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III Now the deep, Tremendous silence of the night asleep Possessed the little tent of light again. A-haunch, head cocked, the dog surveyed the men. One drooping ear for doubt and one pricked ear For hope, he watched the red meat disappear In alien mouths, commenting with a hurt, Ingratiating whimper, and alert To catch the morsels casually thrown. The muted thunder of the canyon’s moan, The Fork’s low murmur, the contented sound Of grazing in the dark, made more profound The sense of silence heavy on the world. The feasting done, the dog lay down and curled A tawny back against the ember light, The slender, wolfish muzzle snuggled tight Against a shaggy buttock. One eye slept, And one, upon the verge of slumber, kept Uneasy vigil lest the feast resume. Now slowly shrank the circle of the gloom, Chill-edged. Aroused from indolent content, The Squire arose, yawned lazily, and went Into the dark. An ax’s clink and chock Broke brittle on the everlasting rock Of stillness, bluff and peak with flying shard Resounding. Stooping low and breathing hard, He reappeared at length; and having shed His burden on the fire, sat down and said: “That turn deserves another! Pass the juice!” He took a swig, then made his girdle loose, Sighed with eupeptic1 pleasure, being sated,2 And chuckled: “Boys, I’m going educated,3 The way you don’t get crossed-eyed with a book! Just now out yonder when I stopped to look Around and listen, all at once there came A funny sort of feeling. ’Twas the same Old ’Diah used to give me years ago: A feel of something you could never know, Except that it was big and still and dim And had a secret. If you stuck with him, Most any minute everything would change. The mountain and the valleys would be strange, And there’d be rivers like no common river— A sort of evening-before-Christmas shiver All up the backbone, like a youngster knows. It was the time we wintered with the Crows In ’twenty three and ’four,4 when I first felt That way about him. Snow began to melt Along Wind River. Winter wasn’t done, But in the soft late February sun You heard the gulches roar. A big chinook Was booming when we saddled up and took The trail that led across the Great Divide. And who had ever seen the other side The Shining Mountains?5 Indians, and such Assorted varmints, didn’t matter much, We being humans! It was waiting yet, 222 the song of jed smith Since God A’mighty finished it, to get The first real, honest seeing from our eyes! We followed up Sweetwater. No surprise! A frozen crick, and everything was old About it. But we felt it getting cold And colder as we rode along the flat, Smooth valley westward, and we knew from that How we were climbing. Mountains fell away— Just sort of melted. Then the second day, The word came down the line: ‘We’re in the Pass!’6 But there was only common yellow grass And sagebrush on a prairie, rolling wide From common hills along the nearer side To far peaks looking like a broken saw Ahead and to the right across the draw Along Sweetwater. Antelope were there Beside the crick—like critters anywhere In anybody’s meadow. Empty skies Were straight ahead above a little rise Notched crooked like a hind-sight out of true.7 There wasn’t any shoutingful to-do About it!8 But I galloped to the head To have a look, and rode beside old Jed. He didn’t see me, didn’t say a word To anybody. Pretty soon he spurred A ways ahead, reined suddenly, and stopped. From where we sat and looked, the prairie dropped Along the easy shoulder of a hill Into a left-hand valley. Things got still And kind of strange.9 The others, gathered round, Quit talking, and there wasn’t any sound 223 The Song of Jed Smith Except a bridle made it. Then it came— That funny sort of feeling, just the same I had out there a little while ago— A feel of something you could never know, But it was something big and still and dim That wouldn’t tell. It seemed to come from him10 Just looking down the Sandy11 towards the Green That had been waiting yonder to...


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