MoboReader> Literature > Wolfville Nights

   Chapter 8 No.8

Wolfville Nights By Alfred Henry Lewis Characters: 31366

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

Tom and Jerry; Wheelers.

"Obstinacy or love, that a-way, when folks pushes 'em to excess, is shore bad medicine. Which I'd be aheap loath to count the numbers them two attribootes harries to the tomb. Why, son, it's them sentiments that kills off my two wheel mules, Tom an' Jerry."

The Old Cattleman appeared to be on the verge of abstract discussion. As a metaphysician, he was not to be borne with. There was one method of escape; I interfered to coax the currents of his volubility into other and what were to me, more interesting channels.

"Tell me of the trail; or a story about animals," I urged. "You were saying recently that perfect systems of oral if not verbal communication existed among mules, and that you had listened for hours to their gossip. Give me the history of one of your freighting trips and what befell along the trail; and don't forget the comment thereon-wise, doubtless, it was-of your long-eared servants of the rein and trace-chain."

"Tell you what chances along the trail? Son, you-all opens a wide-flung range for my mem'ry to graze over. I might tell you how I'm lost once, freightin' from Vegas into the Panhandle, an' am two days without water-blazin' Jooly days so hot you couldn't touch tire, chain, or bolt-head without fryin' your fingers. An' how at the close of the second day when I hauls in at Cabra Springs, I lays down by that cold an' blessed fountain an' drinks till I aches. Which them two days of thirst terrorises me to sech degrees that for one plumb year tharafter, I never meets up with water when I don't drink a quart, an' act like I'm layin' in ag'in another parched spell.

"Or I might relate how I stops over one night from Springer on my way to the Canadian at a Triangle-dot camp called Kingman. This yere is a one-room stone house, stark an' sullen an' alone on the desolate plains, an' no scenery worth namin' but a half-grown feeble spring. This Kingman ain't got no windows; its door is four-inch thick of oak; an' thar's loopholes for rifles in each side which shows the sports who builds that edifice in the stormy long-ago is lookin' for more trouble than comfort an' prepares themse'fs. The two cow-punchers I finds in charge is scared to a standstill; they allows this Kingman's ha'nted. They tells me how two parties who once abides thar-father an' son they be-gets downed by a hold-up whose aim is pillage, an' who comes cavortin' along an' butchers said fam'ly in their sleep. The cow-punchers declar's they hears the spooks go scatterin' about the room as late as the night before I trails in. I ca'ms 'em-not bein' subject to nerve stampedes myse'f, an' that same midnight when the sperits comes ha'ntin' about ag'in, I turns outen my blankets an' lays said spectres with the butt of my mule whip-the same when we strikes a light an' counts 'em up bein' a couple of kangaroo rats. This yere would front up for a mighty thrillin' tale if I throws myse'f loose with its reecital an' daubs in the colour plenty vivid an' free.

"Then thar's the time I swings over to the K-bar-8 ranch for corn-bein' I'm out of said cereal-an' runs up on a cow gent, spurs, gun-belt, big hat an' the full regalia, hangin' to the limb of a cottonwood, dead as George the Third, an' not a hundred foot from the ranch door. An' how inside I finds a half-dozen more cow folks, lookin' grave an' sayin' nothin'; an' the ranch manager has a bloody bandage about his for'ead, an' another holdin' up his left arm, half bandage an' half sling, the toot ensemble, as Colonel Sterett calls it, showin' sech recent war that the blood's still wet on the cloths an' drops on the floor as we talks. An' how none of us says a word about the dead gent in the cottonwood or of the manager who's shot up; an' how that same manager outfits me with ten sacks of mule-food an' I goes p'intin' out for the Southeast an' forgets all I sees an' never mentions it ag'in.

"Then thar's Sim Booth of the Fryin' Pan outfit, who's one evenin' camped with me at Antelope Springs; an' who saddles up an' ropes onto the laigs of a dead Injun where they're stickin' forth-bein' washed free by the rains-an' pulls an' rolls that copper-coloured departed outen his sepulchre a lot, an' then starts his pony off at a canter an' sort o' fritters the remains about the landscape. Sim does this on the argyment that the obsequies, former, takes place too near the spring. This yere Sim's pony two months later steps in a dog hole when him an' Sim's goin' along full swing with some cattle on a stampede, an' the cayouse falls on Sim an' breaks everything about him incloosive of his neck. The other cow-punchers allers allow it's because Sim turns out that aborigine over by Antelope Springs. Now sech a eepisode, properly elab'rated, might feed your attention an' hold it spellbound some.

