Birds of Nebraska: Newspaper Accounts, 1854-1923

April 7, 1895. Omaha Sunday Bee p. 11. Also: April 14, 1895. p. 18.

The Spring Duck Shooting

The Editor, Brewer and Lawyer in the Sandhill Marshes.

Blackstone Gets a Crack at a Wolf

Evidently the spring wild fowl shooting in even this usual rare paradise of feathered game is practically over and from every quarter come only reports of failure and disappointment. There was but little water and but little feed, as I endeavored to foretell weeks ago, and the result was all that could have rationally expected. There was but trifling inducement for the winged hordes to lay off here when on to the north, in measureless grandeur, stretch vast expanses of water and teeming feeding grounds. Instinctively, or in aerial vision, the birds detect this, and it has only been from sheer necessity of rest, or indifference to fatted lands, that canvasback, redhead or mallard has dropped down in whilom haunts for brief tarrying.

These are the facts which always present themselves to the true sportsman, the one who goes forth to learn, as the scholar goes to school, and be his success what it may, he never becomes irrecoverably regretful. He finds his annual outing just as glorious, just as beneficial, as if the birds swarm in lagoon and marsh as plentiful as the cicadae swarm in July's burning sun. He never fails to find shooting enough to keep the blood in healthy circulation, and gets what game he actually wants, even though it requires a little harder labor than common. It is not the true sportsman who is disappointed in times like these, but that class who only care to hear the roar of their guns, and to whom a commingling with nature is a positive bore unless their murderous instincts can be constantly appeased. When the killing ceases their enjoyment is at an end. But to the other class, an outing is an outing always—glorious, incomparable sport. The sky never looks bluer, the grass greener or water brighter, than when once adrift in marsh or meadow. To him is welcome every sight and every sound that comes from earth or air. Nothing can compare with his happiness, nothing is half so stirring, half so grand or exhilarating. A tramp afield with the multifarious perfumes of budding land and gurgling stream, the music of bird and breeze, and the flutter of reviving life of all kinds, filling all his senses, is the very acme of mental and physical delight, the intenser pleasures of life, ever spread before him with a beneficent hand. He is a lover of nature—the true sportsman. His tastes are inherited and inbred, and successful or unsuccessful in the baser aim of destruction, he would not exchange one day's sweet commune with all outdoors for weeks and months of the ordinary pastimes which engross mankind. Once a sportsman, always a sportsman, and the whole twelve months contains no joy so supreme as the hour when he dons the picturesque raiment of his vocation and sallies forth upon his annual outing.

Soft and showery April is now upon us, and the shooting season is on the wane. In the reedy marshes out at Hamilton's, at Lugenbeel and the upper Platte, the muskrat houses are afloat in rising waters, while the rats themselves are cutting high didoes in sun and starlight, untrammeled by ice or snow, cleaving the warming waters in their mad love chases, and whimpering plaintively in the excess of vernal pleasures. With raucous clamor, the wild fowl have up and sped away to their breeding haunts of the farther north. Stragglers linger, of course, and yonder an old mallard hen, in her harmonizing colors of yellowish brown, cuts the smooth surface above submerged tangle of flag and spatterdock, into feathery wakes, coasting the sedgy shores in quest of laggard companions, poking into this nook, craning into that, as if actually contemplating the assumption of maternal cares. A pair of blue-wing teal rise to flight with a splash from out a ferzy cove as you advance, the swarming blackbirds fill the swaying reeds or dart in erratic showers in this direction and that, filling the lazy air with their tinkling notes, and confusing both sight and hearing, while all about you, from drift of hay and leaves and weeds, wells up the crackling croak of awakening frogs, and the break in the greenish waters tell where bass or pickerel disports his graceful shape. The sweet and grateful fragrance of thawing soil and starting vegetation crowds the nostrils, and from every side rings the pean of returning spring, the swash of the wind-pushed waters to the lilt of melody from meadow lark and bobolink. Nature is fast recovering from the tousling and mussy condition given her by the rougher play of wintry blasts. The distant hills are putting on an emerald tinge, as viewed through half-closed eyes; the yellow grass is greening at the roots, and along lake shore and rippling rill froudous sprays are peeping forth, the whole catching a golden gleam from the lustre of unclouded sun. The tall, naked stalks of rice and cane are yet arrayed in graceful tracery, yet bending before the new life of the budding year.

