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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesRoughing It De Luxe - Rabid and His Friends
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Roughing It De Luxe - Rabid and His Friends Post by :add2it Category :Long Stories Author :Irvin S. Cobb Date :May 2012 Read :1799

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Roughing It De Luxe - Rabid and His Friends

THE Hydrophobic Skunk resides at the extreme bottom of the Grand Canon and, next to a Southern Republican who never asked for a Federal office, is the rarest of living creatures. He is so rare that nobody ever saw him--that is, nobody except a native. I met plenty of tourists who had seen people who had seen him, but never a tourist who had seen him with his own eyes. In addition to being rare, he is highly gifted.

I think almost anybody will agree with me that the common, ordinary skunk has been most richly dowered by Nature. To adorn a skunk with any extra qualifications seems as great a waste of the raw material as painting the lily or gilding refined gold. He is already amply equipped for outdoor pursuits. Nobody intentionally shoves him round; everybody gives him as much room as he seems to need. He commands respect--nay, more than that, respect and veneration--wherever he goes. Joy-riders never run him down and foot passengers avoid crowding him into a corner. You would think Nature had done amply well by the skunk; but no--the Hydrophobic Skunk comes along and upsets all these calculations. Besides carrying the traveling credentials of an ordinary skunk, he is rabid in the most rabidissimus form. He is not mad just part of the time, like one's relatives by marriage--and not mad most of the time, like the old-fashioned railroad ticket agent--but mad all the time--incurably, enthusiastically and unanimously mad! He is mad and he is glad of it.

We made the acquaintance of the Hydrophobic Skunk when we rode down Hermit Trail. The casual visitor to the Grand Canon first of all takes the rim drive; then he essays Bright Angel Trail, which is sufficiently scary for his purposes until he gets used to it; and after that he grows more adventurous and tackles Hermit Trail, which is a marvel of corkscrew convolutions, gimleting its way down this red abdominal wound of a canyon to the very gizzard of the world.

Alongside the Hermit, traveling the Bright Angel is the same as gathering the myrtles with Mary; but the civil engineers who worked out the scheme of the Hermit and made it wide and navigable for ordinary folks were bright young men. They laid a wall along its outer side all the way from the top to the bottom. Now this wall is made of loose stones racked up together without cement, and it is nowhere more than a foot or a foot and a half high. If your mule ever slipped--which he never does--or if you rolled off on your own hook--which has not happened to date--that puny little wall would hardly stop you--might not even cause you to hesitate. But some way, intervening between you and a thousand feet or so of uninterrupted fresh air, it gives a tremendous sense of security. Life is largely a state of mind, anyhow, I reckon.

As a necessary preliminary to going down Hermit Trail you take a buckboard ride of ten miles--ten wonderful miles! Almost immediately the road quits the rocky, bare parapet of the gorge and winds off through the noble, big forest that is a part of the Government reserve. Jays that are twice as large and three times as vocal as the Eastern variety weave blue threads in the green background of the pines; and if there is snow upon the ground its billowy white surface is crossed and criss-crossed with the dainty tracks of coyotes, and sometimes with the broad, furry marks of the wildcat's pads. The air is a blessing and the sunshine is a benediction.

Away off yonder, through a break in the conifers, you see one lone and lofty peak with a cap of snow upon its top. The snow fills the deeper ravines that furrow its side downward from the summit so that at this distance it looks as though it were clutched in a vast white owl's claw; and generally there is a wispy cloud caught on it like a white shirt on a poor man's Monday washpole. Or, huddled together in a nest formation like so many speckled eggs, you see the clutch of little mottled mountains for which nobody seems to have a name. If these mountains were in Scotland, Sir Walter Scott and Bobby Burns would have written about them and they would be world-famous, and tourists from America would come and climb their slopes, and stand upon their tops, and sop up romance through all their pores. But being in Arizona, dwarfed by the heaven-reaching ranges and groups that wall them in north, south and west, they have not even a Christian name to answer to.

