Birds of Nebraska: Newspaper Accounts, 1854-1923

Sandy Griswold. November 13, 1898. [Sunset in the Sandhills and Hunting on the Lake Creek marshes.] Forest, Field and Stream column. Omaha Sunday World-Herald 34(44): 24. Continues: 11/20, 34(51): 23; 11/27, 34(58): 24; 12/4, 34(65): 23; 12/11, 34(72): 21, 24; and 12/18, 34(79): 22-23; 12/25, 34(86): 24; 1/8/1899, 34(100): 21; 1/15, 34(107): 16; and 1/22, 34(114): 24. Revision reprinted 1/26/1908 to 3/22. Quotes similar as well as text blocks.

Forest, Field and Stream.

Sunset in the sandhills!

A golden light, as if transmitted through windows of topaz, kindles a gentle slope upon the eastern borders of the Lake Creek marshland; one sweep of yellowing verdure covers the remainder of the scene.

Two tents stand in the foreground. Behind, gradually sloping away to the selvedge of the reed-bound swamp is a stretch of waving grass, the thin blades scarcely hiding the barren knolls of sand, and the silvery blossom of the wire weed lending bright contrast to the rufous-hued landscape.

Beyond, a network of jeweled marsh, with its flags, and rice and reeds, its splotches of gleaming water, pyramidal muskrat palaces, and crypts of rank, yet dying vegetation.

Boldly Otter Point pushes its long brown nose out into the wild marsh, as if determined to penetrate the heart of the marsh, and the long narrow strip of crystal water, called Crane Heaven, never looked more entrancingly picturesque with the playful autumn breeze dashing over its gloss and the sunlight kissing it into riant smiles.

As we stood and gazed that lovely evening off over that devious expanse I though what a magnificent wilderness of shining water, glittering sand, waving rice, tule and grass, the whole scope within our vision made; even off to the distant haze shrouding the long, low line of sand hills, so imposing in its sweep of grandeur, so melancholy, so silent in its encompassing details.

Sunset on Lake Creek marsh!

A thrilling picture indeed, and we endured no sense of loneliness as we stood enthralled and feasted our eyes upon its manifold beauties. We were sportsmen—the Merganzer club—and the whistle of the mallard's wing and the yellowleg's tinkling call was melody to our souls. We needed no stupendous Niagara, with its reverberating thunders, no Yosemite with its beetling crags, inaccessible peaks and yawning canyons, to stir the warm blood in our veins. We were out of doors in the freshening winds and soothing sunshine, and that was plenty. Far to the north, through the illusive haze, loomed the White River bluffs-stepping stones to the Black hills-while between stretched that network of glittering gems-dew drops on the leaf of a rose-fragments of the sprawling lake, scintillating within their fetters of reed, rice and flag. To the east, through a rift in the roiling plain, twisted the ghostly Lake Creek, dim artery to the core of all that wild region, with its gloomy wastes and tenebrious shades, hidden habitat of the coyote and the big gray wolf.

That was on the evening of October 17 last, when we, the members of the far-famed Merganzer club, Charlie Metz, George Scribner and myself, with our guests, Charlie Rogers and Billy Marsh, and, oh yes, there was Abner-Abner Thomas-our ebony chef, and a good a one probably as ever wrestled with pot or spider-stood and gazed. The fourth and last member of the club, Tom Foley, was not with us, the rush of business incidental to the close of the great exposition had its iron clutch upon him, and he was compelled to forego the pleasures of our annual fall outing.

We had a charming trip from Omaha via the popular Elkhorn to Cody; thence by wagon to Anse Newberry's cozy sportsman's hostelry on the banks of the legendary Raccoon, where we remained over night, regaling ourselves on the good things of Mother Newberry's table and refreshing ourselves on her sumptuous couches. The next morning we resumed our journey, a long one of thirty miles or more, through the sandhills and across the almost measureless grazing land and plain.

At noon our five teams pulled up at Cedar Lake, where some potted tongue, sandwiches, chow-chow and a half dozen bottles of Metz beer, made a kingly luncheon, and again we started. Still wilder and lonelier grew the prairie waste. The wagon road became a mere trail as it wound on tortuously through the old buffalo country. Mire-holes of sand in the gulches; the grass grown wallows! A long strip of burnt land; wild pastures of cactus and soap weed, burying the curly tendrils of the buffalo grass; tumble down and abandoned adobe castles, with patches of deadening sun flowers, dwarf cottonwoods and yucca, showed themselves at intervals. The distant summits of the White river bluffs, sketched dimly upon the morning mist, now stood boldly forth in wonderful mirage, mountains of purple. Old Humpback towered loftier than ever, and then as suddenly faded to a molehill on the plain. Indian lake—a mere pool specking a tangly growth of reed and weed, greeted us as we crawled over a gentle rise. The thin clouds had obscured the sky and the wind struck us with keen force, and the shallow water wrinkled as with a myriad of waterflies; a humming in the air began and then the sunmist sparkled in the air. We donned our India-rubbers, but it proved but a splash, and varied pleasantly the long ride, while the railroad man remarked that it was the forerunner of bad weather.

"Hey, there!" called Anse from his perch on the luggage in the forward wagon, as he pointed off to where a broad draw cut through the rising ground.

We all thought that it was a jack rabbit, or an eagle, which are plentiful in the sandhills country, but the next instant were surprised to see a big gray wolf jump out from the struggling flags and streak it for the hills. Of course the rifle had not been taken from the case, and we had to content ourselves with watching him until he loped from view. Here followed a long discussion on wolves, and the fund of knowledge that was packed in our wagon was something remarkable, to say the least. Rogers had been by a pack of these ravenous brutes once while deer stalking in Upper Canada, and what Scrib couldn't tell you about the habits of the animal in California wasn't worth listening to.

A half hour dragged along, and while the wind grew stronger, the great masses of ragged vapor that had filled the sky, scurried off to the west, and the sun again shone forth with September's balminess.

Beyond the sod house home of Shangrow, the half breed, and his pretty English wife and cunning flaxy headed boy, we encountered the first winding tributary to Lake Creek, gliding marshward, full of weedy beauty. A few miles farther and we struck the well beaten road to Reshaw's, which we kept for another half hour, then struck off over the blind prairie for the marshes, and were soon at our camping place, the exact spot where for three seasons the Merganzer club has pitched its canvas home.

The golden tangle of sunset glittered among the silvered stalks of cane and rice, the damp air was full of fragrance and the Lake gave flash for flash as the last tent pin had been driven and the arduous duties of pitching camp had been mainly completed.

We had two tents, the larger one sleeping and living apartment, and the smaller, kitchen and dining room, and a happy and romantic abode they made.


The dwelling is open in front, displaying our beds in the two north corners, nice solid mattresses, hidden beneath blankets of crimson, green and gray. On the front tent pole dangles the carcass of a big, whitish owl Metz had killed coming over, and against an improvised rack stand our guns, while on another, on the opposite of the tent, behind the heater, hang a half dozen pairs of rubber waders. We laid a board floor and trunks and boxes were all stored away as snugly and methodically as if at home. The wash stand guards the right of the entrance to Abner's tent, and from one of the upright stakes hangs a brace of dead grouse, which Alfred Reshaw had brought in before the tents were pitched, their chequered hues warm in the sun-glow. Three dogs, Old Sport, a grand retriever, Bones, a worthless imitation, and Scrib's liver-and-white pointer, Fannie, are nosing about, occasionally bending on their haunches to scratch their ears and lick their paws, crouching to stare open-mouthed through their forelegs at their industrious masters, and snap the flies, or curling themselves for a nap, to start up again and resume their roamings.

Our boats are resting their bows on the brown sandy margin, with their sterns buried in curling splatterdocks; a ragged muskrat house is on the left, half sunken in the rushy water, and a field of flags and reeds stretches off down to the bend at the right of the scene.

The whole picture is soft and rich, as well as wild, steeped as it is in the mellow charm of the deepening sunset.

On the sky the light was now shattered into a thousand tints, with everything above the horizon as plain as day, while below rested a pallid glow which intensified the brilliant colors, but threw a weird gloom over sombre shades. From the departed sun rosy light radiated into the zenith, while the upper sky to the east was changed by the contrast into deep orange with purpling borders. North and south the clear blue shaded into delicate olive tints, shifting into pink toward the center of the great dome. On the east lay strange studies of rich umber, darkening with every passing second; on the west burned fleecy streams of lemon-colored vapor, and over this stage soon poured that troop of actors which had attracted us to the distant sandhill wilds.

The evening flight was on!

The ducks were coming in to roost, and they seemed to come from out of space. With a rushing, hissing sound, as if rending with their speed the canopy of heaven, down came flock after flock of red-heads out of the face of night. Dense masses of bluebills with wings set in rigid curves came winding swiftly down with long lines of mallards whose stiffened wings made the air swish beneath them. And there were sweeping curves of widgeon and wisps of greenwing, ruddies and blackjack, riding down the darkening air, geese were trooping past, but most of them kept high in the air, and went on and on, sounding their far-reaching honk until lost to view in the deeper shadows beyond.

The gray of twilight was now rapidly yielding to the darkness of night. The reedy marsh grew gruesome and mysterious, and the water was soon of star-spotted inkiness. Nothing disturbed the quiet of the October night. The silence filled our hearts. God seemed nearer in the solemn heavens. Far away was the world with all its darkening sorrows and corroding cares. And as I lay there, long after the "dousing of the glim," as we use to say up in the lumber regions, I thought, here would I abide, and forget the tortures of civilization—here close to the heart of nature. The solitude would teach me peace, the quiet would yield me rest. Here would I abide, where the breezy plain sweeps as sweeps the boundless sea. Sin blights not; pride, envy, hatred and ambition never enter. Here the soul, mingling with the simplicities of an unpolluted haven, would soar toward the Father. Man should never infest this realm with the foulness of his breath, never plant his iron heel on its bosom of beauty; here may its verdure wave, teaching its pure lessons of self-denial, self-reliance, endurance and courage; of the religion which dwells with the outdoors, where the bared soul-

"Ah, there, gem'lem; brekfest's ready!"

That was Abner, and rosy dawn was scrambling jocundly up over the eastern ridge.

"Ah, there, gem'lem; brekfest's ready!"

That was Abner's regular cry at the break of day. He was punctual and methodical in his culinary duties, and his matutinal announcement did not very ten minutes at any time during our sojourn in the sand hills.

The frescoes of dawn had not yet melted when we emerged into the open air, but soon the pointed peaks along the distant White river broke into rosy fire, and the dead gray brightened into a golden landscape of plain and water.

And how we did use to enjoy those breakfasts, eating at one meal fully as much as we do at three at home. The pure air of the prairie, the exercise, and—I know not what, keeps you on a sort of famished lookout all the time. The very exercise of eating, too, seems to give you fresh appetite. And without meaning to turn informer on my comrade, or tell tales out of school, I must say that Marsh's stomach, in the sand hills, gave me a better idea of the bottomless pit than any other thing, human or divine, I have ever met with in my travels. His consumption of bacon and cornpone, coffee, home-fried potatoes, oatmeal and toast in the morning was only equaled by his consumption of Metz' extra pale and crackers and Elam cheese after the day's chase was over.

But I cannot blame him, for Abner's meals were revelations! Banquets in palaces were beggars' provenders by comparison, and every sportsman will agree with me that there is nothing that can touch a feast in the prairie wilderness, with the peerless scene around and the radiant roof above. The fragrant spoils of marsh, lake and plain vanish rapidly before the hungry hunter, possibly the most voracious animal extant.

