Two Kohl Sisters

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8. Easy As Falling Off A Log





"Any old cayuse can enter a race," Bronco Benny remarked one day. "It's coming in under the wire that counts."

Ida Mary and I had saddled ourselves with a newspaper, a post office, a grocery store, an Indian trading post, and all the heavy labor of hauling, delivery of mail and odd jobs that were entailed. We were appalled to realize the weight of the responsibility we had assumed, with every job making steady, daily demands on us, with the Ammons finances to be juggled and stretched to cover constant demands on them. And there was no turning back.

The Lucky Numbers were all settled on their claims. Already trails were broken to the print shop from every direction. There was no time to plan, no time in which to wonder how one was to get things done. The important thing was to keep doing them. On the whole Strip there was not a vacant quarter-section. Already a long beaten trail led past the print-shop door north and south from Pierre to Presho; another crossed the reservation east and west from McClure to the Indian tepees and the rangeland beyond. Paths led in from all parts of the Strip like spokes, with Ammons the hub around which the wheel of the reservation's activities revolved.

From every section of the settlement the people gravitated to my claim; they came with their needs, with their plans, with their questions. In the first days we heard their needs rather than filled them, and the store and print shop became a place for the exchange of ideas and news, so that I was able to distinguish before long between the needs of the individual and those which were common to all, to clarify in my own mind the problems that beset the settlers as a whole, and to learn how some among them solved these problems.

Subscriptions for The Wand came in from the outside world, from people who had friends homesteading on the Brulé, and from people interested in the growth of the West. We had almost a thousand subscriptions at a dollar a year, and the money went into a team, equipment, and operation expenses. Ma Wagor helped in the store--she liked the "confusement," she said. She loved having people around her, and her curiosity about them all was insatiable. Ida or I generally made the mail trip.

The heavy labor we hired done when we could, but many times we hitched the team to the big lumber wagon and drove to Presho to bring out our own load of goods, including barrels of coal-oil and gasoline for automobiles, for there were quite a few cars on the reservation. Automobiles, in fact, were the only modern convenience in the lives of these modern pioneers who stepped from the running board straight back into the conditions of covered-wagon days.

The needs of the people were tremendous and insistent. And the needs of the people had to find expression in some way if they were to be met. The print shop was ready, The Wand was ready, I was ready--the only hitch was that I couldn't operate the new press we had bought, because we couldn't put it together. Ida Mary and I labored futilely with bolts and screws and other iron parts for two days.

I had sat down in the doorway to rest, exhausted by my tussle with the machinery, when I saw a man coming from the Indian settlement. He appeared against the horizon as if he had ridden out of the ether, riding slowly, straight as an Indian, but as he came closer I saw he was a white man. At the door he dismounted, threw the reins on the ground, and walked past me into the store, lifting his slouch hat as he entered. A man rather short of stature, sturdy, with a wide-set jaw and flat features that would have been homely had they not been so strong.

He looked with surprise through the open door of the print shop with its stalled machinery.

"What's the trouble?" he asked.

I explained my predicament. "I can't put the thing together and I don't know what to do about it. It would be almost impossible to get an experienced printer out here to start it for me."

He smiled broadly, walked into the shop, and without a word fixed the forms, adjusted the press and turned out the first issue of that strange-fated newspaper.

He would accept no pay and no thanks. "My name is Farraday, Fred Farraday," he said. "I'll ride over next Friday and help you get the paper out."

With that he mounted his blue-roan pony and rode away as deliberately as he had come. Every Friday after that he returned to help print the paper. Naturally we were curious about the man who had solved our desperate need for a printer in so surprising a way, but Fred was content to come week after week and disappear again on the horizon without any explanation as to who he was, where he came from, where he went when he rode out of sight each Friday.

We tried him with hints, with bland suppositions, with bare-faced questions, and could not break through his taciturnity. But even Fred had no defense against Ma Wagor's curiosity, and little by little, through her persistent questioning, we learned that he had a homestead near the Agency, that he had run a newspaper in the Northwest, and that he had been connected with the Indian Service.

The business of the newspaper increased rapidly, and advertising began to come in from the small surrounding towns. Ma Wagor was kept busy in the store, selling groceries to the Indians who camped around for a day dickering, and to the white settlers who were generally in a hurry. So little time! So much to do! Ida Mary helped me in the print shop, and before long we found we needed an expert typesetter. And I found one--unlikely as it may seem--on an adjoining claim. Kathryn Slattery, tall and slim and red-haired, preferred setting type to sitting alone in her shack, and with her striking appearance as an added attraction the popularity of the settlement with the young men homesteaders mounted.