"Son, if I was to turn myse'f loose on, great an' little, the divers incidents of the trail, it would consoome days in the relation. I could tell of cactus flowers, blazin' an' brilliant as a eye of red fire ag'in the brown dusk of the deserts; or of mile-long fields of Spanish bayonet in bloom; or of some Mexican's doby shinin' like a rooby in the sunlight a day's journey ahead, the same one onbroken mass from roof to ground of the peppers they calls chili, all reddenin' in the hot glare of the day.

"Or, if you has a fancy for stirrin' incident an' lively scenes, thar's a time when the rains has raised the old Canadian ontil that quicksand ford at Tascosa-which has done eat a hundred teams if ever it swallows one!-is torn up complete an' the bottom of the river nothin' save b'ilin' sand with a shallow yere an' a hole deep enough to drown a house scooped out jest beyond. An' how since I can't pause a week or two for the river to run down an' the ford to settle, I goes spraddlin' an' tumblin' an' swimmin' across on Tom, my nigh wheeler, opens negotiations with the LIT ranch, an' Bob Roberson, has his riders round-up the pasture, an' comes chargin' down to the ford with a bunch of one thousand ponies, all of 'em dancin' an' buckin' an' prancin' like chil'en outen school. Roberson an' the LIT boys throws the thousand broncos across an' across the ford for mighty likely it's fifty times. They'd flash 'em through-the whole band together-on the run; an' then round 'em up on the opp'site bank, turn 'em an' jam 'em through ag'in. When they ceases, the bottom of the river is tramped an' beat out as hard an' as flat as a floor, an' I hooks up an' brings the waggons over like the ford-bottomless quicksand a hour prior-is one of these yere asphalt streets.

"Or I might relate about a cowboy tournament that's held over in the flat green bottom of Parker's arroya; an' how Jack Coombs throws a rope an' fastens at one hundred an' four foot, while Waco Simpson rides at the herd of cattle one hundred foot away, ropes, throws an' ties down a partic'lar steer, frees his lariat an' is back with the jedges ag'in in forty-eight seconds. Waco wins the prize, a Mexican saddle-stamp-leather an' solid gold she is-worth four hundred dollars, by them onpreecedented alacrities.

"Or, I might impart about a Mexican fooneral where the hearse is a blanket with two poles along the aige, the same as one of these battle litters; of the awful songs the mournful Mexicans sings about departed; of the candles they burns an' the dozens of baby white-pine crosses they sets up on little jim-crow stone-heaps along the trail to the tomb; meanwhiles, howlin' dirges constant.

"Now I thinks of it I might bresh up the recollections of a mornin' when I rolls over, blankets an' all, onto something that feels as big as a boot-laig an' plenty squirmy; an' how I shows zeal a-gettin' to my feet, knowin' I'm reposin' on a rattlesnake who's bunked in ag'in my back all sociable to warm himse'f. It's worth any gent's while to see how heated an' indignant that serpent takes it because of me turnin' out so early and so swift.

"Then thar's a mornin' when I finds myse'f not five miles down the wind from a prairie fire; an' it crackin' an' roarin' in flame-sheets twenty foot high an' makin' for'ard jumps of fifty foot. What do I do? Go for'ard down the wind, set fire to the grass myse'f, an' let her burn ahead of me. In two minutes I'm over on a burned deestrict of my own, an' by the time the orig'nal flames works down to my fire line, my own speshul fire is three miles ahead an I myse'f am ramblin' along cool an' saloobrious with a safe, shore area of burnt prairie to my r'ar.

