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The Round-up

From: The Light Of Western Stars

It was a crackling and roaring of fire that awakened Madeline next
morning, and the first thing she saw was a huge stone fireplace in which
lay a bundle of blazing sticks. Some one had kindled a fire while she
slept. For a moment the curious sensation of being lost returned to her.
She just dimly remembered reaching the ranch and being taken into a huge
house and a huge, dimly lighted room. And it seemed to her that she had
gone to sleep at once, and had awakened without remembering how she had
gotten to bed.

But she was wide awake in an instant. The bed stood near one end of an
enormous chamber. The adobe walls resembled a hall in an ancient feudal
castle, stone-floored, stone-walled, with great darkened rafters running
across the ceiling. The few articles of furniture were worn out and
sadly dilapidated. Light flooded into the room from two windows on the
right of the fireplace and two on the left, and another large window
near the bedstead. Looking out from where she lay, Madeline saw a dark,
slow up-sweep of mountain. Her eyes returned to the cheery, snapping
fire, and she watched it while gathering courage to get up. The room was
cold. When she did slip her bare feet out upon the stone floor she very
quickly put them back under the warm blankets. And she was still in
bed trying to pluck up her courage when, with a knock on the door and a
cheerful greeting, Florence entered, carrying steaming hot water.

"Good mawnin', Miss Hammond. Hope you slept well. You sure were tired
last night. I imagine you'll find this old rancho house as cold as a
barn. It'll warm up directly. Al's gone with the boys and Bill. We're to
ride down on the range after a while when your baggage comes."

Florence wore a woolen blouse with a scarf round her neck, a
short corduroy divided skirt, and boots; and while she talked she
energetically heaped up the burning wood in the fireplace, and laid
Madeline's clothes at the foot of the bed, and heated a rug and put that
on the floor by the bedside. And lastly, with a sweet, direct smile, she

"Al told me--and I sure saw myself--that you weren't used to being
without your maid. Will you let me help you?"

"Thank you, I am going to be my own maid for a while. I expect I do
appear a very helpless individual, but really I do not feel so. Perhaps
I have had just a little too much waiting on."

"All right. Breakfast will be ready soon, and after that we'll look
about the place."

Madeline was charmed with the old Spanish house, and the more she saw of
it the more she thought what a delightful home it could be made. All
the doors opened into a courtyard, or patio, as Florence called it. The
house was low, in the shape of a rectangle, and so immense in size that
Madeline wondered if it had been a Spanish barracks. Many of the rooms
were dark, without windows, and they were empty. Others were full of
ranchers' implements and sacks of grain and bales of hay. Florence
called these last alfalfa. The house itself appeared strong and well
preserved, and it was very picturesque. But in the living-rooms were
only the barest necessities, and these were worn out and comfortless.

However, when Madeline went outdoors she forgot the cheerless, bare
interior. Florence led the way out on a porch and waved a hand at a
vast, colored void. "That's what Bill likes," she said.

At first Madeline could not tell what was sky and what was land. The
immensity of the scene stunned her faculties of conception. She sat down
in one of the old rocking-chairs and looked and looked, and knew that
she was not grasping the reality of what stretched wondrously before

"We're up at the edge of the foothills," Florence said. "You remember we
rode around the northern end of the mountain range? Well, that's behind
us now, and you look down across the line into Arizona and Mexico. That
long slope of gray is the head of the San Bernardino Valley. Straight
across you see the black Chiricahua Mountains, and away down to the
south the Guadalupe Mountains. That awful red gulf between is the
desert, and far, far beyond the dim, blue peaks are the Sierra Madres in

Madeline listened and gazed with straining eyes, and wondered if this
was only a stupendous mirage, and why it seemed so different from all
else that she had seen, and so endless, so baffling, so grand.

