Part of: ARIZONA NIGHTS
From: Arizona Nights
After the rain that had held us holed up at the Double R over one day,
we discussed what we should do next.
"The flats will be too boggy for riding, and anyway the cattle will be
in the high country," the Cattleman summed up the situation. "We'd bog
down the chuck-wagon if we tried to get back to the J. H. But now
after the rain the weather ought to be beautiful. What shall we do?"
"Was you ever in the Jackson country?" asked Uncle Jim. "It's the
wildest part of Arizona. It's a big country and rough, and no one
lives there, and there's lots of deer and mountain lions and bear.
Here's my dogs. We might have a hunt."
"Good!" said we.
We skirmished around and found a condemned army pack saddle with
aparejos, and a sawbuck saddle with kyacks. On these, we managed to
condense our grub and utensils. There were plenty of horses, so our
bedding we bound flat about their naked barrels by means of the
squaw-hitch. Then we started.
That day furnished us with a demonstration of what Arizona horses can
do. Our way led first through a canon-bed filled with rounded boulders
and rocks, slippery and unstable. Big cottonwoods and oaks grew so
thick as partially to conceal the cliffs on either side of us. The
rim-rock was mysterious with caves; beautiful with hanging gardens of
tree ferns and grasses growing thick in long transverse crevices;
wonderful in colour and shape. We passed the little canons fenced off
by the rustlers as corrals into which to shunt from the herds their
choice of beeves.
The Cattleman shook his head at them. "Many a man has come from Texas
and established a herd with no other asset than a couple of horses and
a branding-iron," said he.
Then we worked up gradually to a divide, whence we could see a range of
wild and rugged mountains on our right. They rose by slopes and
ledges, steep and rough, and at last ended in the thousand-foot cliffs
of the buttes, running sheer and unbroken for many miles. During all
the rest of our trip they were to be our companions, the only constant
factors in the tumult of lesser peaks, precipitous canons, and twisted
systems in which we were constantly involved.
The sky was sun-and-shadow after the rain. Each and every Arizonan
"Why, it almost never rains in Arizona," said Jed Parker. "And when it
does it quits before it begins."
Nevertheless, about noon a thick cloud gathered about the tops of the
Galiuros above us. Almost immediately it was dissipated by the wind,
but when the peaks again showed, we stared with astonishment to see
that they were white with snow. It was as though a magician had passed
a sheet before them the brief instant necessary to work his great
transformation. Shortly the sky thickened again, and it began to rain.
Travel had been precarious before; but now its difficulties were
infinitely increased. The clay sub-soil to the rubble turned slippery
and adhesive. On the sides of the mountains it was almost impossible
to keep a footing. We speedily became wet, our hands puffed and
purple, our boots sodden with the water that had trickled from our
clothing into them.
"Over the next ridge," Uncle Jim promised us, "is an old shack that I
fixed up seven years ago. We can all make out to get in it."
Over the next ridge, therefore, we slipped and slid, thanking the god
of luck for each ten feet gained. It was growing cold. The cliffs and
palisades near at hand showed dimly behind the falling rain; beyond
them waved and eddied the storm mists through which the mountains
revealed and concealed proportions exaggerated into unearthly grandeur.
Deep in the clefts of the box canons the streams were filling. The
roar of their rapids echoed from innumerable precipices. A soft swish
of water usurped the world of sound.
Nothing more uncomfortable or more magnificent could be imagined. We
rode shivering. Each said to himself, "I can stand this--right now--at
the present moment. Very well; I will do so, and I will refuse to look
forward even five minutes to what I may have to stand," which is the
true philosophy of tough times and the only effective way to endure
By luck we reached the bottom of that canon without a fall. It was
wide, well grown with oak trees, and belly deep in rich horse feed--an
ideal place to camp were it not for the fact that a thin sheet of water
a quarter of an inch deep was flowing over the entire surface of the
ground. We spurred on desperately, thinking of a warm fire and a
chance to steam.
The roof of the shack had fallen in, and the floor was six inches deep
in adobe mud.
We did not dismount--that would have wet our saddles--but sat on our
horses taking in the details. Finally Uncle Jim came to the front with
"I know of a cave," said he, "close under a butte. It's a big cave,
but it has such a steep floor that I'm not sure as we could stay in it;
and it's back the other side of that ridge."
