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On How To Go About It
by [?]

One truth you must learn to accept, believe as a tenet of your faith, and act upon always. It is that your entire welfare depends on the condition of your horses. They must, as a consequence, receive always your first consideration. As long as they have rest and food, you are sure of getting along; as soon as they fail, you are reduced to difficulties. So absolute is this truth that it has passed into an idiom. When a Westerner wants to tell you that he lacks a thing, he informs you he is “afoot” for it. “Give me a fill for my pipe,” he begs; “I’m plumb afoot for tobacco.”

Consequently you think last of your own comfort. In casting about for a place to spend the night, you look out for good feed. That assured, all else is of slight importance; you make the best of whatever camping facilities may happen to be attached. If necessary you will sleep on granite or in a marsh, walk a mile for firewood or water, if only your animals are well provided for. And on the trail you often will work twice as hard as they merely to save them a little. In whatever I may tell you regarding practical expedients, keep this always in mind.

As to the little details of your daily routine in the mountains, many are worth setting down, however trivial they may seem. They mark the difference between the greenhorn and the old-timer; but, more important, they mark also the difference between the right and the wrong, the efficient and the inefficient ways of doing things.

In the morning the cook for the day is the first man afoot, usually about half past four. He blows on his fingers, casts malevolent glances at the sleepers, finally builds his fire and starts his meal. Then he takes fiendish delight in kicking out the others. They do not run with glad shouts to plunge into the nearest pool, as most camping fiction would have us believe. Not they. The glad shout and nearest pool can wait until noon when the sun is warm. They, too, blow on their fingers and curse the cook for getting them up so early. All eat breakfast and feel better.

Now the cook smokes in lordly ease. One of the other men washes the dishes, while his companion goes forth to drive in the horses. Washing dishes is bad enough, but fumbling with frozen fingers at stubborn hobble-buckles is worse. At camp the horses are caught, and each is tied near his own saddle and pack.

The saddle-horses are attended to first. Thus they are available for business in case some of the others should make trouble. You will see that your saddle-blankets are perfectly smooth, and so laid that the edges are to the front where they are least likely to roll under or wrinkle. After the saddle is in place, lift it slightly and loosen the blanket along the back bone so it will not draw down tight under the weight of the rider. Next hang your rifle-scabbard under your left leg. It should be slanted along the horse’s side at such an angle that neither will the muzzle interfere with the animal’s hind leg, nor the butt with your bridle-hand. This angle must be determined by experiment. The loop in front should be attached to the scabbard, so it can be hung over the horn; that behind to the saddle, so the muzzle can be thrust through it. When you come to try this method, you will appreciate its handiness. Besides the rifle, you will carry also your rope, camera, and a sweater or waistcoat for changes in temperature. In your saddle bags are pipe and tobacco, perhaps a chunk of bread, your note-book, and the map–if there is any. Thus your saddle-horse is outfitted. Do not forget your collapsible rubber cup. About your waist you will wear your cartridge-belt with six-shooter and sheath-knife. I use a forty-five caliber belt. By threading a buck skin thong in and out through some of the cartridge loops, their size is sufficiently reduced to hold also the 30-40 rifle cartridges. Thus I carry ammunition for both revolver and rifle in the one belt. The belt should not be buckled tight about your waist, but should hang well down on the hip. This is for two reasons. In the first place, it does not drag so heavily at your anatomy, and falls naturally into position when you are mounted. In the second place, you can jerk your gun out more easily from a loose-hanging holster. Let your knife-sheath be so deep as almost to cover the handle, and the knife of the very best steel procurable. I like a thin blade. If you are a student of animal anatomy, you can skin and quarter a deer with nothing heavier than a pocket-knife.