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Caught In A Quicksand

Caught In A Quicksand image
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It is now quito a number of years eince two huntei-8, Bucle Stradl ing and I Toni Surffie, were hunting with Bifl in the western part of Texas, jnst south of the famous El Laño Estacado. We liad gone interior more íor sport than anything else, Caring very littlo whether we secured more gamo than answered for our immediate wants or aöt. Penetrating still further and fiuther toward the Mexican dominion, wc finally struck a barren, parched country, upon which we eutered with sonie hesitation. "This looks as though we sïian't find any water," I remarked, as we reined up our horses and took a survey of the arid plain. "Does look rat her skeery," replied Stradling, taking his short black pipe from his inouth; "but I guesa we'll try it. It" 11 make a sort of variety to ; this eternal tramping." "But what shall we do without water!" I asked. "Why, you see, there is water four or five miles back of us, so we can go abead for a day, and if we can't find j anything, why we turn round and I make back tracks. It'll seem rather toi.mli, but it won'thurtus. Myidea," continued the trapper, growing philosoiihical "is that we never know what water is till we've gone two or three days without it, just as the only way to get agood sound, refreshing sleep is j to sit up a couple of nights." So it was concluded that we should venture on this unknown Sahara; and, , giving rein to our horses, we struck off on an easy gallop. We saw nothin of buffalo nor deer, ; and more than once I questioned the j prudence of the step, but as we were actuated.somewhat by curiosity, Isaid ' nothing as we prossed forward. We hadanabundance ofdried incat, which, no (!oubt, would last us all the ' time neceaSary. Now and then we , caught sigh.t of an antelope, but they ■were very shy and kept at a distance which placed them beyond all danger of ourguns. As we were riding along, and had come to the conclusión that it would be irnpossibleto secure any game, I was su:e 1 diacevned a pair of antlers beyond a swell in the prairie, and dctievtr- ttr mmrli to iny WJlIipahlons, but they only laughrd at me and lold me to give up the foolish thought. I was certain however, that I had really seen the animal, and as there wae ;i chanco to secura something palatablo for supper, I assured themthat I would do so. They told me to go ahead, while they reined their animáis down to a walk and pursued their way more lêisuxely. I may hero remark that hunters often separate for an en tira day, first ! agreeing upon the guidesby which they shall meet again, and I had no hesitation in doing the same. Myhorsewas fresh, and snuffed the air as if anxious to stretch his limbs, so without useless hesitation, I waved them a playful good-by and started away. I aimed directly towards the spot where I had discovered the object. I judged it to be a half mile distant, but when I reached the place it proved to be doublé that distancc, an illusion which often mbleads huutcra and travelers. A singularly formed ridge crossed the plain from east to west. A thickot of cactus grew upon its summit, and towards the thioket Idirectedmycourse. I dismounted before ascending the hiU, and tautiously leadiiiff my horse among the cactus bushes, I tied him wit h a slight security, for the noble beast did not need anytliing more. This done, I stealthily made my way through the bushes towards the point where I was sure that I had seen the game. What was my surprise and pleasure to see not one antelope, but half adozcn, grazing beyond. This wás a surprise and pleasure in more than one Heuse, for while we had set thissection of the country down as a ban en waste, here was prima facie evidenca of our mistake. Where there wasvegetation I argued there must be water. However, the antelopes were a thousand feet distant, upon a smooth grassy slope. There was not the slightest covering to protect an approach, and I began to debate with myself upon tho course to pnrsue. Should I imitate the cali of one of their mirabel? There was something so inhuman in that, that I revolted at the thought, and took the consolation that no true hunter would descend to such meanness. Should I tie myredhandkercliief upon my ramrod and take advantage of their curiosity? They were too shy. Ah! an idea struck me. My eye suddenly rested upon a bluish line running across the prairie beyond where the animáis wero teeding. Itwaseither a bu fíalo