In this odd fashion I found on the prairie both a printer and a typesetter, and for problems of format for The Wand there was always the cartoonist from Milwaukee. Late one afternoon I spied a strange, moving object in the far distance, something that bobbed up and down with the regularity of a clock pendulum. I asked Ida Mary in some bewilderment whether she could identify it. At last we saw it was a stiff-jointed quadruped with some sort of jumping-jack on top, bouncing up and down at every step. As it drew closer, heading for the shop, Ida Mary began to laugh. "It's Alexander Van Leshout," she said.

The cartoonist scrambled down from his mount and led the old, stiff-jointed, sway-backed horse up to the door. "I would have called sooner," he explained, sweeping off his hat in a low bow, "but I have been breaking in my new steed. Let me introduce Hop-Along Cassidy."

It was the newspaper that had brought him, he went on to say. "Editorially it's not so bad, but the make-up would give anyone sore eyes." It was Van Leshout who helped with the make-up of the paper, and he made drawings and had plates made that would do credit to any newspaper.

He was a strange character in this setting, like an exotic plant in an old-fashioned garden, and his eccentricities aroused considerable amusement among the settlers, although he became in time a favorite with them, serving as a sort of counter-irritant to the strain of pioneer life. Men who trudged all day through the broiling sun turning furrows in that stubborn soil were entertained by the strange antics of a man who sat before his cabin in the shade (when there was any) painting the Indians. It was a rare treat to hear him go on, they admitted, but he was not to be taken seriously.

Among the subscriptions I received for The Wand was one from the New York broker, Halbert Donovan, with a letter addressed to McClure.

"Through the McClure Press which I had sent me," it read, "I learned that you are running a newspaper out on some Indian reservation. I remember quite well the fantastic idea you had about doing things out there with a little newspaper. But it does not seem possible you would be so foolhardy.

"I'm afraid your aspirations are going to receive a great blow. It is a poor place for dreams. Imagine your trying to be a voice of the frontier, as you put it, to a bunch of homesteaders in a God-forsaken country like that. If I can be of help to you in some way, you might let me know. You have shown a progressive spirit. Too bad to waste it."

What I needed at the moment was to have him send me a few corporations, but as that was unlikely, I pinned my faith in The Wand. It was a seven-column, four-page paper which carried staunchly a strange load of problems and responsibilities. In spite of the New York broker's blunt disbelief in the possibilities of a frontier newspaper, I had become more and more convinced during those weeks that only through some such medium could the homesteaders express their own needs, in their own way; have their problems discussed in terms of their own immediate situation.

We needed herd laws and a hundred other laws; we needed new land rulings. We needed schools, bridges across draws and dry creeks. We needed roads. In fact, there was nothing which we did not need--and most of all we needed a sense of close-knit cooperation. Aside from these matters of general interest, relating to their common welfare, the paper attempted to acquaint the settlers with one another, to inform them of the activities going on about them, to keep them advised of frontier conditions. To assist those who knew nothing of farming conditions in the West, and often enough those who had never farmed before, I reprinted articles on western soil and crops, and on the conservation of moisture.

Every week there were noticeable strides in that incredible country toward civilization, changes and improvements. These were printed as quickly as I learned of them, not only because of the encouragement this record of tangible results might bring the homesteaders, but also as a means of information for people in the East who still did not know what we were doing and who did not see the possibilities of the land.

And already, in depicting the homestead movement, I had begun to realize that the Lower Brulé was only a fraction of what was to come, and I reached out in panoramic scope to other parts of the frontier.

And already, though but dimly, I had begun to see that the system of cooperation which was being attempted--cautiously and on a small scale--was the logical solution for the farmer's problems, not alone in this homesteading area, not alone on the Lower Brulé; but that like a pebble thrown into a quiet stream it must make ever-widening circles until it encompassed the farmers throughout the West, perhaps--

Naturally public issues sprang up which neither Ida Mary nor I knew how to handle. We knew nothing about politics, nothing at all about the proper way to go about setting things right. But we were a jump ahead of the Lower Brulé settlers in homesteading experience, and there were many local issues with which to make a start.

One of the first public issues the paper took up was an attack on the railroad company in regard to the old bridge spanning the Missouri River at Chamberlain. "Every time a shower comes up, that bridge goes out," declared The Wand, and it wasn't much of an exaggeration. The homesteaders were dependent on the bridge to get immigrant goods across, and with the heavy rains that season many settlers had been delayed in getting on their land or in getting their crops planted in time.