Anon--that is to say, at the end of those ten miles--you come to the head of Hermit Trail. There you leave your buckboard at a way station and mount your mule. Presently you are crawling downward, like a fly on a board fence, into the depths of the chasm. You pass through rapidly succeeding graduations of geology, verdure, scenery and temperature. You ride past little sunken gardens full of wild flowers and stunty fir trees, like bits of Old Japan; you climb naked red slopes crowned with the tall cactus, like Old Mexico; you skirt bald, bare, blistered vistas of desolation, like Old Perdition. You cross Horsethief's Trail, which was first traced out by the moccasined feet of marauding Apaches and later was used by white outlaws fleeing northward with their stolen pony herds.

You pass above the gloomy shadows of Blythe's Abyss and wind beneath a great box-shaped formation of red sandstone set on a spindle rock and balancing there in dizzy space like Mohammed's coffin; and then, at the end of a mile-long jog along a natural terrace stretching itself midway between Heaven and the other place, you come to the residence of Shorty, the official hermit of the Grand Canon.


Shorty is a little, gentle old man, with warped legs and mild blue eyes and a set of whiskers of such indeterminate aspect that you cannot tell at first look whether they are just coming out or just going back in. He belongs--or did belong--to the vast vanishing race of old-time gold prospectors. Halfway down the trail he does light housekeeping under an accommodating flat ledge that pouts out over the pathway like a snuffdipper's under lip. He has a hole in the rock for his chimney, a breadth of weathered gray canvas for his door and an eighty-mile stretch of the most marvelous panorama on earth for his front yard. He minds the trail and watches out for the big boulders that sometimes fall in the night; and, except in the tourist season, he leads a reasonably quiet existence.

Alongside of Shorty, Robinson Crusoe was a tenement-dweller, and Jonah, weekending in the whale, had a perfectly uproarious time; but Shorty thrives on a solitude that is too vast for imagining. He would not trade jobs with the most potted potentate alive--only sometimes in mid-summer he feels the need of a change stealing over him, and then he goes afoot out into the middle of Death Valley and spends a happy vacation of five or six weeks with the Gila monsters and the heat. He takes Toby with him.

Toby is a gentlemanly little woolly dog built close to the earth like a carpet sweeper, with legs patterned crookedly--after the model of his master's. Toby has one settled prejudice: he dislikes Indians. You have only to whisper the word "Injun" and instantly Toby is off, scuttling away to the highest point that is handy. From there he peers all round looking for red invaders. Not finding any he comes slowly back, crushed to the earth with disappointment. Nobody has ever been able to decide what Toby would do with the Indians if he found them; but he and Shorty are in perfect accord. They have been associated together ever since Toby was a pup and Shorty went into the hermit business, and that was ten years ago. Sitting cross-legged on a flat rock like a little gnome, with his puckered eyes squinting off at space, Shorty told us how once upon a time he came near losing Toby.

"Me and Toby," he said, "was over to Flagstaff, and that was several years ago. There was a saloon man over there owned a bulldog and he wanted that his bulldog and Toby should fight. Toby can lick mighty nigh any dog alive; but I didn't want that Toby should fight. But this here saloon man wouldn't listen. He sicked his bulldog on to Toby and in about a minute Toby was taking that bulldog all apart.

"This here saloon man he got mad then--he got awful mad. He wanted to kill Toby and he pulled out his pistol. I begged him mighty hard please not to shoot Toby--I did so! I stood in front of Toby to protect him and I begged that man not to do it. Then some other fellows made him put up his gun, and me and Toby came on away from there." His voice trailed off. "I certainly would 'a' hated to lose Toby. We set a heap of store by one another--don't we, dog?" And Toby testified that it was so--testified with wriggling body and licking tongue and dancing eyes and a madly wagging stump tail.

As we mounted and jogged away we looked back, and the pair of them--Shorty and Toby--were sitting there side by side in perfect harmony and perfect content; and I could not help wondering, in a country where we sometimes hang a man for killing a man, what would have been adequate punishment for a brute who would kill Toby and leave Shorty without his partner! In another minute, though, we had rounded a jagged sandstone shoulder and they were out of sight.

About that time Johnny, our guide, felt moved to speech, and we hearkened to his words and hungered for more, for Johnny knows the ranges of the Northwest as a city dweller knows his own little side street. In the fall of the year Johnny comes down to the Canon and serves as a guide a while; and then, when he gets so he just can't stand associating with tourists any longer, he packs his warbags and journeys back to the Northern Range and enjoys the company of cows a spell. Cows are not exactly exciting, but they don't ask fool questions.