road or the channel of an arroyo; but whichever it was, it was the vtíry cover í wanted, and I determined to takeadvantage of it. Retreating as stealthily from the thicket as I had entered it, I hurred along the side of the fclopa toward a point wliere I had observed that the ridge was depressed to the level of the plain. Reaching this, to my still greater surErise, 1 found myself on tho banka of a ropd arroyo, whose waters slowly meandered over a bed ot sand and I gypsum. Tho banks were two or three feet above the surface of the stream, except where the ridge carne down upon i the stream. Here there was quite a I high bluff and hurrying around its ! base. I stepped into the channel and coinmenced wading upward. This was quite a dimcult feat, as the bed of the creek was sof c and yielding, I and I was obliged to tread very cautiously and slowly, est I should alarm the game. The antilope is one of the most timid of animáis, and has a wonderíu'ly acute sense of hearing - 30 much so, that nono but the most experienced huntera can approach them. After creeping along in this wearisome marmer for several hundrcd yards, I reached n small clump of wormwood bushes growing out ot the bank. Thinking this might be high enough to answer for cover, Iconcluded to take advantage of it. I slowly raised myself up andpeered through the leaves. I had just reached tbe right place, and siahting at the heart of a buck, I pulled the trigger. The brute sprang up and dropped dead. I was on the point of running forward to claim the pii.e when I saw the doe run up to i ts lallen mate, andsnufïat it as if bewildered at the occurrence. Suddenly she seemed to coinpi-ehcnd the sad tru th,nndthrowing back her head, begauuttering the moet plaintive and piteous cries, whilo she occasjonally ran round the body, as if totally unable to control her grief . At first it was not my intciition to kill the doe, and had I dreamed of witnessing such a painful scène, I should not have done so. How often do we hunters, in theexcilementof the chaise, cominit deeds which in our calmer momento we eau see as heartless and cruel. But the deed was done past recall. and wherefore regret? As I watched the mournful actions of the doe and heard its pitiful cries, I saw that it would be a mercy to killit and end its niisery. Actuated by what perhapa was a questionablc humanity, I look earcful aim, pulled the trigger, and, as the smoke cleared away, I discerned the doe lying dead with its head resting upon its departed mate. "Both are out of distress," was my comforting reflection, "and I have seCUred a raro supper, with which I WÜI tickle the palates of my two friends, and convince them that they are not the only ones who have a knowledge of hun tuig - but what is the meaning of this? I attempted to move and found my feet fast. My first tbought was that I had been strioken with paral y sis, and a chili ran over me froni head to foot. But no; Icould feel the blood coursing to the remotest part of ryslom, and I tugged like agiant. I tried to step, twisted to the right and lef t, wrenched my body, but all in vain. I was fast! Suddenly the truth flashed upon me -I was Binking in a quick snnd. With this knowledge carne a fierce resolve not to succumb. I would wrench off my feet before I would consent to die in this ingiorious and dreadiul marnier. Summoning all the strengt h of which I was master, I tugged and pulled and twisted with the fury of madness, and then paused exhausted, and found that the only result was that I had sunk Beveral inches deeper in the quicksand! The soft, clinging Band was already at the top of my boots, and had so wedged them around my anides that it was impossible to pull them off; all the time I could feel myself Binking slowly and surely, as though soine monster, deep in the bowels of the earth, had grasped me by the feet and was gradually drawing me under. Almost beside myself with terror, I shouted for help, and then I laughed at the idea of my voice reaching anyone. The only living creature within heaiingwasmy horse, and heanswered me with a neigh, as if sympathizing with me in my despair. And no w I tried to think coolly upon my position. Was there really no possibly way of extricating myself? Stay! Suppose I should lay my rifle horizontally across the sand, would it not prevent my Binking? Perhaps so, at least, I could try it. I looked around f ormy gun, but nothing of it was to be seen. That, too, alas! had sunk beneath the surtace. Could I not dig my way out? No; the sand Btreamed into the