Dawn found the boys in the saddle. A two hours' respite had freshened horses and riders.
The morning was crimpy cold, but the horses warmed to the work, and covered the two
miles to the bend before the sun even streaked the east. Joel rode a wide circle around the
entrance to the cove, in search of cattle tracks in the snow, and on finding that none had
offered to leave their shelter, joined his brother at the rekindled fire under the cliff. The
cattle were resting contentedly, the fluffy snow underneath having melted from the
warmth of their bodies, while the diversity of colors in the herd were blended into one in
harmony with the surrounding scene. The cattle had bedded down rather compactly, and
their breathing during the night had frosted one another like window glass in a humid
atmosphere. It was a freak of the frost, sheening the furry coats with a silver nap, but
otherwise inflicting no harm.
The cattle were allowed to rise of their own accord. In the interim of waiting for the sun
to flood the cove, the boys were able to get an outline on the drift of the day previous.
Both agreed that the herd was fully five miles from the corral when the storm struck, and
as it dropped into the valley near the improvements (added to their present location), it
had drifted fully eight miles in something like five hours.
"Lucky thing for us that it was a local storm," said Joel, as he hovered over the fire. "Had
it struck out of the north we would be on the Prairie Dog this morning with nothing but
snowballs for breakfast. Relying on signs did us a heap of good. It was a perfect day, and
within thirty minutes we were drifting blindly. It's all easy to figure out in advance, but
storms don't come by programme. The only way to hold cattle on these plains in the
winter is to put your trust in corn-fed saddle horses, and do your sleeping in the summer."
"I wonder when the next storm will strike," meditated Dell.
"It will come when least expected, or threaten for days and days and never come at all,"
replied Joel. "There's no use sitting up at night to figure it out. Rouse out the cattle, and
I'll point them up the divide."
The sunshine had crept into the bend, arousing the herd, but the cattle preferred its
warmth to a frosty breakfast, and stood around in bunches until their joints limbered and
urgent appetites sent them forth. In spite of the cold, the sun lent its aid, baring the
divides and wind-swept places of snow; and before noon, the cattle fell to feeding so
ravenously that the herdsmen relayed each other, and a dinner for boy and horse was
enjoyed at headquarters. In the valley the snow lay in drifts, but by holding the cattle on
divides and southern slopes, they were grazed to contentment and entered their own
corral at the customary hour for penning. Old axes had been left at hand, and the first
cutting of ice, to open the water for cattle, occupied the boys for fully an hour, after
which they rode home to a well-earned rest.