"It'll sure take you a little while to get used to being up high and
seeing so much," explained Florence. "That's the secret--we're up high,
the air is clear, and there's the whole bare world beneath us. Don't
it somehow rest you? Well, it will. Now see those specks in the valley.
They are stations, little towns. The railroad goes down that way. The
largest speck is Chiricahua. It's over forty miles by trail. Here round
to the north you can see Don Carlos's rancho. He's fifteen miles off,
and I sure wish he were a thousand. That little green square about
half-way between here and Don Carlos--that's Al's ranch. Just below us
are the adobe houses of the Mexicans. There's a church, too. And here to
the left you see Stillwell's corrals and bunk-houses and his stables all
falling to pieces. The ranch has gone to ruin. All the ranches are going
to ruin. But most of them are little one-horse affairs. And here--see
that cloud of dust down in the valley? It's the round-up. The boys are
there, and the cattle. Wait, I'll get the glasses."

By their aid Madeline saw in the foreground a great, dense herd of
cattle with dark, thick streams and dotted lines of cattle leading in
every direction. She saw streaks and clouds of dust, running horses, and
a band of horses grazing; and she descried horsemen standing still like
sentinels, and others in action.

"The round-up! I want to know all about it--to see it," declared
Madeline. "Please tell me what it means, what it's for, and then take me
down there."

"It's sure a sight, Miss Hammond. I'll be glad to take you down, but I
fancy you'll not want to go close. Few Eastern people who regularly eat
their choice cuts of roast beef and porterhouse have any idea of the
open range and the struggle cattle have to live and the hard life of
cowboys. It'll sure open your eyes, Miss Hammond. I'm glad you care to
know. Your brother would have made a big success in this cattle business
if it hadn't been for crooked work by rival ranchers. He'll make it yet,
in spite of them."

"Indeed he shall," replied Madeline. "But tell me, please, all about the

"Well, in the first place, every cattleman has to have a brand to
identify his stock. Without it no cattleman, nor half a hundred cowboys,
if he had so many, could ever recognize all the cattle in a big herd.
There are no fences on our ranges. They are all open to everybody. Some
day I hope we'll be rich enough to fence a range. The different herds
graze together. Every calf has to be caught, if possible, and branded
with the mark of its mother. That's no easy job. A maverick is an
unbranded calf that has been weaned and shifts for itself. The maverick
then belongs to the man who finds it and brands it. These little calves
that lose their mothers sure have a cruel time of it. Many of them die.
Then the coyotes and wolves and lions prey on them. Every year we have
two big round-ups, but the boys do some branding all the year. A calf
should be branded as soon as it's found. This is a safeguard against
cattle-thieves. We don't have the rustling of herds and bunches of
cattle like we used to. But there's always the calf-thief, and always
will be as long as there's cattle-raising. The thieves have a good many
cunning tricks. They kill the calf's mother or slit the calf's tongue
so it can't suck and so loses its mother. They steal and hide a calf
and watch it till it's big enough to fare for itself, and then brand it.
They make imperfect brands and finish them at a later time.

"We have our big round-up in the fall, when there's plenty of grass and
water, and all the riding-stock as well as the cattle are in fine shape.
The cattlemen in the valley meet with their cowboys and drive in all the
cattle they can find. Then they brand and cut out each man's herd
and drive it toward home. Then they go on up or down the valley, make
another camp, and drive in more cattle. It takes weeks. There are
so many Greasers with little bands of stock, and they are crafty and
greedy. Bill says he knows Greaser cowboys, vaqueros, who never owned
a steer or a cow, and now they've got growing herds. The same might be
said of more than one white cowboy. But there's not as much of that as
there used to be."

"And the horses? I want to know about them," said Madeline, when
Florence paused.

"Oh, the cow-ponies! Well, they sure are interesting. Broncos, the boys
call them. Wild! they're wilder than the steers they have to chase.
Bill's got broncos heah that never have been broken and never will be.
And not every boy can ride them, either. The vaqueros have the finest
horses. Don Carlos has a black that I'd give anything to own. And he
has other fine stock. Gene Stewart's big roan is a Mexican horse, the
swiftest and proudest I ever saw. I was up on him once and--oh, he can
run! He likes a woman, too, and that's sure something I want in a horse.
I heard Al and Bill talking at breakfast about a horse for you. They
were wrangling. Bill wanted you to have one, and Al another. It was
funny to hear them. Finally they left the choice to me, until the
round-up is over. Then I suppose every cowboy on the range will offer
you his best mount. Come, let's go out to the corrals and look over the
few horses left."