hollow as fast as I tortí it out with my frenzied fingers. Cuukl I IlLl lic ílajh ork my líiclí, arkñ thus stay my downward progress? The thought was dismissed the moment it came to me. The water was eighteen inches deep; and I should drown at once. Oh, heavens! dying by this slow torturing procesa. The thought drove me mad for the time. After awhile I becanie more cool again. If I must die I must; and I roused myself to meet it manfully. I stood erect, and found that my head had sunk to the prairie level, and I could just see the victima of my heartlessness. My heart reproaehed me at the sight. Was this not a just retribution for the niisery I had inflicted? What right had I to shoot those two poor innocent creatures, who hid never harmed me? Was it not the final juxfcrment of justice that I shonld be 'made to teel and suffer the same pangs that I had inflicted upon '.hem. Such, and similar, werethethoughts that coursed through my seething brain. T raised my eyfis to heaven, and almost expected to see a frown of divine anger at the part I had taken. But no; the sun was shining as bright and the sky was as cerulean and mild as ever. No; whatever transgressions I had committed, I knew there was nothing but forgiveness and ove bending over me, and I prayedasonly j sinful man can pray when encom ' ed by certain death. But all this time I was Binking - Binking slowly, but surely, and the moment could not be fardistant when I should be swallowed up and disappear froni view entirely, and those who should come to eearch for me could only surmise my fate. I had taken my last fond look at the green, fair earth. T could only see the blue, clayey wall which held the steam, and the water which ran unheedingly by me. Again I looked up at the blue sweet sky, and then endeavored camly to resign myself to my fate. But I could not; the memories of the fair earth and my past pleasures and friends came so vividly over me that I found myself continually burstinginto strULgliog spasms to escape, but all equally fruitless as were my iirstfeeble attempts to walk. In the midst of thisrackingsuspense I was startled by the shrill neisjhing of my horse. At first this gave me indescribable distress, as Icouldnotavoid contrasting his free situation with my own. But suddenly a bright thought flashed over me. Could not my horse rescue me? He was tied to a frail cactus limb, which he could easily break ifhechose. Without losing any time - for time was never so preeious - I uttered a cali which I had often used to bringhimto me, then listened with an anxiety it is useless for me to attempt to depict. Suddenly I heard the sound of his hoofs, as though he was struggling to free himself, and the next moment I recoiznized a wellknown tramp, and knew that he was approachinK. Then he suddenly appeared on the bank, and looked down at me, uttering a joyful neigh of recognition. Peculiar attachment exists between the hunter and his horse, it was a habit of his whenever I called to hiin to gallop up to me and presa his nose againat my cheek. Keaching out my hand toward my usual carressing manner, I repeated the cali. The next moment he bounded into the channel and I caught him by the l)i -idle. Time was becoming jirecious, I was already down to my waiat in the water. I seized tho lariat, and passing it under th saddlegirths, - cured it in a firm knot. I then made a loop and passed it aroundmybody. Heaven bless the noble horse! The tears well up to my eyes when 1 reflect upon the grand creature to whora a few years ago I gave an honorable prava in the brood prairie. All the time I believehecomprenended my sore strait, and understood perfectly well what was required of nim. He knew, too. the treacherous nature of the ground he stood upon, for while waiting he continued liftinghis fcet and slightly changing hi.3 position to prevont sinking. Finally, I had my arrargements completed, and ave the word to tho horse to move. The intelligent animal stepped off yery slovvly, pulling graduully, butwith allhis tremendous strength . To my inexpressible joy, I feit my body raising. and in less than a minuto I was pulled clean out of the sand upon the hard clayuy bank. Thank heaven! and my true, tried, and noble horse! I Ihrew my arm around his neck kissed him, and siiouted for joy. And had I not a right to do so? And did I do more than my duty when I refused all offers to part witb him, and kepl him with all the care and kindness that would have nursed a feeblo parent?


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