Ernest Thompson Seton
It was dusk on Hallowe'en when first I saw him. Early in the morning I had received a telegram from my college chum Jack: "Lest we forget. Am sending you a remarkable pup. Be polite to him; it's safer." It would have been just like Jack to have sent an infernal machine or a Skunk rampant and called it a pup, so I awaited the hamper with curiosity. When it arrived I saw it was marked "Dangerous," and there came from within a high-pitched snarl at every slight provocation. On peering through the wire netting I saw it was not a baby Tiger but a small white Bull terrier. He snapped at me and at any one or anything that seemed too abrupt or too near for proper respect, and his snarling growl was unpleasantly frequent. Dogs have two growls: one deep-rumbled, and chesty; that is polite warning-the retort courteous; the other mouthy and much higher in pitch: this is the last word before actual onslaught. The Terrier's growls were all of the latter kind. I was a dog-man and thought I knew all about Dogs, so, dismissing the porter, I got out my all-round jackknife-toothpick-nailhammer-hatchet-toolbox-fire-shovel, a specialty of our firm, and lifted the netting. Oh, yes, I knew all about Dogs. The little fury had been growling out a whole-souled growl for every tap of the tool, and when I turned the box on its side, he made a dash straight for my legs. Had not his foot gone through the wire netting and held him, I might have been hurt, for his heart was evidently in his work; but I stepped on the table out of reach and tried to reason with him. I have always believed in talking to animals. I maintain that they gather something of our intention at least, even if they do not understand our words; but the Dog evidently put me down for a hypocrite and scorned my approaches. At first he took his post under the table and kept up a circular watch for a leg trying to get down. I felt sure I could have controlled him with my eye, but I could not bring it to bear where I was, or rather where he was; thus I was left a prisoner. I am a very cool person, I flatter myself; in fact, I represent a hardware firm, and, in coolness, we are not excelled by any but perhaps the nosy gentlemen that sell wearing-apparel. I got out a cigar and smoked tailor-style on the table, while my little tyrant below kept watch for legs. I got out the telegram and read it: "Remarkable pup. Be polite to him; it's safer." I think it was my coolness rather than my politeness that did it, for in half an hour the growling ceased. In an hour he no longer jumped at a newspaper cautiously pushed over the edge to test his humor; possibly the irritation of the cage was wearing off, and by the time I had lit my third cigar, he waddled out to the fire and lay down; not ignoring me, however, I had no reason to complain of that kind of contempt. He kept one eye on me, and I kept both eyes, not on him, but on his stumpy tail. If that tail should swing sidewise once I should feel I was winning; but it did not swing. I got a book and put in time on that table till my legs were cramped and the fire burned low. About 10 P.M. it was chilly, and at half-past ten the fire was out. My Hallowe'en present got up, yawned and stretched, then walked under my bed, where he found a fur rug. By stepping lightly from the table to the dresser, and then on to the mantel-shelf, I also reached bed, and, very quietly undressing, got in without provoking any criticism from my master. I had not yet fallen asleep when I heard a slight scrambling and felt "thump-thump" on the bed, then over my feet and legs; Snap evidently had found it too cool down below, and proposed to have the best my house afforded.
The Story of a Bull terrier
He curled up on my feet in such a way that I was very uncomfortable and tried to readjust matters, but the slightest wriggle of my toe was enough to make him snap at it so fiercely that nothing but thick woollen bedclothes saved me from being maimed for life.
I was an hour moving my feet-a hair's-breadth at a time-till they were so that I could sleep in comfort; and I was awakened several times during the night by angry snarls from the Dog-I suppose because I dared to move a toe without his approval, though once I believe he did it simply because I was snoring.
In the morning I was ready to get up before Snap was. You see, I call him Snap-Ginger-snap in full. Some Dogs are hard to name, and some do not seem to need it-they name themselves.
I was ready to rise at seven. Snap was not ready till eight, so we rose at eight. He had little to say to the man who made the fire. He allowed me to dress without doing it on the table. As I left the room to get breakfast, I remarked:
"Snap, my friend, some men would whip you into a different way, but I think I know a better plan. The doctors nowadays favor the 'no-breakfast cure.' I shall try that."
It seemed cruel, but I left him without food all day. It cost me something to repaint the door where he scratched it, but at night he was quite ready to accept a little food at my hands.
