Page:Sawdust & Spangles.djvu/119

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93
THE PRAIRIE FIRE

the fine death by flames. Nearly every vehicle was drawn by either four or six horses, and the scene was one of the grandest and most terrible that human eye ever looked upon.

Suddenly I saw the boss put his horse into its highest speed, leading on ahead of the six whites. Then he leaped from the saddle, struck a match to the grass, remounted and rode back a short distance. As each team approached he ordered: "Wait till the flames spread a little and then break through the line of the back fire I've started and form a circle."

The grass which he had fired was considerably shorter than the general growth of the prairies; then, the fire it made had not acquired the volume, intensity and sweep of that hurricane of flame from which we were fleeing. One after another of the teams reared, pitched and plunged, only to find that the back fire had gone under their feet leaving them inside a charred, blackened circle fringed with flame.

No sound I have ever heard approached in abject terror the awful symphony of roars, growls, screams, wails and screeches that went up from the maddened beasts in that caravan as the great sky-reaching cylinder of flame and smoke rolled down upon us and was met barely