"An' thar's a night on the Serrita la Cruz doorin' a storm, when the lightnin' melts the tire on the wheel of my trail-waggon, an' me layin' onder it at the time. An' it don't even wake me up. Thar's the time, too, when I crosses up at Chico Springs with eighty Injuns who's been buffalo huntin' over to the South Paloduro, an' has with 'em four hundred odd ponies loaded with hides an' buffalo beef an' all headed for their home-camps over back of Taos. The bucks is restin' up a day or two when I rides in; later me an' a half dozen jumps a band of antelopes jest 'round a p'int of rocks. Son, you-all would have admired to see them savages shoot their arrows. I observes one young buck a heap clost. He holds the bow flat down with his left hand while his arrows in their cow-skin quiver sticks over his right shoulder. The way he would flash his right hand back, yank forth a arrow, slam it on his bow, pull it to the head an' cut it loose, is shore a heap earnest. Them missiles would go sailin' off for over three hundred yards, an' I sees him get seven started before ever the first one strikes the ground. The Injuns acquires four antelope by this archery an' shoots mebby some forty arrows; all of which they carefully reclaims when the excitement subsides. She's trooly a sperited exhibition an' I finds it mighty entertainin'.

"I throws these hints loose to show what might be allooded to by way of stories, grave and gay, of sights pecooliar to the trail if only some gent of experience ups an' devotes himse'f to the relations. As it is, however, an' recurrin' to Tom an' Jerry-the same bein' as I informs you, my two wheel mules-I reckons now I might better set forth as to how they comes to die that time. It's his obstinacy that downs Jerry; while pore, tender Tom perishes the victim-volunteer at that-of the love he b'ars his contrary mate.

"Them mules, Tom an' Jerry, is obtained by me, orig'nal in Vegas. They're the wheelers of a eight-mule team; an' I gives Frosty-who's a gambler an' wins 'em at monte of some locoed sport from Chaparita-twelve hundred dollars for the outfit. Which the same is cheap an' easy at double the dinero.

"These mules evident has been part an' passel of the estates of some Mexican, for I finds a cross marked on each harness an' likewise on both waggons. Mexicans employs this formal'ty to run a bluff on any evil sperit who may come projectin' round. Your American mule skinner never makes them tokens. As a roole he's defiant of sperits; an' even when he ain't he don't see no refooge in a cross. Mexicans, on the other hand, is plenty strong on said symbol. Every mornin' you beholds a Mexican with a dab of white on his fore'erd an' on each cheek bone, an' also on his chin where he crosses himse'f with flour; shore, the custom is yooniversal an' it takes a quart of flour to fully fortify a full-blown Greaser household ag'inst the antic'pated perils of the day.

"No sooner am I cl'ar of Vegas-I'm camped near the Plaza de la Concepcion at the time-when I rounds up the eight mules an' looks 'em over with reference to their characters. This is jest after I acquires 'em. It's allers well for a gent to know what he's ag'inst; an' you can put down a stack the disp'sitions of eight mules is a important problem.

"The review is plenty satisfactory. The nigh leader is a steady practical person as a lead mule oughter be, an' I notes by his ca'm jedgmatical eye that he's goin' to give himse'f the benefit of every doubt, an' ain't out to go stampedin' off none without knowin' the reason why. His mate at the other end of the jockey-stick is nervous an' hysterical; she never trys to solve no riddles of existence herse'f, this Jane mule don't, but relies on her mate Peter an' plays Peter's system blind. The nigh p'inter is a deecorous form of mule with no bad habits; while his mate over the chain is one of these yere hard, se'fish, wary parties an' his little game is to get as much of everything except work an' trouble as the lay of the kyards permits. My nigh swing mule is a wit like I tells you the other day. Which this jocose anamile is the life of the team an' allers lettin' fly some dry, quaint observation. This mule wag is partic'lar excellent at a bad ford or a hard crossin', an his gay remarks, full of p'int as a bowie knife, shorely cheers an' uplifts the sperits of the rest. The off swing is a heedless creature who regyards his facetious mate as the very parent of fun, an' he goes about with his y'ear cocked an' his mouth ajar, ready to laugh them 'hah, hah!' laughs of his'n at every word his pard turns loose.

"Tom an' Jerry is different from the others. Bein' bigger an' havin' besides the respons'bilities of the hour piled onto them as wheel mules must, they cultivates a sooperior air an is distant an' reserved in their attitoodes towards the other six. As to each other their pose needs more deescription. Tom, the nigh wheeler-the one I rides when drivin'-is infatyooated with Jerry. I hears a sky-sharp aforetime preach about Jonathan an' David. Yet I'm yere to assert, son, that them sacred people ain't on speakin' terms compared to the way that pore old lovin' Tom mule feels towards Jerry.