No sweeter days are there than these of early April, filled with their soft airs and soothing sounds, the dreary gray of the whole landscape blending with the dawning colors of the bridal garments of another season.

I got back from my spring hunt a week ago, after spending ten most enjoyable days at Hamilton's cosy hostelry in the Deuel county sandhills. Charlie Metz and Will Simeral were with me, and, while the shooting was the poorest ever known here, we profited by every moment spent there, and returned to the city bronzed and vigorous, and nearly as well satisfied as if we had brought a carload of ducks along with us instead of a few dozen. Of course we took a Pullman to Lakeside, and over the delightful B. & M. the trip was a most enjoyable one. We arrived at the station early on the morning of the 17th. Major Mackey and Colonel Sutton, two of Hamilton's assistants, in big wagons, were awaiting us, and after a bounteous breakfast at the Briggs house we started for the sandhills, Sutton hauling the luggage and Mackey the hunters.

It is a long way down to the lakes, and our journey was a tiresome and weary one, yet not without its excitements and interesting incidents. Plain and hill was covered with snow and under the warming rays of the sun formed a glittering, blinding expanse, which was extremely hard upon the eyes. But we had plenty of good cigars and a big, black jug full of cold, sparkling water, and with our sight-seeing and our songs and stories the time slipped away on silvered feet. We passed several good sized lakes on the way, but they were all frozen up, solid as marble, and we saw but two or three little bunches of geese and ducks. We reached what is known as the sheep ranch about 10:30, and, as this is the half-way point between Lakeside and Hamilton's, we pulled up for a rest and refreshments. Our halt was brief. A duck hunter is always impatient and we were soon enroute again. We were slowly slowly crawling over one of the numerous low ridges which cross and recross the road to Hamilton's, when we came suddenly upon a huge gray wolf. He was trotting leisurely along the trail, going the same direction we were, probably making for his lair in the hills after a night's maraud against some ranchman's stock. Hearing our approach he deliberately stopped in the middle of the road and, half turning, gazed defiantly at us a moment, but the next instant, as the lawyer was about to swing his big hammerless upon him, he was off across the snow covered plain like a scared rabbit. With a quotation from the Methodist Hymnal, Billy banged away at him, and, although fully 150 yards away, we saw the snow fly in his wake, as with increasing celerity he lengthened out his long, gaunt form until all we could discern was a streak of gray against the background of white. he quickly reached a stretch of brown rushes bordering some shallow lake's bed, and the next second was buried from sight.

"There has been a power of wolves 'bout here this winter," observed Mackey, "and they have killed lots of good cattle."

"You don't tell me that they kill cattle, do you?" inquired the knowledge seeking brewer, as he relighted his cigar.

"Yes, indeed they will, or horses, either. They are as powerful as they are sneaking, and seem to kill stock from sheer murderous instinct and nothing else, as they seldom eat but a trifle out of the neck or hams, and seldom return to the same carcass twice, but go off and kill a fresh animal, eat a little more, then on to another. Sometimes they kill as high as half a dozen head in a night."

"How do they get at it, Mackey; do they run them down?"

"Hardly ever. They get close down to the ground on their bellies and crawl slowly and by degrees on an unsuspecting steer or horse, and when close enough give a run and a jump and hamstring the poor animal as deftly as the skilled surgeon could with his knife. They generally hunt in pairs, and after one has hamstrung his victim, the other flies at his throat. It takes them but a short time to get the beast down and kill him."

"Has there been any killed round here this winter?"

"Yes, several. Gus Rudolph—Gus is the trapper Sandy wrote up a year ago in his 'Home of the Canvasback' series in The Bee—and an Englishman named John Wright have killed several this winter and coyotes, badger, skunk, rat and other varmint until you can't rest. Gus and John have been trapping down in our country all winter. They've got a shack near Hamilton's and are shootin' for the market now. And, I say, Sandy," turning round in the wagon and facing me, don't you fail to have Gus tell you 'bout killin' old Limpy—

"Old Limpy—whose Old Limpy?" I interrupted.