"I don't know how the ridge is to get back over--it was slippery enough
coming this way--and the cave may shoot us out into space, but I'd like
to LOOK at a dry place anyway," replied the Cattleman.
We all felt the same about it, so back over the ridge we went. About
half way down the other side Uncle Jim turned sharp to the right, and
as the "hog back" dropped behind us, we found ourselves out on the
steep side of a mountain, the perpendicular cliff over us to the right,
the river roaring savagely far down below our left, and sheets of water
glazing the footing we could find among the boulders and debris.
Hardly could the ponies keep from slipping sideways on the slope, as we
proceeded farther and farther from the solidity of the ridge behind us,
we experienced the illusion of venturing out on a tight rope over
abysses of space. Even the feeling of danger was only an illusion,
however, composite of the falling rain, the deepening twilight, and the
night that had already enveloped the plunge of the canon below.
Finally Uncle Jim stopped just within the drip from the cliffs.
"Here she is," said he.
We descended eagerly. A deer bounded away from the base of the buttes.
The cave ran steep, in the manner of an inclined tunnel, far up into
the dimness. We had to dig our toes in and scramble to make way up it
at all, but we found it dry, and after a little search discovered a
foot-ledge of earth sufficiently broad for a seat.
"That's all right," quoth Jed Parker. "Now, for sleeping places."
We scattered. Uncle Jim and Charley promptly annexed the slight
overhang of the cliff whence the deer had jumped. It was dry at the
moment, but we uttered pessimistic predictions if the wind should
change. Tom Rich and Jim Lester had a little tent, and insisted on
descending to the canon-bed.
"Got to cook there, anyways," said they, and departed with the two pack
mules and their bed horse.
That left the Cattleman, Windy Bill, Jed Parker, and me. In a moment
Windy Bill came up to us whispering and mysterious.
"Get your cavallos and follow me," said he.
We did so. He led us two hundred yards to another cave, twenty feet
high, fifteen feet in diameter, level as a floor.
"How's that?" he cried in triumph. "Found her just now while I was
rustling nigger-heads for a fire."
We unpacked our beds with chuckles of joy, and spread them carefully
within the shelter of the cave. Except for the very edges, which did
not much matter, our blankets and "so-guns," protected by the canvas
"tarp," were reasonably dry. Every once in a while a spasm of
conscience would seize one or the other of us.
"It seems sort of mean on the other fellows," ruminated Jed Parker.
"They had their first choice," cried we all.
"Uncle Jim's an old man," the Cattleman pointed out.
But Windy Bill had thought of that. "I told him of this yere cave
first. But he allowed he was plumb satisfied."
We finished laying out our blankets. The result looked good to us. We
all burst out laughing.
"Well, I'm sorry for those fellows," cried the Cattleman. We hobbled
our horses and descended to the gleam of the fire, like guilty
conspirators. There we ate hastily of meat, bread and coffee, merely
for the sake of sustenance. It certainly amounted to little in the way
of pleasure. The water from the direct rain, the shivering trees, and
our hat brims accumulated in our plates faster than we could bail it
out. The dishes were thrust under a canvas. Rich and Lester decided
to remain with their tent, and so we saw them no more until morning.
We broke off back-loads of mesquite and toiled up the hill, tasting
thickly the high altitude in the severe labour. At the big cave we
dumped down our burdens, transported our fuel piecemeal to the vicinity
of the narrow ledge, built a good fire, sat in a row, and lit our
pipes. In a few moments, the blaze was burning high, and our bodies
had ceased shivering. Fantastically the firelight revealed the knobs
and crevices, the ledges and the arching walls. Their shadows leaped,
following the flames, receding and advancing like playful beasts. Far
above us was a single tiny opening through which the smoke was sucked
as through a chimney. The glow ruddied the men's features. Outside
was thick darkness, and the swish and rush and roar of rising waters.
Listening, Windy Bill was reminded of a story. We leaned back
comfortably against the sloping walls of the cave, thrust our feet
toward the blaze, smoked, and hearkened to the tale of Windy Bill.
There's a tur'ble lot of water running loose here, but I've seen the
time and place where even what is in that drip would be worth a gold
mine. That was in the emigrant days. They used to come over south of
here, through what they called Emigrant Pass, on their way to
Californy. I was a kid then, about eighteen year old, and what I didn't
know about Injins and Agency cattle wasn't a patch of alkali. I had a
kid outfit of h'ar bridle, lots of silver and such, and I used to ride
over and be the handsome boy before such outfits as happened along.
