We had fallen half asleep, my pony and I, as we went jogging and jogging
through the long sunny afternoon. Our hills of yesterday were a pale-blue coast
sunk almost away behind us, and ahead our goal lay shining, a little island of
houses in this quiet mid-ocean of sage-brush. For two hours it had looked as
clear and near as now, rising into sight across the huge dead calm and sinking
while we travelled our undulating, imperceptible miles. The train had come and
gone invisibly, except for its slow pillar of smoke I had watched move westward
against Wyoming's stainless sky. Though I was still far off, the water-tank and
other buildings stood out plain and complete to my eyes, like children's blocks
arranged and forgotten on the floor. So I rode along, hypnotized by the
sameness of the lazy, splendid plain, and almost unaware of the distant rider, till,
suddenly, he was close and hailing me.
"They've caved!" he shouted.
"Who?" I cried, thus awakened.
"Ah, the fool company," said he, quieting his voice as he drew near. "They've
shed their haughtiness," he added, confidingly, as if I must know all about it.
"Where did they learn that wisdom?" I asked, not knowing in the least.
"Experience," he called over his shoulder (for already we had met and passed);
"nothing like experience for sweating the fat off the brain."
He yelled me a brotherly good-bye, and I am sorry never to have known more of
him, for I incline to value any stranger so joyous. But now I waked the pony and
trotted briskly, surmising as to the company and its haughtiness. I had been
viewing my destination across the sagebrush for so spun-out a time that (as
constantly in Wyoming journeys) the emotion of arrival had evaporated long
before the event, and I welcomed employment for my otherwise high-and-dry
mind. Probably he meant the railroad company; certainly something large had
happened. Even as I dismounted at the platform another hilarious cow-puncher
came out of the station, and, at once remarking, "They're going to leave us
alone," sprang on his horse and galloped to the corrals down the line, where
some cattle were being loaded into a train. I went inside for my mail, and here
were four more cow-punchers playing with the agent. They had got a letter away
from him, and he wore his daily look of anxiety to appreciate the jests of these
rollicking people. "Read it!" they said to me; and I did read the private document,
and learned that the railroad was going to waive its right to enforce law and order
here, and would trust to Separ's good feeling. "Nothing more," the letter ran, "will
be done about the initial outrage or the subsequent vandalisms. We shall pass
over our wasted outlay in the hope that a policy of friendship will prove our
genuine desire to benefit that section.
"'Initial outrage,'" quoted one of the agent' large playmates. "Ain't they furgivin'?"
"Well," said I, "you would have some name for it yourself if you sent a deputy
sheriff to look after your rights, and he came back tied to the cow-catcher!"
The man smiled luxuriously over this memory.