A highly competent young person is Johnny and a cowpuncher of parts. Most of the Canon guides are cowpunchers--accomplished ones, too, and of high standing in the profession. With a touch of reverence Johnny pointed out to us Sam Scovel, the greatest bronco buster of his time, now engaged in piloting tourists.

"Can he ride?" echoed Johnny in answer to our question. "Scovel could ride an earthquake if she stood still long enough for him to mount! He rode Steamboat--not Young Steamboat, but Old Steamboat! He rode Rocking Chair, and he's the only man that ever did do that and not be called on in a couple of days to attend his own funeral."

This day he told us about one Tom, who lived up in Wyoming, where Johnny came from. It appeared that in an easier day Tom was hired by some cattle men to thin out the sheep herders who insisted upon invading the public ranges. By Johnny's account Tom did the thinning with conscientious attention to detail and gave general satisfaction for a while; but eventually he grew careless in his methods and took to killing parties who were under the protection of the game laws. Likewise his own private collection of yearlings began to increase with a rapidity which was only to be accounted for on the theory that a large number of calves were coming into the world with Tom's brand for a birthmark. So he lost popularity. Several times his funeral was privily arranged, but on each occasion was postponed owing to the failure of the corpse to be present. Finally he killed a young boy and was caught and convicted, and one morning they took him out and hanged him rather extensively.

"Tom was mighty methodical," said Johnny. "He got five hundred a head for killing sheep herders--that was the regular tariff. Every time he bumped one off he'd put a stone under his head, which was his private mark--a kind of a duebill, as you might say. And when they'd find that dead herder with the rock under his head they'd know there was another five hundred comin' to Tom on the books; they always paid it, too. Once in a while, though, he'd cut loose in a saloon and garner in some fellows that wasn't sheep herders. There was quite a number that thought Tom acted kind of ungentlemanly when he was drinkin'."

We went on and on at a lazy mule-trot, hearing the unwritten annals of the range from one who had seen them enacted at first hand. Pretty soon we passed a herd of burros with mealy, dusty noses and spotty hides, feeding on prickly pears and rock lichens; and just before sunset we slid down the last declivity out upon the plateau and came to a camp as was a camp!

This was roughing it de luxe with a most de-luxey vengeance! Here were three tents, or rather three canvas houses, with wooden half-walls; and they were spick-and-span inside and out, and had glass windows in them and doors and matched wooden floors. The one that was a bedroom had gay Navajo blankets on the floor, and a stove in it, and a little bureau, and a washstand with white towels and good lathery soap. And there were two beds--not cots or bunks, but regular beds--with wire springs and mattresses and white sheets and pillowslips. They were not veteran sheets and vintage pillowslips either, but clean and spotless ones. The mess tent was provided with a table with a clean cloth to go over it, and there were china dishes and china cups and shiny knives, forks and spoons. Every scrap of this equipment had been brought down from the top on burro packs. The Grand Canon is scenically artistic, but it is a non-producing district. And outside there was a corral for the mules; a canvas storehouse; hitching stakes for the burros; a Dutch oven, and a little forge where the guides sometimes shoe a mule. They aren't blacksmiths; they merely have to be. Bill was in charge of the camp--a dark, rangy, good-looking young leading man of a cowboy, wearing his blue shirt and his red neckerchief with an air. He spoke with the soft Texas drawl and in his way was as competent as Johnny.

The sun, which had been winking farewells to us over the rim above, dropped out of sight as suddenly as though it had fallen into a well. From the bottom the shadows went slanting along the glooming walls of the gorges, swallowing up the yellow patches of sunlight that still lingered near the top like blacksnakes swallowing eggs. Every second the colors shifted and changed; what had been blue a moment before was now purple and in another minute would be a velvety black. A little lost ghost of an echo stole out of a hole and went straying up and down, feebly mocking our remarks and making them sound cheap and tawdry.

