Thirty Thousand on the Hoof - Zane Grey - ebook

Thirty Thousand on the Hoof ebook

Zane Grey

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Frontier story of Logan Hewitt and his wife Lucinda and their trials and travails as a pioneer family in Arizona. Story proceeds through development of the automobile and World War I. This is a tale of a single family, told mostly from the point of view of the woman who left comfort to move west and marry her sweetheart. It is also a very nice lens by which we can see the growth and change in this country. Through the Huetts’ eyes we see the world grow and change, while the patriarch, Logan, clings to his dream of 30,000 cattle. Ends with family starting over after being swindled out of almost a million dollars and two sons being killed in the war. Although the story has some sadness to it, the family demonstrates an ability to overcome all obstacles, including loss of loved ones and family wealth. An inspiring, uplifting story.

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Contents

CHAPTER 1

CHAPTER 2

CHAPTER 3

CHAPTER 4

CHAPTER 5

CHAPTER 6

CHAPTER 7

CHAPTER 8

CHAPTER 9

CHAPTER 10

CHAPTER 11

CHAPTER 12

CHAPTER 13

CHAPTER 14

CHAPTER 15

CHAPTER 16

CHAPTER 17

CHAPTER 1

General Crook and his regiment of the Western Division of the U.S. Army were cutting a road through the timber on the rim of the Mogollon Mesa above the Tonto Basin. They had as captives a number of Apache Indians, braves, squaws, and children, whom they were taking to be placed under guard on the reservation.

At sunset they made camp at the head of one of the canyons running away from the rim. It was a park-like oval, a little way down from the edge, rich with silver grass and watered by a crystal brook that wound under the giant pines. The noisy advent of the soldiers and their horses and pack-mules disturbed a troop of deer that trotted down the canyon to stop and look back, long ears erect.

Crook’s campaign was about over and the soldiers were jubilant. They joked with the sombre-eyed Apaches, who sat huddled in a group under guard. Packs and saddles plopped to the grass, the ring of axes echoed through the forest, blue smoke curled up into sunset-flushed pines.

The general, never a stickler for customs of the service, sat with his captain and a sergeant, resting after the hard day, and waiting for supper.

“Wonder how old Geronimo is going to take this?” mused Crook.

“We haven’t heard the last of thet redskin,” replied Willis, emphatically. “He’ll break out sooner or later, and then there’ll be hell to pay.”

“I’m glad we didn’t have to kill any of these Apaches.”

“We were lucky, General. I’ll bet McKinney will burn powder before he stops thet Matazel an’ his braves. Bad youngsters.”

“Do you know Matazel, sergeant?” inquired Crook.

“I’ve seen him. Strappin’ young buck. Only Indian I ever saw with grey eyes. He’s said to be one of Geronimo’s sons.”

“Wal, McKinney won’t stand any monkey business from thet outfit,” added Willis. “He’s collared them by this time. Huett knows the country. He’ll track them to some hole in the woods.”

“Good scout, Logan Huett, for so young a man. He has been invaluable in this campaign. I shall recommend him to my successor.”

“Huett is through with army scout service after this campaign. He’ll be missed if old Geronimo breaks out an’ goes on the warpath. Fine woodsman. Best rifle-shot I ever saw.”

“What is Huett going to do?”

“Told me he wanted to go home to Missouri for a while. He’s got a girl, I reckon. But he’s hipped on the West, an’ will soon be back.”

“He surely will,” added the other officer. “Logan Huett was cut out for a pioneer.”

“The West needs such men more than the Army… Hello, I hear shouts from above.”

“Bet thet’s McKinney now,” said Willis, rising.

“Sure enough. I see horses an’ army blue through the trees,” added the sergeant.

Presently a squad of soldiers rode down into the glade. They had three mounted Indians with them and another on foot, a tall, lithe brave, straight as an arrow, whose bearing was proud. These captives were herded with the others. Sergeant McKinney reported to General Crook that he had secured Matazel and three of his companions. The others got away on foot.