In a week we were very good friends. He would sleep on my bed now and allow me to move my feet without snapping at them, intent to do me serious bodily harm. The no-breakfast cure had worked wonders; in three months we were-well, simply man and Dog, and he amply justified the telegram he came with.
He seemed to be without fear. If a small Dog came near, he would take not the slightest notice; if a medium-sized Dog, he would stick his stub of a tail rigidly up in the air, then walk around him, scratching contemptuously with his hind feet, and looking at the sky, the distance, the ground, anything but the Dog, and noting his presence only by frequent high-pitched growls. If the stranger did not move on at once, the battle began, and then the stranger usually moved on very rapidly. Snap sometimes got worsted, but no amount of sad experience could ever inspire him with a grain of caution. Once, while riding in a cab during the Dog Show, Snap caught sight of an elephantine St. Bernard taking an airing. Its size aroused such enthusiasm in the Pup's little breast that he leaped from the cab window to do battle, and broke his leg.
Evidently fear had been left out of his make-up and its place supplied with an extra amount of ginger, which was the reason of his full name. He differed from all other Dogs I have ever known. For example, if a boy threw a stone at him, he ran, not away, but toward the boy, and if the crime was repeated, Snap took the law into his own hands; thus he was at least respected by all. Only myself and the porter at the office seemed to realize his good points, and we only were admitted to the high honor of personal friendship, an honor which I appreciated more as months went on, and by midsummer not Carnegie, Vanderbilt, and Astor together could have raised money enough to buy a quarter of a share in my little Dog Snap.
Though not a regular traveller, I was ordered out on the road in the autumn, and then Snap and the landlady were left together, with unfortunate developments. Contempt on his part-fear on hers; and hate on both.
I was placing a lot of barb-wire in the northern tier of States. My letters were forwarded once a week, and I got several complaints from the landlady about Snap.
Arrived at Mendoza, in North Dakota, I found a fine market for wire. Of course my dealings were with the big storekeepers, but I went about among the ranchmen to get their practical views on the different styles, and thus I met the Penroof Brothers' Cow-outfit.
One cannot be long in Cow country now without hearing a great deal about the depredations of the ever wily and destructive Gray-wolf. The day has gone by when they can be poisoned wholesale, and they are a serious drain on the rancher's profits. The Penroof Brothers, like most live cattle-men, had given up all attempts at poisoning and trapping, and were trying various breeds of Dogs as Wolf-hunters, hoping to get a little sport out of the necessary work of destroying the pests.
Foxhounds had failed-they were too soft for fighting; Great Danes were too clumsy, and Greyhounds could not follow the game unless they could see it. Each breed had some fatal defect, but the cow-men hoped to succeed with a mixed pack, and the day when I was invited to join in a Mendoza Wolf-hunt, I was amused by the variety of Dogs that followed. There were several mongrels, but there were also a few highly bred Dogs-in particular, some Russian Wolfhounds that must have cost a lot of money.
Hilton Penroof, the oldest boy, "The Master of Hounds," was unusually proud of them, and expected them to do great things.
"Greyhounds are too thin-skinned to fight a Wolf, Danes are too slow, but you'll see the fur fly when the Russians take a hand."
Thus the Greyhounds were there as runners, the Danes as heavy backers, and the Russians to do the important fighting. There were also two or three Foxhounds, whose fine noses were relied on to follow the trail if the game got out of view.
It was a fine sight as we rode away among the Badland Buttes that October day. The air was bright and crisp, and though so late, there was neither snow nor frost. The Horses were fresh, and once or twice showed me how a Cow-pony tries to get rid of his rider.
The Dogs were keen for sport, and we did start one or two gray spots in the plain that Hilton said were Wolves or Coyotes. The Dogs trailed away at full cry, but at night, beyond the fact that one of the Greyhounds had a wound on his shoulder, there was nothing to show that any of them had been on a Wolf-hunt.
It's my opinion yer fancy Russians is no good, Hilt," said Garvin, the younger brother. "I'll back that little black Dane against the lot, mongrel an' all as he is."
"I don't unnerstan' it," growled Hilton. "There ain't a Coyote, let alone a Gray-wolf, kin run away from them Greyhounds; them Foxhounds kin folly a trail three days old, an' the Danes could lick a Grizzly."
