His coal black eyes reflected the brimstone fire of hell
So grew the legend of Canyon Dancer
The Indian braves would tell.
In the "valley of the demons," they watched him beneath the fiery sky. He seemed to challenge the whole world as he stood on his hind legs and pawed at the hot, summer wind. The herd stood like so many admiring peasants before their king. Young braves lined the canyon walls admiring the beautiful animal, one that has proved elusive to the whole Indian nation as they tried to capture him over the years. Word would travel fast as other tribes spotted this magnificent beast hundreds of miles away the next morning. And so the legend grew.
Cowboys swore they saw the devil himself riding "Canyon Dancer." Indian braves that managed to get close to Canyon Dancer vowed he never cast a shadow. At first, the bounties on this wild pony seemed worth the chase but as his mystique grew, so grew the curse on anyone who tried to lace a rope around his muscular neck. He soon became a creature to be admired from a distance and spoken of with reverence.
The big cat moved with grace and cunning of the great hunter he was. Mountain lions were prevalent in the craggy canyons but none the size of this one. The tribes knew of him more by finding his shredded victims than by actually seeing this elusive beast.
"Devil's Knee" was named by the Indians and was the giant pointed rock that jutted out and over a curve in the Snake River. It was a favorite spot for the wild ponies to come drink and rest in the shade. Many were the hot afternoons that Canyon Dancer would lead his herd to drink and rest. Though he would remain unseen like some majestic god, the young braves could always feel his presence. They often said they could feel his breath, hotter than the summer winds that cut through the canyons. A broken twig, a human sound, and the stallions would stampede as if a silent sentinel had warned them. The Indians admired this leader more than their frustrations of not being able to capture any of his herd.
He brought them to drink that afternoon. Wading in the edge of Snake River, he drank first while the others watched. The braves, who had followed, watched in awe. Seldom did Canyon Dancer make his presence known. The stallions shifted nervously. Not one stepped forward to drink. The onlookers were confused until they were shocked by the mournful cry of the big cat. He sat on a jagged ledge just below Devil's Knee, this magnificent beast of prey.
Canyon Dancer knew, just as the stallions and young brave warriors knew that this was a showdown of king - survival of the fittest. Several birds of prey glided on the updraft of the hot summer wind that blew against the canyon walls. They too sensed the showdown as they planned to feast on the spoils, for death would declare the loser.
Canyon Dancer, his dark eyes showing red in the sun, pawed at the shallow water, more in defiant arrogance than fear. The wind stood still. The birds circled in silence and the young warriors looking down from the canyon wall could not believe their eyes. The giant cat leaped down from his lofty perch and stalked bravely in the soft moist sand along the river's edge. Nearly fifty yards separated the combatants when the mountain lion sprang into a sprint toward Canyon Dancer.
Braced for the onrushing cat, he reared on his hind legs and gave out a sound that echoed through the whole canyon. Later, the Indians who witnessed this battle of kings would swear the sound came from the bowels of hell. As the cat leaped, the mighty fore legs of the stallion swashed against the soft furry head of the mountain lion. The cat retreated into the shadows of Devil's Knee with Canyon Dancer in pursuit. Perhaps a trap, the Indians thought, as the cat leaped high on a ledge ready to pounce.
Canyon Dancer never broke stride. As the monster cat sprang, the pony stopped on a line and turned in an instant.
The muscular back legs time a kick just as the cat's huge claws were ready to dig into his backside. The beast of prey fell helplessly against the jagged rocks and lay motionless. The bird circled lower, the ponies drank, and the braves stood in awe as Canyon Dancer pawed at the fiery, summer sky.