"Well, sir, Old Limpy is, or was, rayther, the biggest gray wolf in all these hills—he's been here for years and years, and there is not a trapper or ranchman within a hundred miles who has not wasted weeks and months tryin' to kill him; but they couldn't come it—that is, not until the last week in February, when Gus and John, after a week's chase, got him cornered over on the Blue and gave him his quietus. He was a powerful big fellow, and his hide, grizzly white, is a bute, and I reckon it is worth some money to anyone who wants an extra good specimen. Gus and John get $25 bounty for every big wolf they kill, and generally the stockmen chip in and make up a decent reward on the side. But Gus'll tell you all about it when you go over to his shack some evening."

It was now afternoon, and we had crossed the last ridge of hills save one ere we reached the valley of Goose lake, where in March, '94, the lawyer and I made the biggest kill of canvasback ever made in the state of Nebraska.

The rays of the sun had been growing warmer and warmer, and the gentle winds balmier and balmier, as the day advanced, and when we finally struck the head of the valley above mentioned, the beautiful had almost entirely disappeared from the earth. White splotches, dotting the universal greenish brown here and there, alone remained, and there was every indication that a spell of delightful spring weather was upon us.

"Hello! there goes a skunk—there's a chance for you to distinguish yourself, Mr. Simeral," and Mackey pointed to the little animal as he was waddling away through the short buffalo grass.

But he was on my side, and I was out first and Lefever in hand took after him. He was making for the selvage of tall rushes and reeds off two or three hundred yards, and hampered with a big ulster I saw that he would reach there before I could get close enough for a good shot. So I stopped and let him have it at long range. He halted instantly at the report of my piece and his beautiful bushy tail bristling out to its fullest dimensions, was hoisted over his striped back.

I didn't go any farther, but turning, made my way back to the wagon involved in an atmosphere that bore no suspicion to new mown hay ot the delicate fragrance of red clover.

But about skunks. Of all fur-bearing animals, save the muskrat, they abound in the lake region of the sandhills the most plentiful, and are a considerable source of revenue to the trapper.

The skunk is a pretty animal in his glossy garment of black and white, the proportion of which colors varies with the age and condition of the individual. In many there is but little white fur; in others broad streaks extend the whole length of the body. The adult animal measures something over 20 inches in length, and the tail, which is his crowning glory, from seven to nine inches. It is very bushy and when the animal is moving looks much larger than it really is. They live in holes in the ground near some rushy lake shore, and subsist upon the young and eggs of all kinds of birds, on gophers, tender grasses, rosebuds and sand cherries. Frequently they make inroads against the ranchman's hennery—when they are provident enough to own one—and create sad havoc with both eggs and fowls. When unmolested they will remain for months and years without giving any symptom of their presence by the emission of the offensive fluid for which they are infamous. This fact alone proves how ludicrous is the belief that the urine of this animal is the source of its disgusting fetor. If this was so, the whole scope of territory in frequents would be rendered almost uninhabitable to creatures of every other species.

Another quarter of a mile and Goose lake, like a white sheet, spread before us. A flock of pintails arose with their plaintive piping from the off nearer arm of ice, as we approached, and bore over the sandhills to the south.

"There's the little island," exclaimed the lawyer, enthusiastically pointing out to Charlie a small circular tuft of reeds and flags in the lower central portion of the icebound lake. "from which I killed my first canvasback—"

"And had your little bon-fire!" curiously quizzed the brewer, with a wink at me.

The very same—but I say, Sandy, will you ever forget the first morning we pulled up over there and gazed out over those lovely waters? Wasn't that a time for you—sixty-three canvasback in two hours' shooting! Will it ever happen again?"

Pleasant indeed was the retrospection opened up by Billy's interrogations, and I would fain have lingered there in blessed memory and dreamed over and over again the happy hours we spent together there.

Another half hour and we pulled up at Hamilton's, and found Canvasback Lodge yawning wide open to receive us, everything as neat and tidy as the most scrupulous house wife could make it, from the snowy linen on the beds to polished puncheons in the floor.