"I reckon," said the father, "they kin run, an' they kin track, an' they kin lick a Grizzly, maybe, but the fac' is they don't want to tackle a Gray-wolf. The hull darn pack is scairt-an' I wish we had our money out o' them."
Thus the men grumbled and discussed as I drove away and left them.
There seemed only one solution of the failure. The Hounds were swift and strong, but a Gray-wolf seems to terrorize all Dogs. They have not the nerve to face him, and so, each time he gets away, and my thoughts flew back to the fearless little Dog that had shared my bed for the last year. How I wished he was out here, then these lubberly giants of Hounds would find a leader whose nerve would not fail at the moment of trial.
At Baroka, my next stop, I got a batch of mail including two letters from the landlady; the first to say that "that beast of a Dog was acting up scandalous in my room," and the other still more forcible, demanding his immediate removal. "Why not have him expressed to Mendoza?" I thought. "It's only twenty hours; they'll be glad to have him. I can take him home with me when I go through."
My next meeting with Gingersnap was not as different from the first as one might have expected. He jumped on me, made much vigorous pretense to bite, and growled frequently, but it was a deep-chested growl and his stump waggled hard.
The Penroofs had had a number of Wolf-hunts since I was with them, and were much disgusted at having no better success than before. The Dogs could find a Wolf nearly every time they went out, but they could not kill him, and the men were not near enough at the finish to learn why.
Old Penroof was satisfied that "thar wasn't one of the hull miserable gang that had the grit of a Jack-rabbit."
We were off at dawn the next day-the same procession of fine Horses and superb riders; the big blue Dogs, the yellow Dogs, the spotted Dogs, as before; but there was a new feature, a little white Dog that stayed close by me, and not only any Dogs, but Horses that came too near were apt to get a surprise from his teeth. I think he quarrelled with every man, Horse, and Dog in the country, with the exception of a Bull terrier belonging to the Mendoza hotel man. She was the only one smaller than himself, and they seemed very good friends.
I shall never forget the view of the hunt I had that day. We were on one of those large, flat-headed buttes that give a kingdom to the eye, when Hilton, who had been scanning the vast country with glasses, exclaimed: "I see him. There he goes, toward Skull Creek. Guess it's a Coyote."
Now the first thing is to get the Greyhounds to see the prey-not an easy matter, as they cannot use the glasses, and the ground was covered with sage-brush higher than the Dogs' heads.
But Hilton called, "Hu, hu, Dander," and leaned aside from his saddle, holding out his foot at the same time. With one agile bound Dander leaped to the saddle and there stood balancing on the Horse while Hilton kept pointing. "There he is, Dander; sic him-see him down there." The Dog gazed earnestly where his master pointed, then seeming to see, he sprang to the ground with a slight yelp and sped away. The other Dogs followed after, in an ever-lengthening procession, and we rode as hard as we could behind them, but losing time, for the ground was cut with gullies, spotted with badger-holes, and covered with rocks and sage that made full speed too hazardous.
We all fell behind, and I was last, of course, being least accustomed to the saddle. We got several glimpses of the Dogs flying over the level plain or dropping from sight in gullies to reappear at the other side. Dander, the Greyhound, was the recognized leader, and as we mounted another ridge we got sight of the whole chase-a Coyote at full speed, the Dogs a quarter of a mile behind, but gaining. When next we saw them the Coyote was dead, and the Dogs sitting around panting, all but two of the Foxhounds and Gingersnap.
"Too late for the fracas," remarked Hilton, glancing at these last Foxhounds. Then he proudly petted Dander. "Didn't need yer purp after all, ye see."
"Takes a heap of nerve for ten big Dogs to face one little Coyote," remarked the father, sarcastically. "Wait till we run onto a Gray."
Next day we were out again, for I made up my mind to see it to a finish.
From a high point we caught sight of a moving speck of gray. A moving white speck stands for Antelope, a red speck for Fox, a gray speck for either Gray-wolf or Coyote, and which of these is determined by its tail. If the glass shows the tail down, it is a Coyote; if up, it is the hated Gray-wolf.