We were never in a hurry in the sandhills. After our morning meal we all betook ourselves to pipes and solid comfort, lolling about the camp in the laziest sort of fashion. Our talk was always light and flippant. The sunlight spread broad and dreamy upon the yellowing grass; here, sprinkling itself among the spiked cactus plants, their striking aisles among the reeds and rice out in the marsh. The cluck of the restless blackbird was always in the air, and occasionally there came the bark of a coyote, the scream of a hawk or weird bravura of a loon. Before us, stretching away to the opposite bluff, lay the buff and brown of the slumbering lake.

At last we made our plans for the day, and about 9 o'clock separated; Rogers and Marsh to try the decoys on the nearby slough; Scrib after snipe along the bottoms below Bullard's and Metz and I to Otter Point on a prospecting tour. Calling old Sport, Charlie and I were the first away, and a memorable day we had of it. Along the borders of the marsh where we tramped the flag had faded to a wilted rag and grayish tints had crept over the graceful heads of the cattails, the pinkish hood of the moase-flower was drooping, mournfully, while everywhere the rice was shedding its whitened banners into the smooth waters. Along the muddy stretch a number of yellowlegs were lounging with easy grace, picking into the soft emulsion, or squatting out of sight behind some clump of weeds, only to appear again to trot along as unconcerned as if they were aware we were after choicer game. Yellow hooded blackbirds in large flocks swept along the offing and marsh wrens and sandpipers whisked about in numbers almost incredible. It was evident that such game was not shot at.

A mile from Camp Merganzer a tangly point ran out into marsh at the foot of Crane Heaven, and as Charlie and I ploughed into the increasing labyrinth, mallards, singly and in pairs, rose with startled squawk and sailed off over the marsh, and once, but out of gunshot, a big sandhill crane lifted his gray shape from the smart weeds, and with that pur-rut, pur-rut, he always sounds when suddenly startled, he flapped away across the point to the glistening hills across the river.

"I'd like to have gotten a crack at him," remarked the Brewer, as the big bird became a speck in the distance. "He was a good deal bigger than the one Foley killed on the island last fall, and what a roast Abner would have made of him!"

Quack! quack! quack! It was a big drake mallard and he jumped from the rice so close on Charlie's side that the burnished green of his neck and head, the glistening bands of blue upon his wings, and the delicate curls of shining green upon his rump was as clear as the white bands on his tail. But Metz did not give me but a moment to admire the picture. His gun cracked spitefully and the bird doubled up like a jack-knife, and stone dead, plunged into a clump of cattails fifty yards to our left. But Old Sport had his brown eyes upon him, and it was needless to issue and commands. As the duck fell he was off and quickly buried from sight in the high grass, and before we had traversed more than half the way we met his coming back, with the old drake in his mouth.

As the Brewer was stuffing him in the capacious pocket of his canvas coat, a bald pate and his mate came glistening over the sunlit reeds. I aimed at what seemed to be the right spot ahead of them and with supreme confidence, pulled the trigger. Yet at the sound of each barrel every shining feather sailed along as smoothly as gossamer thread on the morning breeze. Even Metz had disposed of his mallard and taken a crack at them, but they were out of range when he shot and he was not disappointed.

Scarcely had we poked more shells into our guns when like a charge of cavalry in bright uniform, with long green necks and heads gleaming in the sunlight, a dozen mallards streamed along the narrow channel in front of us. We both pulled trigger together, and though we expected to see three or four birds cut down, but one duck fell, but as the rest climbed the air with throbbing wings, I saw another, a hen, sag, and then with wobbling flight, part from the flock. We watched her as she lowered toward the reeds. She made a heroic effort to keep going, but she was gut-shot, and suddenly let go and we heard the splash as she struck the water in the rice across the channel.

I didn't think it would pay to send the dog across, but Charlie thought differently, and he bade Old Sport to "go fetch." He jumped glibly enough through the weeds and grass until he came to the icy-channel, then he hesitated. He looked around and whined piteously, but Charlie hied him on, and the next moment his black muzzle was cutting a way through the old water to the mazy jungle on the other side.

We heard him pattering around in the shallow water for some moments, and were beginning to think the old hen had proven too much for him, when a loud "wop" on the water caused us to look farther up the channel, and there he came, swimming like an otter toward us with the wounded mallard in his mouth.

The Brewer and I had now reached the soggy rice hidden shallows at the extreme end of the point, and as the air was full of birds we prepared ourselves for a busy hour or so.

"Let them come as close as they will," said I, as we crouched in the grass, as a bunch of six or seven mallards approached from out in the middle of the marsh. "I'll take the leader, Charlie," I said, as I saw the birds were coming in from his side.

They were passing up quarteringly, and I tossed my gun ahead of the foremost bird at about the same distance I had been used to shooting ahead of doves, and pulled the trigger. About the third duck behind skipped over the water stone dead, while the one at which I had shot sped across the rice with unruffled feathers. I had fallen into the common error in wild fowl shooting of underestimating the speed of a duck, and consequently the distance necessary to hold ahead of it. Metz had also got in a barrel, and, like myself, he shot behind them. When a duck shooter whirls his gun in from behind on a duck he will generally hit it, for the motion of the line of sight is faster than that of the bird. The line of fire is ahead of where it actually seems, on account of where it lost in pulling the trigger and the escape of the shot, during which the muzzle of the gun is moving past the line of the game. It has taken me a good many long years to become a good duck shot. I could not bring myself, as is the case with most inexperienced gunners, to hold far enough ahead, but I finally caught on, although even yet I will fall back into the old mistake of covering them too closely.

It was afternoon and we had been waiting quite a while without getting abruptly came the admonishing monosyllable from the Brewer:


It is a lone mallard slowly winging his way from out the circle of the rice, and he crossed the sky above us. He is to one side and there seems little danger of his seeing us as we kneel low in the muck, but his wings suddenly begin to thumb the air with extra force as he begins to climb rapidly out of danger. He is not quick enough, though, and at the report of Charlie's gun his neck doubles up and down he comes, striking the soft soil just out of the Brewer's reach.

The afternoon was warm and indolent, and the birds absolutely refused to move, but Charlie and I were patient, and when a straggler did happen along our way, we generally got him. But we finally tired of the meagre sport and along later in the afternoon, when there was but little indication that the birds would fly, we got up, slung our game over our shoulders, and in the low, slanting light made for camp. Reaching it we found all the party returned, and Abner's castle was alive with culinary operations, the tired shooters stretched about listening to the song of gridiron and saucepan instead of bird and ripple.

It wasn't long before we were at the table, and as out stomachs became satisfied our tongues limbered up.

"It's rather singular," observed Rogers, "that we haven't seen any big gray wolves around here. Newberry told me that they were dangerously plentiful this fall," with a sly look at Abner.

"Tisn't often they's seen round here, Mr. Rogers," quickly interjected the cook in a patronizing way. "Old Green was heyar this afternoon and he tole me that he had fished and hunted round here all his life, yet he never seen many of 'em. There is quite a passel, take it by and large, though," he said, "but they keep back in the bluffs and woods along White river, where people don't go. There is a good many more of 'm up in the Bad Lands, 'cording to the Reshaws. Deer and antelope is plenty up there too, and grouse till you can't rest. But talkin' about ducks, gem'lem, I notis as how its one thing to talk and 'nother thing to get 'm. Now, there's Rogers and Marsh, they only got 'bout a dozen no-account widgeon, and Metz and Gris but little better, and the Leftenant, well, he only brought in eight little weezen snipe."

"Well, Abner," broke in Metz, "now that you have steered us pretty effectually away from the wolf question, "sposing you wolf us up a little drink. I haven't had a cocktail for so long I've forgotten how they taste."

And the obedient Thomas immediately set about his concoction.

"Well, sir, boys," opened up Scribner, or the Leftenant, as Abner had dubbed him. "I've been floundering around in the mud belly-deep all day and if there was ever a poor devil glad to get to camp I am. This wading in the slough for eight or nine hours, with about a bird an hour, is about the bumest thing in the business, especially when the flask gives out, as mine did." And Scrib keeps his eye on the glass the faithful Abner was hastily manufacturing.

"We had better luck," said Metz. "Sandy and me. We brought in fourteen big fat mallards."

"Never was the old adage about a fool and his luck more strikingly verified than in an instance happening on the lower slough of Lake Creek Marsh on a certain day in the present month of October," said Rogers. "I've about made up my mind to abandon shooting and take to snake killing. Any blockhead can kill snakes, but it takes the wits of ten Philadelphia lawyers, and the patience of forty Jobs, to shoot ducks. I've about made up my mind now there are no ducks on the lake."

"We didn't kill our birds on the lake," said the Brewer. "we found poor shooting along the shore, so we went out on Otter Point."

"Who said you shot them on the lake?" retorted Rogers. "I appeal to the intelligence and veracity of my respected comrade here if I do not display marvelous accuracy in applying to myself the adage mentioned. I think it a remarkable, if not painful instance of self-consciousness. Ah, Abner, old socks, this cocktail is fit for King George."

"I know'd a feller by the name of George," interjoined Abner, "who was the best han' at makin' a cocktail I ever see. An' when he made it he could drink it, too, an' without wieldn'. Good gracious, how that feller could licker up! He run the railroad for a livin-"

"Run the railroad for a living, did he, you black scoundrel," exploded Scrib. "Well, the next time I go down there after snipe, I'll take you along to run mosquitoes. Every sunbeam today has hatched a family of them, and hungry-mad at that." and the lieutenant threshed blindly about with a rubber boot, striking Abner on the head, and them somewhere else as he went to dodge away, "I wasn't after snipe, I guess, I was after bugs! Ever have 'em, Abner?"

"Well, there is one thing about it, gentlemen," said the Brewer consolingly: "I am glad that you have all had such a good time, but I hope Scrib and Sandy will not celebrate their luck tonight with one of their confounded choruses—'Rally 'Round the Flag," for instance. I'm tired and must have some sleep. I can stand anything mortal, but when it comes to sounds so utterly diabolical, I renig-eh, Rogers?" and Metz bit off the end of another Perfecto.

Soon after this Rogers and Marsh curled themselves in their blankets whither Scrib had already gone; the cook sought his lair in the kitchen. Then Charlie threw the butt of his cigar into the open heater, gave a diabolical yawn, and I was alone.

The black marsh below; the dark wall in front; the murky desert around; the hollow moan of the wind; the hoot of a neighboring owl, the distant yelp of a coyote, weeping and laughing, all made a scene of deepest solitude. Man! How far off he appeared and how near God.

The sandhill desert is one great tongue, speaking constantly to the heart; inciting to knowledge of one's self and to love of the Supreme maker, the Father. Not in the solitude of the mountains, nor on the mighty ocean do we more deeply realize the great presence that pervades all loneliness than we do when alone at night in a sandhill camp. Here with the measureless sweep of earth and sky for our worshipping temple, our hearts expand, our thoughts rise unfettered, and we behold Him, face to face.

I strode to the tent door; the heavens were black as velvet on a coffin, studded with golden headed rivets; I surrendered myself to the influence of the hour and scene. From the starry arch and the solemn sea of blackness below, breathed the invisible presence, and from the depths of my heart rose an inspiration of unbounded faith and love. And I felt, despite the sin and weakness of my wretched humanity I was still in some poor measure one with Deity.

To the mournful susuration of the rising winds in the wavy grass, the slapping of the loosely tied tent-flap, and the coyote serenade on the distant bluff's side, I fell into the embrace of nature's sweet restorer—sleep.

Sunrise in the sandhills.

Camp Merganzer was astir at daybreak. There was a cool, gray light over the marsh which lay as silent as if untenanted by living thing. The far away bluffs rose indistinctly as if reared in air, with dark pictures below them. The atmosphere was fresh even to chilliness, yet sweet with the odors of the prairie and oozy bogland. Our tents looked ghostly; the lifeless plain gloomy. A brace of mallards near the margin were quacking like tame ducks clamoring for their morning meal. A redtail hawk was sailing over Wolf Slough; a drowsy hum was creeping through the fields of rice and the largest starts were still shining, although dimly, through the sombre tints of the sky as we emerged from the tent.

