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1 occurrence of roughing it
[Clear Hits]


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1 occurrence of roughing it
[Clear Hits]




ANOTHER night of alternate tranquillity and turmoil.
But morning came, by and by. It was another glad
awakening to fresh breezes, vast expanses of level greensward,
bright sunlight, an impressive solitude utterly without visible
human beings or human habitations, and an atmosphere of
such amazing magnifying properties that trees that seemed
close at hand were more than three miles away. We resumed
undress uniform, climbed a-top of the flying coach, dangled
our legs over the side, shouted occasionally at our frantic
mules, merely to see them lay their ears back and scamper
faster, tied our hats on to keep our hair from blowing away,
and leveled an outlook over the world-wide carpet about us
for things new and strange to gaze at. Even at this day it
thrills me through and through to think of the life, the gladness
and the wild sense of freedom that used to make the
blood dance in my veins on those fine overland mornings!

Along about an hour after breakfast we saw the first prairie-dog
villages, the first antelope, and the first wolf. If I
remember rightly, this latter was the regular cayote (pronounced
ky-o-te) of the farther deserts. And if it was, he
was not a pretty creature or respectable either, for I got well
acquainted with his race afterward, and can speak with confidence.
The cayote is a long, slim, sick and sorry-looking


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[Description: 504EAF. Page 049. In-line image of four men sitting on the back of a wagon in their pajamas. One is spinning a piece of cloth around over his head. They are wearing hats and look happy.]
skeleton, with a gray wolf-skin stretched over it, a tolerably
bushy tail that forever sags down with a despairing expression
of forsakenness and misery, a furtive and evil eye, and a long,
sharp face, with
slightly lifted lip
and exposed teeth.
He has a general
slinking expression
all over. The cayote
is a living,
breathing allegory
of Want. He is
always hungry. He
is always poor, out
of luck and friendless.
The meanest
creatures despise
him, and even the
fleas would desert
him for a velocipede. He is so spiritless and cowardly that
even while his exposed teeth are pretending a threat, the rest
of his face is apologizing for it. And he is so homely!—so
scrawny, and ribby, and coarse-haired, and pitiful. When he
sees you he lifts his lip and lets a flash of his teeth out, and
then turns a little out of the course he was pursuing, depresses
his head a bit, and strikes a long, soft-footed trot
through the sage-brush, glancing over his shoulder at you,
from time to time, till he is about out of easy pistol range,
and then he stops and takes a deliberate survey of you;
he will trot fifty yards and stop again—another fifty and stop
again; and finally the gray of his gliding body blends with
the gray of the sage-brush, and he disappears. All this is
when you make no demonstration against him; but if you do,
he develops a livelier interest in his journey, and instantly
electrifies his heels and puts such a deal of real estate between
himself and your weapon, that by the time you have raised
the hammer you see that you need a minie rifle, and by the


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[Description: 504EAF. Page 050. In-line image of two prairie dogs running around in front of a mountain range.]
time you have got him in line you need a rifled cannon, and
by the time you have “drawn a bead” on him you see well
enough that nothing but an unusually long-winded streak of
lightning could reach him where he is now. But if you start
a swift-footed dog after him, you will enjoy it ever so much—
especially if it is a dog that has a good opinion of himself, and
has been brought up to think he knows something about speed.
The cayote will go swinging
gently off on that deceitful
trot of his, and
every little while he will
smile a fraudful smile
over his shoulder that
will fill that dog entirely
full of encouragement and
worldly ambition, and
make him lay his head
still lower to the ground,
and stretch his neck further
to the front, and
pant more fiercely, and
stick his tail out straighter
behind, and move his furious
legs with a yet
wilder frenzy, and leave a
broader and broader, and
higher and denser cloud
of desert sand smoking behind, and marking his long wake
across the level plain! And all this time the dog is only a short
twenty feet behind the cayote, and to save the soul of him he
cannot understand why it is that he cannot get perceptibly
closer; and he begins to get aggravated, and it makes him madder
and madder to see how gently the cayote glides along
and never pants or sweats or ceases to smile; and he grows still
more and more incensed to see how shamefully he has been
taken in by an entire stranger, and what an ignoble swindle
that long, calm, soft-footed trot is; and next he notices that he