Dander was shown the game as before and led the motley mixed procession-as he had before-Greyhounds, Wolfhounds, Foxhounds, Danes, Bull terrier, horsemen. We got a momentary view of the pursuit; a Gray-wolf it surely was, loping away ahead of the Dogs. Somehow I thought the first Dogs were not running so fast now as they had after the Coyote. But no one knew the finish of the hunt. The Dogs came back to us one by one, and we saw no more of that Wolf.
Sarcastic remarks and recrimination were now freely indulged in by the hunters.
"Pah-scairt, plumb scairt," was the father's disgusted comment on the pack.
"They could catch up easy enough, but when he turned on them, they lighted out for home-pah!"
"Where's that thar onsurpassable, fearless, scaired-o'-nort Tarrier?" asked Hilton, scornfully.
"I don't know," said I. "I am inclined to think he never saw the Wolf; but if he ever does, I'll bet he sails in for death or glory."
That night several Cows were killed close to the ranch, and we were spurred on to another hunt.
It opened much like the last. Late in the afternoon we sighted a gray fellow with tail up, not half a mile off. Hilton called Dander up on the saddle. I acted on the idea and called Snap to mine. His legs were so short that he had to leap several times before he made it, scrambling up at last with my foot as a half-way station. I pointed and "sic-ed" for a minute before he saw the game, and then he started out after the Greyhounds, already gone, with energy that was full of promise.
The chase this time led us, not to the rough brakes along the river, but toward the high open country, for reasons that appeared later. We were close together as we rose to the upland and sighted the chase half a mile off, just as Dander came up with the Wolf and snapped at his haunch. The Gray-wolf turned round to fight, and we had a fine view. The Dogs came up by twos and threes, barking at him in a ring, till last the little white one rushed up. He wasted no time barking, but rushed straight at the Wolf's throat and missed it, yet seemed to get him by the nose; then the ten big Dogs closed in, and in two minutes the Wolf was dead. We had ridden hard to be in at the finish, and though our view was distant, we saw at least that Snap had lived up to the telegram, as well as to my promises for him.
Now it was my turn to crow, and I did not lose the chance. Snap had shown them how, and at last the Mendoza pack had killed a Gray-wolf without help from the men.
There were two things to mar the victory somewhat: first, it was a young Wolf, a mere Cub, hence his foolish choice of country; second, Snap was wounded-the Wolf had given him a bad cut in the shoulder.
As we rode in proud procession home, I saw he limped a little. "Here," I cried, "come up, Snap." He tried once or twice to jump to the saddle, but could not. "Here, Hilton, lift him up to me."
"Thanks; I'll let you handle your own rattlesnakes," was the reply, for all knew now that it was not safe to meddle with his person. "Here, Snap, take hold," I said, and held my quirt to him. He seized it, and by that I lifted him to the front of my saddle and so carried him home. I cared for him as though he had been a baby. He had shown those Cattle-men how to fill the weak place in their pack; the Foxhounds may be good and the Greyhounds swift and the Russians and Danes fighters, but they are no use at all without the crowning moral force of grit, that none can supply so well as a Bull terrier. On that day the Cattlemen learned how to manage the Wolf question, as you will find if ever you are at Mendoza; for every successful Wolf pack there has with it a Bull terrier, preferably of the Snap-Mendoza breed.
Next day was Hallowe'en, the anniversary of Snap's advent. The weather was clear, bright, not too cold, and there was no snow on the ground. The men usually celebrated the day with a hunt of some sort, and now, of course, Wolves were the one object. To the disappointment of all, Snap was in bad shape with his wound. He slept, as usual, at my feet, and bloody stains now marked the place. He was not in condition to fight, but we were bound to have a Wolf-hunt, so he was beguiled to an outhouse and locked up, while we went off, I, at least, with a sense of impending disaster. I knew we should fail without my Dog, but I did not realize how bad a failure it was to be.
Afar among the buttes of Skull Creek we had roamed when a white ball appeared bounding through the sage-brush, and in a minute more Snap came, growling and stump-waggling, up to my Horse's side. I could not send him back; he would take no such orders, not even from me. His wound was looking bad, so I called him, held down the quirt, and jumped him to my saddle.
