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After more than half a day's ride, Josiah stopped the horses and then dropped from his saddle. Shielding the sun from his eyes, he gazed at the broad valley before them. Tree clad mountains surrounded the rolling hills and open meadows, while billowy white clouds sailed past the sun, casting moving shadows onto the wild landscape. Narrowing his eyes, Josiah searched for his prey. Then with a cry of satisfaction, he caught glimpse of it to the West-- a moving ribbon of darkness, spreading across the rolling valley floor.

From this great distance, Emma was unable to see what Josiah was looking at. "What is it?" she asked.

"Buffaler!" exclaimed Josiah, guiding their horses to a nearby shelter of sturdy conifers.

Before Emma had a chance to realize what "Buffaler" meant, Josiah ordered her to dismount. Then he pulled a buffalo robe from his packhorse and hurriedly tossed it at Emma's feet. He grabbed a small remnant of dried meat from his possibles bag and then shoved it into her hand.

"That's all the food I got, so don't eat it too quick," he cautioned. "It should hold you till I git back."

"You'll return by sundown?" she asked nervously.

Josiah remounted his horse. "That's what I told you yesterday, ain't it? When you're cold, hunker under the buffalo hide." Reaching for the pommel holster on his saddle, Josiah drew out a pistol. "This weapon is only if some animal comes too close," he explained warily. "If I hand it over, I don't want it used against me when I git back!" He glared at Emma and waited for some assurances that it wouldn't. When Emma remained silent, Josiah groaned impatiently. "Say it woman, or I'm leaving you here without a weapon!"

"I won't use it against you," Emma finally responded.

Josiah scowled at her knowingly. "The thought crossed yer mind, though." He flung the small pistol a good piece from Emma, planning to be well out of range before she had time to reach it. As Josiah turned his mount toward the valley, Emma suddenly realized he was taking all the ponies with him.

"You're not leaving me with a horse?"

"Why?" Josiah grinned. "You ain't going nowhere." He spat at the ground and eyed Emma one last time before leaving. "If you see anyone, keep out of sight."

"Even if they aren't Indians?" she asked in surprise.

With a fearsome growl, Josiah barred his teeth at Emma. "White skin or red, you keep out of sight!" With that, he plunged his heels into the sides of his horse and galloped away.

When the last of the trailing ponies disappeared from view, Emma went to retrieve the pistol.

After Josiah picketed his horses, he approached the edge of the buffalo herd on foot. A large bull took notice of Josiah and gave him a warning huff to stay away from his female cows. Taking a small step back, Josiah waited for the bull to return to his grazing.

The mountain man grinned at his good fortune. Buffalo can be skittish creatures, known to stampede at the mere shadow of a man; at other times, hunters could approach them quite close, before the herd would sense danger. These buffalo were grazing and enjoying the autumn sunshine so much, that Josiah figured he could make short work of his hunting.
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