Soon, however, the ash-color of the east commenced to clear into semi-transparent gray, then to kindle into pale yellow. Clumps of cane began to creep out of the massed marsh and a streak of distant mist to crawl along the bosom of Crane Heaven. The bluffs stood out more boldly. The hum from the swamp increased into a twitter as the black birds began to move, and a distant dotted harrow in the sky showed where a flock of Canadas were cleaving their way to the feeding fields. The watery reaches showed differing though still sober tints; here a space of marble gray, there of polished black.

At length the cheeks of the clouds at the zenith blushed into rose, one long feathery mass in the east began to glow into ruby, then burn into gold. Gemmed colors-emerald, sapphire, topaz and amethyst-glanced upon the lake. Light, like the meadowlarks breast, ran along the lower hills. The orient gleamed with royal crimsons and imperial purples. At last, through the broad draws of the background slope, striking the landscape into gladdening light, poured the lustre of the risen sun!

Such was the sunrise scene at Camp Merganzer, buried in the distant sandhills, a region famous only for is desolation, but simply because it is not known. However, as I believe an obligation rests upon every true sportsman to give his fellows of the craft the fruits of his own knowledge and experience, I will devote a brief paragraph or two to this strange and interesting land.

The sandhill country has its beginning somewhere out in the middle of the state, whence it extends both north and south for 100 miles, and west until the elevated plateau bordering on Wyoming materially metamorphoses the character of the scenery. Reaching from the rocky gorge of the dashing Niobrara on the south to the pine-studded bluffs of the Big White river on the north, up through Cherry county, and into Dakota the sandhills country in an anomaly of hill and plain, of exuberant grazing land and arid desert, the like of which no section on the globe can match. This same topographical condition continues, too, on south of the Niobrara in Nebraska to the Platte rivers, and west into Cheyenne and Dawes counties, the site of Camp Merganzer being about its thoracic center. There is range after range of sandhills in this limitless stretch, which have undoubtedly been left piled up on the smooth desert by the receding of prehistoric floods, and presenting in the main such a homogeneousness of scene that at times it becomes actually terrifying to the senses. It is entirely different from any cannon rule, method or analogy to be met with between the two seas. Still there is endless beauty in the sandhills, a charm in all this monotony that must be encountered and studied to be appreciated. There you find nature in all her varied forms, perplex and complex, and are never at a loss for entertainment for eye or ear. These sandhills, as a rule, present the rounded, domelike summits of all sandhills, though in places, notably along the Big White river, they are cloven into jagged, whitish, chalklike peaks, touching hundreds of feet in height, notwithstanding there is nothing of the hypersthene in their formation. In the summer time they are clothed with matchless verdure, with myriads of wild flowers, including many of the acanaceous or cactus species, the yucca with its fragrant golden blossoms, the wild poppy, with its speckled disc, the Indian plume, lobelia and cryptogrammic clematis. Lying within the basin of the hills from the verge of the Bad lands, north of White river to the South Platte, is a remarkable archipelago-if the word is permissible-of lakes and sloughs and purling streams, everywhere filled with pure, cold water save through the alaklescent belts, which criss-cross the area, and which are favorite feeding, breeding and resting grounds of the wild fowl, from the king of wave and sky, the royal swan, down to the bittern and hell-diver. Aside from the geese and ducks, there is an abundance of other feathered life, from the huge golden eagle, hawks of every species, crane, loons, chicken and grouse, to the smaller forms, such as meadow-larks, the finches, swamp-sparrows and black birds. There are but few crows, robins, blue birds and jays, and seldom if ever any of the woodpecker family. All the wild animals of the western country were here in swarming plenitude up to within a few years ago—the lordly elk, black and white-tail deer, wolf, badger, beaver, otter, mink, weasel, swift, skunk and muskrat.

Most of these have entirely disappeared and others are going fast. The chicken and grouse, geese, crane and ducks, however, are as numerous as ever, the coyote is exceptionally common, and the badger, skunk and rat in clover everywhere.

The Lakecreek marsh, the scene of our encampment, is an especially favored locality for both fur and feather, and her the howl of the big gray wolf and the shout of the Great Northern Diver, the loon, are still to be heard breaking like spirit voices on the stillness of the night, symbols of all that was ever wild and lonely in that desert of sand. The big marsh is a picture in itself. Its numerous lakes and lochs of water, embedded like scintillating gems in their reedy sconces, flashing and gleaming in the soft sunlight of autumn, make the homeliest landscape animated and beautiful. The whole region abounds with the natural food of the wild fowl, to say nothing of an exhaustless larder for the wild goose, the jack snipe, crane, yellowleg, sandpiper, curlew and avocet. Here that delicate tuber called by the Indians "wapoto," and in botanical science Sagittaria variabilis, thrives most plentifully. It is a species of the arrowhead, an aquatic plant that derives its name from the shape of its leaves, and is the favorite food not only of the mallard, but of the redhead, bluebill and widgeon. Wild celery, spiralis vallisneria, is also abundant in the deepest holes along the channel of Lake creek, and wild parsnips and umbellularia, another morceau of the mallard, and wild rice, not grass, smart weed and scores of other seed bearing aquatic plants upon which the better grade of ducks delight to feed. Around the shallows of the marsh are numberless fields of rice, cane and rushes, interspersed with bugloss, which bears a tiny azure flower, flags, matriccaria or wild camomile, and swamp plants of all kinds, amidst which the whole water fowl genera loves to disport itself.

"Say, Marsh," said the railroad man, as we lounged around at our pipes after breakfast, "aren't you pretty nearly exhausted this morning?"

"How's that?" returned the banker, taking the corn-cob from his mouth, and turning to the lieutenant.

"Why, your snoring; it was unearthly enough to wake the dead, instead of the living."

"Oh, you're off-that was Rogers. I never snore."

"Me?" retorted Rogers, "Well, I guess not. I feel now as if I was becoming insane for want of sleep. Me? Don't give me that. It is really villianous! I-really-I-with my delicate nerves, too, I-well-I don't see how I am going to stand it. I will break down, at the beginning of the trip, too! What in heaven's name won't you do, after the air out here and the exercise have made you healthier and stronger, and you get a few more of Abner's dinners under your belt. I really shiver at the thought, and I tell you, Billy, you have got to put a clothespin on that nasal promontory of yours, or sleep with Abner hereafter.

"Oh, let my little peculiarities alone," replied the banker, as he pulled away vehemently at his pipe.

"Little!" exclaimed Rogers, leaping excitedly to his feet. "Here's impudence! And peculiarities! Well, I never heard full, deep-chested, air-shaking, sleep-murdering roars called peculiarities before. Why, gentlemen," gesticulating like a stump speaker, "this man Marsh ascends the scale regularly, from the double bass of Newberry's biggest bull to a height where he is in imminent danger of choking to death. There is no use in shaking him; it only breaks the sound into numerous particles and distributes them over a wider surface, splintering, as it were, one monotonous note into counter, tenor and treble, the scale then proceeding with more horrible vigor than before. I move we banish him to the kitchen with Abner, Old Sport and Bones."

"How about the ducks, Rog, you were going to kill this morning? I'm afraid you are better at denouncing your bed-fellow than you are at killing ducks," said Marsh quietly.

"Ducks?" ejaculated Rogers, "Where are the ducks I have missed, I'd like to know."

"Where are the ducks you've shot?" inquired the banker, pulling on his waders.

"Shot!" retorted Rogers, savagely. "How in the hellenblazen can you kill ducks when you don't see any. I shot all the ducks I saw last evening!

"Yes you did."

"Yes I did, and I would have shot those last four mallards you killed if I had got a crack at 'em first. You are all a lot of good things, that's what you are. All the shooting stories that the sporting editor of the World-Herald here tells about of finding ducks in every thimble full of water in the hills, and grouse in every clump of weeds, should be scouted at gentlemen and denounced by all decent men. He talks as if ducks are to be found with every whiff of air, and chickens under every grass blade, no bigger than his own conscience, and if, gentlemen, you can find anything smaller than that you can take a drink on me, that's all."

"Oh, shut up, Rogers," interjected the Lieutenant, "and go off and kill a few ducks," and Scrib lifted his gun out of the rack.

"Well, you just show me a duck, and if I don't kill it, you can take my head for a football. Show me one I say, and"—

"Well, here you are, Mister Rogers," and Abner's black hand pulled wide the tent flaps. "Come out here, the sky is full of birds," and he pointed off over the marsh.

We were all out in the open air in less time than it takes to tell it, and sure enough there was a big flight of birds. The feathery hosts were up for exercise, while many were starting off for adjacent sloughs and shallows. A vast army seemed to fill the sky. Long lines lifted from the reeds or came widening out and sliding down, and out of the rice fields beyond the island rose dense bunches, hanging for a moment against the rosy sky, then darting away over the sunlit sea of tules and flags. Over the bluffs on the west where the land rolled into the vast expanse of the prairie they came, not singly nor in pairs, but in hordes, and swifter than the wind itself thousands came riding down the beams of the morning sun from off at Cedar and Indian lakes. The sky above the big marsh was dotted with converging strings of wedge-shaped masses from which fell the cackle of the white goose and the sonorous "ah-unk" of the Canada. In all directions there were ducks-ducks alone, in pairs and bunches, darting and whizzing in all directions. Jacksnipe were pitching about in reticulated flight, the yellowleg drifted up with tender ripple; big sandhill cranes, with long necks doubled up and legs outstretched, flapped solemnly athwart the scene, while blackbirds and sandpipers filled in the openings.

A wondrous sight this morning flight at Lakecreek!

And Rogers made good his threat. He killed sucks that day, and so did we all.

Truly the morning flight over this sprawling sandhill marsh is a wonderously exhilarating spectacle, and notwithstanding we all realized that the day was going to be an exceptionally promising one we wasted much valuable time in watching the circling birds.

The flight generally increases on occasions like the present with every new beam of light that straggles through the hazy morning. Every bird in the marsh seems bent upon limbering up his wings, and the warp and woof of weaving lines and moving dots in the rosy sky increases until it is one changing network of flying hosts. Not only the birds of the marsh become visible, but myriads of water fowl traveling from the north swept by without slackening a feather. Black in the yellow light the heads and necks of countless mallards were outstretched for an hundred mile jaunt clear down across the Niobrara and on the the sparkling rice bound lakes of Deuel county before they would dream of halting. From every point they seemed to stream, and instead of pouncing down from the sky as in the evening flight, they take their aerial diversions with less uproar and in more leisure time. Over the cattails reaching far out into the oozy labyrinth they pour in dark masses, long wedge-shaped strings or crescent lines at indolent speed, but single ducks, teal and blue bill, dart hither and thither like diurnal meteors in the rising breeze.

When the day has fairly set in the ducks yet in the air travel higher and farther off, though the main flight may continue strong for some time.

"You see where those birds are going, Charlie," I remarked to the Brewer, pointing to a dark band of mallards pouring off the the northwest until they had reached a point close under the distant yellow line of the sand hills, it seemed, when they would falter, then settle down among the brown tops of the reeds and we would see them no more.

"You do? Well, that is where I am going to do my shooting today. I have been watching the birds going off there for the past ten minutes, and actually there has been thousands settle down out there. What do you say, so long as Rogers and Marsh have determined to try the Point, why not you and Scrib and me take one of the boats and a couple of sacks of decoys and go up there on an exploring tour? Eh, Scrib, doesn't that strike you all right?" and I turned to the lieutenant.

"You bet it does, and we can't get ready too quick. Good! There comes Alfred this moment," and sure enough, a two-horse team and wagon with a single occupant, hove into view from out the long draw back of Camp Merganzer and came trotting rapidly toward us.

