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A Lady in Boomtown: Miners and Manners on the Nevada Frontier - Page 91

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packed mass of animals with low, ominous rumbling. When they met, the rest of the cattle jumped out of the path of the monsters. They dashed at each other with the ponderous speed of two railroad engines, heads lowered, sharp horns ready for attack. Back and forth they pushed one another, each trying to get his horns into the neck or shoulder of the other. Finally a smear of blood appeared on the side of one bull and spread darkly through his thick hair. Back and forth they surged, perhaps for an hour. The power and beauty of the spectacle was thrilling. “ Don’t get too close,” warned Bud. “ Pretty soon one of them guys is goin’ to decide he’s had enough, and he’ll bolt. He’s blind as a bat and won’t look where he’s goin’. You better not be in the way.” All the way back to the ranch, one old warrior coughed and coughed. He had a big gash in his side and hung his dusty, powerful head. His cows milled around their warrior with eyes tense and tails stiff, licking his eyes, his nose, his sides, showing every evidence of deep concern. I learned so much during that week. Bud told me of the subterfuge a cow can use to make the coyote overlook her baby hidden in the thicket; about the wonderful law of nature that sends a calf lost from its mother back to the spot where it last suckled. I felt great sympathy for the cows that kept dashing out of the herd to search for calves left behind, and was always grateful when the men let them go. The dogies, those pathetic little babies that had lost their mothers, were so thin that their little bones almost stuck through their hides, and their legs wobbled crazily under their slight weight. It became our job, Bud’s and mine, to drive the dogies home. We would arrive sometimes an hour after the others, with the weak, slow- moving little things. Very often Bud or I would carry one across the saddle. As we were jogging along one day, we heard Mr. Sam’s voice calling faintly from a great distance, “ Bu- u- d, cattle in the mahawganees.” Bud dashed up the hill and disappeared among the scrub mahogany trees. My horse was determined to follow. It was all I could do to keep from being decapitated by the low branches. Then about a dozen steers appeared and raced down toward a swift stream on the floor of the canyon, and again my horse was determined to follow, but I was not! Bud appeared from among the trees and called to me, “ Did you see the cattle?” It was nothing to him or my horse that I had nearly lost my head. I yelled at the top of my voice, “ They went down into the creek bed!” Bud plunged down the hillside. I did not follow him and felt like a quitter, but I knew that that narrow canyon with the rushing stream was no place for a tenderfoot. I heard him sloshing about and shouting among the willows. Finally he climbed out of the canyon, driving the steers in front of him. He

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A Lady in Boomtown: Miners and Manners on the Nevada Frontier - Page 91
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