"This affection of Tom's is partic'lar amazin' when you-all recalls the fashion in which the sullen Jerry receives it. Doorin' the several years I spends in their s'ciety I never once detects Jerry in any look or word of kindness to Tom. Jerry bites him an' kicks him an' cusses him out constant; he never tol'rates Tom closter than twenty foot onless at times when he orders Tom to curry him. Shore, the imbecile Tom submits. On sech o'casions when Jerry issues a summons to go over him, usin' his upper teeth for a comb an' bresh, Tom is never so happy. Which he digs an' delves at Jerry's ribs that a-way like it's a honour; after a half hour, mebby, when Jerry feels refreshed s'fficient, he w'irls on Tom an' dismisses him with both heels.

"'I track up on folks who's jest the same,' says Dan Boggs, one time when I mentions this onaccountable infatyooation of Tom. 'This Jerry loves that Tom mule mate of his, only he ain't lettin' on. I knows a lady whose treatment of her husband is a dooplicate of Jerry's. She metes out the worst of it to that long-sufferin' shorthorn at every bend in the trail; it looks like he never wins a good word or a soft look from her once. An' yet when that party cashes in, whatever does the lady do? Takes a hooker of whiskey, puts in p'isen enough to down a dozen wolves, an' drinks off every drop. 'Far'well, vain world, I'm goin' home,' says the lady; 'which I prefers death to sep'ration, an' I'm out to jine my beloved husband in the promised land.' I knows, for I attends the fooneral of that family-said fooneral is a double-header as the lady, bein' prompt, trails out after her husband before ever he's pitched his first camp-an' later assists old Chandler in deevisin' a epitaph, the same occurrin' in these yere familiar words:

"She sort o got the drop on him,

In the dooel of earthly love;

Let's hope he gets an even break

When they meets in heaven above."

"'Thar,' concloods Dan,

'is what I regyards as a parallel experience to this Tom an' Jerry. The lady plays Jerry's system from soda to hock, an' yet you-all can see in the lights of that thar sooicide how deep she loves him.'

"'That's all humbug, Dan,' says Enright; 'the lady you relates of isn't lovin'. She's only locoed that a-way.'

"'Whyever if she's locoed, then,' argues Dan, 'don't they up an' hive her in one of their madhouse camps? She goes chargin' about as free an' fearless as a cyclone.'

"'All the same,' says Texas Thompson, 'her cashin' in don't prove no lovin' heart. Mebby she does it so's to chase him up an' continyoo onbroken them hectorin's of her's. I could onfold a fact or two about that wife of mine who cuts out the divorce from me in Laredo that would lead you to concloosions sim'lar. But she wasn't your wife; an' I don't aim to impose my domestic afflictions on this innocent camp, which bein' troo I mootely stands my hand.'

"This Jerry's got one weakness however, I don't never take advantage of it. He's scared to frenzy if you pulls a gun. I reckons, with all them crimes of his'n preyin' on his mind, that he allows you're out, to shoot him up. Jerry is ca'm so long as your gun's in the belt, deemin' it as so much onmeanin' ornament. But the instant you pulls it like you're goin' to put it in play, he onbuckles into piercin' screams. I reaches for my six-shooter one evenin' by virchoo of antelopes, an' that's the time I discovers this foible of Jerry's. I never gets a shot. At the sight of the gun Jerry evolves a howl an' the antelopes tharupon hits two or three high places an' is miles away. Shore, they thinks Jerry is some new breed of demon.

"When I turns to note the cause of Jerry's clamours he's loppin' his fore-laigs over Tom's back an' sobbin' an' sheddin' tears into his mane. Tom sympathises with Jerry an' says all he can to teach him that the avenger ain't on his trail. Nothin' can peacify Jerry, however, except jammin' that awful six-shooter back into its holster. I goes over Jerry that evenin' patiently explorin' for bullet marks, but thar ain't none. No one's ever creased him; an' I figgers final by way of a s'lootion of his fits that mighty likely Jerry's attended some killin' between hoomans, inadvertent, an' has the teeth of his apprehensions set on aige.

