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in some way break the ice toward an ac- ment even more remarkable. Ritchie could quaintance. At this request Ritchie laughed not understand my desire to accompany the and the boy grinned. “He kin talk Amer- lad on such a wearisome and monotonous icano as good as you and me kin; go ahead journey, but, according to my wishes, he an' hit up a pow-wow with him,” said Rit- promised to "fix it up" so that I could go. chie, and added, “His name is Begay.” Three evenings later, a thin drift of dust
At this glad news I turned to Begay and appeared directly in the light of the setting burst into a flow of explanations and ques- sun, and by eight o'clock a thousand bleattions. The boy stood mute, looking at me ing sheep were driven into the cedar corral blankly, and after a long pause he an- for the night. Many loosened bales of alswered in a soft half-whisper: “No savvy." falfa were thrown in for them to eat, and I tried in every way to induce him to talk, the long, shallow troughs were filled with but these were the only words he would water. The boy was accompanied by his utter. His continued silence and occa- father to this point, who stopped only long sional solemn glances at Ritchie almost enough to see the sheep safely corralled, convinced me that the “trader” was play- and with a few parting words to Begay dising a little joke on his guest; but I was re- appeared into the night toward his distant assured that the boy had attended the goy- cornfields in the bottom-lands, where his ernment school at Fort Defiance for two squaws had already started the harvesting. years, and could talk freely if he wanted to. We started two hours before sun-up.
Further efforts proved useless, but Begay The bars of the corral were lifted out, the continued to follow me around, always dog wormed his way amongst the still sleepplacing himself within sight of the silver ing herd, and suddenly the dim, gray mass stirrup dangling from my watch-pocket. poured out of the gate, turned a sharp angle At last I hit upon a plan. I would give him to the left and streamed off into the darkthe stirrup. To see his face light up, to ness. A few quick, mysterious words from watch his big black eyes dance with pleas- the boy sent the dog hurtling after. Begay, ure, was worth fifty watch-fobs! With a his blanket girded about his loins with an grunt of satisfaction, he snatched the treas- old cartridge-belt, a small haversack of ure from my hand, and concealing it in his buckskin hung over one shoulder, and a blouse dashed out of the store.
curious stick from which dangled a number It was only after a long search that I of empty tomato-cans, suspended by thongs, found him seated on the ground behind the left us without a word in the direction of wood-pile, gazing at the trinket with all his the vanished herd; and with a hurried “so eyes, placing his finger in the tiny stirrup, long” to Ritchie I followed him. holding it up by the strap with the other The long, hard journey had begun. Dust hand, and turning it in the sun to see it arose from the herd in clouds; I could not shine and glisten. His face this time met see it, but could feel it sift against my face, mine with a gracious smile; little by little I and I could taste the peculiar, sweet flavor urged him to talk; and before the afternoon of alkali. Frequent calls from the boy to wore away we became fast friends. his dog, punctuated by the occasional clat
That night Ritchie told me that the boy ter of the tin cans on the stick was all that was about to trail a thousand sheep twenty- broke the silence beyond the soft, quivering five miles across the desert to “Nip" Ar- rustle made by thousands of feet as they ments, a sheep buyer and cattle dealer, just plodded through the sand. off the reservation; and had come, in an- The level horizon of the desert lay before ticipation of his trip, to make arrangements us, toward which we slowly trudged through to corral and feed the sheep for one night, endless stretches of loose sand, around the as he expected to make “Two Gray Hills” bases of towering buttes and down into and his first stopping place.
