about a foot of snow on the ground, melted by the heat of the sun and frozen by the cold, so that a thick crust had formed, just strong enough to bear your weight about a second, then let you through plump to the ground. It was terrible ground to travel over, and it exhausted me, but I was in hopes it exhausted the sheep also, because the footprints began to be deeply dyed with blood, showing that the sheep was cutting himself with the crust on the snow. I followed and followed my sheep, now and then stopping to use my glass, because the tracks were so fresh that I fancied he ought to be in sight; ; but I could not get a glimpse of him, and so imagining that he must be further off than I had supposed, I still followed the tracks till I got near the top of a mountain which forms a ridge or offshoot from the gigantic mass of Long's Peak.

Near the top of this ridge was a notch, through which, as I got nearer, I could see that the tracks led.

I hurried as much as possible, thinking to myself that he could not be very far off, and that in all probability when I got to the top and looked down through the notch into Willow Park beyond I should see him somewhere below me, and have a good chance of a shot, or, at any rate, of a stalk.

When I reached the top I found the tracks led down through the notch about twenty or thirty yards, and then stopped ; and on looking about me I discovered that my friend, this crafty old ram, had gone down a little way so as to deceive me, had then made a violent leap on one side, gone straight back again through the notch, climbed up to the top of a pile of rocks there, and no doubt had been looking at me and laughing as I toiled laboriously up the hillside after him until I got unpleasantly near, when he had started off in the direction of the top of Long's Peak. It was now about three o'clock in the afternoon, and of course I had to give up the chase and scramble down the mountain as best I could. The ground was so dangerous that I was obliged to go very carefully, and it was dark before I got to the bottom of the deep ravine.

I was very tired by this time, having been up before daylight, and working hard all day with nothing to eat; and I was getting

; awfully cold also, for I had left my coat behind. However, I had to climb up the opposite slope, which I eventually succeeded in doing, and then had to look for my coat, but could not find it anywhere. Then I searched for my luncheon bag, but could not find that either.

It was pitch dark by this time, so I gave up the search for them, and began to look for my horse, but could not find him.

It sounds very easy to remember where you left your horse, and to find him, but it is not such a simple matter when it is pitch dark, when there is nothing particular to mark the spot, and when you have the whole of Colorado to look in. I did not know what to do. I could bave walked back in two or three hours' time, and would have done so, but I was afraid to leave my horse out all night, lest he should freeze to death. He was not bitched up by the bridle merely, , but securely fastened with a strong new lariat, which he could not possibly have broken, so I kept hunting about until eventually I found the poor beast. How glad he was to see me! No doubt he had made up his mind to be deserted.

It was a difficult job to get home, for I had to lead the horse a long way down the hillside, over ground thickly strewn with fallen trees, and the night was pitch dark. I blundered and stumbled, and I swore, and he swore, if a horse can swear, and stumbled and blundered; and we had a very bad time of it altogether till we got on more level ground, and I was able to get on his back and make rapid progress. We reached the shanty, pretty tired, about eleven o'clock at night. That old ram had fooled me completely, and I have never since had a chance of paying him out for it.

DUNRAVEN.

THE LAST GREAT DREAM OF

THE CRUSADE.

CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS was the last of the great dreamers who dreamed in earnest the dream of the Crusade.

He was a pure idealist, while he was the most illustrious man of action' of his time, the pioneer of that daring band who made discovery their holy warfare, and who seemed to see their way across the “Sea of Darkness' to a “New Jerusalem' in the great continent of the West. He forms the vital link between the romantic enterprise of mediæval Europe and the larger romance of the Elizabethan adventurers, who gave a new vision to the imagination, and a new theatre to the commerce and politics, of mankind.

This crusading fervour of Columbus, which fed the fire of his patient enthusiasm for Western discovery, is quite too little regarded in popular estimates of his character and life. Far from being wholly a man of the new age, like Prince Henry of Portugal, absorbed in the practical work of discovery and in the future which it opened to commerce, he was a man who nursed his spirit on the heroic traditions of the bygone generations. He struck his roots more deeply, perhaps, than any other man of his time into the age which was ending, while he believed that God was making him an instrument in opening an entirely new era in the history of the world. And it is always thus. The men who make new eras are always the strongest links between the past and the future. who mark the great steps of progress are those who maintain the unbroken continuity of the history of our race. He was a Hebrew of the Hebrews' who brought the Gentiles in as free citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.

The westward expeditions of Julius Cæsar stand in a very real relation to the expeditions and discoveries of Columbus. They are divided by more than fifteen centuries, but no event of kindred character and importance lies between them. Columbus stands next to Cæsar as the author of an immense enlargement of the boundaries of the civilised world. Cæsar and his house traced the western boundaries of Europe, and brought its foremost modern races on to the theatre of civilisation. Columbus traced the bounds of the

« VorigeDoorgaan »