On a previous
hunt I had seen a packer bite a horse's ear until it screamed, but it finally
submitted to being packed. However, I had no one to load the deer on while I
bit. Perhaps I should try covering his eyes. Rubbing my hands in deer blood, I
worked it well over the roan's snorting nose to help neutralize the wild smell
for the next try. Then I knotted a saddle blanket across his ornery, bloodshot
eyes so he couldn't see to counteract my moves. But he was too strong and mad
and determined to give an inch.
I was young and
just as angry, with a pride that wouldn't allow me to return and admit to an
older brother that I couldn't load a deer on a horse.
Back at camp,
where the full brunt of the storm had already struck, as Lorin told me later,
he was alarmed at my absence as evening approached. When the packer returned,
he said his wife had made a mistake, that it was the roan that couldn't be
packed. With concern he told Lorin, "Your kid brother won't get back if he
tangles with that roan. He's meaner'n hell around wild game."
back all right," Lorin said to bolster his hopes, "and if I know my
stubborn brother, he'll have the deer on the roan." But he wasn't really
As my strength
and the roan's ebbed, our tempers sharpened, lightning raw. I would have
shouted oaths into the storm but I hadn't the breath. I must get the damn deer
on the damn horse.
And then the
struggle ended abruptly. What made the roan suddenly give in? Perhaps the
ominous tones in the blizzard. He stood and shivered, as with the ague, as I
loaded and lashed both deer onto his back.
I tightened my
cinch, mounted and rode out, leading the roan and leaving the hillside cut and
battle-scarred. A hundred yards up the mountain the full fury of the storm hit
Wind robbed me of
breath, and driving ice particles forced their way through desperately slitted
eyelids. In the blinding whiteness my sense of direction wavered like a faulty
compass. The horses leaned against each monstrous gust of wind to keep from
being blown off the mountain as they fought for footing. We had continued the
fight far too long.
The mare stopped
as a granite cliff suddenly blocked our path. I could see neither beginning nor
end of the rock face that for the moment sheltered us from the piercing wind.
Which way should we go? A wrong turn would be disastrous. We couldn't survive a
night in this maelstrom. I urged the mare to the left along the giant wall and,
miraculously, in a few moments we were again climbing into the teeth of the
I rode unmoving
in the saddle. My sweat-soaked clothes iced up stiff as armor and my body
warmth was ruthlessly sucked away by the wind. The wind probably made the chill
factor 60 below. The little mare must get us to camp soon. If we were on the
way to her home ranch, her sixth sense would lead us in, but here on Fog
Mountain that instinct might be blotted out by the blizzard.