For Madeline the morning hours flew by, with a goodly part of the time
spent on the porch gazing out over that ever-changing vista. At noon
a teamster drove up with her trunks. Then while Florence helped the
Mexican woman get lunch Madeline unpacked part of her effects and got
out things for which she would have immediate need. After lunch she
changed her dress for a riding-habit and, going outside, found Florence
waiting with the horses.

The Western girl's clear eyes seemed to take stock of Madeline's
appearance in one swift, inquisitive glance and then shone with

"You sure look--you're a picture, Miss Hammond. That riding-outfit is
a new one. What it 'd look like on me or another woman I can't imagine,
but on you it's--it's stunning. Bill won't let you go within a mile of
the cowboys. If they see you that'll be the finish of the round-up."

While they rode down the slope Florence talked about the open ranges of
New Mexico and Arizona.

"Water is scarce," she said. "If Bill could afford to pipe water down
from the mountains he'd have the finest ranch in the valley."

She went on to tell that the climate was mild in winter and hot in
summer. Warm, sunshiny days prevailed nearly all the year round. Some
summers it rained, and occasionally there would be a dry year, the
dreaded ano seco of the Mexicans. Rain was always expected and prayed
for in the midsummer months, and when it came the grama-grass sprang
up, making the valleys green from mountain to mountain. The intersecting
valleys, ranging between the long slope of foothills, afforded the best
pasture for cattle, and these were jealously sought by the Mexicans
who had only small herds to look after. Stillwell's cowboys were always
chasing these vaqueros off land that belonged to Stillwell. He owned
twenty thousand acres of unfenced land adjoining the open range. Don
Carlos possessed more acreage than that, and his cattle were always
mingling with Stillwell's. And in turn Don Carlos's vaqueros were always
chasing Stillwell's cattle away from the Mexican's watering-place. Bad
feeling had been manifested for years, and now relations were strained
to the breaking-point.

As Madeline rode along she made good use of her eyes. The soil was
sandy and porous, and she understood why the rain and water from the
few springs disappeared so quickly. At a little distance the grama-grass
appeared thick, but near at hand it was seen to be sparse. Bunches of
greasewood and cactus plants were interspersed here and there in
the grass. What surprised Madeline was the fact that, though she and
Florence had seemed to be riding quite awhile, they had apparently not
drawn any closer to the round-up. The slope of the valley was noticeable
only after some miles had been traversed. Looking forward, Madeline
imagined the valley only a few miles wide. She would have been sure she
could walk her horse across it in an hour. Yet that black, bold range
of Chiricahua Mountains was distant a long day's journey for even a
hard-riding cowboy. It was only by looking back that Madeline could
grasp the true relation of things; she could not be deceived by distance
she had covered.

Gradually the black dots enlarged and assumed shape of cattle and horses
moving round a great dusty patch. In another half-hour Madeline rode
behind Florence to the outskirts of the scene of action. They drew rein
near a huge wagon in the neighborhood of which were more than a hundred
horses grazing and whistling and trotting about and lifting heads to
watch the new-comers. Four cowboys stood mounted guard over this drove
of horses. Perhaps a quarter of a mile farther out was a dusty melee.
A roar of tramping hoofs filled Madeline's ears. The lines of marching
cattle had merged into a great, moving herd half obscured by dust.

"I can make little of what is going on," said Madeline. "I want to go

They trotted across half the intervening distance, and when Florence
halted again Madeline was still not satisfied and asked to be taken
nearer. This time, before they reined in again, Al Hammond saw them and
wheeled his horse in their direction. He yelled something which Madeline
did not understand, and then halted them.

"Close enough," he called; and in the din his voice was not very clear.
"It's not safe. Wild steers! I'm glad you came, girls. Majesty, what do
you think of that bunch of cattle?"

Madeline could scarcely reply what she thought, for the noise and dust
and ceaseless action confused her.

"They're milling, Al," said Florence.

"We just rounded them up. They're milling, and that's bad. The vaqueros
are hard drivers. They beat us all hollow, and we drove some, too." He
was wet with sweat, black with dust, and out of breath. "I'm off now.
Flo, my sister will have enough of this in about two minutes. Take her
back to the wagon. I'll tell Bill you're here, and run in whenever I get
a minute."