"Jerry is that high an' haughty he won't come up for corn in the mornin' onless I petitions him partic'lar an' calls him by name. To jest whoop 'Mules!' he holds don't incloode him. Usual I humours Jerry an' shouts his title speshul, the others bein' called in a bunch. When Jerry hears his name he walks into camp, delib'rate an' dignified, an' kicks every mule to pieces who tries to shove in ahead.

"Once, feelin' some malignant myse'f, I tries Jerry's patience out. I don't call 'Jerry,' merely shouts 'Mules' once or twice an' lets it go at that. Jerry, when he notices I don't refer to him partic'lar lays his y'ears back; an' although his r'ar elevation is towards me I can see he's hotter than a hornet. The faithful Tom abides with Jerry; though he tells him it's feed time an' that the others with a nosebag on each of 'em is already at their repasts. Jerry only gets madder an' lays for Tom an' tries to bite him. After ten minutes, sullen an' sulky, hunger beats Jerry an' he comes bumpin' into camp like a bar'l down hill an' eases his mind by wallopin' both hind hoofs into them other blameless mules, peacefully munchin' their rations. Also, after Jerry's let me put the nosebag onto him he reeverses his p'sition an' swiftly lets fly at me. But I ain't in no trance an' Jerry misses. I don't frale him; I saveys it's because he feels hoomiliated with me not callin' him by name.

"As a roole me an' Jerry gets through our dooties harmonious. He can pull like a lion an' never flinches or flickers at a pinch. It's shore a vict'ry to witness the heroic way Jerry goes into the collar at a hard steep hill or some swirlin', rushin' ford. Sech bein' Jerry's work habits I'm prepared to overlook a heap of moral deeficiencies an' never lays it up ag'in Jerry that he's morose an' repellant when I flings him any kindnesses.

"But while I don't resent 'em none by voylence, still Jerry has habits ag'inst which I has to gyard. You-all recalls how long ago I tells you of Jerry's, bein' a thief. Shore, he can't he'p it; he's a born kleptomaniac. Leastwise 'kleptomaniac' is what Colonel Sterett calls it when he's tellin' me of a party who's afflicted sim'lar.

"'Otherwise this gent's a heap respectable,' says the Colonel. 'Morally speakin' thar's plenty who's worse. Of course, seein' he's crowdin' forty years, he ain't so shamefully innocent neither. He ain't no debyootanty; still, he ain't no crime-wrung debauchee. I should say he grades midway in between. But deep down in his system this person's a kleptomaniac, an' at last his weakness gets its hobbles off an' he turns himse'f loose, an' begins to jest nacherally take things right an' left. No, he don't get put away in Huntsville; they sees he's locoed an' he's corraled instead in one of the asylums where thar's nothin' loose an' little kickin' 'round, an' tharfore no temptations.'

"Takin' the word then from Colonel Sterett, Jerry is a kleptomaniac. I used former to hobble Jerry but one mornin' I'm astounded to see what looks like snow all about my camp. Bein' she's in Joone that snow theery don't go. An' it ain't snow, it's flour; this kleptomaniac Jerry creeps to the waggons while I sleeps an' gets away, one after the other, with fifteen fifty-pound sacks of flour. Then he entertains himse'f an' Tom by p'radin' about with the sacks in his teeth, shakin' an' tossin' his head an' powderin' my 'Pride of Denver' all over the plains. Which Jerry shore frosts that scenery plumb lib'ral.

"It's the next night an' I don't hobble Jerry; I pegs him out on a lariat. What do you-all reckon now that miscreant does? Corrupts pore Tom who you may be certain is sympathisin' 'round, an' makes Tom go to the waggons, steal the flour an' pack it out to him where he's pegged. The soopine Tom, who otherwise is the soul of integrity, abstracts six sacks for his mate an' at daybreak the wretched Jerry's standin' thar, white as milk himse'f, an' flour a foot deep in a cirkle whereof the radius is his rope Tom's gazin' on Jerry in a besotted way like he allows he's certainly the greatest sport on earth.

"Which this last is too much an' I ropes up Jerry for punishment. I throws an' hawgties Jerry, an' he's layin' thar on his side. His eye is obdoorate an' thar's neither shame nor repentance in his heart. Tom is sort o' sobbin' onder his breath; Tom would have swapped places with Jerry too quick an' I sees he has it in his mind to make the offer, only he knows I'll turn it down."

