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Abe's flank with his sharp horn. The mule let both heels fly, striking another bull fairly in the forehead, and felling him to the ground. But a buffalo's skull is as thick as a board, and the bull jumped up and galloped on with his fellows.
For a few minutes the two dead bulls at the rear of the wagon seemed to act as a buffer, and the others parted just enough to graze the wagon. The mules, which brayed and kicked whenever the buffaloes came too close, also helped, but presently another
bunch was seen bearing down upon them. They were close to10 gether and crowding, and did not seem likely to give way for the crouching fugitives under the wagon.
Although Bennie and his father both fired, and Mr. Anderson followed up the rifle shots with both barrels from the shotgun,
and three shots from the Colt's, yet they struck the wagon with 25 a terrific shock.
There was frantic kicking and frenzied braying from both Abe and Ulysses and a violent kicking and pounding in the wagon
a that seemed to be immediately over their heads.
It was plain that instantaneous action of some kind was 20 necessary if their domicile was to be saved, for one of the crowd
ing bulls had been carried immediately into the wagon. He had become entangled in the top, and was pawing and kicking to free himself. His great head just protruded over the seat.
Mr. Anderson reached up quickly with the Colt's, and put an 25 end to his kicking with two well directed shots.
There were now four dead bulls piled up behind the wagon and one inside of it, and soon the blood from their last victim came trickling through upon the helpless family. It was a grue
some position, but they could not escape it, and all were so glad 30 that the blood was not their own that they did not mind.
"We are pretty well barricaded now, Bennie,” shouted Mr. Anderson, just making himself heard above the thunder of galloping hoofs. “I think we are safe. They cannot get at us over
all that beef, and they cannot get through the side, so I do not 35 see but we are secure.”
"Thank God," exclaimed Mrs. Anderson fervently, “but shan't feel safe until the last buffalo has passed."
She had barely ceased speaking when old Abe uttered a piercing bray, in which were both terror and pain. He accompanied the outcry with a vicious kick, but almost immediately sank to
the earth, kicking and pawing. It was then seen that a bull had 6 ripped open the mule's left side, giving him a mortal wound. His
frantic kicking so endangered the cowering fugitives under the wagon that Mr. Anderson was obliged to shoot him. His loss was irreparable, and the boys whimpered softly to themselves as they saw their old friend stretched out dead beside the wagon.
Old Brindle at this point became unmanageable, breaking her rope, so that the seething black mass swallowed her. “There goes old Brindle too," sobbed Tommy. "I guess we'll starve now."
Poor Shep, who had been securely tied at the forward end of 15 the wagon, cowered and whimpered as though he too thought the
judgment day had come, and it was his and Tommy's lot to comfort each other—the dog licking the boy's hands, and he in turn patting the dog's head.
The loss of old Brindle and Abe proved to be the turning20 point in the misfortunes of the Andersons, for the herd now
parted at the barricade made by the dead buffalo, the mule, and the wagon, so that although every few minutes it seemed as though they would be engulfed, yet the danger veered to one side and passed by.
Half an hour and then an hour went by, and still there was no diminution of the herd. The second hour and the third passed, and still they came, crowding and pushing, blowing and snorting, steaming and reeking.
“Won't they ever go by, father?” asked Bennie. “I should 30 think there were a million of them."
"It is the most wonderful thing that I ever saw,” replied Mr. Anderson. "I have often heard old hunters tell about the countless herds of buffaloes, but I had always supposed that they were lying. In the future I will believe anything about their numbers."
At last seeing that they were in no immediate danger, Mr. Anderson told the boys to go to sleep if they could and he would watch. If there was any need of their help, he would call them,
Accordingly, all the firearms were loaded and placed by Mr. Anderson, and the boys and Shep curled up near the forward wheels to rest. They were terribly tired, for the excitement and the hard work had told upon their young nerves and muscles.
The last thing Bennie remembered was the thunder of the myriad hoofs, and the rocking and trembling of the earth under him. But even these sounds soon ceased for him, and he and his brother slept.
When he again opened his eyes, the sun was shining brightly, 10 and the clouds of dust that had obscured the moon when he fell
asleep had been partly dissipated. Here and there he could see an occasional buffalo galloping southward, but the mighty herd, whose numbers had seemed like the stars, was gone.
"It's the tail end of the procession, boy,” called Bennie's 16 father. “The last installment went by about fifteen minutes ago.
I did not dream that bison could be found in such numbers in western Missouri at the present time. I had supposed the few scattering head that we saw were all that were left in the state.”
This conclusion of Mr. Anderson's was quite right, but that 20 autumn, for some unaccountable reason, the great herd had come
down for a part of the way on the Missouri River on its southern migration following the old trail of two decades before, instead of crossing western Nebraska and Kansas. It had been a costly
experiment, however, for all the way hunters had swarmed upon 25 their flanks and they had lost thousands of head. But what did
that matter? Their number was legion.
NOTES AND QUESTIONS
Biography. Clarence Hawkes (1869–), the naturalist-author, is a native of Massachusetts. He is a member of the American Bison Society, which has for its purpose the conservation of American buffaloes. In 1883 he was made totally blind by an accidental shot in the eyes. After this he began writing books and magazine articles, and giving public lectures. He has written many books on nature subjects, among which are: Little Foresters; Shaggy Coat; Tenants of the Trees; Black Bruin; The Wilderness Dog; and King of the Tkurdering Herd, from which "The Thundering Herd” is taken.
Discussion. 1. Describe the Anderson caravan and tell where the family was going. 2. How long had they been traveling when the incident of the thundering herd occurred? 3. Where did the event occur, and under what conditions? 4. What does this story tell you of the number of buffaloes on the plains at that time? 5. Make an outline, and follow it in telling the complete story of “The Thundering Herd.” 6. Library reading: Read the other chapters of King of the Thundering. Herd (an interesting social exercise may be made by assigning the various chapters to different members, to be read silently and reported upon in class); other books by this author; “Passing of the Buffalo” (in Overland Monthly, May, 1915). 7. Find in the Glossary the meaning of: dilapidated; inadequate; coulee; eminence; incredulous; butte; annihilation; frontlet; buffer; domicile; veered; diminution; dissipated. 8. Pronounce: coyote; ally; amicable: undulating; pall; impotent; respite; irreparable.
Whither, midst falling dew,
Thy solitary way?
Vainly the fowler's eye
Thy figure floats along.
Seek'st thou the plashy brink
On the chafed ocean-side?
There is a Power whose care