Then the new moon showed as a silver fish, balancing on its tail and arching itself like a hooked skipjack. In a purpling sky the stars popped out like pinpricks and the peace that passes all understanding came over us. I wish to take advantage of this opportunity to say that, in my opinion, David Belasco has never done anything in the way of scenic effects to beat a moonrise in the Grand Canon.

I reckon we might have been there until now--my companion and I--soaking our souls in the unutterable beauty of that place, only just about that time we smelled something frying. There was also a most delectable sputtering sound as of fat meat turning over on a hot skillet; but just the smell alone was a square meal for a poor family. The meeting adjourned by acclamation. Just because a man has a soul is no reason he shouldn't have an appetite.

That Johnny certainly could cook! Served on china dishes upon a cloth-covered table, we had mounds of fried steaks and shoals of fried bacon; and a bushel, more or less, of sheepherder potatoes; and green peas and sliced peaches out of cans; and sourdough biscuits as light as kisses and much more filling; and fresh butter and fresh milk; and coffee as black as your hat and strong as sin. How easy it is for civilized man to become primitive and comfortable in his way of eating, especially if he has just ridden ten miles on a buckboard and nine more on a mule and is away down at the bottom of the Grand Canon--and there is nobody to look on disapprovingly when he takes a bite that would be a credit to a steam shovel!


Despite all reports to the contrary, I wish to state that it is no trouble at all to eat green peas off a knifeblade--you merely mix them in with potatoes for a cement; and fried steak--take it from an old steak-eater--tastes best when eaten with those tools of Nature's own providing, both hands and your teeth. An hour passed--busy, yet pleasant--and we were both gorged to the gills and had reared back with our cigars lit to enjoy a third jorum of black coffee apiece, when Johnny, speaking in an offhand way to Bill, who was still hiding away biscuits inside of himself like a parlor prestidigitator, said:

"Seen any of them old hydrophobies the last day or two?"

"Not so many," said Bill casually. "There was a couple out last night pirootin' round in the moonlight. I reckon, though, there'll be quite a flock of 'em out tonight. A new moon always seems to fetch 'em up from the river."

Both of us quit blowing on our coffee and we put the cups down. I think I was the one who spoke.

"I beg your pardon," I asked, "but what did you say would be out tonight?"

"We were just speakin' to one another about them Hydrophoby Skunks," said Bill apologetically. "This here Canon is where they mostly hang out and frolic 'round."

I laid down my cigar, too. I admit I was interested.

"Oh!" I said softly--like that. "Is it? Do they?"

"Yes," said Johnny. "I reckin there's liable to be one come shovin' his old nose into that door any minute. Or probably two--they mostly travels in pairs--sets, as you might say."

"You'd know one the minute you saw him, though," said Bill. "They're smaller than a regular skunk and spotted where the other kind is striped. And they got little red eyes. You won't have no trouble at all recognizin' one."

It was at this juncture that we both got up and moved back by the stove. It was warmer there and the chill of evening seemed to be settling down noticeably.

"Funny thing about Hydrophoby Skunks," went on Johnny after a moment of pensive thought--"mad, you know!"

"What makes them mad?" The two of us asked the question together.

"Born that way!" explained Bill--"mad from the start, and won't never do nothin' to get shut of it."

"Ahem--they never attack humans, I suppose?"

"Don't they?" said Johnny, as if surprised at such ignorance. "Why, humans is their favorite pastime! Humans is just pie to a Hydrophoby Skunk. It ain't really any fun to be bit by a Hydrophoby Skunk neither." He raised his coffee cup to his lips and imbibed deeply.

"Which you certainly said something then, Johnny," stated Bill. "You see," he went on, turning to us, "they aim to catch you asleep and they creep up right soft and take holt of you--take holt of a year usually--and clamp their teeth and just hang on for further orders. Some says they hang on till it thunders, same as snappin' turtles. But that's a lie, I judge, because there's weeks on a stretch down here when it don't thunder. All the cases I ever heard of they let go at sun-up."

"It is right painful at the time," said Johnny, taking up the thread of the narrative; "and then in nine days you go mad yourself. Remember that fellow the Hydrophoby Skunk bit down here by the rapids, Bill? Let's see now--what was that hombre's name?"

