First published in Harper’s Magazine, August 1925
Reprinted in Zane Grey’s Western Magazine, August 1949 / Now on Gutenberg
IT has taken me years to realize the greatness of a dog; and often as I have told the story of Don—his love of freedom and hatred of men —how I saved his life and how he saved mine—it never was told as I feel it now.
I saw Don first at Flagstaff, Arizona, where arrangements had been made for me to cross the desert with Buffalo Jones and a Mormon caravan en route to Lee’s Ferry on the Colorado River.
Jones had brought a pack of nondescript dogs. Our purpose was to cross the river and skirt the Vermillion Cliffs, and finally work up through Buckskin Forest to the north rim of the Grand Cañon, where Jones expected to lasso mountain lions, and bring them back alive. The most important part of our outfit, of course, was the pack of hounds. Never had I seen such a motley assembly of canines. They did not even have names. Jones gave me the privilege of finding names for them.
Among them was a hound that seemed out of place because of his superb proportions, his sleek dark smooth skin, his noble head, and great solemn eyes. He had extraordinarily long ears, thick-veined and faintly tinged with brown. Here was a dog that looked to me like a Thoroughbred. My friendly overtures to him were unnoticed. Jones said he was part bloodhound and had belonged to an old Mexican don in southern California. So I named him Don.
We were ten days crossing the Painted Desert, and protracted horseback riding was then so new and hard for me that I had no enthusiasm left to scrape acquaintance with the dogs. Still I did not forget and often felt sorry for them as they limped along, clinking their chains under the wagons. Even then I divined that horses and dogs were going to play a great part in my Western experience.
At Lee’s Ferry we crossed the Colorado, and I was introduced to the weird and wild cañon country, with its golden-red walls and purple depths. Here we parted with the caravan and went on with Jones’s rangers, Jim and Emmet, who led our outfit into such a wonderful region as I had never dreamed of.
We camped several days on a vast range where Jones let his buffalo herd run wild. One day the Arizonians put me astride a white mustang that apparently delighted in carrying a tenderfoot. I did not know then what I was soon to learn—that the buffalo always chased this mustang off the range. When I rode up on the herd, to my utter amaze and terror, they took after me and—but I am digressing, and this is a dog story.
Once across the river, Jones had unchained the dogs and let them run on ahead or lag behind. Most of them lagged. Don for one, however, did not get sore feet.
Beyond the buffalo range we entered the sage, and here Jones began to train the dogs in earnest. He carried on his saddle on old blunderbuss of a shotgun, about which I had wondered curiously. I had supposed he meant to use it to shoot small game.
Moze, our black-and-white dog, and the ugliest of the lot, gave chase to a jack rabbit.
“Hyar, you Moze, come back!” bawled Jones in stentorian tones.
But Moze paid no attention. Jones whipped out the old shotgun, and before I could utter a protest, he had fired. The distance was pretty far— seventy yards or more—but Moze howled piercingly and came sneaking and limping back. It was remarkable to see him almost crawl to Jones’s feet.
“Thar! That’ll teach you not to chase rabbits. You’re a lion dog!” shouted the old plainsman as if he were talking to a human.
At first I was so astounded and furious that I could not speak. But presently I voiced my feeling.
“Wal, it looks worse than it is,” he said, with his keen gray-blue eyes on me. “I’m usin’ fine birdshot, an’ it can’t do any more than sting. You see, I’ve no time to train these dogs. It’s necessary to make them see quick that they’re not to trail or chase any varmints but lions.”
There was nothing for me to do but hold my tongue, although my resentment appeared to be shared by Jim and Emmet. They made excuses for the old plainsman.
“He shore can make animals do what he wants,” Jim said. “But I never seen the dog or hoss that cared two bits for him.”
We rode on through the beautiful purple sageland, gradually uphill, toward a black-fringed horizon that was Buckskin Forest. Jack rabbits, cottontails, coyotes and foxes, prairie dogs and pack rats infested the sage and engaged the attention of our assorted pack of hounds.
All the dogs except Don fell victim to Jones’s old blunderbuss; and surely stubborn Moze received a second peppering, this time at closer range. I spied drops of blood upon his dirty white skin. After this it relieved me greatly to see that not even Moze transgressed again.
Jones’s method was cruel, but effective. He had captured and subdued wild animals since his boyhood. In fact, that had been the driving passion of his life, but no sentiment entered into it.
“Reckon Don is too smart to let you ketch him,” Jim once remarked to our leader.
“Wal, I don’t know,” responded Jones dubiously. “Mebbe he just wouldn’t chase this sage trash. But wait till we jump some deer. Then we’ll see. He’s got bloodhound in him, and I’ll bet he’ll run deer. All hounds will, even the best ones trained on bear an’ lion.”
Not long after, we entered the wonderful pine forest and the reckoning of Don came as Jones had predicted. Several deer bounded out of a thicket and crossed ahead of us, soon disappearing in the green blur.
“Uhn-huh! Now we’ll see,” ejaculated Jones, deliberately pulling out the old shotgun.
