The Drive

: Arizona Nights

A cry awakened me. It was still deep night. The moon sailed overhead,

the stars shone unwavering like candles, and a chill breeze wandered in

from the open spaces of the desert. I raised myself on my elbow,

throwing aside the blankets and the canvas tarpaulin. Forty other

indistinct, formless bundles on the ground all about me were sluggishly

astir. Four figures passed and repassed between me and a red fire. I

w them for the two cooks and the horse wranglers. One of the latter

was grumbling.

"Didn't git in till moon-up last night," he growled. "Might as well

trade my bed for a lantern and be done with it."

Even as I stretched my arms and shivered a little, the two wranglers

threw down their tin plates with a clatter, mounted horses and rode

away in the direction of the thousand acres or so known as the pasture.

I pulled on my clothes hastily, buckled in my buckskin shirt, and dove

for the fire. A dozen others were before me. It was bitterly cold.

In the east the sky had paled the least bit in the world, but the moon

and stars shone on bravely and undiminished. A band of coyotes was

shrieking desperate blasphemies against the new day, and the stray

herd, awakening, was beginning to bawl and bellow.

Two crater-like dutch ovens, filled with pieces of fried beef, stood

near the fire; two galvanised water buckets, brimming with soda

biscuits, flanked them; two tremendous coffee pots stood guard at

either end. We picked us each a tin cup and a tin plate from the box

at the rear of the chuck wagon; helped ourselves from a dutch oven, a

pail, and a coffee pot, and squatted on our heels as close to the fire

as possible. Men who came too late borrowed the shovel, scooped up

some coals, and so started little fires of their own about which new

groups formed.

While we ate, the eastern sky lightened. The mountains under the dawn

looked like silhouettes cut from slate-coloured paper; those in the

west showed faintly luminous. Objects about us became dimly visible.

We could make out the windmill, and the adobe of the ranch houses, and

the corrals. The cowboys arose one by one, dropped their plates into

the dishpan, and began to hunt out their ropes. Everything was obscure

and mysterious in the faint grey light. I watched Windy Bill near his

tarpaulin. He stooped to throw over the canvas. When he bent, it was

before daylight; when he straightened his back, daylight had come. It

was just like that, as though someone had reached out his hand to turn

on the illumination of the world.

The eastern mountains were fragile, the plain was ethereal, like a sea

of liquid gases. From the pasture we heard the shoutings of the

wranglers, and made out a cloud of dust. In a moment the first of the

remuda came into view, trotting forward with the free grace of the

unburdened horse. Others followed in procession: those near sharp and

well defined, those in the background more or less obscured by the

dust, now appearing plainly, now fading like ghosts. The leader turned

unhesitatingly into the corral. After him poured the stream of the

remuda--two hundred and fifty saddle horses--with an unceasing thunder

of hoofs.

Immediately the cook-camp was deserted. The cowboys entered the

corral. The horses began to circle around the edge of the enclosure as

around the circumference of a circus ring. The men, grouped at the

centre, watched keenly, looking for the mounts they had already decided

on. In no time each had recognised his choice, and, his loop trailing,

was walking toward that part of the revolving circumference where his

pony dodged. Some few whirled the loop, but most cast it with a quick

flip. It was really marvellous to observe the accuracy with which the

noose would fly, past a dozen tossing heads, and over a dozen backs, to

settle firmly about the neck of an animal perhaps in the very centre of

the group. But again, if the first throw failed, it was interesting to

see how the selected pony would dodge, double back, twist, turn, and

hide to escape second cast. And it was equally interesting to observe

how his companions would help him.

They seemed to realise that they were not wanted, and would push

themselves between the cowboy and his intended mount with the utmost

boldness. In the thick dust that instantly arose, and with the

bewildering thunder of galloping, the flashing change of grouping, the

rush of the charging animals, recognition alone would seem almost

impossible, yet in an incredibly short time each had his mount, and the

others, under convoy of the wranglers, were meekly wending their way

out over the plain. There, until time for a change of horses, they

would graze in a loose and scattered band, requiring scarcely any

supervision. Escape? Bless you, no, that thought was the last in

their minds.

In the meantime the saddles and bridles were adjusted. Always in a

cowboy's "string" of from six to ten animals the boss assigns him two

or three broncos to break in to the cow business. Therefore, each

morning we could observe a half dozen or so men gingerly leading wicked

looking little animals out to the sand "to take the pitch out of them."

