The Story Of A Poker Steer
He was born in a chaparral thicket, south of the Nueces River in Texas. It was a warm
night in April, with a waning moon hanging like a hunter's horn high overhead, when the
subject of this sketch drew his first breath. Ushered into a strange world in the fulfillment
of natural laws, he lay trembling on a bed of young grass, listening to the low mooings of
his mother as she stood over him in the joy and pride of the first born. But other voices of
the night reached his ears; a whippoorwill and his mate were making much ado over the
selection of their nesting-place on the border of the thicket. The tantalizing cry of a
coyote on the nearest hill caused his mother to turn from him, lifting her head in alarm,
and uneasily scenting the night air.
On thus being deserted, and complying with an inborn instinct of fear, he made his first
attempt to rise and follow, and although unsuccessful it caused his mother to return and
by her gentle nosings and lickings to calm him. Then in an effort to rise he struggled to
his knees, only to collapse like a limp rag. But after several such attempts he finally stood
on his feet, unsteady on his legs, and tottering like one drunken. Then his mother nursed
him, and as the new milk warmed his stomach he gained sufficient assurance of his
footing to wiggle his tail and to butt the feverish caked udder with his velvety muzzle.
After satisfying his appetite he was loath to lie down and rest, but must try his legs in
toddling around to investigate this strange world into which he had been ushered. He
smelled of the rich green leaves of the mesquite, which hung in festoons about his birth
chamber, and trampled underfoot the grass which carpeted the bower.
After several hours' sleep he was awakened by a strange twittering above him. The moon
and stars, which were shining so brightly at the moment of his birth, had grown pale. His
mother was the first to rise, but heedless of her entreaties he lay still, bewildered by the
increasing light. Animals, however, have their own ways of teaching their little ones, and
on the dam's first pretense of deserting him he found his voice, and uttering a plaintive
cry, struggled to his feet, which caused his mother to return and comfort him.
Later she enticed him out of the thicket to enjoy his first sun bath. The warmth seemed to
relieve the stiffness in his joints, and after each nursing during the day he attempted
several awkward capers in his fright at a shadow or the rustle of a leaf. Near the middle
of the afternoon, his mother being feverish, it was necessary that she should go to the
river and slake her thirst. So she enticed him to a place where the grass in former years
had grown rank, and as soon as he lay down she cautioned him to be quiet during her
enforced absence, and though he was a very young calf he remembered and trusted in
her. It was several miles to the river, and she was gone two whole hours, but not once did
he disobey. A passing ranchero reined in and rode within three feet of him, but he did not
open an eye or even twitch an ear to scare away a fly.
The horseman halted only long enough to notice the flesh-marks. The calf was a dark red
except for a white stripe which covered the right side of his face, including his ear and
lower jaw, and continued in a narrow band beginning on his withers and broadening as it