"This is a palace!" ejaculated the brewer, as he stood in the center of the little sod room, divesting himself of overcoats and wraps, and indeed it was, at least in the light of three pair of visual organs.

Sunset in the Sand Hills

The Editor Shoots a Swan in His Highly Educated Mind.

On Crescent's Beautiful Shores

I neglected to state in my opening article on spring duck shooting last week that upon arrival at Hamilton's we found our genial host suffering in the incipient stages of the mumps, but still able to be about. He was on hand to welcome us as usual and at once injected a lot of enthusiasm into our respective corporosities by the information that he thought we were just in time. Notwithstanding the lakes were all frozen over solidly the white geese had been coming in by the thousand and for two days past there had been quite an encouraging flight of ducks, principally canvasback and redhead. The Brewer and the Lawyer, despite the fatigue of our long and arduous journey from Lakeside, were irrepressibly jubilant and resolved to go right out that afternoon as soon as they had gotten their dinner, which Mrs. Hamilton had announced would be ready for us as soon as we got washed and straightened up a bit.

In a marvelously short time our sod palace had assumed the picturesque condition that so delights the sportsman.

Guns and gun cases were stacked in one corner, trunks were unstrapped, opened up and shooting paraphernalia hauled forth and scattered over the beds and chairs. Shell boxes, pipes and bags of tobacco, boxes of cigars, oil cans, wiping sticks, duck calls and other heterogeneous articles littered shelves and window sills. The warm reds, greens and purples of extra blankets glowed in a confused pile, while valises, overcoats, rubber boots, mackintoshes and pillows were strewn slovenly about.

Outside Canvasback Lodge was another picture, composed entirely of touches of the sandhill wilderness. To the left was a pyramid of decoys, canvasback, redhead, mallard, teal and blue-bill; here lay an old rusty steel trap, there some castoff harness and broken neck-yoke. The boats, five in number, lay beyond the lodge; one new and unpainted, and another filled with trampled hay and rushes, with quantities of duck feathers intermingled and a good sized pile of empty shells in one end, evincing recent service, perhaps before the late freeze-up came. A huge stack of "cow-chips"—the only fuel in the woodless sandhills—loomed up just west of the big family adobe house; then came a tousled haystack, then the sod barn with the carcass of a dead steer beyond, while all about, in one attitude or another were setters, pointers and spaniels, the inmates of the big kennel Hamilton has in process of breaking, just twenty-two head in all. Rex, the king of dogs and Hamilton's pride, as well as the greatest retriever on earth, was there, too, keeping a fatherly watch over all his kind, and cavorting around like a pup in keen anticipation of the sport he felt our presence boded. A pair of whitely bleached deer horns crookedly surmounted the low door way, while from pegs driven in the walls in front and at the ends were the drying skins of badger, skunk, coyote and muskrat. A red-tail hawk, flanked by a pair of seagulls, was tacked over one of the casements, and traps, axes, oars, dog chains, empty powder cans and other debris lay all about in the most unmethodical profusion.

Add to these the shimmering atmosphere hanging over the background sandhills, with their splotches of melting snow and tufts of green cactus; Lake Hamilton lying like a reflection of the cerulean heavens in front, and the golden blanket of the March sun spread over the whole and the scene is complete.

But we had no time to waste in admiration of our surroundings and were quickly seated at the long table, and such a dinner as lay before us, redundant as it was with the spoils of plain and lake.

A short-rib roast, as was never roasted before, baked potatoes, watercress, corn pone, sand cherry sauce and hot coffee, is what we stowed away under our shooting jackets, by the cartload it seemed.

The banquet was too much for me—I came near foundering, and after it was over, I repaired to the lodge and stretched my graceful and athletic shape upon a bed for a good smoke. Charlie and Billy could not be swerved from their original resolution and filling coat pockets with Victor shells and shouldering their guns, they set out, per pedes apostolorum, for a jog round Lake Hamilton.

I have no knowledge how long it was after their departure, but I do know that I was rudely and abruptly aroused from a most refreshing slumber by Hamilton loudly calling me to get my gun and come outdoors. I sprang from my bed and, seizing my gun, hurriedly inserted a couple of shells, and scrambled forth to see what was up.