They were queer people, most of 'em from Missoury and such-like
southern seaports, and they were tur'ble sick of travel by the time
they come in sight of Emigrant Pass. Up to Santa Fe they mostly hiked
along any old way, but once there they herded up together in bunches of
twenty wagons or so, 'count of our old friends, Geronimo and Loco. A
good many of 'em had horned cattle to their wagons, and they crawled
along about two miles an hour, hotter'n hell with the blower on,
nothin' to look at but a mountain a week way, chuck full of alkali,
plenty of sage-brush and rattlesnakes--but mighty little water.
Why, you boys know that country down there. Between the Chiricahua
Mountains and Emigrant Pass it's maybe a three or four days' journey
for these yere bull-slingers.
Mostly they filled up their bellies and their kegs, hoping to last
through, but they sure found it drier than cork legs, and generally
long before they hit the Springs their tongues was hangin' out a foot.
You see, for all their plumb nerve in comin' so far, the most of them
didn't know sic 'em. They were plumb innocent in regard to savin'
their water, and Injins, and such; and the long-haired buckskin fakes
they picked up at Santa Fe for guides wasn't much better.
That was where Texas Pete made his killing.
Texas Pete was a tough citizen from the Lone Star. He was about as
broad as he was long, and wore all sorts of big whiskers and black
eyebrows. His heart was very bad. You never COULD tell where Texas
Pete was goin' to jump next. He was a side-winder and a diamond-back
and a little black rattlesnake all rolled into one. I believe that
Texas Pete person cared about as little for killin' a man as for takin'
a drink--and he shorely drank without an effort. Peaceable citizens
just spoke soft and minded their own business; onpeaceable citizens
Texas Pete used to plant out in the sagebrush.
Now this Texas Pete happened to discover a water hole right out in the
plumb middle of the desert. He promptly annexed said water hole, digs
her out, timbers her up, and lays for emigrants.
He charged two bits a head--man or beast--and nobody got a mouthful
till he paid up in hard coin.
Think of the wads he raked in! I used to figure it up, just for the
joy of envyin' him, I reckon. An average twenty-wagon outfit, first
and last, would bring him in somewheres about fifty dollars--and
besides he had forty-rod at four bits a glass. And outfits at that
time were thicker'n spatter.
We used all to go down sometimes to watch them come in. When they see
that little canvas shack and that well, they begun to cheer up and move
fast. And when they see that sign, "Water, two bits a head," their
eyes stuck out like two raw oysters.
Then come the kicks. What a howl they did raise, shorely. But it
didn't do no manner of good. Texas Pete didn't do nothin' but sit
there and smoke, with a kind of sulky gleam in one corner of his eye.
He didn't even take the trouble to answer, but his Winchester lay
across his lap. There wasn't no humour in the situation for him.
"How much is your water for humans?" asks one emigrant.
"Can't you read that sign?" Texas Pete asks him.
"But you don't mean two bits a head for HUMANS!" yells the man. "Why,
you can get whisky for that!"
"You can read the sign, can't you?" insists Texas Pete.
"I can read it all right?" says the man, tryin' a new deal, "but they
tell me not to believe more'n half I read."
But that don't go; and Mr. Emigrant shells out with the rest.
I didn't blame them for raisin' their howl. Why, at that time the
regular water holes was chargin' five cents a head from the government
freighters, and the motto was always "Hold up Uncle Sam," at that.
Once in a while some outfit would get mad and go chargin' off dry; but
it was a long, long way to the Springs, and mighty hot and dusty.
Texas Pete and his one lonesome water hole shorely did a big business.
Late one afternoon me and Gentleman Tim was joggin' along above Texas
Pete's place. It was a tur'ble hot day--you had to prime yourself to
spit--and we was just gettin' back from drivin' some beef up to the
troops at Fort Huachuca. We was due to cross the Emigrant Trail--she's
wore in tur'ble deep--you can see the ruts to-day. When we topped the
rise we see a little old outfit just makin' out to drag along.
It was one little schooner all by herself, drug along by two poor old
cavallos that couldn't have pulled my hat off. Their tongues was out,
and every once in a while they'd stick in a chuck-hole. Then a man
would get down and put his shoulder to the wheel, and everybody'd take
a heave, and up they'd come, all a-trembling and weak.