“Any shooting?” queried the general.

“Yes, sir. We couldn’t surprise them an’ they showed fight. We have two men wounded, not serious.”

“I hope you didn’t kill any Indians.”

“We didn’t, to our knowledge.”

“Send Huett to me.”

The scout approached. He was a young man about twenty-three years old, dark of face. In fact he bore somewhat of a resemblance to Matazel, and he was so stalwart and powerfully built that he did not look tall.

“What’s your report, Huett?”

“General, we made sure of getting Matazel alive,” replied the scout, “otherwise none of them would have escaped… I guessed where Matazel’s bunch was headed for. We cut in behind them, chased them into a box canyon, where we cornered them. They had but little ammunition, or we’d had a different story to tell.”

“Don’t dodge the main point, as McKinney did. Were there any Indians killed?”

“We couldn’t find any dead ones.”

“Willis, fetch this Apache to me.”

In a few moments Matazel stood before the general, his arms crossed over his ragged buckskin shirt, his sombre eyes steady and inscrutable.

“You understand white man talk?” queried General Crook.

“No savvy,” replied Matazel, sullenly.

“General, he can understand you an’ speak a little English,” spoke up the sergeant who knew Matazel.

“Did my soldiers kill any of your people?”

The Apache shook his head.

“But you would have killed us,” said the general, severely. Matazel made a magnificent gesture that embraced the forest and the surrounding wilderness.

“White man steal red man’s land,” he said, loudly. “Pen Indian up. No horse. No gun. No hunt.”

General Crook had no ready answer for that retort.

“You Indians will be taken care of,” he said presently. “It’s better for you to stay peaceably on the reservation with plenty to eat.”

“No!” thundered the Apache. “Geronimo say better fight–better die!”

“Take him away,” ordered the general, his face red. “Captain Willis, according to this Apache, it sounds as if old Geronimo will break out all right. You had it figured.”

Before the sergeant led Matazel away the Indian bent a piercing glance upon the scout, Logan Huett, and stretching out a lean red hand he tapped Huett on the breast.

“You no friend Apache.”

“What do you want, redskin?” demanded Huett, surprised and nettled. “I could have shot you. But I didn’t. I obeyed orders, though I think the only good Indian is a dead one.”

“You track Apache like wolf,” said the Indian, bitterly. His eagle eyes burned with a superb and piercing fire. “Matazel live get even!”!

It was autumn before Logan Huett was released from his military duties, once more free to ride where he chose. Leaving the reservation with light pack behind his saddle, he crossed the Cibeque and headed up out of the manzanita, scrub oak and juniper to the cedars and pinons of the Tonto Rim.

The trail climbed gradually. That same day he reached the pines and the road General Crook had cut along the ragged edge of the great basin. Huett renewed his strong interest in this mesa. From the rim, its highest point some eight thousand feet above sea-level, it sloped back sixty miles to the desert. A singular feature about this cliff was, that it sheered abruptly down into the black Tonto Basin on the south, while the canyons that headed within a stone’s throw of the crest all ran north. A few miles from their source there were deep grassy valleys with heavily timbered slopes. The ridges between the canyons bore a growth of pine and spruce, and the open parks and hollow swales had groves of aspen and thickets of maple. The region was a paradise for game. It had been the hunting-grounds of the Apache, and they had burned the grass and brush every year, making the forest open.

Back towards the Cibeque several cattle combines, notably the Hashknife outfit, ran herds of doubtful numbers on the lower slopes. At Pleasant Valley sheepmen and cattlemen were at odds over the grazing. Sooner or later they would clash.

Huett left that country far behind to the east. He traveled leisurely, camping in pretty spots, and on the third night, reached the canyon-head where he had brought Matazel and his Apache comrades to General Crook, which service practically ended the campaign.

He found where the soldiers had built their camp-fires, little heaps of white and lilac ashes in the grass. He thought of the sombre-eyed Matazel and remembered his threat.

