In May, 1889, at a meeting of the Institution of Electrical
A tight picket fence, built in three unswerving lines from the post planted solidly in a cairn of rocks against a bowlder on the eastern rim of the pond, to the road which cut straight through the ranch, down that to the farthest tree of the grove, then back to the bluff again, shut in that tribute to the sentimental side of Peaceful's nature. Outside the fence dwelt sturdier, Western realities.
Once the gate swung shut upon the grove one blinked in the garish sunlight of the plains. There began the real ranch world. There was the pile of sagebrush fuel, all twisted and gray, pungent as a bottle of spilled liniment, where braided, blanketed bucks were sometimes prevailed upon to labor desultorily with an ax in hope of being rewarded with fruit new-gathered from the orchard or a place at Phoebe's long table in the great kitchen.
There was the stone blacksmith shop, where the boys sweated over the nice adjustment of shoes upon the feet of fighting, wild-eyed horses, which afterward would furnish a spectacle of unseemly behavior under the saddle.
Farther away were the long stable, the corrals where broncho-taming was simply so much work to be performed, hayfields, an orchard or two, then rocks and sand and sage which grayed the earth to the very skyline.
A glint of slithering green showed where the Snake hugged the bluff a mile away, and a brown trail, ankle-deep in dust, stretched straight out to the west, and then lost itself unexpectedly behind a sharp, jutting point of rocks where the blufF had thrust out a rugged finger into the valley.
By devious turnings and breath-taking climbs, the trail finally reached the top at the only point for miles, where it was possible for a horseman to pass up or down.
Then began the desert, a great stretch of unlovely sage and lava rock and sand for mile upon mile, to where the distant mountain ridges reached out and halted peremptorily the ugly sweep of it. The railroad gashed it boldly, after the manner of the iron trail of modern industry; but the trails of the desert dwellers wound through it diffidently, avoiding the rough crest of lava rock where they might, dodging the most aggressive sagebrush and dipping tentatively into hollows, seeking always the easiest way to reach some remote settlement or ranch.
Of the men who followed those trails, not one of them but could have ridden straight to the Peaceful Hart ranch in black darkness; and there were few, indeed, white men or Indians, who could have ridden there at midnight and not been sure of blankets and a welcome to sweeten their sleep. Such was the Peaceful Hart Ranch, conjured from the sage and the sand in the valley of the Snake.