Alfred was an Indian youth, one of the Reshaws, whom we had hired to furnish us teams and wood and wait on us generally while in camp, and a fine fellow he is, and one of the best duck shots on the whole reservation. Sometimes he remained all night at the camp, occupying the kitchen tent with Abner, but generally he would drive over to his brother Charles, two miles off, after dinner in the evening, and spend the night there, returning at an early hour in the morning.

Alfred is the youngest of several brothers, all living on the marsh, but unlike them he is a thorough hunter, trapper and guide. He was born on Lake creek, and of course is perfectly familiar with the whole country. Following the pursuit of trapping almost entirely. Alfred always wears sober colors, thus blending himself with the natural hues of his haunts, so as not to startle his game-the hues of the oozy shore, where he sets his muskrat traps; of the streamers of the wild rice, where the mallard and the widgeon lurk; the old, half whelmed logs along the Big White, where he steals to lure the trout; the sand banks and gravel beds of that wild stream, where he prowls for otter, and the dawn and evening grays of the shallows in the black marsh, where he wades to waylay the fisher and the mink. We were impressed, the more we say of Alfred, with his skill as a handy man and guide, and later as a duck shot and trapper. He not only thoroughly understands the region and the habits of its every bird, fish and animal, but is full of resources in his vocations. As a sandhill guide he is entirely reliable and always ready. He handles gun, road and oar with equal skill, and teaches his marsh craft with cheerful patience. Alfred lays that whole desert region under tribute. Off in the lonely blow outs he opens the jaws of his wolf trap, down miles and miles of lake creek he marks his muskrat line; on the borders of Crane Heaven he builds his deadfall for coon; over the entire sandy wilderness he slips his dogs for coyote, while his fatal hook knows the spots of every lake, and eddies and rapids of every stream.

"You are just our man!" cried Metz, as the Indian hauled up in front of the kitchen tent, and crawled down out of the wagon. "Get back in there and drive down to the inlet there and get that canvas boat, and the decoys. We are going to your mother's place this morning, the birds have been pouring in there for hours."

"Good! Plenty duck there," returned Alfred, as he clucked to his horses and started down for the boat and decoys.

It was nearly noon when we reached the tussocky northwest shores of the marsh at day, the "Leftenant," the Brewer, Alfred and myself. Rogers and Marsh had been in their blind on the Point for a couple of hours, and although we heard them cracking away at intervals, the birds in our vicinity were content to remain quietly at work on their feeding grounds out within the mazy mass of rice and weeds. In fact tings were so suspiciously still, that the Brewer was led to remark: "What if we've had this long trip for nothing? What if we were mistaken about the birds coming down here this morning? So far as I'm concerned, I think it's a wild goose chase! Hey! Alfred, what have you got to say? Is there any birds here?"

"Plenty duck, plenty duck, see soon," and the Indian indicated that we should assist him in unloading the wagon. This was quickly accomplished, the boat was lifted off, packed with the shell cases, decoys and other impediments and shoved off into the low water among the weeds to our left. Then the horses were unhooked and haltered to the wagon wheels, a couple of bottles of Metz' extra pale ale put where it would do the most good, and we were ready for the commencement of hostilities.

"What's the program, Alfred?" I asked as I stepped to the stern of the boat.

"Must get way out in marsh-open water there-good for decoys-hard work, ice out dere, in weeds-have to carry boat most way-pull up boots, water deep,-get dere quick-I scare up ducks-you shoot."

That was plain as mud, and there was a general hitching up of waders, and in another moment we were struggling out through the rank tules, rice and flags on our way to the "hole" that Alfred had already intuitively located for us, half carrying, half dragging the well-laden boat over the hazardous route. It was a prodigious task, wading in water within an inch of the tops of our rubber boots, breaking the ice across the numerous exposed openings, and pulling and tugging and pushing the cumbersome boat through acres of tough wire grass and matted tules, but we got there at last, fully a half mile from the shore, where we struck a little open lake that presented a thrilling site indeed.

"Hark!" admonished the Indian, as we halted in the mucky water back of a huge muskrat dome for a moment's rest and breathing spell. "Hear ducks, plenty, plenty, kill heap today. Me scare 'em up-you get fixed!" and the swarthy youth showed his white teeth in a grin that bespoke of the rare sport he was confidently anticipating.

Low mutterings and cacklings, varied every now and then by the shriller squawk of some restless old mallard hen, came to our care from all directions, but especially in our front, is seemed, and of course we were electrified. While we were standing knee deep in the water, amidst a growth of rice and cane that towered far above our heads and shut off our view, we knew that there were thousands and thousands of wild fowl in our immediate vicinity.

"Still now," from Alfred as again we lifted the boat and resumed our laborious way, "Still-we see some things."

In another quarter of an hour at a signal from the Indian we halted behind a dense barrier of cane on the very verge of the "hole" we had been making for.

The confused gabble and queer mutterings of the hordes of preening and feeding wild fowl hidden by the yellowing wall in front of us, was something worth a year of life in the true sportsman to hear.

Were you ever in a similar situation, John Petty, John Collins, Goodley Brucker, George Hoagland, George Towle, or you, or you, old duck hunters, that you are-did you ever listen to the medley of heavenly melody that issues from the yellow, black and blue bills of a million wild fowl at their noonday meal.

The broad rays of the sun slanted upon the picture, and after we had all stood as still as death a moment listening to the birds talking to each other. Alfred said, "Look!"

And he parted the reeds so that we could, wide-eyed, gaze out upon our unsuspicious neighbors. The shallow water for the distance of a third of a mile or more from the edge of our weedy concealment was actually studded with ducks and geese, a large majority of them with head under wing floating quietly in the serenity of their mid-day slumbers. Others had already resumed feeding and were, after the manner of their kind, chatting sociably in dense flock. A glance told us all this, and then our attention was directed by the Sioux to the mucky shores, running away from each side of this little lake until again merging into the deeper morass. Here lines of ducks and geese, on both hands, were ranged along; some imitating the example of those on the water, had just begun to bestir themselves, while some few others, each standing on one leg, formed in rows and shook their plumage loosely as they welcomed the balmy sun which at this hour shone in full splendor over all the scene.

We did not think of firing, in fact almost forgot that we had guns in our hands, so deep was our interest in the study of the scene before us. Gray-clad yellowlegs, in perfect harmony, waded with their more sombre companions, the green-legged mud hens, and that so near that their every movement could be distinctly discerned. They were quietly feeding. Little bevies of that lovely bird, the phalarope or sandpiper, gentle and unwary creatures, were scattered here and there. The whole of these at irregular intervals would suddenly take flight, and after performing a few graceful evolutions in the air over the open water where they displayed alternately their white breasts and gay backs, would drop down again, alighting indifferently upon the quoggy shores or upon the surface of the lake.

A final attempt upon our part to increase our range of vision was followed by a series of loud and dismal "honks! ah-unks! ah-unks!" in our immediate rear. We quickly dropped among the reeds, but to no avail, for once discovered by a Canadian goose everything in the neighborhood is going to know something is the matter, and sure enough there they were. First came one old fellow, with the wiff, wiff, wiff, wiff, wiff of his heavy wings throbbing in our ears, and then another and another, until eight or nine birds had beat their startled way up into the air above us, without leaving a feather on the yellow and brown marsh. Even in spite of our vexation, it was impossible not to admire those ponderous birds as they soared over our heads at a safe distance, while they industriously warned the assembled multitude below of their peril, by hoarsely honking their words of advice to follow their example. With a mad rush we were all up at once and there was a general thrusting of breech-loaders out through the reedy barrier in our front. There was one mingled cry of alarm and consternation, succeeded by a deafening roar of a million wings in motion, as with common purpose the great mass of ducks and geese and small congeners precipitately took their flight up the lake and over the sunlit marsh. Eight sharp reports of Kings' unequalled smokeless powder, right and left, when the leaden pellets were among them; down came the dead and wounded ones, away went the others faster and more affrighted than ever. Four mallards, four teal, two widgeon and a crippled goose was the result of the volley, We succeeded in gathering every duck, but of course the goose got away.

What we did the balance of the day, clear up to the time when the beautiful gleaming shed its softness over the scene and delicate pencilings formed fairy paintings, flecked with the gold, crimson and purple of the zenith on the surface of that reed-bound "hole" and the tender tints trembled away in the soft peace of deepening night, I will tell you next week.

After the last bird had jumped from the "hole" to which the Indian boy had piloted us and some squawking frantically down the lake, it required but a brief survey of the surroundings for us to locate a blind. The confirmation of the little open reach of water, the direction of the wind and the exuberant tules on the opposite side of the "hole," at a glance, told us that was the place, and we were not dilatory in getting there.

Alfred did not go with us. He said that the weather was too balmy for the birds to move much, and he would remain out in the open morass and wherever the birds settled down in considerable numbers any place he would go and flush them and in this way he thought he would be able to give us good shooting all the afternoon.

"So long," he said, as we clambered into the boat, and pushing it out into the open water, and then he vanished like a phantom in the tall reeds.

The railroad man, the brewer and myself were not long in paddling across the "hole." The birds were still circling in the air about us, and we were feverishly anxious to get to shooting, but not a gun was touched until the decoys had been anchored and our long, pike-like canvas boat snugly ensconced among the matted tules.

At last we were all fixed, and squatting low in the boat, we waited for the return of the birds. On either hand, across the "hole," was a broad sweep of brown marsh swelling from the very edge of the distant plain. Here and there bunches of willow showed their emerald tints amid the universal dun of the tules. Heavy clouds, with bright edges, had crowded into the sky and the whole scene for a time was filled with lights and darks. Sometimes a struggling burst of sunshine lighted sudden and startling on the top of one of the shadowed peaks far off on the White river, overflowing it with splendor. A fresh shadow then leaped from the lower plain and peeled off the light until the whole mass frowned again in gloom. So with the uneasy lake. Now it showed one sullen hue; a gleam would break forth, widening until dazzling gems danced upon the surface, followed by a leaden tint, which closed like an enormous lid over its broad, sparkling face. But the wind suddenly stiffened, the vapory curtains broke into feathery fragments and the glorious sunshine once more held full sway.

"Funny some of those birds don't come back," remarked the impatient brewer, "I believe--"

"Mark," sharply interrupted the Leftenant.

Bending down in our ready hide, we peered eagerly out up and down the marsh.

"There they come - mallards - to your right, down toward Green's" directed the railroad man.

Then we discovered them, a gray line, possibly four or five dozen birds, against the silvery clouds, yet like aerial racers, cleaving the air our way.

"Careful, there, Charlie, they will be onto us before you know it," continued the railroad man. Then he sounded the solicitous call of the hen mallard and pushed his Lefever out before him.

Truly, as Scrib had admonished, they were onto us before we could realize it. On they came, on a bee line, and looked as though they must pass high over our heads. But our dancing decoys and the seductive notes the Leftenant had sounded on the air did their work most efficaciously. When four hundred yards away the big flock fairly dove down from their onward rush and came down over their wooden prototypes with a swish of wing that all but took our breath.

The railroad man and the brewer were on their feet together and gave the passing flock four barrels before I had time for a word of caution. Seeing what they had done, I, of course, shot too, and had the satisfaction of bringing down a big drake with my last barrel, as the birds, with electrical velocity, were cutting their way out over the marsh.

Scribner and Metz, although a trifle premature, hadn't done so bad, as three birds, with their white and chestnut bellies uppermost, were floating in toward the rim of tules, while a fourth, a wing tipped hen, was hugging the water until only her snake-like head was visible as she dug away for the further line of rushes.

"You were too soon-don't shoot, Scrib, she's too far off now, and way down there comes another lot of birds," I exclaimed, as I noticed the Leftenant about to overshoot the wounded hen.

"Looks as if we were too soon-we got four birds out of that bunch, and you got one," testily rejoined the brewer.