out of many dry arroyos. It was in these Such an undertaking for so young a boy places that I saw Begay put the mysterious seemed to me incredible, but I was told that stick with its jingling cans into effective use. he had accomplished the same thing for the To drive the sheep over the banks and two previous years, and once with two thou- down into the dry river beds was an easy sand sheep. And, furthermore, he always matter, but to force them up the sharp acwent on foot, which to me made the achieve- livity on the opposite side required consid
erable strategy. As the herd approached me. My thighs at times became cramped the embankment, it would invariably turn and stiff, and for miles I would walk stooped either to the right or left and run along the in order to proceed at all. And now, as the base of it, vainly searching for easier footing. herd increased its speed to almost double, At a word from Begay, the well-trained dog I was gradually left behind. Begay apwould dash to the front of the bunch, fran- peared as fresh as in the early morning. He tically jumping and barking, nipping the walked with perfect ease and grace, his legs of the leaders, and eventually turning long, slender legs measuring off the disthe entire herd in the opposite direction. tance in rhythmic steps, his body bent Then the boy from his position between the slightly forward, one arm clasping his sheep and the open stretch of the arroyo, blanket and “tanglang," and the other waving his blanket and hissing loudly, swinging free like a pendulum. would hurl his stick and jingling cans in I managed to stagger along for an hour front of the sheep fast escaping through the more with the herd well in the lead; the unguarded side. The cans would jangle sun had disappeared behind a deep purple and crash on the stones and hard gravel, horizon, and the afterglow flooded the desert and the panic-stricken animals, frightened with a radiant, liquid light. All the earth at the noise, would scramble up the bank. glowed as though lighted from within, the Begay would recover his “tanglang,” as he very sands at my feet looked a stained called it, and we would laboriously crawl orange, and the few clumps of dry, dusty up after them.
sage-brush fairly burned in the weird light; The trip had been one of very few words; while far ahead, just over the margin of a those that passed between us could be num- low hill, a great, red, golden cloud of dust bered on the fingers of one hand. Twice, told the tale of the fast-moving herd. with solemn gesture, he pointed out distant Twenty minutes of weary, anxious plodlandmarks, and explained, in short, quick ding brought me to the summit; the light accent, “Toh,” meaning water; and an- was growing dim, but I could vaguely see, other time he fondly pulled the silver stir- 'way down the gentle slope, a fringe of rup from inside his blouse, and, holding it cedar clumps, and from beyond them I up, smiled and questioned, “To qui?” could hear the faint murmur of the sheep, meaning “how much?” I did not com- like distant strains of many bagpipes. I prehend exactly what he meant, although I knew they were nearing water; and I felt could interpret the words. Finally I an- so relieved at the thought that it was comswered, fully an hour later, “Peso,” mean- paratively near that I lay down in my ing one dollar. At this he smiled a broad, tracks, and in perfect contentment watched pleased smile, and from then on he would the stars as they appeared one by one. take out the ornament again and again, and I don't know how long it was before I holding it in the sunlight would watch it glis- was suddenly conscious of a distant call; ten, casting laughing sidelong glances at me. the sound drew nearer until I recognized
Except in these few moments of slight the boyish voice of Begay. He had rediversion, Begay's attention was fixed turned to find me, and as we slowly made steadfastly on his sheep, his eyes always our way in the dark, he told me in his own watchful of the condition of the trail ahead. quaint way the reason of his anxiety and Toward the end of the afternoon he urged hurry:“Sheep nodrink for long time-dark the sheep on at a faster pace, and frequently come quick-afraid for no find trail to water looked at the position of the sun.
in deep hole-sheep run and fall on rock His anxiety evidently grew greater as it -get kill.” And with a long impressive neared the horizon, and once I questioned pause, “Me no want kill sheep-Savvy?” him about the distance to water, but he was I understood, but I understood far better silent and seemed not to be conscious of my when we cautiously picked our way down presence.
one of the most precipitous trails I ever The slow, steady walking since four saw. How he managed to get those thouo'clock that morning, with not even a halt sand restless, thirsty sheep down into that for noon lunch, through heavy sands, up canyon, fully two hundred feet deep, unsteep slopes, and over rough mounds of scathed, as they proved to be, is far beyond shale-rock and loose gravel, began to tell on my imagination. It was incredible!