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is getting fagged, and that the cayote actually has to slacken
speed a little to keep from running away from him—and then
that town-dog is mad in earnest, and he begins to strain and
weep and swear, and paw the sand higher than ever, and reach
for the cayote with concentrated and desperate energy. This
“spurt” finds him six feet behind the gliding enemy, and two
miles from his friends. And then, in the instant that a wild
new hope is lighting up his face, the cayote turns and smiles
blandly upon him once more, and with a something about it
which seems to say: “Well, I shall have to tear myself away
from you, bub—business is business, and it will not do for me
to be fooling along this way all day”—and forthwith there is
a rushing sound, and the sudden splitting of a long crack
through the atmosphere, and behold that dog is solitary and
alone in the midst of a vast solitude!

It makes his head swim. He stops, and looks all around;
climbs the nearest sand-mound, and gazes into the distance;
shakes his head reflectively, and then, without a word, he
turns and jogs along back to his train, and takes up a humble
position under the hindmost wagon, and feels unspeakably
mean, and looks ashamed, and hangs his tail at half-mast for a
week. And for as much as a year after that, whenever there
is a great hue and cry after a cayote, that dog will merely
glance in that direction without emotion, and apparently observe
to himself, “I believe I do not wish any of the pie.”


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[Description: 504EAF. Page 052. In-line image of a coyote looking onto a group of Native Americans who have just killed a horse and are trying to drag it away.]

The cayote lives chiefly in the most desolate and forbidding
deserts, along with the lizard, the jackass-rabbit and the raven,
and gets an uncertain and precarious living, and earns it. He
seems to subsist almost wholly on the carcases of oxen, mules
and horses that have dropped out of emigrant trains and died,
and upon windfalls of carrion, and occasional legacies of
offal bequeathed to him
by white men who have
been opulent enough to
have something better
to butcher than condemned
army bacon.
He will eat anything in
the world that his first cousins, the desert-frequenting tribes
of Indians will, and they will eat anything they can bite.
It is a curious fact that these latter are the only creatures
known to history who will eat nitro-glycerine and ask for
more if they survive.

The cayote of the deserts beyond the Rocky Mountains
has a peculiarly hard time of it, owing to the fact that his
relations, the Indians, are just as apt to be the first to detect
a seductive scent on the desert breeze, and follow the fragrance
to the late ox it emanated from, as he is himself; and when
this occurs he has to content himself with sitting off at a little


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distance watching those people strip off and dig out everything
edible, and walk off with it. Then he and the waiting ravens
explore the skeleton and polish the bones. It is considered
that the cayote, and the obscene bird, and the Indian of the
desert, testify their blood kinship with each other in that they
live together in the waste places of the earth on terms of perfect
confidence and friendship, while hating all other creatures
and yearning to assist at their funerals. He does not mind
going a hundred miles to breakfast, and a hundred and fifty to
dinner, because he is sure to have three or four days between
meals, and he can just as well be traveling and looking at the
scenery as lying around doing nothing and adding to the burdens
of his parents.

We soon learned to recognize the sharp, vicious bark of the
cayote as it came across the murky plain at night to disturb
our dreams among the mail-sacks; and remembering his forlorn
aspect and his hard fortune, made shift to wish him the
blessed novelty of a long day's good luck and a limitless larder
the morrow.


“Bunch-grass” grows on the bleak mountain-sides of Nevada and
neighboring territories, and offers excellent feed for stock, even in the dead
of winter, wherever the snow is blown aside and exposes it; notwithstanding
its unpromising home, bunch-grass is a better and more nutritious diet
for cattle and horses than almost any other hay or grass that is known—so
stock-men say.