"The other six mules comes up an' loafs about observant an' respectful. They jestifies my arrangements; besides Jerry is mighty onpop'lar with 'em by reason of his heels. I can hear Peter the little lead mule sayin' to Jane, his mate: 'The boss is goin' to lam Jerry a lot with a trace-chain. Which it's shore comin' to him!'

"I w'irls the chain on high an' lays it along Jerry's evil ribs, kerwhillup! Every other link bites through the hide an' the chain plows a most excellent an' wholesome furrow. As the chain descends, the sympathetic Tom jumps an' gives a groan. Tom feels a mighty sight worse than his companero. At the sixth wallop Tom can't b'ar no more, but with tears an' protests comes an' stands over Jerry an' puts it up he'll take the rest himse'f. This evidence of brotherly love stands me off, an' for Tom's sake I desists an' throws Jerry loose. That old scoundrel-while I sees he's onforgivin' an' a-harbourin' of hatreds ag'in me-don't forget the trace-chain an' comports himse'f like a law-abidin' mule for months. He even quits bitin' an' kickin' Tom, an' that lovin' beast seems like he's goin' to break his heart over it, 'cause he looks on it as a sign that Jerry's gettin' cold.

"But thar comes a day when I loses both Tom an' Jerry. It's about second drink time one August mornin' an' me an' my eight mules goes scamperin' through a little Mexican plaza called Tramperos on our way to the Canadian. Over by a 'doby stands a old fleabitten gray mare; she's shore hideous.

"Now if mules has one overmasterin' deloosion it's a gray mare; she's the religion an' the goddess of the mules. This knowledge is common; if you-all is ever out to create a upheaval in the bosom of a mule the handiest, quickest lever is a old gray mare. The gov'ment takes advantage of this aberration of the mules. Thar's trains of pack mules freightin' to the gov'ment posts in the Rockies. They figgers on three hundred pounds to the mule an' the freight is packed in panniers. The gov'ment freighters not bein' equal to the manifold mysteries of a diamond-hitch, don't use no reg'lar shore-enough pack saddle but takes refooge with their ignorance in panniers.

"Speakin' gen'ral, thar's mebby two hundred mules in one of these gov'ment pack trains. An' in the lead, followed, waited on an' worshipped by the mules, is a aged gray mare. She don't pack nothin' but her virchoo an' a little bell, which last is hung 'round her neck. This old mare, with nothin' but her character an' that bell to encumber her, goes fa'rly flyin' light. But go as fast an' as far as she pleases, them long-y'eared locoed worshippers of her's won't let her outen their raptured sight. The last one of 'em, panniers, freight an' all, would go surgin' to the topmost pinnacle of the Rockies if she leads the way.

"An' at that this gray mare don't like mules none; she abhors their company an' kicks an' abooses 'em to a standstill whenever they draws near. But the fool mules don't care; it's ecstacy to simply know she's livin' an' that mule's cup of joy is runnin' over who finds himse'f permitted to crop grass within forty foot of his old, gray bell-bedecked idol.

"We travels all day, followin' glimpsin' that flea-bitten cayouse at Tramperos. But the mules can't think or talk of nothin' else. It arouses their religious enthoosiasm to highest pitch; even the cynic Jerry gets half-way keyed up over it. I looks for trouble that night; an' partic'lar I pegs out Jerry plenty deep and strong. The rest is hobbled, all except Tom. Gray mare or not, I'll gamble the outfit Tom wouldn't abandon Jerry, let the indoocement be ever so alloorin'.

"Every well-organised mule team that a-way allers carries along a bronco. This little steed, saddled an' bridled, trots throughout the day by the side of the off-wheeler, his bridle-rein caught over the wheeler's hame. The bronco is used to round up the mules in event they strays or declines in the mornin' to come when called. Sech bein' the idee, the cayous is allers kept strictly in camp.

"'James' is my bronco's name; an' the evenin', followin' the vision of that Tramperos gray mare I makes onusual shore 'that James stays with me. Not that gray mares impresses James-him bein' a boss an' bosses havin' religious convictions different from mules-or is doo to prove temptations to him; but he might conceal other plans an' get strayed prosecootin' of 'em to a finish. I ties James to the trail-waggon, an' followin' bacon, biscuits, airtights an' sech, the same bein' my froogal fare when on the trail, I rolls in onder the lead-waggon 'an' gives myse'f up to sleep.

