A few Sundays ago Postmaster Raymond Stotts and a party of friend arranged a hunting trip after wild geese. They got up early, eat a hearty breakfast and hiked for the hunting grounds. Raymond appeared in full hunting regalia, a belt full of cartridges and a big bag to hold the game, but on arriving at the place where the geese were supposed to be feeding he discovered he had forgotten his gun. This Sunday hunt put George Abbott in mind of a Sunday hunting trip he made with his father in the early days. Judge Abbott was very strict over the observance of Sunday, and what tempted him to break over the rules on that occasion has always been a mystery to his son. But here is the story;
Away back in the early '80's, while a few buffalo, wild horses and antelope were still roaming over the plains of western Kansas, I found myself, the oldest son in a family of nine, doing my part toward improving a small irrigated farm adjoining the town of Garden City.
Father was a lawyer and between attending to his law business up town and superintending the work on the farm he was a very busy man. I have heard some of his clients complain bitterly because when they wanted to see him hurriedly on business, they would quite likely have to chase out to the farm, instead of finding him in his office as any respectable lawyer ought to be.
We had been enthusiastic fishermen and hunters after small game where we came from, and quite naturally were anxious to try our luck on big game at our first opportunity.
I had traded my shot gun, giving a lot of boot besides, for an Evans 44-40 repeating rifle that shot twenty-six times at one filling of the magazine. Father had a Winchester 45-60 repeater, which looked like a cannon when compared with my Evans.
Just as we were seated at dinner one bright Sabbath day, father asked to have the ponies hitched to the light buggy when we were through eating as he had to go to Crow's ranch on the Pawnee creek on important business. This seemed to me like a rather unusual proceeding on father's part on the Sabbath day but if it was important I decided that it must be all right.
Dinner was soon over and the rig gotten ready and I was informed that I could go along if I wished to. With suppressed excitement I asked if we might take the guns along also, to which I quickly received a negative reply, then noticing my humiliation and disappointment, and perhaps giving away to a secret temptation of his own, father said, bring along your gun if you want to, although it is hardly likely that we will see anything to shoot at along that road and besides we will have to make haste. So getting my Gattling gun and ammunition and putting it out of sight under the seat of the buggy I started to climb in when I was ordered to get his gun also, which I quickly did, fearing he might change his mind again. Then we started.
It was a beautiful afternoon in the early fall and the heat from the sun was radiating back from the earth producing that mirage effect that looks like water all around and makes it hard to see any great distance. After we had passed the last settlement about ten miles I commenced to watch the landscape very closely, while father seemed to be in deep study over his business with Dr. Crow.
Suddenly the ponies pricked up their ears and kept looking to the left as they trotted along. When behold five antelope came into plain view about five hundred yards northwest. How they came so close without my seeing them sooner was a mystery. But there they were. The next thing I knew father had the lines and headed the team straight toward those curious creatures and stooping low in the buggy spoke sharply but not loudly to the ponies, "Get up, Sally, Get up, Dolly, get up"; and applied the whip at the same time. I took a look back to see how fast we were going and saw that the ground was fairly flying beneath us, and I imagined I could hear the spokes in the wheels whistling in the wind, they were spinning so rapidly.
I tried to remember whether or not I had fastened all the buckles in the harness good, and wondered what would happen if the tongue should come down. Three hundred yards was as close as we could get to them. Then they commenced to leave us. Father stopped the team as quickly as possible, and it was a pretty sight to me to see those ponies fairly sliding on their haunches in their efforts to slacken our tremendous speed. After seeing their actions I almost believed the statement of the man who sold them to us-that they were half-human. After our speed had slackened so that it was safe to try to get out, father handed me the line, and taking his gun, which I had ready for him, jumped out of the buggy with the nimbleness of a cat, and dropping on one knee began firing as rapidly as he could. Those big flat nosed bullets let out an ugly sound as they tore their way through the air and threw up the dirt all around those fleeing antelope but not hitting any of them. The magazine finally went empty, and the animals were out of range also and quickly disappeared into one of those mirage effects I have already spoken of.
While father was picking up the empty shells that lay all around him, I said, it is my turn next you know, and we will see what that pop gun of mine, as you call it, will do.
He replied, I am sorry but we must not do any more of this today, or we will never get to Doc. Crow's, then looking at the ponies exclaimed, my goodness, they are puffing like steam engines.
He got in the buggy and I turned the ponies' heads eastward expecting to hit the road a few miles beyond where we had left it so suddenly a few minutes before. I also took note of the fact that as we moved along father was refilling the magazine of his cannon. Presently he was absorbed in deep thought again, and so was I. The ponies seemed to be doing the same thing when suddenly they were attracted by something over south of us, and to our astonishment a herd of about twenty antelope appeared one hundred and twenty-five yards away.
Then letting out an exclamation such as I had never heard him make before Dad leaped out of the buggy and began working his cannon on those antelope as fast as he could. This made me sore-it was my turn- so jumping to my feet in the buggy and throwing the lines over one are, I went to popping at those antelope also.
I soon found that my shooting was as wild as dad's. I could throw up dirt all around them but to put a bullet into that closely packed bunch of fleeing and now thoroughly frightened antelope, I just could not. Presently I succeeded in firing a shot that did not throw any dirt, and I also heart a sharp spat that I knew must be the sound of a bullet striking one of those small animals. Then a big buck humped up his back and turning a somersault, fell dead.
I was so excited that I yelled out, I got one, but father yelled back, no you didn't, I got that one, and kept right on shooting. That made me sorer than ever, and I went to shooting again also. The ponies decided they had heard enough of this bombardment and started to make their get-a-way.
I gave a quick jerk on the lines which brought them upstanding and throwing me to my knees and almost over the dashboard, accidentally discharging my rifle, the bullet passing between the ears of one of the ponies and she fell to her knees. I thought I had played havoc and Oh, how I wished we had left the guns at home.
We examined the pony's head carefully, but could find no wound. Presently she seemed to be all right again and we were wonderfully relieved.
Father said, "Let's go see who shot the antelope. If it has a big hole in it it is mine, and if it has a small hole where the bullet came out it is yours." So we went, but I was so nervous over the accident I could scarcely think of anything else just then.
It was just one hundred and twenty-five yards away from where we did the shooting to where the antelope lay, as father stepped it off. The place where the bullet came out was an ugly gaping wound. I took one look at it, it's your antelope. I wouldn't have a gun that tears things up like that. To which he retorted, "It's the gun that get the game, anyway.' We dressed him and hung him on behind the buggy, using the hitching straps to tie him on.
Then we started on east. I ventured the question, "Do you think we can make it to Doc Crow's now?" To which I got no response.
There was a slight hill just ahead of us over which the antelope had disappeared when we saw them last and when we got to where we could see over discovered another antelope quite dead. Noticing fresh blood running from its nose, we were sure that we had killed it too. We, of course, went to looking for the bullet in it the first thing, and had some trouble in finding it, for the place had nearly closed up again and did not bleed much.
Father said," I guess you can claim this one; if you had shot a big one like the one I got with that pop gun of yours, it never would have stopped running."
We dressed this one out also, and put it across the buggy in front of us and hung our feet out at the sides and over the dashboard.
Father looked at his watch and then at the sun and headed the team toward home and said, "I will have to see Doc Crow some other day." We drove slowly, fearing we might break the over loaded buggy, and also to avoid going across town in daylight as we lived on the other side of town. After arriving safely at home we vowed a solemn vow never to go hunting on Sunday again.