The hounds trotted along beside our horses, unaware of the danger ahead. Soon we reached the deer tracks. All the hounds showed excitement. Don let out a sharp yelp and shot away like a streak on the trail.
“Don, come hyar!” yelled Jones, at the same time extending his gun.
Dan gave no sign he had heard. Then Jones pulled the trigger and shot him. I saw the scattering of dust and pine needles all around Don. He doubled up and rolled. I feared he might be injured badly. But he got up and turned back. It seemed strange that he did not howl.
Jones drew his plunging horse to a halt and bade us all stop.
“Don, come back hyar,” he called in a loud, harsh, commanding voice.
The hound obeyed, not sneakingly or cringingly. He did not put his tail between his legs. But he was frightened and no doubt pretty badly hurt. When he reached us, I saw that he was trembling all over and that drops of blood dripped from his long ears. What a somber sullen gaze in his eyes.
“See hyar,” bellowed Jones, “I knowed you was a deer chaser! Wal, now you’re a lion dog.”
Later that day, when I had recovered sufficiently from my disapproval, I took Jones to task about this matter of shooting the dogs. I wanted to know how he expected the hounds to learn what he required of them.
“Wal, that’s easy,” he replied curtly. “When we strike a lion trail, I’ll put them on it… let them go. They’ll soon learn.”
It seemed plausible, but I was so incensed that I doubted the hounds would chase anything, and I resolved that, if Jones shot Don again, I would force the issue and end the hunt unless assured there would be no more of such training methods.
Soon after this incident we made camp on the edge of a beautiful glade where a snow bank still lingered and a stream of water trickled down into a green swale. Before we got camp pitched, a band of wild horses thudded by, thrilling me deeply. My first sight of wild horses! I knew I should never forget that splendid stallion, the leader, racing on under the trees, looking back at us over his shoulder.
At this camp I renewed my attempts to make friends with Don. He had been chained apart from the other dogs. He ate what I fetched him, but remained aloof. His dignity and distrust were such that I did not risk laying a hand on him then. But I resolved to win him if it were possible. His tragic eyes haunted me. There was a story in them I could not read. He always seemed to be looking afar. On this occasion I came to the conclusion that he hated Jones.
Buckskin Forest was well named. It appeared to be full of deer, the large black-tailed species known as mule deer. This species must be related to the elk. The size and beauty of them, the way they watched with long ears erect and then bounded off as if on springs, never failed to thrill me with delight.
As we traveled on, the forest grew wilder and more beautiful. In the park-like glades a bleached white grass waved in the wind and bluebells smiled wanly. Wild horses outnumbered the deer, and that meant there were some always in sight. A large gray grouse flew up now and then; most striking of the forest creatures to fascinate me was a magnificently black squirrel, with long, bushy, white tail, and tufted ears, and a red stripe down its glossy sides.
We rode for several days through this enchanting wilderness, gradually ascending, and one afternoon we came abruptly to a break in the forest. It was the north rim of the Grand Cañon. My astounded gaze tried to grasp an appalling abyss of purple and gold and red, a chasm too terrible to understand all at once. The effect of that moment must have been tremendous, for I have never recovered from it. To this day the thing that fascinates me most is to stand upon a great height—cañon wall, or promontory, or peak—and gaze down into the mysterious colorful depths.
Our destination was Powell’s Plateau, an isolated cape jutting out into the cañon void. Jones showed it to me—a distant, gold- rimmed, black-fringed promontory, seemingly inaccessible and unscalable. The only trail leading to it was a wild horse hunter’s trail, seldom used, exceedingly dangerous. It took two days over this cañon trail to reach the Saddle —a narrow strip of land dipping down from the plateau and reaching up to the main rim. We camped under a vast, looming, golden wall, so wonderful that it kept me from sleeping.
That night lions visited out camp. The hounds barked for hours. This was the first chance I had to hear Don. What a voice he had! Deep, ringing, wild, like the bay of a wolf!
Next morning we ascended the Saddle, from the notch of which I looked down into the chasm still asleep in purple shadows; then we climbed a narrow deer trail to the summit of the plateau. Here, indeed, was the grand wild isolated spot of my dreams. Indeed, I was in an all-satisfying trance of adventure.
I wanted to make camp on the rim, but Jones laughed at me. We rode through the level stately forest of pines until we came to a ravine on the north side of which lay a heavy bank of snow. This was very necessary, for there was no water in the plateau. Jones rode off to scout while the rest of us pitched camp.
Before we had completed our tasks, a troop of deer appeared across the ravine, and motionless they stood, watching us. There were big and little deer, blue-gray in color, sleek and graceful, so tame that to me it seemed brutal to shoot at them.
Don was the only one of the dogs that espied the deer. He stood up to gaze hard at them, but did not bark or show any desire to chase them. Yet there seemed to be a strange yearning light in his dark eyes. I had never failed to approach Don, whenever opportunity afforded, to continue my overtures of friendship. But now, as always, Don turned away from me. He was cold and somber. I had never seen him wag his tail or whine eagerly, as was common with most hounds.
Jones returned to camp jubilant and excited, as far as it was possible for the old plainsman to be. He had found lion trails and lion tracks, and he predicted a great hunt for us.