"Yes, but I killed mine, Charlie, after both you and Scrib had shot, and the birds had turned well on their way out over the marsh. The ought to prove that you didn't wait long enough, eh."

"No, it doesn't prove anything, for I think with that King's smokeless powder you're using you could reach them from here over to Reshaw's."

"I'll admit that it's the best in the world-but there, there, knock down that widgeon-he's your, shoot, Charlie, shoot!"

A single bird swung right into us notwithstanding our upright positions. He was crossing the brewer's end of the blind and he gave him both barrels, and so did Scrib, but he kept on going until my gun cracked, when he stopped just as if he had hit a stone wall.

"Oh, no, that King's smokeless isn't the stuff, is it?" I cried exultantly, pointing out at the dying widgeon, "you fellows take the first shot every time; I'll get 'em after they get out of your range."

"Mark! To the east-mallards!" again came Scrib's electrifying admonition, and right toward us we saw them coming, a single pair. The freshening breeze was assisting them considerably and it required but a few seconds to bring them in, as they espied the decoys their natural wariness and caution returned to them and they began to climb into space as if for a better view. Everything seemed satisfactory, apparently, and they began to lower again, the old drake with his velvety green head stretched far out leading his mottled consort by several feet.

"You take them, Scrib; kill 'em both, it's easy," I whispered.

The next instant the birds were cupping their wings and dropping their orange legs ready to strike the water, and the Leftenant arose to shoot. But there was evidently something in the looks of the wooden ducks beneath him that did not suit the old drake, and he was excessively suspicious.

He was hovering in an almost upright position, really stationary, right over the decoys, with his glossy chestnut breastplate and ashen belly staring us in the face, while his mate was timorously hesitating just behind, when the railroad man raised his Lefever. With the most supreme confidence he blazed away without hardly glancing along the tube, and thinking, of course, that Mr. Mallard was a dead pigeon, he swung off onto the old woman, who had wheeled, as if on a well-greased pivot, and screaming murder, was putting distance behind her at a marvelous rate.

Bang! Went the other barrel, and you won't believe it, but it's true-both birds got away.

The drake had been knocked down and he struck the water like a brick, but immediately recovered himself and with that disgusted "Mamph! mamph! mamph!" you have all so often heard in your duck shooting days, he was up in the air again, and after Scrib's failure on the hen, he swung round to our left, joined his distraught better-half and in mad flight went off over the marsh.

A downy feather or two was left behind to be buffeted hither and thither by the vagrant wind, but that was all.

Of course, either Charlie and I could have killed one or both of the birds, but we had the fullest confidence in the Leftenant's well-know prowess with the hammerless, and were so dumbfounded when they got away from him that we didn't even think of shooting.

No one spoke.

Scrib sat down, rolled a cigarette, then turning his back on Metz and I resumed his silent vigil over the gloomy marsh.

"Redheads!" was the warning monosyllable he uttered after five minutes had passed. Disappointed and humiliated as he was, he had kept his visual organs busy. The birds were coming down from the north, an immense horde of them, and all recollections of the railroad man's inglorious exploit vanished as we made ready for the fray.

We had but precious little time to wait. The flight of the redhead duck is something to be always marveled at. But few other birds cut the trenchant air with half his speed. He is surely one of the racers of the skies. On any mission he goes through from the air at a rate of anywhere from eighty to 100 miles an hour. If he has an urgent engagement anywhere and has got to get there, he puts at least two miles a minute behind him, and does it easily, too. If you do not believe this, when you go ducking next spring just shoot at the leader of a string of redheads who are on a business errand somewhere and see for yourself. You don't have to believe everything I say. Shot travels pretty fast, especially when out of one of Peters' matchless shells, and if you are as lucky as to bring one of the birds down, see if it isn't about the tenth of twelfth one back from the drake or leader. A drake doesn't always lead, however, as the above remark might induce you to believe, but generally does if there happens to be but few in the bunch. If there are more drakes than hens, the former seldom do the piloting but a wise old hen will be found in this responsible position. If you wish to bring her to bag you must pull ahead four or five yards at least, and if she falls it will most likely be off a long distance, say one hundred yards or more.

The birds had now dropped low over the water and were slowing up preparatory to sliding into its cooling depths. In another moment they would have settled.

What a flock-there must have been one hundred of them! Every nerve was tingling, every muscle, every fibre quivering with the keenest and most delightful anticipation, such as is only the wild fowl shooter knows under similar circumstances.

We crouched like images hewn from stone. Moveless as death we waited until the advance couriers of the approaching myriad had breasted the crest of the restless lake, then, abruptly I cried:

"Give it to them."

As we rose to shoot there was a sparkling mixture of gray bars flashing on wings, glistening heads of rosewood, shining gray and black breasts, ebony-banded tail, of bluish legs and beaded eyes, whirling upward in wildest frenzy. But they were a trifle late, for a veritable showers of birds responded to the merciless volley we poured into them.

But it would probably become monotonous to the reader-a recountal of all the hundreds of shots we got that day and off the little incidents and scenes we met with. How we saw a great flock of Canadas wind slowly out of the sky until near the water, and then with silent wing, and every musical throat suddenly hushed, drift softly along a few feet above the surface until you could hear the soft whir of their sailing wings and see their sailing wings and see their black eyes sparkle almost upon you. And as we rose and glanced along our guns, such a pounding of sheering wings, such a confusion of white collars, on black necks, of gay wings and swarthy feet, crowded upon our vision as was worth waiting hours to see. How, when long early in the evening, when the birds were flying high, there came a sudden hiss of descending wings, when all the upper space had seemed clear around us. How Metz dropped his pipe which he was in the act of lighting, overboard, simply because a score of widgeon swinging around the head of the "hole" on silent wing and almost touching the water about the decoys before we saw them. Again, when we were weary of waiting, a sudden splash among the decoys made us jump for our guns, which we managed to raise just as the last duck got a trifle too far away. Of our shoot during the evening flight, as Phoebus was entering the homestretch and his golden chariot was nearing the gate of gilded clouds, with the ducks increasing with every second. Most of those hitherto flying were the ducks we had disturbed at noon, but now the hosts that had been feeding miles down the marsh began to pour into our little lake, while the vast army of wild fowl bound farther north came marching down the sky. There were thousands of them. With trembling hands we slipped new shells into our heated guns. Mallards were dodging in all directions, while volleys of green-wings came from the lower swails and mobs of bluebill and widgeon filled the air until long after we had labored from out the marsh and joined Alfred at the wagon. And our ride home, the complaining night watchers and the glories of that October evening as we crawled along the darkening valley road, back to Camp Merganzer, as the sun went down.

  • The blackbirds fly to their roosting place.
  • As the sun goes down;
  • In flocks that waves and interlace,
  • As the sun goes down.
  • The bittern whoops by the lake's black rim,
  • As the sun goes down;
  • And the rushes stand all grim and still
  • When the mists have gathered gray and dim,
  • As the sun goes down.
  • A teal goes past with a swish of wings,
  • As the sun goes down;
  • And a void of twilight creeps and clings
  • To the rice-stalks, and a coyote sings,
  • As the sun goes down.

It was a memorable ride back to Camp Merganzer that evening, with our hearts filled with the delightful memories of the day and our wagon filled with ducks.

As we crossed the gurgling Lake creek at the head of the great marsh beyond Reshaw's and climbing upon the table-land stretching away toward came the whole west was on fire with the sunset and the air was filled with the whistling of countless wings as belated birds hurrying in to the darkening marsh from all directions.

"Dere go, Natgaa!" mildly observed the Indian boy, as he pointed with his whip almost to the zenith.

We raise our eyes, and far above the whizzing bunches of teal and bluebill, and still clothed in the rosy light, were floating southward as softly as flecks of down a long string of sandhill cranes, sending down through a mile or two of air their strangely penetrating notes.

These splendid birds were very abundant in the Lake creek country no longer than four years ago, and when the Merganzer club first visited that region we saw many stupendous flocks dotting both air and plain. Far and wide where the sunlight played on a thousand shades of tan and greenish-yellow, they would stand in the evening-time upon the rising knolls surrounding the marsh, now blue, now almost white, according to the play of light, but always on the qui vive for danger. By night their rolling notes fell from the stars with unearthly vibration, and by day, with broad wings and long necks outstretched, they floated across the blue dome with such easy grace and so high above all other birds that they seemed to belong rather to heaven than earth.

How anxious we were on that first trip to bag a sandhill, and what rivalry there was among us in this laudable struggle, and what jubilation finally crowned our emotions when one evening Metz and Scribner came into camp with a huge specimen which Foley and I had knocked from a flock the evening before, but could not retrieve on account of the darkness! The brewer and the railroad tried hard to fool Tom and I, but we would not have it, and finally over one of the Irishman's most artistic cocktails, they acknowledged the corn. They knew where Tom and I had brought down a bird the previous evening, and in their rambles that day they had stumbled upon it.

And what a famous roast we had the next night. Old Abner was at his best, and that is the case he is a chef fit for a Gould or a Vanderbilt.

But a word or two about our efforts that fall to kill a crane. They were exceedingly wary and we were over a week in encompassing the achievement.

Almost every morning and evening, well hidden in the tall grass on the line of flight, one or the other or us watched for the sandhills. We knew exactly the time to hide and never had long to wait before some of the numerous flocks, heralded by their far-reaching tremolo, were bearing down upon us.

"Git ep!" and Alfred plied the gad, the horses accelerating their speed, the wagon rumbled louder, and we were all once more brought back to earth from the murings which had come upon us with the closing in of the night.

As we pulled up before the kitchen tent, amidst the commingled yelps of welcome from Old Sport, Fannie and Bones, we were chilled to the bone.

"Hurrah!" cried Rogers, emerging coatless and hatless from the big tent, and striking an attitude in the glare of the lantern, he continued: "Art thou goblins damned!-Sent to torment us before our time! Come, let me clutch thee!" mixing his quotations, grammar and gestures energetically. "We had just made up our minds, Bill and I, to mourn for you as dead! But where are your birds?"

"In the wagon!" said Scrib, as he exchanged warm greetings with Marsh and the cook, who had both joined us by this time.

"Umph!" cried Rogers, as he craned over and gazed upon the mass of birds in the wagon. "Am I in Elysium among the gods? How this dizzy, old world is given to-what shall I say Billy?"

"Oh, any old thing," returned Marsh, "tell 'em about our canvasback," and he stepped up and also gazed down into the wagon's bed.

"That's it-say six canvasback are equal to seventy mallards and mixed ducks, aren't they? But Lord! How lucky some folks are, but come in, Abner and Alfred'l look after your things, come in-it's devilishly chilly out here-come in an' have sum thin'!"

Right happily passed our dinner that night, all together once more, and how we did enjoy exchanging the varied experiences of the day, what pride we took in recounting our big kill at the "hole," and what exultation was there in Rogers' and Billy's tones as they related how they had compassed the end of a half dozen canvasback from down on Otter Point, in addition to a dozen brace of mallards, a grouse or two, and a wisp of jack snipe. A jolly evening in camp succeeded, the hours passing quickly away in smoking, pinocling talking and hitting the fragrant decanter semi-occasionally, with the monotone of the night breeze filling the pauses, till the stars of midnight warned us to repose.

The next day was the Sabbath. Excepting Abner, whom I had heard bustling about in the kitchen long before there were any signs of the coming of dawn, I was the first one up. When I stepped out in the chill morning air the sky was robed in blue and gold with an embroidery of pearl. I looked down over the dim marsh where a couple of white owls were circling. It was breathless. Even the long ragged streamers on the wild rice stalks were hanging still and listless.