The bawling and bellowing, the crackling of horns and pounding of hoofs,
the dusty whirl of cattle, and the flying cowboys disconcerted Madeline
and frightened her a little; but she was intensely interested and meant
to stay there until she saw for herself what that strife of sound and
action meant. When she tried to take in the whole scene she did not make
out anything clearly and she determined to see it little by little.

"Will you stay longer?" asked Florence; and, receiving an affirmative
reply, she warned Madeline: "If a runaway steer or angry cow comes this
way let your horse go. He'll get out of the way."

That lent the situation excitement, and Madeline became absorbed. The
great mass of cattle seemed to be eddying like a whirlpool, and from
that Madeline understood the significance of the range word "milling."
But when Madeline looked at one end of the herd she saw cattle standing
still, facing outward, and calves cringing close in fear. The motion
of the cattle slowed from the inside of the herd to the outside and
gradually ceased. The roar and tramp of hoofs and crack of horns and
thump of heads also ceased in degree, but the bawling and bellowing
continued. While she watched, the herd spread, grew less dense, and
stragglers appeared to be about to bolt through the line of mounted

From that moment so many things happened, and so swiftly, that Madeline
could not see a tenth of what was going on within eyesight. It seemed
horsemen darted into the herd and drove out cattle. Madeline pinned her
gaze on one cowboy who rode a white horse and was chasing a steer. He
whirled a lasso around his head and threw it; the rope streaked out
and the loop caught the leg of the steer. The white horse stopped with
wonderful suddenness, and the steer slid in the dust. Quick as a flash
the cowboy was out of the saddle, and, grasping the legs of the steer
before it could rise, he tied them with a rope. It had all been done
almost as quickly as thought. Another man came with what Madeline
divined was a branding-iron. He applied it to the flank of the steer.
Then it seemed the steer was up with a jump, wildly looking for some way
to run, and the cowboy was circling his lasso. Madeline saw fires in the
background, with a man in charge, evidently heating the irons. Then this
same cowboy roped a heifer which bawled lustily when the hot iron seared
its hide. Madeline saw the smoke rising from the touch of the iron,
and the sight made her shrink and want to turn away, but she resolutely
fought her sensitiveness. She had never been able to bear the sight of
any animal suffering. The rough work in men's lives was as a sealed book
to her; and now, for some reason beyond her knowledge, she wanted to
see and hear and learn some of the every-day duties that made up those

"Look, Miss Hammond, there's Don Carlos!" said Florence. "Look at that
black horse!"

Madeleine saw a dark-faced Mexican riding by. He was too far away for
her to distinguish his features, but he reminded her of an Italian
brigand. He bestrode a magnificent horse.

Stillwell rode up to the girls then and greeted them in his big voice.

"Right in the thick of it, hey? Wal, thet's sure fine. I'm glad to see,
Miss Majesty, thet you ain't afraid of a little dust or smell of burnin'
hide an' hair."

"Couldn't you brand the calves without hurting them?" asked Madeline.

"Haw, haw! Why, they ain't hurt none. They jest bawl for their mammas.
Sometimes, though, we hev to hurt one jest to find which is his mamma."

"I want to know how you tell what brand to put on those calves that are
separated from their mothers," asked Madeline.

"Thet's decided by the round-up bosses. I've one boss an' Don Carlos
has one. They decide everything, an' they hev to be obyed. There's Nick
Steele, my boss. Watch him! He's ridin' a bay in among the cattle there.
He orders the calves an' steers to be cut out. Then the cowboys do the
cuttin' out an' the brandin'. We try to divide up the mavericks as near
as possible."

At this juncture Madeline's brother joined the group, evidently in
search of Stillwell.

"Bill, Nels just rode in," he said.

"Good! We sure need him. Any news of Danny Mains?"

"No. Nels said he lost the trail when he got on hard ground."

