Two miles and a half above sea level, Cloud Peak rules the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming.★ Though only a trifle lower than Pike's Peak, it has never received publicity, so only an occasional sheepherder knows of the three lakes that form its diadem: Misty Moon, round as its namesake; Helen, surrounded by eternal snow, and Solitude, where trout swim back and forth through the reflection of the peak, which looms only slightly above.
The country is honeycombed with parallel brooks whose canyons leave between them pyramids of crumbling rock hundreds of feet high. Over these the endless trail climbs, dropping sometimes so steeply that your horse slides helpless in a cloud of red dust.
When I first rode this trail, clouds hung so low they seemed to brush my forehead. Back in the valley it was raining, but I could see through the gray streaks miles beyond to sunny hills. My horse was tired and jumpy and the lone pack animal took every opportunity to make for the brush.
The silence was suddenly broken by a strange, melancholy clamor coming from many throats. Like some inarticulate folk music, it was dull and almost toneless, yet filled with infinite nostalgia. I knew I was catching up with a herd of sheep. Soon they were on all sides of me, crawling through the rocks like overstuffed caterpillars. One in every hundred had a bell. I rode through them for a long time.
Having forded a stream and circled a cliff, I saw Lake Helen stretched out before me. An old man sitting on a rock watching the sheep pass seemed so much a part of the landscape that I did not notice him till two dogs rushed at me, barking. As I cantered curiously toward him he stared at me silently, but with interest. When I had tied my horse next to his the dogs ran up, anxious to be petted.
Only then did he take his pipe from his mouth, "Don't pat them____________________