The pacing mustang
THE PACING MUSTANG
JO CALONE threw down his saddle on the dusty ground, turned his horses
loose, and went clanking into the ranchhouse.
"Nigh about chuck time?" he asked.
"Seventeen minutes," said the cook glancing at the Waterbury, with the
air of a train starter, though this show of precision had never yet been
justified by events.
"How's things on the Perico?" said Jo's pard.
"Hotter'n hinges," said Jo. "Cattle seem O.K.; lots of calves."
"I seen that bunch o' mustangs that waters at Antelope Springs; couple
o' colts along; one little dark one, a fair dandy; a born pacer. I run
them a mile or two, and be led the bunch, an' never broke his pace.
Cut loose, an' pushed them jest for fun, an' darned if I could make him
"You didn't have no reefreshments along?" said Scarth, incredulously.
"That's all right, Scarth. You had to crawl on our last bet, an' you'll
get another chance soon as you're man enough."
"Chuck," shouted the cook, and the subject was dropped. Next day the
scene of the roundup was changed, and the mustangs were forgotten.
A year later the same corner of New Mexico was worked over by the
roundup, and again the mustang bunch was seen. The dark colt was now a
black yearling, with thin, clean legs and glossy flanks; and more than
one of the boys saw with his own eyes this oddity — the mustang was a
born pacer. Jo was along, and the idea now struck him that that colt
was worth having. To an Easterner this thought may not seem startling
or original, but in the West, where an unbroken horse is worth $5, and
where an ordinary saddlehorse is worth $15 or $20, the idea of a wild
mustang being desirable property does not occur to the average cowboy,
for mustangs are hard to catch, and when caught are merely wild animal
prisoners, perfectly useless and untamable to the last, Not a few of the
cattle-owners make a point of shooting all mustangs at sight, they are
not only useless cumberers of the feeding-grounds, but commonly lead
away domestic horses, which soon take to wild life and are thenceforth
Wild Jo Calone knew a 'bronk right down to subsoil.' "I never seen a
white that wasn't soft, nor a chestnut that wasn't nervous, nor a bay
that wasn't good if broke right, nor a black that wasn't hard as nails,
an' full of the old Harry. All a black bronk wants is claws to be wus'n
Daniel's hull outfit of lions."
Since, then, a mustang is worthless vermin, and a black mustang ten
times worse than worthless, Jo's pard "didn't see no sense in Jo's
wantin' to corral the yearling," as he now seemed intent on doing. But
Jo got no chance to try that year.
He was only a cow-puncher on $25 a month, and tied to hours. Like most
of the boys, he always looked forward to having a ranch and an outfit
of his own. His brand, the hogpen, of sinister suggestion, was already
registered at Santa Fe, but of horned stock it was borne by a single old
cow, so as to give him a legal right to put his brand on any maverick
(or unbranded animal) he might chance to find.
Yet each fall, when paid off, Jo could not resist the temptation to go
to town with the boys and have a good time 'while the stuff held out.'
So that his property consisted of little more than his saddle, his bed,
and his old cow. He kept on hoping to make a strike that would leave him
well fixed with a fair start, and when the thought came that the Black
Mustang was his mascot, he only needed a chance to 'make the try.'
The roundup circled down to the Canadian River, and back in the fall by