The plateau resembled in shape the ace of clubs. It was perhaps six miles long and three or four wide. The body of it was covered with a heavy growth of pine, and the capes that sloped somewhat toward the cañon were thick with sage and cedar. This lower part, with its numerous swales and ravines and gorges, all leading down into the jungle of splintered crags and thicketed slopes of the Grand Cañon, turned out to be a paradise for deer and lion.
We found many lion trails leading down from the cedared broken rim to the slopes of yellow and red. These slopes really constituted a big country, and finally led to the sheer perpendicular precipices, three thousand feet lower.
Deer were numerous and as tame as cattle on a range. They grazed with our horses. Herds of a dozen or more were common. Once we saw a very large band. Down in the sage and under the cedars and in ravines we found many remains of deer. Jones called these lion- kills. And he frankly stated that the number of deer killed yearly upon the plateau would be incredible to anyone who had not seen the actual signs.
In two days we had three captive lions tied to pine saplings near camp. They were two-year-olds. Don and I had treed the first lion; I had taken pictures of Jones lassoing him; I had jumped off a ledge into a cedar to escape another; I had helped Jones hold a third; I had scratches from lion claws on my chaps, and—but I keep forgetting that this is not a story about lions. Always before when I have told it, I have slighted Don.
One night, a week or more after we had settled in camp, we sat around a blazing red fire and talked over the hunt of the day. We all had our part to tell. Jones and I had found where a lioness had jumped a deer. He showed me where the lioness had crouched upon a little brushy knoll, and how she had leaped thirty feet to the back of the deer.
He showed me the tracks the deer had made—bounding, running, staggering with the lioness upon its back—and where, fully a hundred paces beyond, the big cat had downed prey and killed it. There had been a fierce struggle. Then the lioness had dragged the carcass down the slope, through the sage, to the cedar tree where her four two-year-old cubs waited. All that we found of the deer were the ragged hide, some patches of hair, cracked bones, and two long ears. There were still warm.
Eventually we got the hounds on this trail and soon put up the lions. I found a craggy cliff under the rim and sat there, watching and listening for hours. Jones rode to and fro above me, and at last dismounted to go down to join the other men.
The hounds treed one of the lions. How that wild cañon slope rang with the barks and bays and yells! Jones tied up his lion. Then the hounds worked up the ragged slope toward me, much to my gratification and excitement. Somewhere near me the lions had taken to cedars or crags, and I strained my eyes searching for them.
At last I located a lion on top of an isolated crag right beneath me. The hounds, with Don and Ranger leading, had been on the right track. My lusty yells brought the men. Then the lion stood up—a long, slender, yellowish cat—and spat at me. Next it leaped off that crag, fully fifty feet to the slope below, and bounded down, taking the direction from which the men had come. The hounds gave chase, yelping and baying. Jones bawled at them, trying to call them off, for what reason I could not guess. But I was soon to learn. They found the lion Jones had captured and left lying tied under a cedar, and they killed it, then took the trail of the other. They treed it far down in the rough jumble of rocks and cedars.
One by one we had ridden back to camp that night, tired out. Jim was the last in, and he told his story last. And what was my amazement and fright to learn that all the three hours I had sat upon the edge of the caverned wall, the lioness had crouched on a bench above me.
Jim on his way up had seen her, and then located her tracks in the dust back of my position. When this fact burst upon me, I remembered how I had at first imagined I heard faint panting breaths near me somewhere. I had been too excited to trust my ears.
“Wal,” said Jones, standing with the palms of his hands to the fire, “we had a poor day. If we had stuck to Don, there’d have been a different story. I haven’t trusted him. But now, I reckon, I’ll have to. He’ll make the greatest lion dog I ever had. Strikes me queer, too, for I never guessed it was in him. He has faults, though. He’s too fast. He outruns the other hounds, and he’s goin’ to be killed because of that. Someday he’ll beat the pack to a mean old Tom or a lioness with cubs, and he’ll get his everlastin’.
“Another fault is, he doesn’t bark often. That’s bad, too. You can’t stick to him. He’s got a grand bay, shore, but he saves his breath. Don wants to run an’ trail an’ fight alone. He’s got more nerve than any hound I ever trained. He’s too good for his own sake… an’ it’ll be his death.”
Naturally I absorbed all that Buffalo Jones said about dogs, horses, lions, everything pertaining to the West, and I believed it as if it had been gospel. But I observed that the others, especially Jim, did not always agree with our chief in regard to the hounds. A little later, when Jones had left the fire, Jim spoke up with his slow Texas drawl: “Wal, what does he know about dawgs? I’ll tell you right heah, if he hadn’t shot Don, we’d had the best hound that ever put his nose to a track. Don is a wild strange hound, shore enough. Mebbe he’s like a lone wolf. But it’s plain he’s been mistreated by men. An’ Jones has just made him wuss.”
Emmet inclined to Jim’s point of view. And I respected this giant Mormon who was famous on the desert for his kindness to men and animals. His ranch at Lee’s Ferry was overrun with dogs, cats, mustangs, burros, sheep, and tamed wild animals that he had succored.