As I gazed about me over the quiet scene I thought how beautiful is the fancy that the day's sanctity in the Christian mind finds sympathy in the visible universe-that, at this time, nature stills her throbbing pulses, the prairie grass nods before the faint breeze with more tranquil grace, the meadowlark warbles with softer tone, the water lapses in a calmer ripple. Poets whose hearts are filled with a love of outdoors, have delighted to to depict this day, and the thought spreads a soothing balm in turn over the heart. And thus does soul transfigure Nature, and Nature sanctify the soul. What images crowd the fancy, too, when gazing upon this wild region's mysterious grandeur and beauty! What serene joys of thought, what pure, sweet lofty sentiments are her offspring. All of the fascinating mythology of the old time is born of such a picture as surrounded Camp Merganzer. To the dark labyrinths of the marsh's tangly depths, did the antique fancy give the dryad, and the naiad to the silvery Lake creek. On the cloudy peak, with its gleaming levin, perched the thunder-bearing Zeus; from the glancing light over the distant sandhills, it created the golden-sandalled Hermes, and Aphrodite from the grace of the slough's breaking wave.

Such were my meditations when suddenly Abner, who was returning from the woodpile, exclaimed, as he pointed off to the east with a stick of stovewood:

"There goes a kiyote, Mister Griswold-get the Winchester, quick! an' take a crack at 'm!"

Sure enough there he was , off about three hundred yards, trotting complacently along, but keeping his frowsy face constantly turned toward the camp.

I was about to do Abner's bidding when Scribner, rifle in hand, darted from the tent, and without aiming, apparently, sent a bullet in the direction of the skulking varmint. A little cloud of dust puffed up from the sear grass a few paces this side of the animal, showing where the ball had struck, but instead of turning and scampering for the hills, the coyote deliberately stopped and stood calmly surveying us.

"What's that?" ejaculated the railroad man, a trifle nettled at his first attempt, and then he began to pump lead at Mr. Coyote as fast as he could work the lever.

Abner gave a shrill ki-yi, and how that wolf did run. Even Metz, Rogers and marsh got out of the tent in time to see him, like a streak of gray light, lope up the long draw leading back into gloomy hills.

"You are a good one, you are!" cried Rogers to Scrib, "You shoot a rifle like the old woman in Indiana kept tavern. Now if I had hold of that Winchester there would be a dead wolf lying out there on the plain!"

"Is that so?" retorted the U.P. man, "if you shoot a rifle so well, maybe you'd better try it on the ducks instead of a shot gun, and you might be able to bring in a feather or two."

"A feather or two! Just as if I hadn't brought in as many birds as the next man," continued Rogers. "Why the seven canvasback that Bill and I brought in from the Point last evening, is the finest bag of birds that has been made yet. Of course if I had three or four Indians to shoot for me, I might bring in a wagon load, too."

"Breakfas', gem'lum!" It was Abner's consoling call, and it came just in the nick of time, for the two railroad magnates were becoming exceedingly acrimonious.

In another moment, a jocund crew, we were in our usual places at the table, where there was no place for disputatious talk. The treasures of old Abner's culinary skill forbade that.

Piles of delicately broiled ham, flakes of duck breast, richly browned and swimming in ruddy juices; shirred eggs, curls of crisp potato chippings, corn bread and a golden nectar brewed from good old government Java.

Over this matudinal banquet we mapped out the day's program, despite Abner's strenuous remonstrance against our desecrating the Sabbath, and after a pipe around we separated; Rogers and Marsh to again try the flight at Otter Point, the Brewer to make an exploration of the island, and I, with the Union Pacific man, and Alfred, who came rumbling over in the wagon from his brother Charlie's just at the right time, to return to the "hole" in the north marsh, where we, with Metz, had done such great shooting the day before.

The Leftenant and I were the first to get away, and as we drove off down the plain's road behind the camp the gray light had given place to the soft glow preceding the sunrise. Rosy clouds smiled overhead, and in the east a mass of feathery vapor burned into tawny gold. As we got upon the broad table land the White river peaks shone as in the glow of some fabulous furnace and in a moment more "Apollo was pitching his darts" thick and fast over the measureless desert of yellowing grass and into the marsh's fields of glistening cane and rice. After an hour's brisk drive we reached the landing above Reshaw's and unhitching the horses, we picked up the boat and moved out into the marsh along the trail we had made yesterday and which sparkled before us like a track of diamonds. We were anxious to reach the "hole" and strode resolutely onward; fragments of ice leaped into the light from beneath our rubbered feet like flying fish; a bunch of bluebills rose from a quiet little cove with a splash and shot before us; a bittern spread his wide sails from the mucky islet. Sprinkles of redtail hawks were pin-pointed around a background sandhill; blackbirds scolded us from every reed-bed, and a bald eagle swept lessening over a broken surface of the marsh, alighting at length on a bare knoll over looking the water like a mosquito on a boulder. Several flocks of Canada geese rose ah-unking from the middle marsh and harrowed off over the distant hills, while long dots in the further sky showed us where the travelling ducks were going.

As we neared the "hole," from the side sloughs and ponds, rose huge flocks of mallards so close that the burnished green of their necks and heads, and the glistening bands of blue upon their wings were as clear as was the white and black of the skimming butter balls. But we let them go. We knew it was a bad plan to shoot at ducks when you drive them out of a place, and we felt that this was nothing to what we would see when once more safely and securely anchored in our blind among the arrowy shafts of the tules.

After fording the last channel between us and the "hole" we told Alfred that he could strike out for himself and endeavor to keep the birds moving when we once got to work, and as he moved away we resumed our laborious march toward our blind.

Finally we were crouching behind the line of reeds lining the north end of the "hole," and as on the previous morning the shallow water for a quarter of a mile was again actually studded with ducks and geese. And the smaller birds were there, too, and in even greater variety and numbers than on the morning before, and Scrib and I squatted cautiously and gazed out upon the thrilling picture. Along the muddy shores, close to us, were several jacksnipe lounging with easy grace, probing the soft soil, or wallowing in its warming embrace. Sometimes they would rise in erratic flight and their long bills and peculiar heads, large lustrous eyes and gamey hues, made a lovely picture, mirrored as they were, in the still water. Dozens of yellowlegs marched along the shore, and the big flocks of lovely Phalaropes were either quietly feeding or sweeping in short flights from mud bar to mud bar.

While one wisp of these little creatures was engaged in one of these innocent sallies, they were suddenly attacked by a fine old redtail hawk, that Scrib wanted to shoot just a moment before. The U.P. man is death on hawks and he never allows one to get away from him if he can help it. In this instance, by one long, easy sweep, the redtail was among the phalaropes in an instant, and after going through some remarkable aerial feats in their very midst, done either in the ecstasy of his delight or else to demonstrate to the attacked party some slight show of his power, he seized one of their number in his talons and made off for the shore with him. The others had fallen to the water and dived at the first alarm, reappearing singly and at some little distance apart. So great was the general consternation occasioned by this sudden assault, from the geese to the Wilson snipe, that for an instant we debated whether it would not be well to follow up the redtail's success by our own means of attack.

But matters soon quieted down again, as they saw how easily their common and dreaded enemy was satisfied on this particular occasion, and all was as peaceful as before. The widgeon and baldpates, which had been passing their night in another part of the marsh, now began to arrive, wheeling in easy circles overhead as they gave vent to their greedy cries, and realizing that we were wasting the most valuable time, the U.P. man and I arose and shoved our canvas boat out into the open. With a grand diapason of frenzied squawks, mingled with the shrill treble of the yellowlegs and plover, and the hoarse honking of the Canadas, the whole mass of feathered tenants rose and filled the sky.

Five minutes later the Leftenant and I were snugly stowed away in our blind across the hole, and with guns presented, awaited, impatiently for the carnage we knew would soon begin. In every direction the air was filled with aimlessly scurrying birds. Along the sky streamed lines of redheads, while from over the reeds and the nearer shore in all directions came bunches, big flocks and single ducks. Scarcely had we fixed ourselves when a cock redhead, resplendent in rosewood and velvety gray, came whizzing past from the right. As I whirled my gun toward him, a bunch of mallards bound for the lakes down near Newberry's, came hissing from the opposite direction, and must have been ten yards past the redhead by the time I fired my first barrel. How I jerked that gun back again toward the mallards without breaking my neck I don't know to this day. But I did, and my second barrel cracker simultaneous with the double report from the U.P. man's Lefever.

Three birds dropped from the flock and began to drift toward the opposite line of tules.


It was a bunch of bluebill, and they came hurtling down the wind like canister from a cannon. I took the lead, and Scrib the middle, according to our positions, and we both downed our bird. In fact, three fell, as in the case of the mallards. Two were stone dead, but the other one was but wing-tipped. But we didn't let him get away, although it required a half dozen shots to put him on his back.

Another bunch came almost immediately, but they swung out rather far. We heard the No. 6's rattle against their dark sides, but they loosened out a feather or two and the flock swerved off over the rice fields.

Again we hardly recovered from our chagrin when a flock of mallards, embracing possibly fifty birds, came straight into us. We waited until they dropped their orange pillars to light among the decoys, when we rose together and poured it into them. Five birds fell, while a sixth, which had received some stray shot in the onslaught, dropped out of the main bunch, as they tore straight away, flying back of our blind, crossed the intervening channel, went over the tules, out on the shore, and falling dead on the slope's side, fully a half a mile away.

We had one of the greatest shoots that evening, the Leftenant and I that ever fell to the lot of a duck hunter. The Union Pacific man vowed time and time again that he had never experienced anything like it before, and with one exception I could agree with him. Back in 1894, in the spring, the Barrister and I were out in Deuel county, guests at the hunters' sod hostelry run by Ed Hamilton, and on that occasion Hamilton and myself had an experience one afternoon that has seldom been enjoyed by sportsman, modern or old-time. From 1 o'clock until sunset we kept up a constant fusillade upon the millions of birds that would crowd the airhole we were shooting over, and in that time we retrieved exactly 169 head, the Lord alone knowing how many we knocked down. When I assert that this tremendous bag was all canvasbacks and redheads I shall make allowances for the incredulity of my brother duck hunters. But it is a gospel! Not a single mallard, not a widgeon, not a teal, nothing but canvasbacks and redheads!

I am aware of the tendency of shooters and fishers to spin fairy tales, but I have been cured of that fascinating pastime these many years. I had a little hatcher once, myself, and it worked just as well as it did not the corner of the new barn as it did on cherry trees. One day a respected ancestor appeared on the scene of my juvenile labors and I resolved to make a record that would dull the luster of the beloved father of our country. But when the said ancestor stooped and picked up a barrel stave my thinker slipped an eccentric and ditched the train of ambitious thought in a misapprehension of fact. The readjustment of my moral machinery that took place in the next sixty seconds was so complete that it has never jumped a cog since.

Therefore, Mr. Doubting Thomas, if you will insist, you shall again have the truth. We killed, on that afternoon, Hamilton and I, just one hundred and sixty-nine canvasbacks and redheads, and I do not believe there is a single man in Omaha, not even barring John Petty, Henry Homan, John Collins, the Hon, Billy Hughes or any of the other old-timers ever had an afternoon anything like it. Oh yes, I have often heard of the big kill made by Petty and the late General Crook up at Horseshoe lake, back in the early '70s-nearly 300 ducks in eight hours' shooting-but that was nothing. It was mixed birds they killed-mallard, redhead, pintail, widgeon, golden eye, teal and black jack, while Hamilton's and mine were exclusively canvasback and redhead.

But pardon this digression. It is like a new lease on life to close my eyes and look back through the mists of increasing years to the glories of that day.


The Leftenant's keen eyes had descried another approaching flock, and like the component parts of a well-lubricated piece of machinery, we both stooped low behind the tules.

"They are redheads, Scrib, redheads!" I joyously announced as the identity of the approaching birds was revealed to me. "Now, don't be in a hurry—yes, they are redheads—they will come down like shooting stars, sweep past our decoys, but will circle and come back. They always do this, and if we let them they will light among the stools."