One small black, belonging to a cowboy called the Judge, used more than

to fulfil expectations of a good time.

"Go to him, Judge!" someone would always remark.

"If he ain't goin' to pitch, I ain't goin' to make him", the Judge

would grin, as he swung aboard.

The black would trot off quite calmly and in a most matter of fact way,

as though to shame all slanderers of his lamb-like character. Then, as

the bystanders would turn away, he would utter a squeal, throw down his

head, and go at it. He was a very hard bucker, and made some really

spectacular jumps, but the trick on which he based his claims to

originality consisted in standing on his hind legs at so perilous an

approach to the perpendicular that his rider would conclude he was

about to fall backwards, and then suddenly springing forward in a

series of stiff-legged bucks. The first manoeuvre induced the rider to

loosen his seat in order to be ready to jump from under, and the second

threw him before he could regain his grip.

"And they say a horse don't think!" exclaimed an admirer.

But as these were broken horses--save the mark!--the show was all over

after each had had his little fling. We mounted and rode away, just as

the mountain peaks to the west caught the rays of a sun we should not

enjoy for a good half hour yet.

I had five horses in my string, and this morning rode "that C S horse,

Brown Jug." Brown Jug was a powerful and well-built animal, about

fourteen two in height, and possessed of a vast enthusiasm for

cow-work. As the morning was frosty, he felt good.

At the gate of the water corral we separated into two groups. The

smaller, under the direction of Jed Parker, was to drive the mesquite

in the wide flats. The rest of us, under the command of Homer, the

round-up captain, were to sweep the country even as far as the base of

the foothills near Mount Graham. Accordingly we put our horses to the

full gallop.

Mile after mile we thundered along at a brisk rate of speed. Sometimes

we dodged in and out among the mesquite bushes, alternately separating

and coming together again; sometimes we swept over grassy plains

apparently of illimitable extent, sometimes we skipped and hopped and

buck-jumped through and over little gullies, barrancas, and other sorts

of malpais--but always without drawing rein. The men rode easily, with

no thought to the way nor care for the footing. The air came back

sharp against our faces. The warm blood stirred by the rush flowed

more rapidly. We experienced a delightful glow. Of the morning cold

only the very tips of our fingers and the ends of our noses retained a

remnant. Already the sun was shining low and level across the plains.

The shadows of the canons modelled the hitherto flat surfaces of the


After a time we came to some low hills helmeted with the outcrop of a

rock escarpment. Hitherto they had seemed a termination of Mount

Graham, but now, when we rode around them, we discovered them to be

separated from the range by a good five miles of sloping plain. Later

we looked back and would have sworn them part of the Dos Cabesas

system, did we not know them to be at least eight miles' distant from

that rocky rampart. It is always that way in Arizona. Spaces develop

of whose existence you had not the slightest intimation. Hidden in

apparently plane surfaces are valleys and prairies. At one sweep of

the eye you embrace the entire area of an eastern State; but

nevertheless the reality as you explore it foot by foot proves to be

infinitely more than the vision has promised.

Beyond the hill we stopped. Here our party divided again, half to the

right and half to the left. We had ridden, up to this time, directly

away from camp, now we rode a circumference of which headquarters was

the centre. The country was pleasantly rolling and covered with grass.

Here and there were clumps of soapweed. Far in a remote distance lay a

slender dark line across the plain. This we knew to be mesquite; and

once entered, we knew it, too, would seem to spread out vastly. And

then this grassy slope, on which we now rode, would show merely as an

insignificant streak of yellow. It is also like that in Arizona.

I have ridden in succession through grass land, brush land, flower

land, desert. Each in turn seemed entirely to fill the space of the

plains between the mountains.

From time to time Homer halted us and detached a man. The business of

the latter was then to ride directly back to camp, driving all cattle

before him. Each was in sight of his right- and left-hand neighbour.

Thus was constructed a drag-net whose meshes contracted as home was


I was detached, when of our party only the Cattleman and Homer

remained. They would take the outside. This was the post of honour,

and required the hardest riding, for as soon as the cattle should

realise the fact of their pursuit, they would attempt to "break" past

the end and up the valley. Brown Jug and I congratulated ourselves on

an exciting morning in prospect.