"Williams," supplied Bill--"Heck Williams. I saw him at Flagstaff when they took him there to the hospital. That guy certainly did carry on regardless. First he went mad and his eyes turned red, and he got so he didn't have no real use for water--well, them prospectors don't never care much about water anyway--and then he got to snappin' and bitin' and foamin' so's they had to strap him down to his bed. He got loose though."

"Broke loose, I suppose?" I said.

"No, he bit loose," said Bill with the air of one who would not deceive you even in a matter of small details.

"Do you mean to say he bit those leather straps in two?"

"No, sir; he couldn't reach them," explained Bill, "so he bit the bed in two. Not in one bite, of course," he went on. "It took him several. I saw him after he was laid out. He really wasn't no credit to himself as a corpse."

I'm not sure, but I think my companion and I were holding hands by now. Outside we could hear that little lost echo laughing to itself. It was no time to be laughing either. Under certain circumstances I don't know of a lonelier place anywhere on earth than that Grand Canon.

Presently my friend spoke, and it seemed to me his voice was a mite husky. Well, he had a bad cold.

"You said they mostly attack persons who are sleeping out, didn't you?"

"That's right, too," said Johnny, and Bill nodded in affirmation.

"Then, of course, since we sleep indoors everything will be all right," I put in.

"Well, yes and no," answered Johnny. "In the early part of the evening a hydrophoby is liable to do a lot of prowlin' round outdoors; but toward mornin' they like to get into camps--they dig up under the side walls or come up through the floor--and they seem to prefer to get in bed with you. They're cold-blooded, I reckin, same as rattlesnakes. Cool nights always do drive 'em in, seems like."

"It's going to be sort of coolish to-night," said Bill casually.

It certainly was. I don't remember a chillier night in years. My teeth were chattering a little--from cold--before we turned in. I retired with all my clothes on, including my boots and leggings, and I wished I had brought along my earmuffs. I also buttoned my watch into my lefthand shirt pocket, the idea being if for any reason I should conclude to move during the night I would be fully equipped for traveling. The door would not stay closely shut--the doorjamb had sagged a little and the wind kept blowing the door ajar. But after a while we dozed off.

It was one-twenty-seven A.M. when I woke with a violent start. I know this was the exact time because that was when my watch stopped. I peered about me in the darkness. The door was wide open--I could tell that. Down on the floor there was a dragging, scuffling sound, and from almost beneath me a pair of small red eyes peered up phosphorescently.

"He's here!" I said to my companion as I emerged from my blankets; and he, waking instantly, seemed instinctively to know whom I meant. I used to wonder at the ease with which a cockroach can climb a perfectly smooth wall and run across the ceiling. I know now that to do this is the easiest thing in the world--if you have the proper incentive behind you. I had gone up one wall of the tent and had crossed over and was in the act of coming down the other side when Bill burst in, his eyes blurred with sleep, a lighted lamp in one hand and a gun in the other.

I never was so disappointed in my life because it wasn't a Hydrophobic Skunk at all. It was a pack rat, sometimes called a trade rat, paying us a visit. The pack or trade rat is also a denizen of the Grand Canon. He is about four times as big as an ordinary rat and has an appetite to correspond. He sometimes invades your camp and makes free with your things, but he never steals anything outright--he merely trades with you; hence his name. He totes off a side of meat or a bushel of meal and brings a cactus stalk in; or he will confiscate your saddlebags and leave you in exchange a nice dry chip. He is honest, but from what I can gather he never gets badly stuck on a deal.

Next morning at breakfast Johnny and Bill were doing a lot of laughing between them over something or other. But we had our revenge! About noon, as we were emerging at the head of the trail, we met one of the guides starting down with a couple that, for the sake of convenience, we had christened Clarence and Clarice. Shorty hailed us.

"How's everything down at the camp?" he inquired.

"Oh, all right!" replied Bill--"only there's a good many of them Hydrophoby Skunks pesticatin' about. Last night we seen four."

Clarence and Clarice crossed startled glances, and it seemed to me that Clarice's cheek paled a trifle; or it may have been Clarence's cheek that paled. He bent forward and asked Shorty something, and as we departed full of joy and content we observed that Shorty was composing himself to unload that stock horror tale. It made us very happy.