At this lonely camp Huett fell back wholly into the content of his pondering dream. He had not enjoyed the military service. The range life he had led before his campaign suited him better. But he had long dreamed of being a cowboy for himself. The hard riding, the camp fare, the perilous work and adventure were much to his liking, but he had revolted against the noisy, bottle-loving, improvident louts with whom he had to ride.

He broiled turkey over the red coals of his dying aspen-wood fire. With salt, a hard biscuit, and a cup of coffee he thought he fared sumptuously. In that still autumn close of day, in the whispering forest, Logan Huett found himself. He might have been aware of the surpassing beauty of the glade, of the giant pines and silver spruce, of the white-and-gold aspen grove on the slope, of the spot of scarlet maple higher up, but he did not think of it that way. He was alone again. Slowly the pondering thought of his long-cherished plan faded into sensorial perceptions. The gusto with which he ate the hot turkey meat, the smell of the wood-smoke, the changing of the colored shadows all about him, the tinkle of the little stream, the crack of deer or elk horns on a dead branch up the canyon, the whisper in the tips of the spruce, the watching, listening sense of his loneliness–these he felt with singularly sweet and growing vividness, but he did not think of them. He did not know that they accounted for his content. He never established any relation between them and the life of his ancestors or the primitive heritage they had left him.

He slept in his clothes, between his saddle-blankets, with his saddle for a pillow. When the fire burned down, the cold awakened him and he had to get up to replenish it. At dawn crackling white frost covered the grass. Going out to procure firewood, he saw bear-tracks in an open place. These had been made by a cinnamon, as he could tell by the narrow heel. A cinnamon bear was not the most welcome visitor a camper could have in those hills.

Huett made an early start and headed north down the canyon. Deer, elk, coyotes melted up the slopes at his approach. The tips of the pines high on the western ridge-crest turned gold, and gradually that bright hue descended. Not until the sun was on the grass in the canyon did he see any turkeys. After that he came upon flock after flock, one in particular being composed of huge old bronze-and-white gobblers, with red heads and long beards, wild from age and experience.

All this continual sight of game quickened his interest and speculation in a canyon he knew and which he was going to visit. For three years this canyon had been a subject of intensive thought.

He was not certain he could reach it that day, for he had much travel up and down the ridges which lay between. When he had journeyed perhaps a score of miles down from the rim and the canyon was widening and growing shallow, he took to the slope and headed west. Travel then was slow, up through brush and across ridge, around windfalls and down into another canyon. He kept this up for hours. Most of the larger canyons had seldom-ridden trails along the brooks that traversed them.

When the giant silver spruce trees that flourished only at high altitude began to fail Huett knew he was getting down country and perhaps too far north. He swerved more to the west. Dusk found him entering one of the endless little grassy parks. He camped, and found the night appreciably warmer. Next morning he was off at dawn.

About noon, in the full light of sun, Huett came out upon the edge of the canyon that he had run across while hunting three years before and had passed twice since, once in early winter. Compared with many of the great valleys he had crossed, this one was insignificant. But it had peculiar features, no doubt known only to himself, and which made it of extreme interest.

He had never ridden completely around this canyon or from end to end. This part that he had hit upon happened to be towards the south, and it was impossible to ride down into it from where he worked along the rim. He came at length to the great basin with which he was familiar. It had no outlet. The sparkling stream, shining like a ribbon, disappeared in the rocks under the south wall. Huett circumnavigated the basin, which, as far as he could determine, was the largest open pasture in the Mogollon forest. It was oblong in shape, of varying width, and miles long. All around the top ran a rim of grey or yellow limestone, an insignificant wall of rock crumbling, of no particular height, and certainly something few men would have looked at twice.

But for Logan Huett that band of rock possessed marvelous interest. It was a natural fence. Cattle could not climb out of this canyon. Here was a range large enough to run twenty, probably thirty thousand head of stock, without the need of riders. This canyon had haunted Logan Huett. Here his passion to be a cattleman could be realized, and without any particular capital he could build up a fortune.