Now, wild cattle know perfectly well what a drive means, and they do

not intend to get into a round-up if they can help it. Were it not for

the two facts, that they are afraid of a mounted man, and cannot run

quite so fast as a horse, I do not know how the cattle business would

be conducted. As soon as a band of them caught sight of any one of us,

they curled their tails and away they went at a long, easy lope that a

domestic cow would stare at in wonder. This was all very well; in fact

we yelled and shrieked and otherwise uttered cow-calls to keep them

going, to "get the cattle started," as they say. But pretty soon a

little band of the many scurrying away before our thin line, began to

bear farther and farther to the east. When in their judgment they

should have gained an opening, they would turn directly back and make a

dash for liberty. Accordingly the nearest cowboy clapped spurs to his

horse and pursued them.

It was a pretty race. The cattle ran easily enough, with long, springy

jumps that carried them over the ground faster than appearances would

lead one to believe. The cow-pony, his nose stretched out, his ears

slanted, his eyes snapping with joy of the chase, flew fairly "belly to

earth." The rider sat slightly forward, with the cowboy's loose seat.

A whirl of dust, strangely insignificant against the immensity of a

desert morning, rose from the flying group. Now they disappeared in a

ravine, only to scramble out again the next instant, pace undiminished.

The rider merely rose slightly and threw up his elbows to relieve the

jar of the rough gully. At first the cattle seemed to hold their own,

but soon the horse began to gain. In a short time he had come abreast

of the leading animal.

The latter stopped short with a snort, dodged back, and set out at

right angles to his former course. From a dead run the pony came to a

stand in two fierce plunges, doubled like a shot, and was off on the

other tack. An unaccustomed rider would here have lost his seat. The

second dash was short. With a final shake of the head, the steers

turned to the proper course in the direction of the ranch. The pony

dropped unconcernedly to the shuffling jog of habitual progression.

Far away stretched the arc of our cordon. The most distant rider was

a speck, and the cattle ahead of him were like maggots endowed with a

smooth, swift onward motion. As yet the herd had not taken form; it

was still too widely scattered. Its units, in the shape of small

bunches, momently grew in numbers. The distant plains were crawling

and alive with minute creatures making toward a common tiny centre.

Immediately in our front the cattle at first behaved very well. Then

far down the long gentle slope I saw a break for the upper valley. The

manikin that represented Homer at once became even smaller as it

departed in pursuit. The Cattleman moved down to cover Homer's

territory until he should return--and I in turn edged farther to the

right. Then another break from another bunch. The Cattleman rode at

top speed to head it. Before long he disappeared in the distant

mesquite. I found myself in sole charge of a front three miles long.

The nearest cattle were some distance ahead, and trotting along at a

good gait. As they had not yet discovered the chance left open by

unforeseen circumstance, I descended and took in on my cinch while yet

there was time. Even as I mounted, an impatient movement on the part

of experienced Brown Jug told me that the cattle had seen their


I gathered the reins and spoke to the horse. He needed no further

direction, but set off at a wide angle, nicely calculated, to intercept

the truants. Brown Jug was a powerful beast. The spring of his leap

was as whalebone. The yellow earth began to stream past like water.

Always the pace increased with a growing thunder of hoofs. It seemed

that nothing could turn us from the straight line, nothing check the

headlong momentum of our rush. My eyes filled with tears from the wind

of our going. Saddle strings streamed behind. Brown Jug's mane

whipped my bridle band. Dimly I was conscious of soapweed, sacatone,

mesquite, as we passed them. They were abreast and gone before I could

think of them or how they were to be dodged. Two antelope bounded away

to the left; birds rose hastily from the grasses. A sudden chirk,

chirk, chirk, rose all about me. We were in the very centre of a

prairie-dog town, but before I could formulate in my mind the

probabilities of holes and broken legs, the chirk, chirk, chirking had

fallen astern. Brown Jug had skipped and dodged successfully.

We were approaching the cattle. They ran stubbornly and well,

evidently unwilling to be turned until the latest possible moment. A

great rage at their obstinacy took possession of us both. A broad

shallow wash crossed our way, but we plunged through its rocks and

boulders recklessly, angered at even the slight delay they

necessitated. The hardland on the other side we greeted with joy.

Brown Jug extended himself with a snort.