"Stand still," admonished Ed, who stood just without the door; "there's a bunch of swan coming from off Crescent an' they'll pass right over the house."

Sure enough, the next moment I saw the birds, seven of them, cleaving the air with measured stroke of snowy pinion, coming from the south in a line, and I saw that they would pass directly over us. As they cleared Hamilton's house they discovered us and began to rise and veer off. Then I let them have it—first one barrel and then the other—and, although we heard the shot rattle against their breasts, I got none down. With a sonorous "hoo-oo-oo!" the great, lumbering creatures spasmodically beat their wings, climbed higher and higher, then with a grand sweep, swung off over the dome of the frowning sandhill back of us.

A cottony bit of down or two, floating almost stationary on the listless breeze, was the only evidence left me of whatever effect my shots had had.

"What sized shot?" queried Hamilton.

"Fives," I answered.

"Too small, and then they were higher than they looked."

Provident host! I had never known him to be at fault when it came to account for a poor shot at the hands of any of his guests. Still I think he was all right in this instance, yet I was disappointed. I had counted on one, if not a double, but had only succeeded in displacing a feather or so.

It was now getting along well in the afternoon and as a good many birds were to be seen flying aimlessly around the lakes to the south, I went back into the lodge and got a supply of shells, rejoining Hamilton a moment later just east of the family residence.

"When the ice opens up," he observed, "I think you will have great sport; there seems to be a great many birds here now and all that is required to make good shooting is a little open water. Down! there comes a flock of white geese now."

We dropped together in the low grass, and glancing up I instantly caught sight of a long white line against the blue of the background sky. They were coming swiftly on with their usual garrulous clamor and were soon over us, probably fifty yards high. I straightened up to get a better shot, and, leading them well, let go with the first barrel, but again I scored an ignominious miss.

"Lead 'em! lead 'em!" impatiently exclaimed Hamilton.

The birds had now passed over and their broken ranks were welling together again, and, while I felt that they were out of range, I obeyed directions, and pulled the second barrel.

My surprise at this more than counter-balanced the chagrin I experienced at my first shot, for with a loud squawk one of the birds dropped from out the line and went gyrating and tumbling off against the side of the sandhill. He lit with a bounce, rolled down a few feet, then lodged against a clump of yucca.

An half hour later the Brewer and the Lawyer returned, Charlie with a white goose thrown over his shoulder, and Billy carrying a brace of widgeon. They had indulged in quite a long tramp, clear over to Hackberry lake and back, and seen slathers of geese and "quite a few" ducks, and were in correspondingly high spirits. Metz had gotten his goose from a flock flying over, while the Lawyer had made a double on his widgeon, jumping them from the reeds on Hackberry's frozen shores.

The following morning broke calm and mantled in light cloud. The sun-glow interfusing the delicate mist, which always arises from the marshy sandhill districts, kindled it into a veil of pearl streaming over the brow of a day.

Hamilton was not well enough to leave the house, but he joined us after breakfast and advised us to take one of the wagons and pull over the range to Crescent lake. All the shooting they had had this spring had been at Crescent, as the birds seemed to frequent the place in preference to all others. Two weeks before, when the lakes were partially open, the Ankeny boys from Deadwood were down, and one afternoon from off Otter point they killed eighty-five redhead, and the day following some sixty more. Then the freeze-up came, the birds disappeared as by a magician's hand, and they gave it up and returned home.

So of course we were not long in making up our minds. We would put in the day at Crescent, the Brewer and the Lawyer going together, and I, with Alfred, the hired man, who was to drive us across.

The frescoes of dawn had hardly dissolved when we got under way. The clouds had melted into the merest lacework, and the corrugated tops of the western sandhills were breaking into rosy fire, and the solemn gray was brightening into a golden landscape of plain and promontory, when we came upon Crescent lake.

"Look at that heagle!" exclaimed Alfred, as he pulled up the horses on the brow of the ridge, where we could gaze off over the really enchanting scene, stretched out before us.