Huett rode around the south side and up along the west, finding a few breaks that would have to be fenced. Heavy pine forest covered this western slope. Scarcely a mile back in the woods ran the road from. Flagstaff into the little hamlet of Payson, through the rough brakes of the Tonto, down to the Four Peak Range, and out to Phoenix. Settlers looking for ranges to homestead passed that point every summer, never dreaming of what Huett now saw–the most wonderful range in Arizona.

Apaches had once used this beautiful site for a hunting-camp. Huett had found arrow-heads there and bits of flint where some old savage had chipped his points. The brook made several turns between the gradually levelling slopes. Scattered pines trooped down to the deep blue pools. The bench on the east side had waited for ages for the homesteader to throw up his log cabin there. It was a level bit oft ground, above the swift bend of the stream, and marked by a few splendid pine trees. A magnificent spring gushed from the foot of the slope. Deer and elk trails led up through a wide break in the rock wall. This opening, and a larger one at the head of the canyon, were the only breaks in the upper half of the natural fence.

“I’ll come back,” soliloquized Huett, with finality. For so momentous a decision he showed neither passion nor romance. He had a life work set out before him. This was the place. He wasted no more time there, but rode across the flat below the bench, and climbed the west slope. At the summit he turned for one last look. His glance caught the white and bronze of the great sycamore tree shining among the pines. In honor of that tree Huett named his ranch Sycamore Canyon.

The early afternoon hour gave him hope that he could make Mormon Lake before night. The dusty road held to the levels of the dense pine forest, and Huett did not know the country well enough to try a short cut. Trotting his horse, with intervals of restful walk, he made good time.

A new factor suddenly engaged Logan’s mind. He wanted a wife. The life of a lonely ranchman in the wilderness appealed strongly to him, but a capable woman would add immeasurably to his chances of success without interfering with his love of solitude. While he was employing the daylight hours with his labors and his hunting, she would be busy at household tasks and the garden.

Lucinda Baker would be his first choice. She had been sixteen years old when he left Independence, a robust, blooming girl, sensible and clever, and not too pretty. She had told him that she liked him better than any of her other friends. On the strength of that Logan had written her a few times during his absence, and had been promptly answered. Not for six months or more now, however, had he heard from Lucinda. She was teaching school, according to her last letter, and helping her ailing mother with the children. It crossed Logan’s mind that she might have married someone else, or might refuse him, but it never occurred to him that if she accepted him he would be dooming her to a lonely existence in the wilderness.

Thinking of Lucinda Baker reminded Logan that he had not been much in the company of women. However, she had always seemed to understand him. As he rode along through the shady, silent forest, he remembered Lucinda with a warmth of pleasure.

By sunset that day Huett reached the far end of Mormon Lake, a muddy body of surface water, surrounded by stony, wooded bluffs. On the west and north sides there were extensive ranges of grass running arm-like into the forest. The Mormon settler who had given the lake its name had sold out to an Arizonian and his partner from Kansas.

“Wal, we got a good thing hyar,” said the Westerner Holbert. “But what with the timber wolves an’ hard winters we have tough sleddin’. You see, it’s open range an’ pretty high.”

“Any neighbors?” asked Huett.

“None between hyar an’ the Tonto. Jackson runs one of Babbitt’s outfits down on Clear Creek. Thet heads in above Long Valley. Then there’s Jeff an’ Bill Warner, out on the desert. They run a lot of cattle between Clear Creek an’ the Little Colorado. Towards Flagg my nearest neighbor is Dwight Collin. He has a big ranch ten miles in. An’ next is Tim Mooney. Beyond St. Mary’s Lake the settlers thicken up a bit.”

“Any rustlers?”

“Wal, not any out-an’-out rustlers,” replied Holbert evasively. “Rustler gangs have yet to settle in this section of Arizona.”

“Wolves take toll of your calves, eh?”

“Cost me half a hundred head last winter. Did you ever hear of Killer Gray?”

“Not that I remember.”

“Wal, you’d remember thet lofer, if you ever seen him. Big grey timber- wolf with a black ruff. He’s got a small band an’ he ranges this whole country.”