"Wal, wal. Say, Al, your sister is sure takin' to the round-up. An' the
boys are gettin' wise. See thet sun-of-a-gun Ambrose cuttin' capers
all around. He'll sure do his prettiest. Ambrose is a ladies' man, he

The two men and Florence joined in a little pleasant teasing of
Madeline, and drew her attention to what appeared to be really
unnecessary feats of horsemanship all made in her vicinity. The cowboys
evinced their interest in covert glances while recoiling a lasso or
while passing to and fro. It was all too serious for Madeline to be
amused at that moment. She did not care to talk. She sat her horse and

The lithe, dark vaqueros fascinated her. They were here, there,
everywhere, with lariats flying, horses plunging back, jerking calves
and yearlings to the grass. They were cruel to their mounts, cruel to
their cattle. Madeline winced as the great silver rowels of the spurs
went plowing into the flanks of their horses. She saw these spurs
stained with blood, choked with hair. She saw the vaqueros break the
legs of calves and let them lie till a white cowboy came along and shot
them. Calves were jerked down and dragged many yards; steers were pulled
by one leg. These vaqueros were the most superb horsemen Madeline had
ever seen, and she had seen the Cossacks and Tatars of the Russian
steppes. They were swift, graceful, daring; they never failed to catch
a running steer, and the lassoes always went true. What sharp dashes
the horses made, and wheelings here and there, and sudden stops, and how
they braced themselves to withstand the shock!

The cowboys, likewise, showed wonderful horsemanship, and, reckless as
they were, Madeline imagined she saw consideration for steed and cattle
that was wanting in the vaqueros. They changed mounts oftener than the
Mexican riders, and the horses they unsaddled for fresh ones were not so
spent, so wet, so covered with lather. It was only after an hour or more
of observation that Madeline began to realize the exceedingly toilsome
and dangerous work cowboys had to perform. There was little or no rest
for them. They were continually among wild and vicious and wide-horned
steers. In many instances they owed their lives to their horses. The
danger came mostly when the cowboy leaped off to tie and brand a calf he
had thrown. Some of the cows charged with lowered, twisting horns. Time
and again Madeline's heart leaped to her throat for fear a man would be
gored. One cowboy roped a calf that bawled loudly. Its mother dashed in
and just missed the kneeling cowboy as he rolled over. Then he had to
run, and he could not run very fast. He was bow-legged and appeared
awkward. Madeline saw another cowboy thrown and nearly run over by a
plunging steer. His horse bolted as if it intended to leave the range.
Then close by Madeline a big steer went down at the end of a lasso.
The cowboy who had thrown it nimbly jumped down, and at that moment his
horse began to rear and prance and suddenly to lower his head close to
the ground and kick high. He ran round in a circle, the fallen steer on
the taut lasso acting as a pivot. The cowboy loosed the rope from the
steer, and then was dragged about on the grass. It was almost frightful
for Madeline to see that cowboy go at his horse. But she recognized the
mastery and skill. Then two horses came into collision on the run. One
horse went down; the rider of the other was unseated and was kicked
before he could get up. This fellow limped to his mount and struck at
him, while the horse showed his teeth in a vicious attempt to bite.

All the while this ceaseless activity was going on there was a strange
uproar--bawl and bellow, the shock of heavy bodies meeting and falling,
the shrill jabbering of the vaqueros, and the shouts and banterings of
the cowboys. They took sharp orders and replied in jest. They went about
this stern toil as if it were a game to be played in good humor. One
sang a rollicking song, another whistled, another smoked a cigarette.
The sun was hot, and they, like their horses, were dripping with sweat.
The characteristic red faces had taken on so much dust that cowboys
could not be distinguished from vaqueros except by the difference in
dress. Blood was not wanting on tireless hands. The air was thick,
oppressive, rank with the smell of cattle and of burning hide.

Madeline began to sicken. She choked with dust, was almost stifled
by the odor. But that made her all the more determined to stay there.
Florence urged her to come away, or at least move back out of the
worst of it. Stillwell seconded Florence. Madeline, however, smilingly
refused. Then her brother said: "Here, this is making you sick. You're
pale." And she replied that she intended to stay until the day's work
ended. Al gave her a strange look, and made no more comment. The kindly
Stillwell then began to talk.

