Bull Hunter

Max Brand
Bull Hunter

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Title: Bull Hunter
Author: Max Brand
Release Date: November 27, 2003 [EBook #10324]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ASCII

Produced by Suzanne Shell, Sandra Bannatyne and PG Distributed



It was the big central taproot which baffled them. They had hewed

easily through the great side roots, large as branches, covered with soft
brown bark; they had dug down and cut through the forest of tender
small roots below; but when they had passed the main body of the
stump and worked under it, they found that their hole around the trunk
was not large enough in diameter to enable them to reach to the taproot
and cut through it. They could only reach it feebly with the hatchet,
fraying it, but there was no chance for a free swing to sever the tough
wood. Instead of widening the hole at once, they kept laboring at the
root, working the stump back and forth, as though they hoped to
crystallize that stubborn taproot and snap it like a wire. Still it held and
defied them. They laid hold of it together and tugged with a grunt;
something tore beneath that effort, but the stump held, and upward
progress ceased.
They stopped, too tired for profanity, and gazed down the mountainside
after the manner of baffled men, who look far off from the thing that
troubles them. They could tell by the trees that it was a high altitude.
There were no cottonwoods, though the cottonwoods will follow a
stream for more than a mile above sea level. Far below them a pale mist
obscured the beautiful silver spruce which had reached their upward
limit. Around the cabin marched a scattering of the balsam fir. They
were nine thousand feet above the sea, at least. Still higher up the
sallow forest of lodgepole pines began; and above these, beyond the
timberline, rose the bald summit itself.
They were big men, framed for such a country, defying the roughness
with a roughness of their own--these stalwart sons of old Bill Campbell.
Both Harry and Joe Campbell were fully six feet tall, with mighty
bones and sinews and work-toughened muscles to justify their stature.
Behind them stood their home, a shack better suited for the housing of
cattle than of men. But such leather-skinned men as these were more
tender to their horses than to themselves. They slept and ate in the
shack, but they lived in the wind and the sun.
Although they had looked down the stern slopes to the lower Rockies,
they did not see the girl who followed the loosely winding trail. She
was partly sheltered by the firs and came out just above them. They

began moiling at the stump again, sweating, cursing, and the girl halted
her horse near by. The profanity did not distress her. She was so
accustomed to it that the words had lost all edge and point for her; but
her freckled face stirred to a smile of pleasure at the sight of their
strength, as they alternately smote at the taproot and then strove in
creaking, grunting unison to work it loose.
They remained so long oblivious of her presence that at length she
called, "Why don't you dig a bigger hole, boys?"
She laughed in delight as they jerked up their heads in astonishment.
Her laughter was young and sweet to the ear, but there was not a great
deal outside her laughter that was attractive about her.
However, Joe and Harry gaped and grinned and blushed at her in the
time-old fashion, for she lived in a country where to be a woman is
sufficient, beauty is an unnecessary luxury, soon taxed out of existence
by the life. She possessed the main essentials of social power; she
could dance unflaggingly from dark to dawn at the nearest schoolhouse
dance, chattering every minute; and she could maintain a rugged
silence from dawn to dark again, as she rode her pony home.
Harry Campbell took off his hat, not in politeness, but to scratch his
head. "Say, Jessie, where'd you drop from? Didn't see you coming no
"Maybe I come down like rain," said Jessie.
All three laughed heartily at this jest.
Jessie swung sidewise in her saddle with the lithe grace of a boy,
dropped her elbow on the high pommel, and
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