"Let 'em light," the railroad man whispered, as the whole flock, like so many white and slate-colored racers, each one apparently striving to get in first, but so evenly were they matched that none were able to outstrip the others, came right at us.

It is a blood-tingling moment-extremely trying on the nerves of the restive gunner.

S-w-i-s-h-h-h! They skim along over the bobbing decoys with marvelous velocity. Then they start off up into space again, as if bound for the rosy zenith. But they are not. They have mistaken our stools for feeding relatives and intend to join in the banquet. They make a sweeping detour in the air, then come back with that same wild rush of wing and gleaming red of iris. The Union Pacific man and I hold our breath. We are anxious to make a kill of redhead, as so far but few have been brought to bag. Before we can fairly credit our senses fully two-thirds of them slide gracefully into the crystal water, just beyond our decoys, like so many feathered apparitions. The balance of the flock, as if by some strange intuition of danger, do not come back, but keep on their way down the marsh, and are soon lost to view amidst thousands of other birds which fill the distant air.

"Don't be in a rush, Scrib," I whispered, "they'll not fly-let's watch 'em and see what they'll do."

For a moment the birds sat perfectly still. Then they began to move with the almost imperceptible motion of a thistle down upon the calm water, first to this side, then to that, inspecting the wooden counterfeits curiously, half suspicious all the time. Finally, as there seemed to be no occasion for alarm, the whole flock, and there must have been four dozen of them, converged slowly together, then timidly began approaching the decoys. Now they halt and glide off to one side, then back again, as if yet afraid to approach too near. Suddenly, as they bunched well together, and looked as if they might be off at any second, I said:

"We might as well rise now, Scrib, and give it to them."

Together we stood erect. Instead of flying instantly, as we expected, the birds sat still a moment on the water, craning their lavender necks, until we could see the flash of their deep yellowish-red eyes, evidently more astonished than ever. They did not dally long, however, to satisfy any useless curiosity, but with a loud splashing and a few spasmodic squeaks arose in a body, and we sent the contents of four good Peters shells among them.

It seemed as if there was a cloud-burst of dead and wounded redheads, for no less than seven birds fell at the reports of our Lefevers.

Think of that! Ten redheads at one fell swoop, or four fell swoops, rather, for we, of course, let both barrels go, as I intimated above.

Scrib and I were tickled to death, and we laughed, and joked, and praised each other until other birds demanded attention.

This may not be a very edifying or creditable confession, this wholesale slaughter of the birds, but I do not believe there is a single sportsman in the country, let it be ex-President Cleveland or Harrison, George A. Boyd of Philadelphia, or even the old veteran of the Sportsmen's club of this city, Judge B.E.B. Kennedy, and lifelong wild fowl shooter that he is, would have done aught else than we did, under similar circumstances. This sentiment about the preservation of game birds is all right enough for discussion, but when it comes to practicing the same amidst a scurrying flight of such incomparable birds as these, it is entirely a different matter, and the man doesn't live who would or could forbear.

After over-shooting the "crips"—which must be done at the quickest possible moment on redheads-we crouched down in our blind again, for the air off to the south over the island was a veritable reticulation of flying birds.

Amidst a scene of matchless beauty the Leftenant and I maintained the unchristian slaughter. The sinking sun was sprinkling the rice and tules like golden rain and over the faroff sandhills sailed swift lights and shades like the play of color on velvet, as gauzy clouds drifted athwart the empyrean. Occasionally the whole marsh would glow in golden sheen, then an immense shadow would rise from the expanse of reeds like the Afrite from his crystal vase, and clamber out on the plain, the timid sunshine shrinking before it until it vanished over the distant ridge. The irregular line of the dark morass was traced around the whole horizon, but the scene was irresistibly enchanting with the soft, semi-light, the rose-leaf clouds, the crimson west, the darkening prairies, the blackened east and purpling hills. Blended with the goodnight twitter of the swamp sparrows, was the rush of strong pinions in the air above and the quick reports and dying cadences of our guns. In one of Victor Hugo's posthumous works appears something like "it is a humble corner of earth and water which would be admired if it were in Switzerland, and famous if it were in Italy, and is unknown because it is in Guipuzcoa." The words of the great artist are very applicable of this Lake-creek region in the heart of Dakota's gloomy sandhills, leastwise in my humble judgement, especially as the Union Pacific man and I gazed upon it that never-to-be-forgotten evening.

It was long after dark when we reached Camp Merganzer with our wagon load of ducks that night, and we found all our comrades in and dinner over. Old Abner, however, was alert as ever, and the Leftenant, the Indian boy and I were well and speedily cared for, and at an early hour, all being tired, we turned in.

About midnight the whole camp was awakened by the howling of the coyotes. They seemed to be all about us; in the draw below the camp, along the lake's shore, and off on the hills. And they gave such a serenade as we had never heard before.

We heard Abner and the Indian boy mumbling and stirring around in the kitchen tent, and knew that they had also been aroused by the lupine orchestra.

"Say, fellows," said Rogers, "if that Injun hadn't stayed here tonight we would have been treated to the phenomenon of a white nigger in the morning. I'll bet he's half scared to death as it is. Hey, there, Abner!"

"Yes, sah," came from the kitchen.

"What you up to in there?"

"I'se buildin' a fire, sah. I don't prepose to take no chances with them kiyotes. Jes' 'fore you called, Mister Rogers, Alfred an' I heerd, one of 'em snuffin' 'round your ducks out there, an' I think, you gem'lem better git up an' take a look out. Alfred says this all means a storm."

And true enough, during the pauses in the bedlam the wolves were making there were other sounds which corroborated the red boy's assertion. The wind had risen and was moaning over the plains like the wail of a broken heart, and occasional gusts of rain and sleet pelted the canvas walls. All grew quiet in the tents again, and in listening to the increasing blast which soon roared about us like the rumble of distant breakers, we fell asleep.

The heavy eyes of the morning opened, still glazed with tears. But the rain soon dwindled into a watery transparency and then glimmered away. The coverlet of mist overhanging the marsh broke into huge fragments with glaring white edges, as if the light were trying to draw through, and curls of scud grazed the cane and rice, twining around the tallest stalks. The outlines of the distant bluffs began to show with hairlike distinctness. The surface of the slough below the point was smooth and gray, while the tules stood still as in a painting.

But little life was abroad. In the shallows off Otter Point a tall crane was standing as if in mute soliloquy over his prospect of a fish breakfast and over the distant island we saw the flushing white of a cloud of circling gulls. At Badger's slough, just below the tent, where the bleaching bones of an enormous badger, shot there by Scrib two years before, glistened from the smartweed, a brown mink leaped through the reeds.

Everything was cold and gloomy, and just as the Indian boy had observed that we would have a pleasant day yet, we were driven back into the warm glow of the camp fire by a gust of rain and sleet which came trampling over the desert, the creek and marsh from the west. The wind beat our tent as with tiny frails, then went moaning off to the rear, and a gleam of fluid gold shot over the scene. The grains of sleet were transmuted into a sparkling sheet flung athwart the dark landscape, like the silver veil over the brow of the White river peaks. A streak of tender blue opened in the dark pall obscuring the northern sky, and then patches cleared along the eastern horizon. Splendid tents flashed over the murky clouds; the cold breeze poured liquid balm around; each cane stalk threw off its glancing gems like a deer after a bath, while the whole landscape breathed the freshest fragrance.

Breakfast over, Rogers and Marsh donned the picturesque habiliments of the marsh and announced that they intended to push out into Badger slough in the Indian's clumsy jointed wooden boat and do a little exploring. We were perfectly agreeable and preferring the ruddy inside of our canvas castle to the fitful miles and tears and cutting breeze without, the Leftenant, the Brewer and I, drew up to the table for a seance at cinch-50 cents a corner, and 25 cents a bust, while Alfred, throwing himself astride his little rat of a pony, said he would ride over to Charlie's and get the milk.

An hour later, when Scrib, Metz and myself were deeply absorbed in our varying contest with the papes, we were startled by a wild hallooing, and rushing to the tent door, we beheld Rogers, puffing and blowing like a wounded rhinoceros, in his heavy mackintoshes, and lumbering with all the speed at his command toward us.

"Hurry up, boys, get a rope! Get a rope! Our boat sunk and Billy is stuck out there in the slough up to his neck, and is half frozen to death. Hurry; we've got no time to lose."

And we did hurry. Twenty minutes later we were all standing on the lake shore, and the sight we saw was both pathetic and humorous. About fifty yards from the shore, clinging to the prow of the boat, which was sticking up out of the water as if standing on end, was Marsh, up to his neck in the freezing depths.

"For God's sake, men, get me out of here," he wailed. "This water's colder than hell and I can't stand it much longer."

But getting the young gentleman "out" was easier said than done. There was no boat available and it was impossible to wade out to where he was, owing to the mucky bottom of the slough. At any step one is liable to go down several times over his head, and while we were all commiserating in a brotherly way for Billy in his plight, we couldn't determine just how we were to aid him. We had brought a rope, but how to get the end of it out to the congealing Banker, that was the question.

"Come on, Charlie," plaintively shouted the suffering William, "you waded out and can certainly wade in again! Come on, bring that rope; don't stand there like a dummy any longer, or I'll duck my nut under here for good."

"Were you in the boat with Bill?" I inquired of the Grand Trunk man.

"Yes," he said, "I was," and he twitched the rope uneasily in his hands.

"How'd you get out?"

"Waded. You see, I've got on my mackintoshes, but I got in over them as it was. In fact, I was scart out of a couple of years growth coming in. I had to sue the two oars as crutches to keep from sinking in the mud, and say, I wouldn't try that again for all the money in Bill's bank. Scrib, you try it; you are lighter and I am, and probably won't sink very much."

"Not me," quickly rejoined the U.P. man. "I'm threatened with pneumonia now,to wade out there to save that sporting editor brother-in-law-not me. What's the matter with the sporting editor? You couldn't sink him if you'd tie a bar of railroad iron around his neck; his brain would keep him up, it's so light. Get in there, Sandy, and save little Willie!"

"To show you how to be a good fellow, I'll do it," I replied, and taking a long pull at a bottle of ink Metz had in his pocket, I hitched up my waders and with the rope coiled around one arm, started boldly out into the slough. I got along all right until I hit the soft edge of the rushes, then I stopped.

"Go on," shouted Scrib, "you big stiff, you won't sink, and if you do we will get you out when the marsh goes down in the spring."

"Come on," called Billy. "I'm about done for-but go back and get that bottle-don't come out without that."

I went back and we held a consultation. It was not possible for one of us to go to Reshaw's and bring down the canvas boat; that would take until the middle of the afternoon, and by that time Billy would have been over the Jasper wall. What could we do? The dilemma was a sore one. There was no codding about that. Already Marsh had been in the water two hours. It was icy cold. The wind was blowing needles and pins. He would freeze to death in a little longer. What could we do?

At this critical juncture Alfred, the Indian boy, and Abner and Old Sport appeared upon the scene. Alfred had returned from Charlie's, and the cook had told him of Marsh's predicament, and together they had come down to the marsh.

In a jiffy the Indian's clothes were off, and with the rope about his neck, he ran out through the reeds and plunged into the slough's icy depths with the gusto of a boy leaping from the pedestal in the tepid waters at the nanatorium. Like a pickerel he clove the dark waters, making the spray sparkle in showers about him, and leaving a bubbly wake in his rear.

He reached the shivering Banker in less time than it takes to tell it, and, giving him the end of the rope, he had him strip off his outer clothing, and, throwing this over his shoulder, he swam back to the shore, and we pulled the half dead financier out-across the deep channel up to the line of reeds, and out upon the shore. Then Alfred returned to where the boat lay immersed and recovered the guns and shell cases, and we all hurried home.

