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A Corner In Horses
by [?]

It was dark night. The stay-herd bellowed frantically from one of the big corrals; the cow-and-calf-herd from a second. Already the remuda, driven in from the open plains, scattered about the thousand acres of pasture. Away from the conveniences of fence and corral, men would have had to patrol all night. Now, however, everyone was gathered about the camp fire.

Probably forty cowboys were in the group, representing all types, from old John, who had been in the business forty years, and had punched from the Rio Grande to the Pacific, to the Kid, who would have given his chance of salvation if he could have been taken for ten years older than he was. At the moment Jed Parker was holding forth to his friend Johnny Stone in reference to another old crony who had that evening joined the round-up.

“Johnny,” inquired Jed with elaborate gravity, and entirely ignoring the presence of the subject of conversation, “what is that thing just beyond the fire, and where did it come from?”

Johnny Stone squinted to make sure.

“That?” he replied. “Oh, this evenin’ the dogs see something run down a hole, and they dug it out, and that’s what they got.”

The newcomer grinned.

“The trouble with you fellows,” he proffered “is that you’re so plumb alkalied you don’t know the real thing when you see it.”

“That’s right,” supplemented Windy Bill drily. “HE come from New York.”

“No!” cried Jed. “You don’t say so? Did he come in one box or in two?”

Under cover of the laugh, the newcomer made a raid on the dutch ovens and pails. Having filled his plate, he squatted on his heels and fell to his belated meal. He was a tall, slab-sided individual, with a lean, leathery face, a sweeping white moustache, and a grave and sardonic eye. His leather chaps were plain and worn, and his hat had been fashioned by time and wear into much individuality. I was not surprised to hear him nicknamed Sacatone Bill.

“Just ask him how he got that game foot,” suggested Johnny Stone to me in an undertone, so, of course, I did not.

Later someone told me that the lameness resulted from his refusal of an urgent invitation to return across a river. Mr. Sacatone Bill happened not to be riding his own horse at the time.

The Cattleman dropped down beside me a moment later.

“I wish,” said he in a low voice, “we could get that fellow talking. He is a queer one. Pretty well educated apparently. Claims to be writing a book of memoirs. Sometimes he will open up in good shape, and sometimes he will not. It does no good to ask him direct, and he is as shy as an old crow when you try to lead him up to a subject. We must just lie low and trust to Providence.”

A man was playing on the mouth organ. He played excellently well, with all sorts of variations and frills. We smoked in silence. The deep rumble of the cattle filled the air with its diapason. Always the shrill coyotes raved out in the mesquite. Sacatone Bill had finished his meal, and had gone to sit by Jed Parker, his old friend. They talked together low-voiced. The evening grew, and the eastern sky silvered over the mountains in anticipation of the moon.

Sacatone Bill suddenly threw back his head and laughed.

“Reminds me of the time I went to Colorado!” he cried.

“He’s off!” whispered the Cattleman.

A dead silence fell on the circle. Everybody shifted position the better to listen to the story of Sacatone Bill.

About ten year ago I got plumb sick of punchin’ cows around my part of the country. She hadn’t rained since Noah, and I’d forgot what water outside a pail or a trough looked like. So I scouted around inside of me to see what part of the world I’d jump to, and as I seemed to know as little of Colorado and minin’ as anything else, I made up the pint of bean soup I call my brains to go there. So I catches me a buyer at Henson and turns over my pore little bunch of cattle and prepared to fly. The last day I hauled up about twenty good buckets of water and threw her up against the cabin. My buyer was settin’ his hoss waitin’ for me to get ready. He didn’t say nothin’ until we’d got down about ten mile or so.