Tim and I rode down just to take a look at the curiosity.
A thin-lookin' man was drivin', all humped up.
"Hullo, stranger," says I, "ain't you 'fraid of Injins?"
"Yes," says he.
"Then why are you travellin' through an Injin country all alone?"
"Couldn't keep up," says he. "Can I get water here?"
"I reckon," I answers.
He drove up to the water trough there at Texas Pete's, me and Gentleman
Tim followin' along because our trail led that way. But he hadn't
more'n stopped before Texas Pete was out.
"Cost you four bits to water them hosses," says he.
The man looked up kind of bewildered.
"I'm sorry," says he, "I ain't got no four bits. I got my roll lifted
"No water, then," growls Texas Pete back at him.
The man looked about him helpless.
"How far is it to the next water?" he asks me.
"Twenty mile," I tells him.
"My God!" he says, to himself-like.
Then he shrugged his shoulders very tired.
"All right. It's gettin' the cool of the evenin'; we'll make it." He
turns into the inside of that old schooner.
"Gi' me the cup, Sue."
A white-faced woman who looked mighty good to us alkalis opened the
flaps and gave out a tin cup, which the man pointed out to fill.
"How many of you is they?" asks Texas Pete.
"Three," replies the man, wondering.
"Well, six bits, then," says Texas Pete, "cash down."
At that the man straightens up a little.
"I ain't askin' for no water for my stock," says he, "but my wife and
baby has been out in this sun all day without a drop of water. Our
cask slipped a hoop and bust just this side of Dos Cabesas. The poor
kid is plumb dry."
"Two bits a head," says Texas Pete.
At that the woman comes out, a little bit of a baby in her arms. The
kid had fuzzy yellow hair, and its face was flushed red and shiny.
"Shorely you won't refuse a sick child a drink of water, sir," says she.
But Texas Pete had some sort of a special grouch; I guess he was just
beginning to get his snowshoes off after a fight with his own forty-rod.
"What the hell are you-all doin' on the trail without no money at all?"
he growls, "and how do you expect to get along? Such plumb tenderfeet
drive me weary."
"Well," says the man, still reasonable, "I ain't got no money, but I'll
give you six bits' worth of flour or trade or an'thin' I got."
"I don't run no truck-store," snaps Texas Pete, and turns square on his
heel and goes back to his chair.
"Got six bits about you?" whispers Gentleman Tim to me.
"Not a red," I answers.
Gentleman Tim turns to Texas Pete.
"Let 'em have a drink, Pete. I'll pay you next time I come down."
"Cash down," growls Pete.
"You're the meanest man I ever see," observes Tim. "I wouldn't speak
to you if I met you in hell carryin' a lump of ice in your hand."
"You're the softest I ever see," sneers Pete. "Don't they have any
genooine Texans down your way?"
"Not enough to make it disagreeable," says Tim.
"That lets you out," growls Pete, gettin' hostile and handlin' of his
Which the man had been standin' there bewildered, the cup hangin' from
his finger. At last, lookin' pretty desperate, he stooped down to dig
up a little of the wet from an overflow puddle lyin' at his feet. At
the same time the hosses, left sort of to themselves and bein' drier
than a covered bridge, drug forward and stuck their noses in the trough.
Gentleman Tim and me was sittin' there on our hosses, a little to one
side. We saw Texas Pete jump up from his chair, take a quick aim, and
cut loose with his rifle. It was plumb unexpected to us. We hadn't
thought of any shootin', and our six-shooters was tied in, 'count of
the jumpy country we'd been drivin' the steers over. But Gentleman
Tim, who had unslung his rope, aimin' to help the hosses out of the
chuckhole, snatched her off the horn, and with one of the prettiest
twenty-foot flip throws I ever see done he snaked old Texas Pete right
out of his wicky-up, gun and all. The old renegade did his best to
twist around for a shot at us; but it was no go; and I never enjoyed
hog-tying a critter more in my life than I enjoyed hog-tying Texas
Pete. Then we turned to see what damage had been done.
We were some relieved to find the family all right, but Texas Pete had
bored one of them poor old crow-bait hosses plumb through the head.
"It's lucky for you you don't get the old man," says Gentleman Tim very
quiet and polite.