Once back within the glorious precincts of Camp Merganzer, and after we had all clinked our glasses in a joyous thanksgiving, we learned how the accident had happened.

"It was like this," continued Rogers; "Bill and I were moving along toward one of the inlets in the rice, and were well across the channel-but you all know just how far we got. Billy was rowing and I was standing in the stern of the boat pushing with the pole. Just at this luckless moment a bunch of blue-bills came from down the marsh toward us. You know how blue-bills come. Well, I had just time to drop the pole and seize my gun, when they were onto us. As a usual thing I am pretty quick, but I wasn't quick enough for those damned blue-bills, and as I threw up my gun they were right over me and in my excitement I stepped on the gunwale of the boat and over she went, and out we went! We grabbed to old tub and tried to keep her afloat, but she filled with water in a second, it seemed, and went to the bottom like so much lead. Billy was in up to his neck at the first souse, but I, being taller, and having on mackintoshes, wasn't so bad off, so I told Bill that I would take the oars and wade ashore, and go for help, and you know the rest. Hand me that bottle."

Then—but you all know what the governor of North Carolina said to the governor of South Carolina, and with appetites whetted to an abnormal degree, we gathered around the noonday board. There was no more hunting that day, which remained sulky and dreary until late in the evening, when the lead color above whitened, then broke into large fragments, while a splendid gathering of clouds at the west commenced to kindle, as if under a strong wind, for a gorgeous sunset. And gorgeous it was-peaks of gold, ridges of crimson, waves of purple, filling the occident and firing the lake. Cloud ridges, pile upon pile, lowering in a mighty frown, covered half the heavens and plunged all the east, with the distant line of bluffs, and leagues, and leagues, of plain, in shadow! We bow before the grandeur of Niagara, where sear plunge upon the globe's heart in reverberating thunder; but glance merely at the mountains aflame in the sky! At a time like this, Niagara is a mere commonplace.

We linger days on the beamy lights the veiled shades of the old masters of Titian, of Tintoretto of Domenichino, and Cimabue, whose names glitter with the magic tints of Italy, and ring with the golden richness of her music but the colors born of that sandhill artist, the Atmosphere, flash disdain upon the tame blazonry of their mimic hues. Even the divine tints of Raphael must yield to the common tints of dawn and twilight on Lakecreek. And the architecture of Angelo and Giotto, who have cast a spell time is powerless to destroy, but look above the sandhills for architecture, and there you will behold such pillars and arches and colonnades and towers, such as man can never hope to imitate-architecture resting on foundations of living sapphire, and flushed with flitting tints that transcend even the divinest dreams of those mighty masters, the great heirs of Time.

"Here, let me cut the cards, Scrib. You're pretty smooth, but not quite smooth enough."

And until late that night we shuffled and cut and dealt over the walnuts and the wine, so glad were we that Billy's young form was not lying out there tangled up with the slime and the mosses of the slough's bottom.

Camp Merganzer was astir as the morning colors were kindled on the White river bluffs. The day promised to be a fine one and we were not long in agreeing on a program. The plan was that the whole party should go to the island and try the flight that seemed to be almost continuous over that region.

While we were at breakfast Alfred galloped over to his brother's and returned with the big farm wagon. Guns, shell cases and lunch were carefully deposited in the bottom on the bay, and piling in ourselves, we started at a merry clip over the yellow prairie down toward the landing, where the Indian boy said we would find an old scow in which we could cross the channel to the island.

Around the point we whirled, past the best jacksnipe grounds in the world, Old Sport, on a rollicking canter, showing the way; on down through the big draw and upon the plain again, close to the marshes oozy shore; past low, soggy meadows, with their glittering splotches, where the water eddied and sparkled; past fields of rice and beds of tules, grassy arcades and cloisters, colonnades and peeping nooks; down past glades and swamps and mossy dingles, until we reached the landing, a bare spot on the creek's shore, where the cattle had been standing.

As we hustled out of the wagon a great brown eagle swooped down gracefully, out of the sky it seemed, and throned himself on the top of a nearby knoll as if to keep vigil on our party. He stood high and proud on his yellow pillared feet, with his fierce eye upon us, as if in disdain. The Indian grabbed his gun and ran lightly toward the knoll, and as he did so the big bird again launched forth his brown shape; but the red boy's gun cracked, and the majestic bird swooped and fell with a broken wing, into the channel, Old Sport leaped from the bank in an in instant was upon him. The wild orbs of the eagle flashed gleam upon gleam as he darted his terrible beak at the eyes of the spaniel and struck with his sinewy claws and one massive wing, while Old Sport, eluding his enemy with quick motions, made at him rapid dashes of attack. The water foamed with the strife, almost concealing at times the combatants in a showery veil. Gallantly did the superb creature battle for his life, but his bristling neck was at last grasped by the plucky retriever, who shook him, as it were, in triumph. In a few moments the streaming blood and relaxed frame of the victim showed that the strife was over. The Brewer pulled the spaniel and his prey out onto the bank, patting the curly back of the former proudly and lovingly, while I looked with pity on the latter. There he lay, the conqueror of the clouds, so lately careening in the glory of his strength, mangled at my feet, and weltering like a gladiator in his blood. Haughty and dauntless to the end, he fastened his grand tawny eye upon us, flashing even through the mists of death, until he shook in his last tremor.

Alfred, the Indian lad, was not troubled with an sentimentalities about the bird, and picking him up by his broken wing, he tossed him over at my feet remarking in his jerky way:

"Eagle! He boss sandhills! Bad bird! Catch calves when sleep; pick out eyes quick! Big thief! Steal from hawk, kill duck-bad, no good!"

I looked at the eagle in his golden-brown armor and then at the creamy moose blossoms in the shallow water beside it, and thought with what little reference to man exists the greater part of the deity's creation. Some things appear to be made for his use, but the myriads of others, grand and beautiful, have no connection with him or his presence. The eagle screams and the moose flower glows generally in the wild solitude. The graceful mallard, the prairie waving in curves of matchless beauty, the billowy splintering on lonely shores, the grandeur stretching from frowning bluffs; all these ask not the eye of man to admire them. And yet he thinks the world made specially for him instead of being but one of the countless expressions of the Creator, one of the links in the infinite series of creation. All, from the constellations to the tiniest morass leaf are but portions of the inscrutable mantle in which is wrapped the universe.

"Come on, let's get across," impatiently ejaculated the Lieutenant; "that blasted eagle has taken up a good half hour, and just look at the birds going down the lake."

That was plenty. We glanced out over the sunlit marsh and saw line after line of mallards cleaving their way over the tules off toward Reshaw's, and in another minute we were all loaded in the old scow, which we found pulled on the shore near by, all but the Indian boy, who gave us a shove out into and down the channel, and then drove off back toward camp.

We were compelled to follow down the creek a ways before we could land on the shaky and mucky shores of the island. The stream narrowed as we crawled along, with thickets and broad tufts of broken cane in the channel, until it dwindled to a mere streak, doubling and twisting like a watersnake trying to hide in the herbage of its wild retreat. The cul-de-sacs enticed our unwieldy craft, whence we we obliged to back once more into the main runway, through which now and then we had to push our way by main force over the pulpy rushes having but a film of water covering them. The oars had been abandoned almost from the first, Rogers alone clinging to his, which he used as a pole in the stern to push us along.

A bittern rose awkwardly from her seat in the reeds, and fanned heavily away with a ludicrous cry, the sungleams touching her brown, slender shape like splinters of gold; the blackbirds chirped peevishly as they retreated before us, and occasionally mallards singly and in bunches, would rise from some adjacent puddle, and with angry mamph! mamph! mamph! circle out over the marsh.

At last we gained an accessible point, where the smartweed grew luxuriantly, and where we could see other parties-probably the Indian muskrat trappers-had landed before us.

We were quickly on a solid footing, and as our prearranged plan was to separate and scatter out, each one to his own notion, there was little time lost in idle gossip. Leading west were the shores where low and swampy, the Union Pacific man and the Brewer, true to their instincts, began making their way, prying into every weedy inlet and crawling through the rice and the cane. Now they drop, as a bunch of mallards bear down upon them from the west. A couple of thinnish puffs of smoke, and the faint reports of four good Peters' shells are heard in quick succession, and will you believe it, four big fat birds come down gyrating into the long grass? Rogers and Marsh go plowing off through the smartweed to the east, while I, alone, with only Old Sport for company, make for the big tule beds off across the island to the north. The Grand Trunk man and the Banker, like Scribner and Metz, and quickly at work. First they jumped a big flock of feeding teal, and getting a raking shot, must have killed a dozen. I saw the birds falling all along the line, so many and so fast I couldn't count them. The next moment they are pouring it into a line of bluebills scraping the sky, and I yell at them in derision for their bad judgement, and in pique knock down an old white owl that flushes from the carcass of a duck that I find on a little barren spot in the grass from which the bird rose. Meanwhile Scrib and Charlie were working up toward the head of the island, banging away as they advanced at everything that happened along their canvas coats glancing like herons in and out of the rice and rushes.

Finally all were settled, the Lieutenant and Metz in the willows at the head of the island, Rogers and Marsh far to the east, and Old Sport and I in the tules, to the north.

It was a memorable day. The marsh was literally alive and the beautiful autumn day was all too short. Singly and in flocks mallards and widgeon were to be seen everywhere, and on lazy wing large, white gulls wheeled over our blinds; the merganzer drifted in the smooth water in the openings, while soots and helldivers were kneading industriously in the shallows. Here, swiftly descending from on high, the grey-clad yellow-leg broke the water with a splash; there butterballs skimmed the water with whistling wing, while teal, bald-pate, widgeon and mallard dotted the heavens far and near. Far out into the marsh you could see thousands on the bright sheen of the water, some looming up above it in faint mirage, black above and white beneath, and from their direction you might hear the babble that comes from no other living throats. The wings of the red-head whistled on every breeze, and blackbirds in legions rose clamorously from the green ranks of the arrowy reeds. Hundreds were mirrored in the water as they passed over it or sat in strings upon the swaying cane stalks. It was a glorious day, and will never be forgotten by any of my companions who scent it with me in that wilderness of water, rice and rushes. And the birds we killed-why, they almost doubled the number dangling in the air from the game rack in the rear of the camp.

But all things, good and bad, have an ending, and our hunt has been long since over, and its memory in a way swallowed up in the gloom and humdrum of every day life. Children laugh, but men sigh when they think of the dreary old, work-a-day world that lies beyond the end of golden days.

The day for leaving the great sandhill solitude rolled around with relentless speed. We had danced on roses, but to reach the grave. Newberry was on hand promptly; and Camp Merganzer all too soon became a romance and a fable.

With his usual care President Metz overlooked the scene that nothing of value might be left behind, and we all threw a farewell glance over the dear old spot. As if in mockery a ghastly sunbeam glared athwart the silent scene, late so full of color and joyous life. There were the packed piles of hay where our mattresses had lain, there the broken pins sticking in the earth, to which the ropes drawing our tents in shape had been fastened; there were the empty bottles, and there were plenty of them, too, cans, broken ware and general debris behind where Abner's tent had stood, and all around waved the yellowing verdure whose whisperings had been so full of music to us. Out in the marsh the water flashed in its frames of brown and green, and the wind, soughing through the rushes, seemed to call a sad farewell, while the rice stalks trickled as with tears.

"Git ep, there, dern ye!"

And Anse started the horses. We passed the scene for the last time, and in a motion we turned our heads for one more look over the mute charms of the old spot. The next moment we were rumbling and jolting across the desert waster, wondering if the time would ever come again to us—the time when the white petals of the arrowhead would cease to nod along the slough's shallow shores and when the cool nights in the far north would send down the vanguard of those great quacking hordes that set our nerves to trembling at the rising and the setting of the sun.