The Wand referred to the railroad report that this was the biggest immigration period of the state's history, with 537 carloads of immigrant goods moved in during the first twelve days of the month. For several years the small towns west of the Missouri had been making a fight for a new bridge. "The Lower Brulé settlers want a new bridge," I wrote. "And if the Milwaukee does not build one we are going to do our shipping over the Northwestern regardless of longer hauls." I had not talked this matter over with the settlers, but they would do it, all right.

A flea attacking an elephant! But a flea can be annoying, and we would keep it up. I was encouraged when civic leaders of several small towns sent for copies of the article to use in their petitions to the company. It was the voice of the Lower Brulé, and already the Lower Brulé bore weight.

In practical ways the paper also tried to serve the homesteaders, keeping them posted on other frontier regions and the methods employed there to bring the land into production. It made a study of crops best adapted to the frontier; it became the Strip's bureau of information and a medium of exchange--not only of ideas but of commodities.

In new country, where money is scarce, people resort from necessity to the primitive method of barter, exchanging food for fuel, labor for commodities. There is a good deal to be said in its favor, and it solved a lot of problems in those early, penniless days.

We had started the post office mainly as a means of getting the newspaper into circulation, and it had developed into a difficult business of its own which required more and more of Ida Mary's time. Friday was publication day. On Thursday we printed the paper so as to have it ready for Friday's mail, and on Thursday night the tin reflectors of the print-shop lamps threw their lights out for miles across the prairie far into the night, telling a lost people the day of the week. "It's Thursday night--the night the paper goes to press," more than one homesteader said as he saw it.

It was a long, tedious job to print so many newspapers on a hand press one at a time, fold and address them. It took the whole Ammons force and a few of the neighbors to get it ready for the mail, which must meet the McClure mail stage at noon. While one of us rushed off with the mail, others at home would address the local list of papers and put them in the mail boxes by the time the return mail came in for distribution.

Our U. S. mail transport was our old topless One-Hoss Shay--repaired and repainted for the purpose--with the brown team hitched to it. It was a long, hot drive, eight miles, to meet the stage, which reached McClure at noon, jolting along under a big cotton umbrella wired to the back of the seat for shade. I slapped the brown team with the lines and consoled myself that if roughing it put new life into one's body I should be good for a hundred years.

When we were behind time and the mail was light or there was money going out, we ran Lakota through as a pony express. Lakota was a gift from the Indians, whose name meant "banded together as friends." One day Running Deer had come over to Ammons, leading a little bronc. He had caught her in a bunch of wild horses which roamed the plains, a great white stallion at their head. "One day--two day--three day--I have made run, so swift like eagle. Then I rope her and make broke for ride."

She was a beauty. Graceful, proud--and lawless. "Good blood, like Indian chief," said Running Deer with pride in this gift from the Sioux. "But white squaw--she throw um, mebbe. Rub like fawn--" and he stroked her curved neck.

There was no "mebbe" about throw um white squaw. One had to be on the lookout or "swift like eagle" she would jump from under one at the slightest provocation. But we trained her to carry the mail, and though there was no banditry in that section, we had to be on our guard with money coming in. No man would ever grab the mail sack from Lakota's back. That little outlaw would paw him to death.

Whether we caught the mail stage or not often depended upon the mood of the stage driver. If he felt tired and lazy he patiently sat in front of the Halfway House at McClure and "chawed" and spat until he saw the Ammons mail coming over the trail. If he were out of sorts he drove on.

All we got out of the post-office job was the cancellation of stamps, as it was a fourth-class office in which the government furnished the stamps and we kept the money for all stamps canceled in our office. But the settlers were too busy to write letters, so the income was small and the incoming mail, for which we received no pay, weighed us down with work. For months after the settlers came west they ordered many commodities by mail, and their friends sent them everything from postcards to homemade cookies and jelly, so as mail carriers we became pack mules. But we went on carrying mail. It is easier to get into things than to get out.

Much of the ordering of commodities by the settlers was done through the huge mail-order catalogs issued by half a dozen large companies in the East. Those mail-order catalogs were of enormous importance to the homesteaders. For the women they had the interest of a vast department store through which one could wander at will. In a country where possessions were few and limited to essentials, those pages with their intriguing cuts represented most of the highly desirable things in life.