“Yes, Don hates Jones and, I reckon, all of us,” said Emmet. “Don’s not old, but he’s too old to change. Still, you can never tell what kindness will do to animals. I’d like to take Don home with me and see. But Jones is right. That hound will be killed.”
“Now I wonder why Don doesn’t run off from us?” inquired Jim.
“Perhaps he thinks he’ll get shot again,” I ventured.
“If he ever runs away, it’ll not be here in the wilds,” replied Emmet. “I take Don to be about as smart as any dog ever gets. And that’s pretty close to human intelligence. People have to live lonely lives with dogs before they understand them. I reckon I understand Don. He’s either loved one master once and lost him, or else he has always hated all men.”
“Humph! That’s shore an idee,” ejaculated Jim dubiously. “Do you think a dog can feel like that?”
“Jim, I once saw a little Indian shepherd dog lie down on its master’s grave and die,” returned the Mormon sonorously.
“Wal, dog-gone me!” exclaimed Jim in mild surprise.
One morning Jim galloped in, driving the horses pell-mell into camp. Any deviation from the Texan’s usual leisurely manner of doing things always brought us up short with keen expectation.
“Saddle up!” called Jim. “Shore that’s a chase on. I seen a big red lioness up heah. She must have come down out of the tree whar I hang my meat. Last night I had a haunch of venison. It’s gone. Say, she was a beauty! Red as a red fox.”
In a very few moments we were mounted and riding up the ravine, with the eager hounds sniffing the air. Always over-anxious in my excitement, I rode ahead of my comrades. The hounds trotted with me. The distance to Jim’s meat tree was a short quarter of a mile. I knew well where it was, and, as of course the lion trail would be fresh, I anticipated a fine opportunity to watch Don. The other hounds had come to regard him as their leader. When we neared the meat tree that was a low-branched oak shaded by thick silver spruce, Don elevated his nose high in the air. He had caught a scent, even at a distance. Jones had said more than once that Don had a wonderful nose. The other hounds, excited by Don, began to whine and yelp and run around with noses to the ground.
I had eyes only for Don. How instinct he was with life and fire! The hair on his neck stood up like bristles. Suddenly he let out a wild bark and bolted. He sped away from the pack and like a flash passed that oak tree, running his head high. The hounds strung out after him, and soon the woods seemed full of a baying chorus. My horse, Black Bolly, well knew the meaning of that medley and did not need to be urged. He broke into a run and swiftly carried me up out of the hollow and through a brown-aisled, pine-scented strip of forest to the cañon.
I rode along the edge of one of the deep indentations on the main rim. The hounds were bawling right under me at the base of a low cliff. They had jumped the lioness. I could not see them, but that was not necessary. They were running fast toward the head of this cove, and I had hard work to hold Black Bolly to a safe gait along that tricky rim. Suddenly she shied, and then reared, so that I fell out of the saddle as much as I dismounted. But I held the bridle, and then jerked my rifle from the saddle sheath. As I ran toward the rim, I heard the yells of the men coming up behind.
At the same instant I was startled and halted by sight of something red and furry flashing up into a tree right in front of me. It was the red lioness. The dogs had chased her into a pine, the middle branches of which were on a level with the rim.
My skin went tight and cold, and my heart fluttered. The lioness looked enormous, but that was because she was so close. I could have touched her with a long fishing pole. I stood motionless for an instant, thrilling in every nerve, reveling in the beauty and wildness of that great cat.
She did not see me. The hounds below engaged all her attention. But when I let out a yell that I could not stifle, she jerked spasmodically to face me. Then I froze again. What a tigerish yellow flash of eyes and fangs. She hissed. She could have sprung from the tree to the rim and upon me in two bounds. But she leaped to a ledge below the rim, glided along that, and disappeared.
I ran ahead and with haste and violence clambered out upon a jutting point of the rim, from which I could command the situation. Jones and the others were riding and yelling back where I had left my horse. I called for them to come.
The hounds were baying along the base of the low cliff. No doubt they had seen the lioness leap out of the tree. My eyes roved everywhere. This cove was a shallow V-shaped gorge, a few hundred yards deep and as many across. Its slopes were steep with patches of brush and rock.
All at once my quick eye caught a glimpse of something moving up the opposite slope. It was a long, red, pantherish shape. The lioness! I yelled with all my might. She ran up the slope, and at the base of the low wall she turned to the right. At that moment Jones strode heavily over the rough loose rocks of the promontory toward me.
“Where’s the cat?” he boomed, his gray eyes flashing. In a moment more I had pointed her out. “Ha! I see… don’t like that place. The cañon boxes. She can’t get out. She’ll turn back.”
The old hunter had been quick to grasp what had escaped me. The lioness could not find any break in the wall, and manifestly she would not go down into the gorge. She wheeled back along the base of this yellow cliff. There appeared to be a strip of bare clay or shale rock against which background her red shape stood out clearly. She glided along, slowing her pace, and she turned her gaze across the gorge.