"Exactly as I surmises, when I turns out at sun-up thar's never a mule in sight. Every one of them idolaters goes poundin' back, as fast as ever he can with hobbles on, to confess his sins an' say his pray'rs at the shrine of that old gray mare. Even Jerry, whose cynicism should have saved him, pulls his picket-pin with the rest an', takin' Tom along, goes curvin' off. It ain't more than ten minutes, you can gamble! when James an' me is on their trails.

"One by one, I overtakes the team strung all along between my camp an' Tramperos. Peter, the little lead mule, bein' plumb agile an' a sharp on hobbles, gets cl'ar thar; an' I finds him devourin' the goddess gray mare with heart an' soul an' eyes, an' singin' to himse'f the while in low, satisfied tones.

"As one after the other I passes the pilgrim mules I turns an' lifts about a squar' inch of hide off each with the blacksnake whip I'm carryin', by way of p'intin' out their heresies an arousin' in 'em a eagerness to get back to their waggons an' a' upright, pure career. They takes the chastisement humble an' dootiful, an' relinquishes the thought of reachin' the goddess gray mare.

"When I overtakes old Jerry I pours the leather into him speshul, an' the way him an' his pard Tom goes scatterin' for camp refreshes me a heap. An' yet after I rescoos Peter from the demoralisin' inflooences of the gray mare, an' begins to pick up the other members of the team on the journey back, I'm some deepressed when I don't see Tom or Jerry. Nor is either of them mules by the waggons when I arrives.

"It's onadulterated cussedness! Jerry, with no hobbles an' merely draggin' a rope, can lope about free an' permiscus. Tom, with nothin' to hamper him but his love for Jerry, is even more lightsome an' loose. That Jerry mule, hatin' me an' allowin' to make me all the grief he can, sneakingly leaves the trail some'ers after I turns him an' touches him up with the lash. An' now Tom an' Jerry is shorely hid out an' lost a whole lot. It's nothin' but Jerry's notion of revenge on me.

"I camps two days where I'm at, an rounds up the region for the trooants. I goes over it like a fine-tooth comb an' rides James to a show-down. That bronco never is so long onder the saddle since he's foaled; I don't reckon he knows before thar's so much hard work in the world as falls to him when we goes ransackin' in quest of Tom an' Jerry.

"It's no use; the ground is hard an' dry an' I can't even see their hoof-marks. The country's so rollin', too, it's no trouble for 'em to hide. At last I quits an' throws my hand in the diskyard. Tom an' Jerry is shore departed an' I'm deeficient my two best mules. I hooks up the others, an' seein' it's down hill an' a easy trail I makes Tascosa an' refits.

"I never crosses up on Tom an' Jerry in this yere life no more, but one day I learns their fate. It's a month later on my next trip back, an' I'm camped about a half day's drive of that same locoed plaza of Tramperos. As I'm settin' in camp with the sun still plenty high-I'm compilin' flapjacks at the time-I sees eight or ten ravens wheelin' an' cirklin' over beyond a swell about three miles to the left.

"'Tom an' Jerry for a bloo stack!' I says to myse'f; an' with that I cinches the saddle onto James precip'tate.

"Shore enough; I'm on the scene of the tragedy. Half way down a rocky slope where thar ain't grass enough to cover the brown nakedness of the ground lies the bones of Tom an' Jerry. This latter, who's that obstinate an' resentful he won't go back to camp when I wallops him on that gray mare mornin', allows he'll secrete himse'f an' Tom off to one side an' worrit me up. While he's manooverin' about he gets the half-inch rope he's draggin' tangled good an' fast in a mesquite bush. It shorely holds him; that bush is old Jerry's last picket--his last camp. Which he'd a mighty sight better played his hand out with me, even if I does ring in a trace-chain on him at needed intervals. Jerry jest nacherally starves to death for grass an' water. An' what's doubly hard the lovin' Tom, troo to the last, starves with him. Thar's water within two miles; but Tom declines it, stays an' starves with Jerry, an' the ravens an' the coyotes picks their frames."

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