By common consent we had named them Clarence and Clarice on their arrival the day before. At first glance we decided they must have come from Back Bay, Boston--probably by way of Lenox, Newport and Palm Beach; if Harvard had been a co-educational institution we should have figured them as products of Cambridge. It was a shock to us all when we learned they really hailed from Chicago. They were nearly of a height and a breadth, and similar in complexion and general expression; and immediately after arriving they had appeared for the ride down the Bright Angel in riding suits that were identical in color, cut and effect--long-tailed, tight-buttoned coats; derby hats; stock collars; shiny top boots; cute little crops, and form-fitting riding trousers with those Bartlett pear extensions midships and aft--and the prevalent color was a soft, melting, misty gray, like a cow's breath on a frosty morning. Evidently they had both patronized the same tailor.

He was a wonder, that tailor. Using practically the same stage effects, he had, nevertheless, succeeded in making Clarence look feminine and Clarice look masculine. We had gone down to the rim to see them off. And when they passed us in all the gorgeousness of their city bridle-path regalia, enthroned on shaggy mules, behind a flock of tourists in nondescript yet appropriate attire, and convoyed by a cowboy who had no reverence in his soul for the good, the sweet and the beautiful, but kept sniggering to himself in a low, coarse way, we felt--all of us--that if we never saw another thing we were amply repaid for our journey to Arizona.

The exactly opposite angle of this phenomenon was presented by a certain Eastern writer, a member, as I recall, of the Jersey City school of Wild West story writers, who went to Arizona about two years ago to see if the facts corresponded with his fiction; if not he would take steps to have the facts altered--I believe that was the idea. He reached El Tovar at Grand Canon in the early morning, hurried at once to his room and presently appeared attired for breakfast. Competent eyewitnesses gave me the full details. He wore a flannel shirt that was unbuttoned at the throat to allow his Adam's apple full sweep, a hunting coat, buckskin pants and high boots, and about his waist was a broad belt supporting on one side a large revolver--one of the automatic kind, which you start in to shooting by pulling the trigger merely and then have to throw a bucket of water on it to make it stop--and on the other side, as a counterpoise, was a buck-handled bowie knife such as was so universally not used by the early pioneers of our country.

As he crossed the lobby, jangling like a milk wagon, he created a pronounced impression upon all beholders. The hotel is managed by an able veteran of the hotel business, assisted by a charming and accomplished wife; it is patronized by scientists, scholars and cosmopolitans, who come from all parts of the world to see the Grand Canon; and it is as up-to-the-minute in its appointments and service as though it fronted on Broadway, or Chestnut Street, or Pennsylvania Avenue.

Our hero careened across the intervening space. On reaching the dining room he snatched off his coat and, with a gesture that would have turned Hackett or Faversham as green with envy as a processed stringbean, flung it aside and prepared to enter. It was plain that he proposed to put on no airs before the simple children of the desert wilds. He would eat his antelope steak and his grizzly b'ar chuck in his shirt-sleeves, the way Kit Carson and Old Man Bridger always did.


The young woman who presides over the dining room met him at the door. In the cool, clarified accents of a Wellesley graduate, which she is, she invited him to have on his things if he didn't mind. She also offered to take care of his hardware for him while he was eating. He consented to put his coat back on, but he clung to his weapons--there was no telling when the Indians might start an uprising. Probably at the moment it would have deeply pained him to learn that the only Indian uprising reported in these parts in the last forty years was a carbuncle on the back of the neck of Uncle Hopi Hooligan, the gentle copper-colored floorwalker of the white-goods counter in the Hopi House, adjacent to the hotel!

However, he stayed on long enough to discover that even this far west ordinary human garments make a most excellent protective covering for the stranger. Many of the tourists do not do this. They arrive in the morning, take a hurried look at the Canon, mail a few postal cards, buy a Navajo blanket or two and are out again that night. Yet they could stay on for a month and make every hour count. To begin with, there is the Canon, worth a week of anybody's undivided attention. Within easy reach are the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forests--thousands of acres of trees turned to solid agate. If these things were in Europe they would be studded thick with hotels and Americans by the thousand would flock across the seas to look at them. There are cliff-dwellers' ruins older than ancient Babylon and much less expensive.