Which Gentleman Tim was an Irishman, and I'd been on the range long
enough with him to know that when he got quiet and polite it was time
to dodge behind something.
"I hope, sir" says he to the stranger, "that you will give your wife
and baby a satisfying drink. As for your hoss, pray do not be under
any apprehension. Our friend, Mr. Texas Pete, here, has kindly
consented to make good any deficiencies from his own corral."
Tim could talk high, wide, and handsome when he set out to.
The man started to say something; but I managed to herd him to one side.
"Let him alone," I whispers. "When he talks that way, he's mad; and
when he's mad, it's better to leave nature to supply the lightnin'
He seemed to sabe all right, so we built us a little fire and started
some grub, while Gentleman Tim walked up and down very grand and fierce.
By and by he seemed to make up his mind. He went over and untied Texas
"Stand up, you hound," says he. "Now listen to me. If you make a
break to get away, or if you refuse to do just as I tell you, I won't
shoot you, but I'll march you up country and see that Geronimo gets
He sorted out a shovel and pick, made Texas Pete carry them right along
the trail a quarter, and started him to diggin' a hole.
Texas Pete started in hard enough, Tim sittin' over him on his hoss,
his six-shooter loose, and his rope free. The man and I stood by, not
darin' to say a word. After a minute or so Texas Pete began to work
slower and slower. By and by he stopped.
"Look here," says he, "is this here thing my grave?"
"I am goin' to see that you give the gentleman's hoss decent
interment," says Gentleman Tim very polite.
"Bury a hoss!" growls Texas Pete.
But he didn't say any more. Tim cocked his six-shooter.
"Perhaps you'd better quit panting and sweat a little," says he.
Texas Pete worked hard for a while, for Tim's quietness was beginning
to scare him up the worst way. By and by he had got down maybe four or
five feet, and Tim got off his hoss.
"I think that will do," says he.
"You may come out. Billy, my son, cover him. Now, Mr. Texas Pete," he
says, cold as steel, "there is the grave. We will place the hoss in
it. Then I intend to shoot you and put you in with the hoss, and write
you an epitaph that will be a comfort to such travellers of the Trail
as are honest, and a warnin' to such as are not. I'd as soon kill you
now as an hour from now, so you may make a break for it if you feel
He stooped over to look into the hole. I thought he looked an extra
long time, but when he raised his head his face had changed complete.
"March!" says he very brisk.
We all went back to the shack. From the corral Tim took Texas Pete's
best team and hitched her to the old schooner.
"There," says he to the man. "Now you'd better hit the trail. Take
that whisky keg there for water. Good-bye."
We sat there without sayin' a word for some time after the schooner had
pulled out. Then Tim says, very abrupt:
"I've changed my mind."
He got up.
"Come on, Billy," says he to me. "We'll just leave our friend tied up.
I'll be back to-morrow to turn you loose. In the meantime it won't
hurt you a bit to be a little uncomfortable, and hungry--and thirsty."
We rode off just about sundown, leavin' Texas Pete lashed tight.
Now all this knocked me hell-west and crooked, and I said so, but I
couldn't get a word out of Gentleman Tim. All the answer I could get
was just little laughs.
We drawed into the ranch near midnight, but next mornin' Tim had a long
talk with the boss, and the result was that the whole outfit was
instructed to arm up with a pick or a shovel apiece, and to get set for
Texas Pete's. We got there a little after noon, turned the old boy
out--without firearms--and then began to dig at a place Tim told us to,
near that grave of Texas Pete's. In three hours we had the finest
water-hole developed you ever want to see. Then the boss stuck up a
sign that said:
PUBLIC WATER-HOLE. WATER, FREE.
"Now you old skin," says he to Texas Pete, "charge all you want to on
your own property. But if I ever hear of your layin' claim to this
other hole, I'll shore make you hard to catch."
Then we rode off home. You see, when Gentleman Tim inspected that
grave, he noted indications of water; and it struck him that runnin'
the old renegade out of business was a neater way of gettin' even than
merely killin' him.
Somebody threw a fresh mesquite on the fire. The flames leaped up
again, showing a thin trickle of water running down the other side of
the cave. The steady downpour again made itself prominent through the
"What did Texas Pete do after that?" asked the Cattleman.
"Texas Pete?" chuckled Windy Bill. "Well, he put in a heap of his
spare time lettin' Tim alone."
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