"Miss Majesty, you're seein' the life of the cattleman an' cowboy--the
real thing--same as it was in the early days. The ranchers in Texas an'
some in Arizona hev took on style, new-fangled idees thet are good,
an' I wish we could follow them. But we've got to stick to the
old-fashioned, open-range round-up. It looks cruel to you, I can see
thet. Wal, mebbe so, mebbe so. Them Greasers are cruel, thet's certain.
Fer thet matter, I never seen a Greaser who wasn't cruel. But I reckon
all the strenuous work you've seen to-day ain't any tougher than most
any day of a cowboy's life. Long hours on hossback, poor grub, sleepin'
on the ground, lonesome watches, dust an' sun an' wind an' thirst, day
in an' day out all the year round--thet's what a cowboy has.

"Look at Nels there. See, what little hair he has is snow-white. He's
red an' thin an' hard--burned up. You notice thet hump of his shoulders.
An' his hands, when he gets close--jest take a peep at his hands. Nels
can't pick up a pin. He can't hardly button his shirt or untie a knot in
his rope. He looks sixty years--an old man. Wal, Nels 'ain't seen forty.
He's a young man, but he's seen a lifetime fer every year. Miss Majesty,
it was Arizona thet made Nels what he is, the Arizona desert an' the
work of a cowman. He's seen ridin' at Canyon Diablo an' the Verdi an'
Tonto Basin. He knows every mile of Aravaipa Valley an' the Pinaleno
country. He's ranged from Tombstone to Douglas. He hed shot bad white
men an' bad Greasers before he was twenty-one. He's seen some life, Nels
has. My sixty years ain't nothin'; my early days in the Staked Plains
an' on the border with Apaches ain't nothin' to what Nels has seen an'
lived through. He's just come to be part of the desert; you might say
he's stone an' fire an' silence an' cactus an' force. He's a man, Miss
Majesty, a wonderful man. Rough he'll seem to you. Wal, I'll show you
pieces of quartz from the mountains back of my ranch an' they're thet
rough they'd cut your hands. But there's pure gold in them. An' so it is
with Nels an' many of these cowboys.

"An' there's Price--Monty Price. Monty stands fer Montana, where he
hails from. Take a good look at him, Miss Majesty. He's been hurt, I
reckon. Thet accounts fer him bein' without hoss or rope; an' thet limp.
Wal, he's been ripped a little. It's sure rare an seldom thet a cowboy
gets foul of one of them thousands of sharp horns; but it does happen."

Madeline saw a very short, wizened little man, ludicrously bow-legged,
with a face the color and hardness of a burned-out cinder. He was
hobbling by toward the wagon, and one of his short, crooked legs

"Not much to look at, is he?" went on Stillwell. "Wal; I know it's
natural thet we're all best pleased by good looks in any one, even a
man. It hedn't ought to be thet way. Monty Price looks like hell. But
appearances are sure deceivin'. Monty saw years of ridin' along the
Missouri bottoms, the big prairies, where there's high grass an'
sometimes fires. In Montana they have blizzards that freeze cattle
standin' in their tracks. An' hosses freeze to death. They tell me thet
a drivin' sleet in the face with the mercury forty below is somethin' to
ride against. You can't get Monty to say much about cold. All you hev
to do is to watch him, how he hunts the sun. It never gets too hot fer
Monty. Wal, I reckon he was a little more prepossessin' once. The story
thet come to us about Monty is this: He got caught out in a prairie fire
an' could hev saved himself easy, but there was a lone ranch right in
the line of fire, an' Monty knowed the rancher was away, an' his wife
an' baby was home. He knowed, too, the way the wind was, thet the
ranch-house would burn. It was a long chance he was takin'. But he went
over, put the woman up behind him, wrapped the baby an' his hoss's haid
in a wet blanket, an' rode away. Thet was sure some ride, I've heerd.
But the fire ketched Monty at the last. The woman fell an' was lost,
an' then his hoss. An' Monty ran an' walked an' crawled through the fire
with thet baby, an' he saved it. Monty was never much good as a cowboy
after thet. He couldn't hold no jobs. Wal, he'll have one with me as
long as I have a steer left."

Next: A Gift And A Purchase

Previous: A Ride From Sunrise To Sunset

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