“Why don’t you kill him?”

“Huh! He’s too smart for us. Jest natural cumin’, for a young wolf.”

“I like this Arizona timber-land,” declared Huett, frankly, “And I’m set on a ranch somewhere south of the lake.”

“Wal now, thet’s interestin’. What did you say yore name was?”

“Logan Huett. I rode for several cattle outfits before I worked as scout and hunter for Crook in his Apache campaign.”

“I kinda reckoned you was a soldier,” returned Holbert genially. “Wal, Huett, you’re as welcome out hyar as May flowers. I hope you don’t locate too far south of us. It’s shore lonely, an’ in winter we’re snowed in some seasons for weeks.”

“Thanks. I’ll pick me out a range down in the woods where it’s not so cold … Would you be able to sell me a few cows and heifers, and a bull?”

“I shore would. An’ dirt cheap, too, ‘cause thet’d save me from makin’ a drive to town before winter comes.”

“Much obliged, Holbert. I’ve saved my wages. But they won’t last long. I’ll pick up the cattle on my way back.”

“Good. An’ how soon, Huett?”

“Before the snow flies.”

All the way into Flagg next day Logan’s practical mind resolved a daring query. Why not wire Lucinda to come West to marry him? He resisted this idea, repudiated it, but it returned all the stronger. Logan’s mother had not long survived his father. He had a brother and sister living somewhere in Illinois. Therefore since he had no kindred ties, he did not see why it would not be politic to save the time and expense that it would take to get him to Missouri. He had already bought cattle. He was eager to buy horses, oxen, wagon, tools, guns, and hurry back to Sycamore Canyon. The more time he had in Flagg the better bargains he could find.

Flagg was a cattle and lumber town, important since the advent of the railroad some half-dozen years previously. It had grown since Huett’s last visit. The main block presented a solid front of saloons and gambling-halls –places Logan resolved to give a wide berth. He was no longer a cowboy. Some man directed him to a livery-stable, where he turned over his horse. Next he left his pack at a lodging-house and hunted up a barber-shop. It was dusk when he left there. The first restaurant he encountered was run by a Chinaman and evidently a rendezvous for cowboys, of which the town appeared full. Logan ate and listened.

After supper he strolled down to the railroad station, a rude frame structure in the center of a square facing the main street. Evidently a train was expected. The station and platform presented a lively scene with cowboys, cattle-men, railroad men, Indians, and Mexicans moving about, Logan’s walk became a lagging one, and ended short of the station-house. It seemed to him that there might be something amiss in telegraphing Lucinda such a blunt and hurried proposal. But he drove this thought away, besides calling upon impatience to bolster up his courage. It could do no harm. If Lucinda refused he would just have to go East after her. Logan bolted into the station and sent Lucinda a telegram asking her to come West to marry him.

When the deed was done irrevocably, Logan felt appalled. He strode up town and tried to forget his brazen audacity in the excitement of the gambling- games. He suppressed a strong inclination towards drink. Liquor had never meant much to Logan, but it was omnipresent here in this hustling, loud cow town, and he felt its influence. Finally he went back to the lodging-house and to bed. He felt tired–something unusual for him–and his mind whirled.

The soft bed was conducive to a long, restful sleep. Logan awoke late, arose leisurely, and dressed for the business of the day. Presently he recalled with a little shock just how important a day it was to be in his life. But he did not rush to the telegraph office. He ate a hearty breakfast, made the acquaintance of a droll Arizona cowboy, and then reluctantly and fearfully went to see if there was any reply to his telegram. The operator grinned at Logan and drawled as he handed out a yellow envelope: “Logan Huett. There shore is a heap of a message for you.”

Logan took the envelope eagerly, as abashed as a schoolboy, and the big brown hands that could hold a rifle steady as a rock shook perceptibly as he tore it open and read the brief message. He gulped and read it again: “Yes! If you come after me–Lucinda.”