From the mail-order catalogs they ordered their stoves, most of their farming implements, and later, when the contrast between the alluring advertisements and the bleak shacks grew too strong for the women to endure, fancy lamps for the table, and inexpensive odds and ends which began to transform those rough barren houses into livable homes.

Running a newspaper out here was, as Ma Wagor had predicted, a "pestiferous" job. One day we hung the rubber roller out to dry and the sun melted it flat. As a result Ada had to ride to McClure to borrow one from The Press before we could print the paper. There was no way to get the ready-prints without making the long trip to Presho. Finally every homesteader around Ammons who went to town stopped in at the express office to get them for us. It was a multiplication of effort but we generally got the prints.

But, hard as it was, the work did not tire me as much as the mere mechanical grind of the hammer-and-tongs work on The Press had done. Each day was so filled with new problems and new interests, so crammed with activity, that we were carried along by the exhilaration of it. One cannot watch an empire shoot up around him like Jack's beanstalk without feeling the compulsion to be a part of that movement, that growth. And the worst barrier we had to face had vanished--the initial prejudice against two young girls attempting to take an active part in the forward movement of the community.

The obstacles of a raw country had no effect on Ada Long, our fourteen-year-old helper. She came of a struggling family who had settled on an alkali claim set back from everything until the Brulé settlers had broken a trail past it. So Ada, finding herself in a new moving world, was happy. With her long yellow braids hanging beneath a man's straw hat, strong capable hands, and an easy stride, she went about singing hymns as she worked, taking upon herself many tasks that she was not called upon to perform. And Fred Farraday was taking much of the heavy work of the print shop off our hands.

Ma Wagor, too, was an invaluable help to us. "All my life I've wanted to run a store," she admitted. "I like the confusement." Every morning she came across the prairie sitting straight as a board in the old buggy behind a spotted horse that held his head high and his neck stretched like a giraffe. The few dollars she got for helping in the store eked out Pa's small pension, which had been their only revenue.

The commodities handled at the store had increased from coffee and matches to innumerable supplies. The faithful team, Fan and Bill, were kept on the road most of the time. We made business trips to Presho and Pierre. Help was not always available, and there could be no waste movements in a wasteland. On some of these trips we hitched the team to the big lumber wagon and hauled out barrels of oil, flour, printers' ink and other supplies for all and sundry of our enterprises. It had come to that.

"There go the Ammons sisters," people would say as the wagon started, barrels rattling, down the little main street of Presho, off to the hard trail home.

Slim and straight and absurdly small, in trim shirt waists, big sombreros tilted over our heads, we bounced along on the wagon, trying to look as mature and dignified as our position of business women demanded.

"Those are the two Brulé girls who launched an attack on the Milwaukee railroad," Presho people remarked. "Well, I'll be damned!"

Once when I was too ill to leave Presho and we stayed for the night in a little frame hotel, Doc Newman came in to look me over.

"Do you girls get enough nourishing food?" he asked.

"We eat up all the store profits," lamented Ida Mary.

He laughed. "Keep on eating them up. And slow down."

Pioneer women, old and new, went through many hardships and privations. The sodbreakers' women over the Strip worked hard, but their greatest strain was that of endurance rather than heavy labor. But refreshing nights with the plains at rest and exhilarating morning air were the restoratives.

Hard and unrelieved as their lives were in many respects, gallantly as they shouldered their part of the burden of homesteading, the women inevitably brought one important factor into the homesteaders' lives. They inaugurated some form of social life, and with the exchange of visits, the impromptu parties, the informal gatherings, and the politeness, the amenities they demanded--however modified to meet frontier conditions--civilization came to stay.

The instinct of women to build up the forms of social life is deep-rooted and historically sound. Out of the forms grow traditions, and from the traditions grow permanency, which is woman's only protection. With the first conscious development of social life on the Brulé, the Strip took on a more settled air.

Meanwhile, out of the back-breaking labor the first results began to appear. The sodbreakers were going to have a crop. And hay--hay to feed their livestock and to sell. Everyone passing through the Strip stopped to look at the many small fields and a few large ones dotting the prairie. People came from other parts of the frontier to see the rapid development which the Brulé had made.

"Mein Gott in Himmel!" shouted old Mr. Husmann, pointing to a field of oats. "Look at them oats. We get one hell of a crop for raw land."

On the other side of us, Chris Christopherson's big field of flax was in full bloom, like a blue flower garden.

"I come by Ioway," Mr. Husmann went on, "when she was a raw country, and I say, 'Mein Gott, what grass!' But I see no grass so high and rich like this."