The reservations of the Hopis and the Navajos, most distinctive of all the Southern tribes, are handy, while all about stretches a big Government reserve full of natural wonders and unnatural ones, too--everything on earth except a Lover's Leap. There are unexcelled facilities for Lover's Leaps, too--thousands of appropriate places are within easy walking distance of the hotel; but no lover ever yet cared to leap where he would have to drop five or six thousand feet before he landed. He'd be such a mussy lover; no satisfaction to himself then--or to the undertaker, either.

However, as I was saying, most of the tourists run in on the morning train and out again on the evening train. To this breed belonged a youth who dropped in during our stay; I think he must have followed the crowd in. As he came out from breakfast I chanced to be standing on the side veranda and I presume he mistook me for one of the hired help. This mistake has occurred before when I was stopping at hotels.

"My friend," he said to me in the patronizing voice of an experienced traveler, "is there anything interesting to see round here at this time of day?"

Either he had not heard there was a Grand Canon going on regularly in that vicinity or he may have thought it was open only for matinees and evenings. So I took him by the hand and led him over to the curio store and let him look at the Mexican drawnwork. It seemed to satisfy him, too--until by chance he glanced out of a window and discovered that the Canon was in the nature of a continuous performance.

The same week there arrived a party of six or eight Easterners who yearned to see some of those real genuine Wild Western characters such as they had met so often in a film. The manager trotted out a troupe of trail guides for them--all ex-cowboys; but they, being merely half a dozen sunburned, quiet youths in overalls, did not fill the bill at all. The manager hated to have his guests depart disappointed. Privately he called his room clerk aside and told him the situation and the room clerk offered to oblige.

The room clerk had come from Ohio two years before and was a mighty accommodating young fellow. He slipped across to the curio store and put on a big hat and some large silver spurs and a pair of leather chaps made by one of the most reliable mail-order houses in this country. Thus caparisoned, he mounted a pony and came charging across the lawn, uttering wild ki-yis and quirting his mount at every jump. He steered right up the steps to the porch where the delighted Easterners were assembled, and then he yanked the pony back on his haunches and held him there with one hand while with the other he rolled a brown-paper cigarette--which was a trick he had learned in a high-school frat at Cincinnati--and altogether he was the picture of a regular moving-picture cowboy and gave general satisfaction.

If the cowboys are disappointing in their outward aspect, however, Captain Jim Hance is not. The captain is the official prevaricator of the Grand Canon. It is probably the only salaried job of the sort in the world--his competitors in the same line of business mainly work for the love of it. He is a venerable retired prospector who is specially retained by the Santa Fe road for the sole purpose of stuffing the casual tourist with the kind of fiction the casual tourist's system seems to crave. He just moons round from spot to spot, romancing as he goes.

Two of the captain's standbys have been advertised to the world. One of them deals with the sad fate of his bride, who on her honeymoon fell off into the Canon and lodged on a rim three hundred feet below. "I was two days gettin' down to the poor little thing," he tells you, "and then I seen both her hind legs was broke." Here the captain invariably pauses and looks out musingly across the Canon until the victim bites with an impatient "What happened then?" "Oh, I knew she wouldn't be no use to me any more as a bride--so I shot her!" The other tale he saves up until some tenderfoot notices the succession of blazes upon the treetrunks along one of the forest trails and wants to know what made those peculiar marks upon the bark all at the same height from the earth. Captain Hance explains that he himself did it--with his elbows and knees--while fleeing from a war party of Apaches.

His newest one, though--the one he is featuring this year--is, in the opinion of competent judges, the gem of the Hance collection. It concerns the fate of one Total Loss Watkins, an old and devoted friend of the captain. As a preliminary he leads a group of wide-eared, doe-eyed victims to the rim of the Canon. "Right here," he says sorrowfully, "was where poor old Total slipped off one day. It's two thousand feet to the first ledge and we thought he was a gone fawnskin, sure! But he had on rubber boots, and he had the presence of mind to light standing up. He bounced up and down for two days and nights without stoppin', and then we had to get a wingshot to kill him in order to keep him from starvin' to death."

The next stop will be Southern California, the Land of Perpetual Sunshine--except when it rains!

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