An unfamiliar sensation assailed him, as he moved away to a seat. Then he felt immensely grateful to Lucinda. He read her message again. The big thing about the moment seemed the certainty that he was to have a wife– provided he went back to Missouri after her. That he would do. But it flashed across his mind that as Lucinda had accepted him upon such short blunt notice, she really must care a good deal for him, and if she did she would come West to marry him. Under the impulse of the inspiration he went to the window and began a long telegram to Lucinda, warm with gratitude at her acceptance and stressing the value of time, that winter was not far away, the need of economy, the splendid opportunity he had, ending with an earnest appeal for her to come West at once. Logan did not even read the message over, but sent it rushed up town.

“I’ve a hunch–she’ll come–and I’m dog-gone lucky,” he panted.

That day he spent in making a list of the many things he would need and the few he would be able to buy. Rifles, shells, axes, blankets, food supplies and cooking utensils, a wagon and horses, or mules, he had to have. Then he hurried from his lodging-house to make these imperative purchases. Prices were reasonable, which fact encouraged him. During the day he met and made friends with a blacksmith from Missouri named Hardy. Hardy had tried farming, and had fallen back upon his trade. He offered Logan a wagon, a yoke of oxen, some farming tools, and miscellaneous hardware for what Huett thought was a sacrifice. That bargain ended a day that had passed along swiftly.

“My luck’s in,” exulted Logan, and on the strength of that belief he hurried to the railroad station. Again there was a telegram for him. Before he opened it he knew Lucinda would come. Her brief reply was: “Leave to-morrow. Arrive Tuesday. Love. Lucinda.”

“Now, there’s a girl!” ejaculated Huett, in great relief and satisfaction. Then he stared at the word “love.” He had forgotten to include that in either of his telegrams. As a matter of fact the sentiment love had not occurred to him. But still, he reflected, a man would have to be all sorts of a stick not to respond to one such as Lucinda Baker. Logan recalled with strong satisfaction that she had not been very popular with certain boys because she would not spoon. He had liked her for that. All at once his satisfaction and gladness glowed into something strange and perturbing. The fact of her coming to marry him grew real; he must try to think of that as well as the numberless things important towards the future of his ranch.

The next day, Saturday, saw Huett labor strenuous hours between daylight and dark. Sunday at the blacksmith’s he packed and helped his friend rig a canvas cover over the wagon. This would keep the contents dry and serve as a place to sleep during the way down. Monday, finding he still had a couple of hundred dollars left, Logan bought horse and saddle, some tinned goods, and dried fruits, a small medicine-case, some smoking tobacco, and last a large box of candy for his prospective bride.

This present bought him to the very necessary consideration of how and where he could be married. Here the blacksmith again came to his assistance. There was a parson in town who would “hitch you up pronto for a five-dollar gold piece!”

Two overland trains rolled in from the East every day, the first arriving at eight-thirty in the morning, and the second at ten in the evening.. On board one of these to-day would be Lucinda Baker.

“Hope she comes on the early one,” said Logan aloud, when he presented himself at the station far ahead of time. “We can get the ‘hitch pronto,’ as Hardy calls it, and be off to-day.”

It did not take Logan long to discover that the most important daily event in Flagg was the arrival of this morning train. The platform might have been a promenade, to the annoyance of the railroad men. Logan leaned against the hitching-rail and waited. Obstreperous cowboys clanked along with their awkward stride, ogling the girls. Mexicans, with blanketed shoulders, lounged about, their sloe-black eyes watchful, while handsome Navajo braves, with colorful bands around their heads, padded to and fro with their moccasined tread. Lucinda would be much impressed by them, thought Logan.

The train whistled from around the pine-forested bend. Logan felt a queer palpitation that he excused as unusual eagerness and gladness. Small wonder –a fellow’s bride came only once!

Presently Logan saw the dusty brown train, like a long, scaly snake coiling behind a puffing black head, come into sight to straighten out and rapidly draw near. The engine passed with a steaming roar. Logan counted the cars. Then with a grinding of steel on steel the train come to a halt.

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