Suddenly a jar seemed to shake my very head loose. I found myself

staring over the horse's head directly down into a deep and precipitous

gully, the edge of which was so cunningly concealed by the grasses as

to have remained invisible to my blurred vision. Brown Jug, however,

had caught sight of it at the last instant, and had executed one of

the wonderful stops possible only to a cow-pony.

But already the cattle had discovered a passage above, and were

scrambling down and across. Brown Jug and I, at more sober pace, slid

off the almost perpendicular bank, and out the other side.

A moment later we had headed them. They whirled, and without the

necessity of any suggestion on my part Brown Jug turned after them, and

so quickly that my stirrup actually brushed the ground.

After that we were masters. We chased the cattle far enough to start

them well in the proper direction, and then pulled down to a walk in

order to get a breath of air.

But now we noticed another band, back on the ground over which we had

just come, doubling through in the direction of Mount Graham. A hard

run set them to rights. We turned. More had poured out from the

hills. Bands were crossing everywhere, ahead and behind. Brown Jug

and I went to work.

Being an indivisible unit, we could chase only one bunch at a time;

and, while we were after one, a half dozen others would be taking

advantage of our preoccupation. We could not hold our own. Each run

after an escaping bunch had to be on a longer diagonal. Gradually we

were forced back, and back, and back; but still we managed to hold the

line unbroken. Never shall I forget the dash and clatter of that

morning. Neither Brown Jug nor I thought for a moment of sparing

horseflesh, nor of picking a route. We made the shortest line, and

paid little attention to anything that stood in the way. A very fever

of resistance possessed us. It was like beating against a head wind,

or fighting fire, or combating in any other of the great forces of

nature. We were quite alone. The Cattleman and Homer had vanished.

To our left the men were fully occupied in marshalling the compact

brown herds that had gradually massed--for these antagonists of mine

were merely outlying remnants.

I suppose Brown Jug must have run nearly twenty miles with only one

check. Then we chased a cow some distance and into the dry bed of a

stream, where she whirled on us savagely. By luck her horn hit only

the leather of my saddle skirts, so we left her; for when a cow has

sense enough to "get on the peck," there is no driving her farther. We

gained nothing, and had to give ground, but we succeeded in holding a

semblance of order, so that the cattle did not break and scatter far

and wide. The sun had by now well risen, and was beginning to shine

hot. Brown Jug still ran gamely and displayed as much interest as

ever, but he was evidently tiring. We were both glad to see Homer's

grey showing in the fringe of mesquite.

Together we soon succeeded in throwing the cows into the main herd.

And, strangely enough, as soon as they had joined a compact band of

their fellows, their wildness left them and, convoyed by outsiders,

they set themselves to plodding energetically toward the home ranch.

As my horse was somewhat winded, I joined the "drag" at the rear. Here

by course of natural sifting soon accumulated all the lazy, gentle, and

sickly cows, and the small calves. The difficulty now was to prevent

them from lagging and dropping out. To that end we indulged in a great

variety of the picturesque cow-calls peculiar to the cowboy. One found

an old tin can which by the aid of a few pebbles he converted into a

very effective rattle.

The dust rose in clouds and eddied in the sun. We slouched easily in

our saddles. The cowboys compared notes as to the brands they had

seen. Our ponies shuffled along, resting, but always ready for a dash

in chase of an occasional bull calf or yearling with independent ideas

of its own.

Thus we passed over the country, down the long gentle slope to the

"sink" of the valley, whence another long gentle slope ran to the base

of the other ranges. At greater or lesser distances we caught the

dust, and made out dimly the masses of the other herds collected by our

companions, and by the party under Jed Parker. They went forward

toward the common centre, with a slow ruminative movement, and the dust

they raised went with them.

Little by little they grew plainer to us, and the home ranch, hitherto

merely a brown shimmer in the distance, began to take on definition as

the group of buildings, windmills, and corrals we knew. Miniature

horsemen could be seen galloping forward to the open white plain where

the herd would be held. Then the mesquite enveloped us; and we knew

little more, save the anxiety lest we overlook laggards in the brush,

until we came out on the edge of that same white plain.

Here were more cattle, thousands of them, and billows of dust, and a

great bellowing, and slim, mounted figures riding and shouting ahead of

the herd. Soon they succeeded in turning the leaders back. These

threw into confusion those that followed. In a few moments the cattle

had stopped. A cordon of horsemen sat at equal distances holding them


"Pretty good haul," said the man next to me; "a good five thousand