Then Don’s deep bay rang out from the slope to our left. He had struck the trail of the lioness. I saw him running down. He leaped in long bounds. The other hounds heard him and broke for the brushy slope. In a moment they had struck the scent of their quarry and given tongue. As they started down, Don burst out of the willow thicket at the bottom of the gorge and bounded up the opposite slope. He was five hundred yards ahead of the pack. He was swiftly climbing. He would run into the lioness.
Jones gripped my arm in his powerful hand. “Look!” he shouted. “Look at that fool hound! Runnin’ uphill to get that lioness. She won’t run. She’s cornered. She’ll meet him. She’ll kill him… Shoot her! Shoot her!”
I scarcely needed Jones’s command to stir me to save Don, but it was certain that the old plainsman’s piercing voice made me tremble. I knelt and leveled my rifle. The lioness showed red against the gray—a fine target. She was gliding more and more slowly. She saw or heard Don. The gun sight wavered. I could not hold steady. But I had to hurry. My first bullet struck two yards below the beast, puffing the dust. She kept on. My second bullet hit behind her. Jones was yelling in my ear. I could see Don out of the tail of my eye. Again I shot. Too high! But the lioness jumped and halted. She lashed with her tail. What a wild picture! I strained— clamped every muscle, and pulled the trigger. My bullet struck under the lioness, scattering a great puff of dust and gravel in her face. She bounded ahead a few yards and up into a cedar tree.
An instant later Don flashed over the bare spot where she had waited to kill him, and in another his deep bay rang out under the cedar.
“Treed, by gosh!” yelled Jones, joyfully pounding me on the back with his huge fist. “You saved that fool dog’s life. She’d have killed him shore… Wal, the pack will be here pronto, and all we’ve got to do is go over and tie her up. But it was a close shave for Don.”
That night in camp Don was not in the least different from his usual somber self. He took no note of my proud proprietorship or my hovering near him while he ate the supper I provided, part of which came from my own plate. My interest and sympathy had augmented to love.
Don’s attitude toward the captured and chained lions never ceased to be a source of delight and wonder to me. All the other hounds were upset by the presence of the big cats. Moze, Sounder, Tige, Ranger would have fought these collared lions. Not so Don! For him they had ceased to exist. He would walk within ten feet of a hissing lioness without the slightest sign of having seen or heard her. He never joined in the howling chorus of the dogs. He would go to sleep close to where the lions clanked their chains, clawed the trees, whined and spat and squalled.
Several days after that incident of the red lioness we had a long and severe chase through the brushy cedar forest on the left wing of the plateau. I did well to keep the hounds within earshot. When I arrived at the end of that run, I was torn and blackened by the brush, wet with sweat, and hot as fire. Jones, lasso in hand, was walking around a large cedar tree under which the pack of hounds was clamoring. Jim and Emmet were seated on a stone, wiping their red faces.
“Wal, I’ll rope him before he rests up,” declared Jones.
“Wait till… I get… my breath,” panted Emmet.
“We shore oozed along this mawnin’,” drawled Jim.
Dismounting, I untied my camera from the saddle, and then began to peer up into the bushy cedar.
“It’s a Tom lion,” declared Jones. “Not very big, but he looks mean. I reckon he’ll mess us up some.”
“Haw! Haw!” shouted Jim sarcastically. The old plainsman’s imperturbability sometimes wore on our nerves.
I climbed a cedar next to the one in which the lion had taken refuge. From a topmost fork, swaying to and fro, I stood up to photograph our quarry. He was a good-size animal, tawny in hue, rather gray of face, and a fierce-looking brute. As the distance between us was not far, my situation was as uncomfortable as thrilling. He snarled at me and spat viciously. I was about to abandon my swinging limb when the lion turned away from me to peer down through the branches.
Jones was climbing into the cedar. Low and deep the lion growled. Jones held in one hand a long pole with a small fork at the end, upon which hung the noose of his lasso. Presently he got up far enough to reach the lion. Usually he climbed close enough to throw the rope, but evidently he regarded this beast as dangerous. He tried to slip the noose over the head of the lion. One sweep of a big paw sent pole and noose flying. Patiently Jones made ready and tried again, with similar result. Many times he tried. His patience and perseverance seemed incredible. One attribute of his great power to capture and train wild animals here asserted itself. Finally the lion grew careless or tired, at which instant Jones slipped the noose over its head. Drawing the lasso tight, he threw his end over a thick branch and let it trail down to the men below.
“Wait now!” he yelled, and quickly backed down out of the cedar. The hounds were leaping eagerly.
“Pull him off that fork and let him down easy so I can rope one of his paws.”
It turned out, however, that the lion was hard to dislodge. I could see his muscles ridge and bulge. Dead branches cracked, the treetop waved. Jones began to roar in anger. The men replied with strained hoarse voices. I saw the lion drawn from his perch, and, clawing the branches, springing convulsively, he disappeared from my sight.
Then followed a crash. The branch over which Jones was lowering the beast had broken. Wild yells greeted my startled ears and a perfect din of yelps and howls. Pandemonium had broken loose down there. I fell more than I descended from that tree.
As I bounded erect, I espied the men scrambling out of the way of a huge furry wheel. The hounds and one lion comprised that brown whirling ball. Suddenly out of it a dog came hurtling. He rolled to my feet, staggered up.