"There," I thought, "I'll keep you safe till we get home." 'Yes, I thought; but I reckoned not with Snap. The voice of Hilton, "Hu, hu," announced that he had sighted a Wolf. Dander and Riley, his rival, both sprang to the point of observation, with the result that they collided and fell together, sprawling, in the sage. But Snap, gazing hard, had sighted the Wolf, not so very far off, and before I knew it, he leaped from the saddle and bounded zigzag, high, low, in and under the sage, straight for the enemy, leading the whole pack for a few minutes. Not far, of course. The great Greyhounds sighted the moving speck, and the usual procession strung out on the plain. It promised to be a fine hunt, for the Wolf had less than half a mile start and all the Dogs were fully interested.
"They 'ye turned up Grizzly Gully," cried Garvin. "This way, and we can head them off."
So we turned and rode hard around the north side of Hulmer's Butte, while the chase seemed to go round the south.
We galloped to the top of Cedar Ridge and were about to ride down, when Hilton shouted, "By George, here he is! We're right onto him." He leaped from his Horse, dropped the bridle, and ran forward. I did the same. A great Gray-wolf came lumbering across an open plain toward us. His head was low, his tail out level, and fifty yards behind him was Dander, sailing like a Hawk over the ground, going twice as fast as the Wolf. In a minute the Hound was alongside and snapped, but bounded back, as the Wolf turned on him. They were just below us now and not fifty feet away. Garvin drew his revolver, but in a fateful moment Hilton interfered: " No; no; let's see it out." In a few seconds the next Greyhound arrived, then the rest in order of swiftness. Each came up full of fight and fury, determined to go right in and tear the Gray-wolf to pieces; but each in turn swerved aside, and leaped and barked around at a safe distance. After a minute or so the Russians appeared-fine big Dogs they were. Their distant intention no doubt was to dash right at the old Wolf; but his fearless front, his sinewy frame and death-dealing jaws, awed them long before they were near him, and they also joined the ring, while the desperado in the middle faced this way and that, ready for any or all.
Now the Danes came up, huge-limbed creatures, any one of them as heavy as the Wolf. I heard their heavy breathing tighten into a threatening sound as they plunged ahead; eager to tear the foe to pieces; but when they saw him there, grim fearless, mighty of jaw, tireless of limb, ready to die if need be, but sure of this, he would not die alone-well, those great Danes-all three of them-were stricken, as the rest had been, with a sudden bashfulness: Yes, they would go right in presently-not now, but as soon as they had got their breath; they were not afraid of a Wolf, oh, no. I could read their courage in their voices. They knew perfectly well that the first Dog to go in was going to get hurt, but never mind that-presently; they would bark a little more to get up enthusiasm.
And as the ten big Dogs were leaping round the silent Wolf at bay, there was a rustling in the sage at the far side of place; then a snow-white rubber ball, it seemed, came bounding, but grew into a little Bull terrier, and Snap, slowest of the pack, and last, came panting hard, so hard he seemed gasping. Over the level open he made, straight to the changing ring around the Cattle-killer whom none dared face. Did he hesitate? Not for an instant; through the ring of the yelping pack, straight for the old despot of range, right for his throat he sprang; and the Gray-wolf struck with his twenty scimitars. But the little one, if fooled at all, sprang again, and then what came I hardly knew. There was a whirling mass of Dogs. I thought I saw the little White One clinched on the Gray-wolf's nose. The pack was all around; we could not help them now. But they did not need us; they had a leader of dauntless mettle, and when in a little while the final scene was done, there on the ground lay the Gray-wolf, a giant of his kind, and clinched on his nose was the little white Dog.
We were standing around within fifteen feet, ready to help, but had no chance till were not needed.
The Wolf was dead, and I hallooed to Snap, but he did not move. I bent over him. "Snap-Snap, it's all over; you've killed him." But the Dog was very still, and now I saw two deep wounds in his body. I tried to lift him. "Let go, old fellow; it's all over." He growled feebly, and at last go of the Wolf. The rough cattle-men were kneeling around him now; old Penroof's voice was trembling as he muttered, "I wouldn't had him hurt for twenty steers." I lifted him in my arms, called to him and stroked his head. He snarled a little, a farewell as it proved, for he licked my hand as he did so, then never snarled again.
That was a sad ride home for me. There was the skin of a monstrous Wolf, but no other hint of triumph. We buried the fearless one on a butte back of the Ranch-house. Penroof, as he stood by, was heard to grumble: "By jingo, that was grit-cl'ar grit! Ye can't raise Cattle without grit."