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V rubbed out Meanwhile Where ran the Bozeman Road along the bleak North slope of Lodge Trail Ridge to Peno Creek, Big hopes were burning.1 Silence waited there. The brown land, even as the high blue air, Seemed empty. Yet the troubled crows that flew Keen-eyed above the sunning valley knew What made the windless slough-grass ripple so, And how a multitude of eyes below Were peering southward to the road-scarred rise Where every covert2 was alive with eyes That scanned the bare horizon to the south. The white of dawn had seen the Peno’s mouth3 A-swarm with men—Cheyennes, Arapahoes, Dakotas. When the pale-faced sun arose— A spectre fleeing from a bath of blood— It saw them like a thunder-fathered flood Surge upward through the sounding sloughs4 and draws— Afoot and mounted, veterans and squaws, Youths new to war, the lowly and the great— A thousand-footed, single-hearted hate Flung fortward. Now their chanted battle-songs Dismayed the hills. Now silent with their wrongs They strode, the sullen hum of hoofs and feet, Through valleys where aforetime life was sweet, More terrible than songs or battle cries. The sun had traversed half the morning skies When, entering the open flat, they poured To where the roadway crossed the Peno ford Below the Ridge.5 Above them wheeled and pried6 The puzzled crows, to learn what thing had died, What carcass, haply hidden from the ken7 Of birds, had lured so large a flock of men Thus chattering with lust. There, brooding doom, They paused and made the brown December bloom With mockeries of August—demon flowers And lethal, thirsting for the sanguine8 showers That soon should soak the unbegetting9 fields— The trailing bonnets and the pictured shields, The lances nodding in the warwind’s breath, And faces brave with paint to outstare Death In some swift hush of battle! Briefly so They parleyed. Then the spears began to flow On either side the Ridge—a double stream Of horsemen, winking out as in a dream High up among the breaks that flanked the trail. Amid the tall dry grasses of the vale The footmen disappeared; and all the place Was still and empty as a dead man’s face That sees unmoved the wheeling birds of prey. The anxious moments crawled. Then far away Across the hills a muffled tumult grew, As of a blanket being ripped in two 360 the song of the indian wars And many people shouting underground. The valley grasses rippled to the sound As though it were a gusty wind that passed. Far off a bugle’s singing braved the vast And perished in a wail. The tall grass stirred. The rumor of the distant fight was heard A little longer. Suddenly it stopped; And silence, like a sky-wide blanket, dropped Upon the landscape empty as the moon. The sun, now scarce a lance-length from the noon, Seemed waiting for whatever might occur. Across the far Northwest a purplish blur Had gathered and was crawling up the sky. Now presently a nearer bugle cry Defied the hush—a scarlet flower of sound That sowed the sterile silences around With futile seed of music. Once again The sound of firing and the cries of men Arose; but now ’twas just beyond the place Where, climbing to the azure rim of space, The roadway topped the Ridge and disappeared. The tongueless coverts listened, thousand-eared, And heard hoof-thunders rumbling over there. The suddenly the high blue strip of air Was belching warriors in a wind of cries. In breakneck rout they tumbled from the skies, Wheeled round to fling more arrows at a foe, 361 Rubbed Out And fled to where the breast-deep grass below Swayed wildly.10 Now a crow-black stallion ’rose, And looming huge against the blue noon doze, Raced back and forth across the Ridge’s rim, While, shooting from beneath the neck of him, The Cheyenne Big Nose11 held the roaring rear; Nor did the snarling musket-balls come near, So mighty was his medicine, they say. Now presently the high blue wall of day Spewed cavalry along the Ridge; and then A marvel for the tongues and ears of men Amazed the hidden watchers of the height. For like a thunder-stridden wind of night That rages through a touselled poplar grove, The rider of the stallion charged, and drove Straight through the middle of the mounted...


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