It was Don. Blood was streaming from him. Swiftly I dragged him aside, out of harm’s way. And I forgot the fight. My hands came away from Don wet and dripping with hot blood. It shocked me. Then I saw that his throat had been terribly torn. I thought his jugular vein had been severed.
Don lay down and stretched out. He looked at me with those great somber eyes. Never would I forget! He was going to die right there before my eyes.
“Oh, Don! Don! What can I do?” I cried in horror.
As I sank beside Don, one of my hands came in contact with snow. It had snowed that morning, and there were still white patches of it in shady places. Like a flash I ripped off my scarf and bound it around Don’s neck. Then I scraped up a double handful of snow and placed that in my bandanna handkerchief. This also I bound tightly around his neck. I could do no more. My hope left me then, and I had not the courage to sit there beside him until he died.
All the while I had been unaware of a bedlam near at hand. When I looked, I saw a spectacle for a hunter. Jones, yelling at the top of his stentorian voice, seized one hound after the other by the hind legs and, jerking him from the lion, threw him down the steep slope.
Jim and Emmet were trying to help while at the same time they avoided close quarters with that threshing beast. At last they got the dogs off and the lion stretched out. Jones got up, shaking his shaggy head. Then he espied me, and his hard face took on a look of alarm.
“Hyar… you’re all… bloody,” he panted plaintively, as if I had been exceedingly remiss.
Whereupon I told him briefly about Don. Then Jim and Emmet approached, and we all stood looking down on the quiet dog and the patch of bloody snow.
“Wal, I reckon he’s a goner,” said Jones, breathing hard. “Shore I knew he’d get his everlastin’.”
“Looks powerful like the lion has about got his, too,” added Jim.
Emmet knelt by Don and examined the bandage round his neck. “Bleeding yet,” he muttered thoughtfully. “You did all that was possible. Too bad! The kindest thing we can do is leave him here.”
I did not question this, but I hated to consent. Still, to move him would only bring on more hemorrhage and to put him out of his agony would have been impossible for me. Moreover, while there was life, there was hope! Scraping up a goodly ball of snow, I rolled it close to Don so that he could lick it if he chose. Then I turned aside and could not look again. But I knew that tomorrow or the following day I would find my way back to this wild spot.
The accident to Don and what seemed the inevitable issue weighed heavily upon my mind. Don’s eyes haunted me. I very much feared that the hunt had reached an unhappy ending for me.
Next day the weather was threatening, and, as the hounds were pretty tired, we rested in camp, devoting ourselves to needful tasks. A hundred times I thought of Don, alone out there in the wild brakes. Perhaps merciful death had relieved him of suffering. I would surely find out on the morrow.
But the indefatigable Jones desired to hunt in another direction next day, and, as I was by no means sure I could find the place where Don had been left, I had to defer that trip. We had a thrilling hazardous luckless chase, and I for one gave up before it ended.
Weary and dejected I rode back. I could not get Don off my conscience. The pleasant woodland camp did not seem the same place. For the first time the hissing, spitting, chain-clinking, tail-lashing lions caused me irritation and resentment. I would have none of them. What was the capture of a lot of spiteful vicious cats to the life of a noble dog? Slipping my saddle off, I turned Black Bolly loose.
Then I imagined I saw a beautiful black long-eared hound enter the glade. I rubbed my eyes. Indeed, there was a dog coming. “Don!” I shouted my joy and awe. Running like a boy, I knelt by him, saying I knew not what. Don wagged his tail. He licked my hand! These actions seemed as marvelous as his return.
He looked sick and weak, but he was all right. The handkerchief was gone from his neck, but the scarf remained, and it was stuck tight where his throat had been lacerated.
Later Emmet examined Don and said we had made a mistake about the jugular vein being severed. Don’s injury had been serious, however, and without the prompt aid I had so fortunately given he would soon have bled to death.
Jones shook his gray old locks and said: “Reckon Don’s time hadn’t come. Hope that will teach him sense.”
In a couple of days Don had recovered, and on the next he was back leading the pack.
A subtle change had come over Don in his relation to me. I did not grasp it so clearly then. Thought and memory afterward brought the realization to me. But there was a light in his eyes for me that had never been there before.
One day Jones and I treed three lions. The largest leaped and ran down into the cañon. The hounds followed. Jones strode after them, leaving me alone with nothing but a camera to keep those two lions up that tree. I had left horse and gun far up the slope.
I protested. I yelled after him: “What’ll I do if they start down?”
Jones turned to gaze up at me. His grim face flashed in the sunlight. “Grab a club and chase them back,” he replied.
Then I was left alone with two ferocious-looking lions in a piñon tree scarcely thirty feet high. While they heard the baying of the hounds, they paid no attention to me, but after that ceased they got ugly. Then I hid behind a bush and barked like a dog. It worked beautifully. The lions grew quiet. I barked and yelped and bayed until I lost my voice. Then they got ugly again. They started down. With stones and clubs I kept them up there, while all the time I was wearing to collapse.
