The Canyon–Chapter 4

The Canyon—Chapter 4

He wasn’t back. Prairie Chicken had to make a decision, actually the decision was already made. She had made it several days ago in  her mind.

Her pinto mare had carried Prairie Chicken many miles and she would carry her many more. She was a black with a milky white color pattern. This was a good color for concealment in wild country. You just never knew when you didn’t need to be seen. If she found the young Indian boy, she would just return without him knowing about it. When it comes to a Indian courtship, you didn’t want to be to pushy. Unless, it was absolutely necessary. Hopefully, it wouldn’t get to that. She had to help him maintain his pride in his manhood. He had to earn it though.

She had got only 4 miles when she saw the tracks, two sets to be exact. One was from the cowboy and the other was the cougar. Both could mean trouble, both could mean death. She had absolute faith in her to be man to handle both but it never hurt to make sure. Yea, she had faith. The cowboy horse’s track where heading up into the canyon where was headed. The cougar had came along later by the fact that they were laid over the horses tracks. She would need to be cautious, very cautious.

Prairie Chicken had been in the wilderness numerous times and as such was very at home in the forest. Her father had taught her well, very well. She had stopped her mare to study the tracks for a little while. The mare gave a snort when she caught the scent of the cougar. No horse likes a cougar.

The cowboy hadn’t paid that much attention to the herd. He had seen it several times before. They would be around when he got ready to make his move to try to capture some of them, particularly the black 2 year old. Most horses weren’t started or broke till around 5 years old. They were older and more physically able to handle the demands of a working cowboy. They were a lot rougher to break out, meaning they bucked a lot, a lot. It took a good cowboy to ride them out to the point they were fairly usable. Time would make them reliable, only time. Today was not the day for that, not today.

The cougar had patiently watched the herd for several days now. He was watching for a sign of either weakness or the young. Either one would be easier to take down than the more mature horses. And it would be a lot safer for him. Injuries in the wilderness generally meant death unless they were slight.

One afternoon his chance came unexpectedly. He noticed one of the mares had left the herd. She had went off a trail about 400 hundred yards away. It wasn’t a trail as she didn’t want to be close to predator traffic. It was nearby the trail but not on it. The cougar had at first thought she was to big to try to tackle but cougars had been known to kill full grown horses but it had to be just right for this to happen. He instantly set up his tracking skills to accomplish his task. The mare had moved to a small area that provided some concealment. As he got closer, he noticed the mare was giving birth. Moments later the foal hit the ground. The impact was mother nature’s way of jumping the engine so to speak. In a few moments, the foal was on its feet, wobbly, but up. It was this time that the cougar made his attack. He was on the foal’s neck before the mare had an opportunity to defend her newborn. The attack was lethal. The cougar broke the foal’s neck instantly. Though he was not able to drag the foal off, he was able to acquire it after the mare left to return to the herd. After 4 hours, the mare left and the cougar came out to carry off his meal.

The herd had several mares and loses just as this were part of mother nature’s plan for both the predator and prey. Tomorrow the roles might be reversed.

The cougar would eat his fill, cover it up and return several days later to eat some more till the carcass was fully consumed. Foal meat ranked at the very top for meat cougars liked.

The Indian boy had worked hard to get the corral just right for his attempt to capture his new mount. It had been rough work but it made him feel good. His quest was what matter right now. He had to have a horse to ride. He hated walking after a while. The need became more urgent daily. He worked harder. Several days later it was complete. It was getting time to set the trap. Today, he would close the gates to make the herd thirsty but just for a day or two. He didn’t want them to travel away thinking no water was here. Horses knew how to survive. You didn’t survive to long if you thought there was water where was none. Day after tomorrow, he would open the gate again.

It worked. At first the herd moved down the canyon to the water hole with great caution. Even the old stallion gave in after a while. The black colt was the last to go however. He was smart, very smart. The mare who had lost her foal was the first to go. Her water requirements were greater now. After the black colt had reclutantly headed to the water hole, the Indian boy slowly moved out from his ledge and down the canyon. When he reached the bottom, he closed the strong gate. Would it be strong enough? He was fixing to find out. The herd was at the water hole and hadn’t heard the boy. It was about a hour later that they headed back up the canyon when they found the closed gate. The Stallion instantly set off the alarm. Some say horses can’t reason but today this old stallion was reasoning. He was thinking he was trapped. He challenged the gate several times, pushing where he could, pawing at other places. Nothing seemed to help. Nothing till the black colt came up and started helping him. The black seemed to instinctively realize that something was wrong. That survival for the herd was ever present in front of them.

The Indian boy looked on as the two stallions worked on their captive situation. When they two applied their body weight, the gate would start to give. If they both worked together, the gate couldn’t last much longer. It didn’t.

As the gate came open, the Indian boy came out of the bush the rope in his hands. The herd was going by has the cast a wide loop that would catch a young dark brown study colt. It appeared to be about 5 years old, 3 years older than the black. He wanted something older but it would have to do.

As the rope tightened around the brown colt’s neck, he went to attack mood. He was slashing out on everything near him, man or beast. After a while, he started to get faint. He went unconscious. As he was getting close to his last breath, the rope was loosened and the Indian boy breathed into his nostrils. For some reason, the spirit of the horse connected with his new Indian owner. This was a spiritual bond that would never be broken, never. That is not to say that the horse was broke to ride or gentle by any means but after he always had that connection with this Indian boy. He was his, for now, forever. His training had just begun. Training that would carry him on throughout his life.

Prairie Chicken was coming up the trail when she heard the herd rushing toward her. It was her mare’s instincts that saved her this day. She moved off the trail to give the herd passing room. The herd was in a panic and therefore weren’t paying much attention to yielding the trail.

Tomorrow, she would ride ahead and see what they were running from.

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