But, parenthetically, I must insert here a brief description of our driver. His name was Alfred Daykin, and he was a tenderfoot, fresh from Albion's distant shores. Not exactly a tenderfoot either, for he had put in a year on a sheep ranch up in Montana, had hunted considerably and was fast acquiring a knowledge of American game and American ways of pursuing the same. He was a bright fellow, inclined to the hyperbolic in his recountal of past experiences, yet honest and conscientious when it came to matters of real importance. He was odd in configuration and odder in manner and speech, and we had a good deal of fun with him during our sojourn in the hills, almost as much as had our forefathers with his ancestry in the memorable days of '76.

"See the heagle!" and he pointed off where the upper arm of the lake, where one of those huge birds was circling, probably in search of rabbit or crippled duck.

The broad expanse of ice was glittering and scintillating like gem-bestudded silver. The sunlight also spread broad and dreamy over the sear grass, stretching away, clear to the base of the darksome hills, here sprinkling itself in mites of gold among the drooping and withered flags, there striking aisles into fields of reeds and rushes. The blackbirds were alert with their sweet "kong-ker-ree," and off from the icy sheet came once in a while the squawk of a goose, the hoarse "holler" of a swan or quack of a duck, for in numerous places out on the lake, lying still in the early sunshine, we saw great bunches of mixed birds, from the lovely swan and Canada goose, down to merganser and teal.

The Brewer and lawyer selected a blind on a point in the upper end of the lake, while I picked out one a mile below, on a narrow peninsular neck of rush-covered land extending well out toward the middle. My companions were to take the boat, and unloading this and half the decoys, I directed Alfred to drive me to the point I had selected, and an half hour later we were all snugly ensconced in natural hides that would defy the keenest discernment of goose or duck, and anxiously awaiting the coming of the birds. My English valet had driven the horses and wagon off back of the nearest hills, and returned and taken up his stand in the exuberant reeds a few yards to my right. We kept up our sharp lookout for probably an hour without being rewarded by the sight of any birds, but those basking in groups n the ice at distant points on the lake, and I instinctively felt that the sport was going to be limited.

"Hif we'd honly brought a hax," finally observed Alfred, "we could 'ave cut han hairhole hout ther by the decoys, an' the sun shinin' on the water, would 'ave made the ducks coom, I'll bet you."

"Yes, that wouldn't have been a bad idea," I replied, "but as we didn't bring an axe, all we can do is to make the best of our situation and come better prepared tomor—"


A pair of pintails, with their long, slender necks stretched out to their fullest elongation were coming hurriedly straight across the lake. Suddenly they catch sight of our decoys scattered over the ice, and warily make a sharp turn and start to circle the spot.

"If they come in, I'll take them both," I cautioned Alfred. "If I miss, pump it at 'em."

"Hall right," whispered Johnny Bull."

The spikes had now swung clear round over the hills back of us, but were coming back at a rate of speed that was discouraging. I wasn't in the best position, but just before the birds got over me, I led the drake about three feet, and his mottled body came down into the rushes, almost within reaching distance, as if shot from a gun—dead as a door nail. The hen, with an affrighted squeak, put on a little extra steam and did her best to get out of range, but she failed most lamentably. I was shooting the celebrated Peters Victor shells, 3½ drams of S.S. powder, and an ounce and an eighth of chilled sixes, the best I ever used, and Mrs. Pintail caught it well astern and made a frantic plunge for the ice, falling quite 200 yards away.

"Hey! That was hextra fine!" called Alfred, as he started on a run out on the ice for the bird.

He had hardly settled in his reedy concealment again when the clangor of a mob of white geese broke the morning stillness. They were coming from behind off toward Blue lake and we quickly saw the living snowy triangle clearing the dividing hills, coming straight onto us. Admonishing the Englishman to take the rear birds I bent still lower in the rushes and awaited the interesting moment. The bulk of the big flock passed over right between our blinds, with a sturdy old gander at the very head of the apex calling loudly to his followers to "come on." I broke his neck the first dash out of the box, and then, in the frantic scramble for the neither spaces that followed, I killed my second, while Alfred also cut a brace out of the tail-enders.

Not a bird fell over thirty yards from the blinds, and all four were dead when they struck the ice and the land, once more attesting to the killing character of the Peters shells.