When at last I was about to give up in terror and despair, I heard Don’s bay, faint and far away. The lions had heard it before I had. How they strained! I could see the beating of their hearts through their lean sides. My own heart leaped. Don’s bay floated up, wild and mournful. He was coming. Jones had put him on the back trail of the lion that had leaped from the tree.
Deeper and clearer came the bays. How strange that Don should vary from his habit of seldom baying. There was something uncanny in this change. Soon I saw him far down the rocky slope. He was climbing fast. It seemed I had long to wait, yet my fear left me. On and up he came, ringing out that wild bay. It must have curdled the blood of those palpitating lions. It seemed the herald of that bawling pack of hounds.
Don espied me before he reached the piñon in which were the lions. He bounded right past it and up to me with the wildest demeanor. He leaped up and placed his forepaws on my breast. And as I leaned down, excited and amazed, he licked my face. Then he whirled back to the tree, where he stood up and fiercely bayed the lions.
When I sank down to rest, overcome, the familiar baying chorus of the hounds floated up from below. As usual they were behind the fleet Don, but they were coming as fast as they could.
Another day I found myself alone on the edge of the huge cove that opened down into the main cañon. We were always getting lost from one another. And so were the hounds. There were so many lion trails that the pack would split, some going one way, some another, until it appeared each dog finally had a lion to himself.
Then as I sat there, absorbed and chained, the spell of enchantment was broken by Don. He had come to me. His mouth was covered with froth. I knew what that meant.
Rising, I got my canteen from the saddle and poured water into the crown of my sombrero. Don lapped it. As he drank so thirstily, I espied a bloody scratch on his nose.
“Aha! A lion has batted you one, this very morning!” I cried. “Don… I fear for you.”
He rested while I once more was lost in contemplation of the glory of the cañon. What significant hours these on the lonely heights! But then I only saw and felt.
Presently I mounted my horse and headed for camp, with Don trotting behind. When we reached the notch of the cove, the hound let out his deep bay and bounded down a break in the low wall. I dismounted and called. Only another deep bay answered me. Don had scented a lion or crossed one’s trail. Suddenly several sharp deep yelps came from below, a crashing of brush, a rattling of stones. Don had jumped another lion.
Quickly I threw off sombrero and coat and chaps. I retained my left glove. Then, with camera over my shoulder and revolver in my belt, I plunged down the break in the crag. My boots were heavy soled and studded with hobnails. The weeds on these rocky slopes had trained me to fleetness and sure-footedness. I plunged down the sliding slant of weathered stone, crashed through the brush, dodged under the cedars, leaped from boulder to ledge and down from ledge to bench.
Reaching a dry streambed, I espied in the sand the tracks of a big lion, and beside them smaller tracks that were Don’s. As I ran, I yelled at the top of my lungs, hoping to help Don tree the lion. What I was afraid of was that the beast might wait for Don and kill him.
Such strenuous exertion required a moment’s rest now and then, during which I listened for Don. Twice I heard his bay, and the last one sounded as if he had treed the lion. Again I took to my plunging, jumping, sliding descent, and I was not long in reaching the bottom of that gorge.
Ear and eye had guided me unerringly, for I came to an open space near the main jump-off into the cañon, and here I saw a tawny shape in a cedar tree. It belonged to a big Tom lion. He swayed the branch and leaped to a ledge, and from that down to another, and then vanished around a corner of wall.
Don could not follow down those high steps. Neither could I. We worked along the ledge, under cedars, and over huge slabs of rock toward the corner where our quarry had disappeared. We were close to the great abyss. I could almost feel it. Then the glaring light of a void struck my eyes like some tangible thing. At last I worked out from the shade of rocks and trees, and, turning the abrupt jut of wall, I found a few feet of stone ledge between me and the appalling chasm. How blue, how fathomless! Despite my pursuit of a lion I was suddenly shocked into awe and fear.
Then Don returned to me. The hair on his neck was bristling. He had come from the right, from around the corner of wall where the ledge ran, and where surely the lion had gone. My blood was up, and I meant to track that beast to his lair, photograph him, if possible, and kill him.
So I strode onto the ledge and around the point of wall. Soon I espied huge cat tracks in the dust, close to the base. A well- defined lion trail showed there. And ahead I saw the ledge—widening somewhat and far from level—stretch before me to another corner.
Don acted queerly. He followed me, close at my heels. He whined. He growled. I did not stop to think then what he wanted me to do. But it must have been that he wanted to go back. The heat of youth and the wildness of adventure had gripped me, and fear and caution were not in me.
Nevertheless, my sensibilities were remarkably acute. When Don got in front of me, there was something that compelled me to go slowly. Soon, in any event, I should have been forced to that. The ledge narrowed. Then it widened again to a large bench with cavernous walls overhanging it.
I passed this safe zone to turn onto a narrowing edge of rock that disappeared around another corner. When I came to this point, I must have been possessed, for I flattened myself against the wall and worked around it.
Again the way appeared easier. But what made Don go so cautiously? I heard his growls; still, no longer did I look at him. I felt this pursuit was nearing an end. At the next turn I halted short, suddenly quivering. The ledge ended—and there lay the lion, licking a bloody paw.