The gardens matured late, as all growth on the western prairie does. The seed which was sown on the sod so unusually late that year never would have come up but for the soaking rains. Now there were lettuce, radishes, onions and other things. One could not buy fresh green vegetables anywhere in the homestead country, and they were like manna from Heaven. It had been almost a year since Ida Mary and I had tasted green foods. It is a curious paradox that people living on the land depended for food or canned goods from the cities, and that the fresh milk and cream and green vegetables associated with farm life were unattainable.

Most of the settlers lived principally on beans and potatoes with some dried fruits, but we had bought canned fruits, oranges and apples, pretending to ourselves that we would stock them for the store. Some of the settlers could buy such foods in small quantities, for they had a little money that first summer; but the Indians were our main customers for the more expensive things, buying anything we wanted to sell them when they got their government allowances. While their money lasted they had no sales resistance whatever.

This characteristic apparently wasn't peculiar to the Brulé Indians, but was equally true of those in the Oklahoma reservation who boomed the luxury trades when oil was discovered on their land. There it was no uncommon sight to see a gaudy limousine parked outside a tepee and a grand piano on the ground inside.

But what the Indians didn't buy of these foods at forbidden costs we ate ourselves, cutting seriously into our profits. And when Mrs. Christopherson sent her little Heine over one day with a bucket of green beans we almost foundered as animals do with the first taste of green feed after a winter of dry hay.

We had a few rows of garden east of our shack. I remember gathering something out of it--lettuce and onions, probably, which grew abundantly without any care.

It was hot, and everybody on the Strip, worn out from strenuous weeks, slowed down. The plains were covered with roses, wild roses trying to push their heads above the tall grass. The people who had worked so frantically, building houses, putting in crops, walked more slowly now, stopped to talk and rest a little, and sit in the shade. They discovered how tired they were, and the devitalizing heat added to the general torpor.

"It's this confusement," Ma Wagor said, "that's wore everybody out." She was the only one on the Strip to continue at the same energetic pace. "There ain't a bit of use wearing yourself out, trying to do the things here the Almighty Himself hasn't got around to yet--flying right in the face of the Lord, I says to myself sometimes."

But in spite of the heat and the general weariness, the work was unrelenting. The mail must be delivered regularly. The paper must be printed. One day Ida Mary's voice burst in upon the clicking of type.

"What are we going to do about the rattlesnakes?" she said tragically; "they're taking the country."

She was right. They were taking the reservation. They wriggled through the tall grass making ribbon waves as they went. They coiled like a rubber hose along the trails, crawled up to the very doors, stopped there only by right-fitting screens.

One never picked up an object without first investigating with a board or stick lest there be a snake under it. It became such an obsession that if anyone did pick up something without finding a snake under it he felt as disappointed as if he had run to a fire and found it out when he got there.

On horseback or afoot one was constantly on the lookout for them. For those gray coiled horrors were deadly. We knew that. There were plenty of stories of people who heard that dry rattle, saw the lightning speed of the strike and the telltale pricks on arm or ankle, and waited for the inevitable agony and swift death. The snakes always sounded their warning, the chilling rattle before they struck, but they rarely gave time for escape.

Sourdough stopped at the store one morning for tobacco. He had a pair of boots tied to his saddle and when Ida Mary stepped to the door to hand him the tobacco, a rattlesnake slithered out from one of the boots. He jumped off his horse and killed it.

"Damn my skin," Sourdough exclaimed, "and here I slept on them boots last night for a pillow. I oughta stretched a rope."

Plainsmen camping out made it a practice to stretch a rope around camp or pallet as a barricade against snakes; they would not cross the hairy, fuzzy rope, we were told. It may be true, but there was not a rope made that I would trust to keep snakes out on that reservation.

I remember camping out one night with a group of homesteaders. The ground was carefully searched and a rope stretched before we turned in, but it was a haggard, white-faced group which started back the next morning. True, there hadn't been any rattlesnakes, but from the amount of thinking about them that had been done that night, there might as well have been.

A young homesteader rushed into the print shop one day, white as a sheet. "A snake," he gasped, "a big rattler across the trail in front of the store."

"What of it? Haven't you ever seen a snake before?"

"Have I!" he replied dismally. "I saw them for six months back there in Cleveland. But my snakes didn't rattle."

Ours rattled. The rattle of the snake became as familiar as the song of the bird. The settlers were losing livestock every day. Everyone was in danger. With the hot dry weather they became bigger and thicker. The cutting of great tracts of grass for hay stirred them into viperous action. They were harder to combat than droughts and blizzards. Not many regions were so thickly infested as that reservation. Those snakes are a part of its history.