There was a long interval succeeding this nice work, during which the only moving birds we saw were a long way off, too far even to be detracted from their course by the most vigorous efforts with the call, and I was rapidly becoming disgusted, when a bunch of canvasback, like fabled racers of the upper regions, came pouncing down upon us from the sky. The first premonition we had of their proximity was the sharp whistle and swish of their wings as they dished down and flashed over our decoys like apparitions of the air. Alfred and I were both startled, the Englishman half rising and lifting his gun.

"Don't shoot!" I commanded, catching his just in time, for the birds were already 200 yards away and going on and up like rockets.

"Too bad!" I remarked, with a bit of supplementary ornamentation soothing to a vexed spirit, and was about stepping from my blind for a little stretching when I saw the birds turn, way off a mile or more in he hazy distance, swing round and head in our direction again.

I simply had time to get in good position in the rushes again, at such tremendous velocity does the hungry canvasback fly, when they were upon us, yet not in half decent shooting distance. But no chances were to be thrown away, and we banged away all four barrels, as they hurtled past like a charge of canister, into their very midst.

On they went, every mother's son of them, to our keen disappointment, but the next instant we saw one fall behind, farther and farther, sagging and wobbling, then let go and come to the ice with a plunk, fully 300 yards away. Alfred brought it in and it proved to be a fine young drake in a blazonry of splendid spring plumage, and, really, I felt satisfied with our morning's work. So much for the potent charm of a single specimen of the grandest bird that flies can fill the heart of an ardent sportsman.

We lunched at noon, took a smoke and then settled ourselves for the afternoon watch. It was a profitless vigil, from a shooting standpoint, but three more white geese and an old hen mallard being added to the morning's bag, but the enjoyment derived from a close connection with nature in all her most bewitching forms was compensation enough for the wasted day.

Alfred became tired and went off to the wagon for a doze, leaving me alone with my dreams. For a time I was engrossed with watching the basking groups of fowl on the ice, and listening to their drowsy murmurings and the cansonet of the blackbird, interrupted occasionally by discordant blots of sound from winnowing hawk or famishing coyote. All these, however, were soon unnoticed, as I lay outstretched on a bed of reeds, with the swaying stalks environing, and watched the cloud-ridges, pile upon pile, lowering in a mighty form over half the heavens and plunging leagues and leagues of desolate hill and plain in shadow. We bend our heads before the grandeur of a Yellowstone, where almost seas of water plunge upon the rocky heart of that wild country with reverberating thunders, but glance merely at some cataract of stormy vapor dashing down the sky slope! Yellowstone or Niagara, to this, are mere cascades! We linger entranced upon the beamy lights and velvet shades of the old masters; of Titian or Tintoretto, whose names glitter with the magic tints of Italy; but the colors born of the artist, atmosphere flash disdain upon upon the tame blazonry of their mimic hues. Even the divine frescoes of Raphael must yield to the common tints of twilight on Nebraska's western prairies. And the architecture of Giotto and Angelo, what is it to what you can behold by gazing upward into the clouds at a turbulent March sunset. There is a matchless architecture then, with colonnades and pillars, arches and towers, never tiring the sight in their sameness, but changing constantly as you gaze, resting on foundations of living sapphire, and flushed and glowing with flitting tints that transcend even the diviniest dreams of all the mighty masters in ages past.

We drive home in the evening. The clouds have about all disappeared, and the signs are for another pleasant day on the morrow. The Brewer and Lawyer have fared but little better than I. A Canada and two white geese, three pintails and a pair of redheads is all they are enabled to show, and disappointed and in silence, we trail along the darkening valley road as the sun goes down.

  • The blackbirds fly to their roosting place,
  • As the sun goes down;
  • And far in the sky to goose's flight I trace
  • In flocks that waver and interlace,
  • As the sun goes down.
  • The bullfrogs croak by the lake's black rim,
  • As the sun goes down;
  • And the rushes stand all grim and slim
  • When the mists have gathered gray and dim,
  • As the sun goes down.
  • A teal comes past with a swish of wings,
  • As the sun goes down;
  • And a fold of the twilight creeps and clings
  • To the flagstalks; and a cricket sings,
  • As the sun goes down.

Sandy Griswold.