Tumultuous, indeed, were my emotions, yet on that instant I did not seem conscious of fear. Jones had told me never, in close quarters, to take my eyes off a lion. I forgot. In the wild excitement of a chance for an incomparable picture I forgot. A few precious seconds were wasted over the attempt to focus my camera.
Then I heard quick thuds. Don growled. With a start I jerked up to see the lion had leaped or run half the distance. He was coming. His eyes blazed purple fire. They seemed to paralyze me, yet I began to back along the ledge. Whipping out my revolver, I tried to aim. But my nerves had undergone such a shock that I could not aim. The gun wobbled. I dared not risk shooting. If I wounded the lion, it was certain he would knock me off that narrow ledge.
So I kept on backing, step by step. Don did likewise. He stayed between me and the lion. Therein lay the greatness of that hound. He easily could have dodged by me to escape along that ledge!
A precious opportunity presented when I reached the widest part of the bench. Here I had a chance, and I recognized it. Then, when the overhanging wall bumped my shoulder, I realized too late. I had come to the narrowing part of the ledge. Not reason but fright kept me from turning to run. Perhaps that would have been the best way out of the predicament. I backed along the strip of stone that was only a foot wide. A few more blind steps meant death. My nerve was gone. Collapse seemed inevitable. I had a camera in one hand and a revolver in the other.
That purple-eyed beast did not halt. My distorted imagination gave him a thousand shapes and actions. Bitter, despairing thoughts flashed through my mind. Jones had said mountain lions were cowards, but not when cornered —never when there was no avenue of escape!
Then Don’s haunches backed into my knees. I dared not look down, but I felt the hound against me. He was shaking, yet he snarled fiercely. The feel of Don there, the sense of his courage caused my cold thick blood to burst into hot gushes. In another second he would be pawed off the ledge or he would grapple with this hissing lion. That meant destruction for both, for they would roll off the ledge.
I had to save Don. That mounting thought was my salvation. Physically he could not have saved me or himself, but this grand spirit somehow pierced to my manhood. Leaning against the wall, I lifted the revolver and steadied my arm with my left hand, which still held the camera. I aimed between the purple eyes. That second was an eternity. The gun crashed. The blaze of one of those terrible eyes went out.
Up leaped the lion, beating the wall with heavy, thudding paws. Then he seemed to propel himself outward, off the ledge into space—a tawny figure that careened majestically over and over, down—down— down to vanish in the blue depths.
Don whined. I stared at the abyss, slowly becoming unlocked from the grip of terror. I staggered a few steps forward to a wider part of the ledge, and there I sank down, unable to stand longer. Don crept to me, put his head in my lap.
I listened. I strained my ears. How endlessly long seemed that lion in falling! But all was magnified. At last puffed up a sliding roar, swelling and dying until again the terrific silence of the cañon enfolded me.
Presently Don sat up and gazed into the depths. How strange to see him peer down! Then he turned his sleek dark head to look at me. What did I see through the somber sadness of his eyes? He whined and licked my hand. It seemed to me Don and I were more than man and dog. He moved away then around the narrow ledge, and I had to summon energy to follow.
Shuddering, I turned my back on that awful chasm and held my breath while I slipped around the perilous place. Don waited there for me, then trotted on. Not until I had gotten safely off that ledge did I draw a full breath. Then I toiled up the steep, rough slope to the rim. Don was waiting beside my horse. Between us we drank the rest of the water in my canteen, and, when we reached camp, night had fallen. A bright fire and a good supper broke the gloom of my mind.
My story held those rugged Westerners spellbound. Don stayed close to me, followed me of his own accord, and slept beside me in my tent.
There came a frosty morning when the sun rose over the ramparts of colored rock. We had a lion running before the misty shadows dispersed from the cañon depths. The hounds chased him through the sage and cedar into the wild brakes of the north wing of the plateau. This lion must have been a mean old Tom, for he did not soon go down the slopes.
The particular section he at last took refuge in was impassable for man. The hounds gave him a grueling chase, then one by one they crawled up, sore and thirsty. All returned but Don. He did not come home.
Buffalo Jones rolled out his mighty voice that pealed back in mocking hollow tones. Don did not come. At noonday Jones and the men left for camp with the hounds.
I remained. I had a vigil there on the lofty rim, alone, where I could peer down the yellow-green slope and beyond to the sinister depths. It was a still day. The silence was overpowering. When Don’s haunting bay floated up, it shocked me. At long intervals I heard it, fainter and fainter. Then no more!
Still I waited and watched and listened. Afternoon waned. My horse neighed piercingly from the cedars. The sinking sun began to fire the Pink Cliffs of Utah, and then the hundred miles of immense chasm over which my charmed gaze held dominion. How lonely, how terrifying that stupendous rent in the earth!
Lion and hound had no fear. But the thinking, feeling man was afraid. What did they mean—this exquisitely hued and monstrous cañon —the setting sun—the wildness of a lion, the grand spirit of a dog—and the wondering sadness of man?
I rode home without Don. Half the night I lay awake waiting, hoping. But he did not return by dawn nor through that day. He never came back.