"Couldn't be many in other regions," Olaf Rasmusson, an earnest young farmer, said dryly; "they're all settled here."

"Look out for snakes!" became the watchword on the Strip.

Mrs. Christopherson's little Heine, a small, taciturn boy of five who had become a daily, silent visitor at the store, came in one afternoon, roused into what, for him, was a garrulous outburst:

"There's a snake right out here, and I bet it's six feet long the way it rattles."

Ada grabbed a pole and tried to kill it. The monster struck back like the cracking of a whip. She backed off and with her strong arm hit again and again, while Ida Mary ran with a pitchfork.

"Keep out of the way," shouted Ada, "you may get bitten!"

Winded, Ada fanned herself with her straw hat and wiped the perspiration from her face. "I got that fellow," she said triumphantly.

This was one problem about which The Wand seemed helpless. Printers' ink would have no effect on the snakes, and if this horror were published, the Strip would be isolated like a leper's colony. After using so much ingenuity in building up the achievements of that swift-growing country, the announcement of this plague of snakes might undo all that had been accomplished.

And the snakes increased. When Ida Mary was out of sight I worried constantly. It was like one's fear for a person in battle, who may be struck by a bullet at any moment. But the rattler was more surely fatal when it struck than the bullet.

Something had to be done. To Hades with what the world thought about our having snakes! We had to do something that would bring relief from this horror. We went to the old medicine men--John Yellow Grass, I think was one of them--to find out how the Indians got rid of snakes. They didn't. But at least they knew what to do when you had been bitten. The Indian medicine men said to bleed the wound instantly, bandaging the flesh tightly above and below to keep the poison from circulating. That was the Indians' first-aid treatment; and, as a last resort, "suck the wound."

The Wand printed warnings: "Bank your houses ... keep doors and windows tightly screened ... keep a bottle of whisky close at hand.... Carry vinegar, soda and bandages with you, and a sharp thin-bladed knife to slash and bleed the wound." What a run there was on vinegar and pocket knives!

By this time the sight of a coiled rope made me jumpy and I dreamed of snakes writhing, coiling, moving in undulating lines. At noon one day I was alone, making up the paper. I stood at the form table working, when I turned abruptly. A snake's slimy head was thrust through a big knothole in the floor. Its beady eyes held me for a moment, as they are said to hypnotize a bird. I could neither move nor scream.

Then with a reflex action I threw an empty galley--an oblong metal tray used to put the set type in--square over the hole. The snake moved so quickly it missed the blow and lay under the floor hissing like an engine letting off steam. It would have been in the print shop in another second. The floor was laid on 2 × 4 inch scantlings, so there was nothing to keep snakes from working their way under. It should have been banked around the foundation with sod.

The next day a homesteader's little girl was bitten. Oh, for serum! But if there were any such life-saver on the market we had no way of getting it.

The Wand called a meeting of the settlers and laid plans of warfare against the snakes. The homesteaders organized small posses. And cowboys and Indian bucks joined in that war against the reptiles.

They killed them by the dozens in every conceivable manner. The cowboys were always telling about shooting their heads off, and they said the Indians used an arrow, spearing them in the neck just back of the head. They never let one get away if they could help it. Some of them claimed they picked up rattlesnakes by the tails and cracked their heads off.

The snakes wintered in the prairie-dog holes, but I never heard of a prairie dog being bitten by one of them. On warm days in late fall the snakes came out of the holes and lay coiled thick on the ground, sunning themselves, while the little dogs sat up on their hind legs and yipped in their squeaky voices. The settlers and cowboys invaded the dog towns and killed off the snakes by the hundred. Dog towns were the tracts where the prairie dogs made their homes. During the intensive snake war, a homesteader came from one of the big prairie-dog towns to take us over to look at the kill.

There, strung on wires, hung more than a hundred huge, horrid rattlers, many of them still wriggling and twisting and coiling like a thrown lariat.

It seems too bad the snakeskin industry of today missed that bonanza of supply, and that science did not make a more general use of rattlesnake serum at that time. The settlers would have made some easy money and science would have got serum in unlimited quantity.

This is a gruesome subject. The constant, lurking menace of the snakes was one of the hardest things the frontier had to endure, harder than drought or blizzard, but in one way and another we came through.

Instead of The Wand's campaign against snakes injuring the Strip it created a great deal of interest, and people said we were "subduing the frontier."

Easy? Oh, yes; easy as falling off a log.