A Texas Matchmaker
V. A Pigeon Hunt
The new year dawned on Las Palomas rich in promise of future content. Uncle
Lance and I had had a long talk the evening before, and under the reasoning of
the old optimist the gloom gradually lifted from my spirits. I was glad I had been
so brutally blunt that evening, regarding what Mrs. McLeod had said about him;
for it had a tendency to increase the rancher's aggressiveness in my behalf.
"Hell, Tom," said the old man, as we walked from the corrals to the house, "don't
let a little thing like this disturb you. Of course she'll four-flush and bluff you if she
can, but you don't want to pay any more attention to the old lady than if she was
some _pelado_. To be sure, it would be better to have her consent, but then"--
Glenn Gallup also arrived at the ranch on New Year's eve. He brought the report
that wild pigeons were again roosting at the big bend of the river. It was a well-
known pigeon roost, but the birds went to other winter feeding grounds, except
during years when there was a plentiful sweet mast. This bend was about
midway between the ranch and Shepherd's, contained about two thousand
acres, and was heavily timbered with ash, pecan, and hackberry. The feeding
grounds lay distant, extending from the encinal ridges on the Las Palomas lands
to live-oak groves a hundred miles to the southward. But however far the pigeons
might go for food, they always returned to the roosting place at night.
"That means pigeon pie," said Uncle Lance, on receiving Glenn's report.
"Everybody and the cook can go. We only have a sweet mast about every three
or four years in the encinal, but it always brings the wild pigeons. We'll take a
couple of pack mules and the little and the big pot and the two biggest Dutch
ovens on the ranch. Oh, you got to parboil a pigeon if you want a tender pie. Next
to a fish fry, a good pigeon pie makes the finest eating going. I've made many a
one, and I give notice right now that the making of the pie falls to me or I won't
play. And another thing, not a bird shall be killed more than we can use. Of
course we'll bring home a mess, and a few apiece for the Mexicans."
We had got up our horses during the forenoon, and as soon as dinner was over
the white contingent saddled up and started for the roost. Tiburcio and Enrique
accompanied us, and, riding leisurely, we reached the bend several hours before
the return of the birds. The roost had been in use but a short time, but as we
scouted through the timber there was abundant evidence of an immense flight of
pigeons. The ground was literally covered with feathers; broken limbs hung from
nearly every tree, while in one instance a forked hackberry had split from the
weight of the birds.
We made camp on the outskirts of the timber, and at early dusk great flocks of
pigeons began to arrive at their roosting place. We only had four shotguns, and,
dividing into pairs, we entered the roost shortly after dark. Glenn Gallup fell to me
as my pardner. I carried the gunny sack for the birds, not caring for a gun in such