by Alfred Henry Lewis
The Great Wolfville Strike.
"No, sir, even onder spur an' quirt, my mem'ry can only canter back to one uprisin' of labor in Wolfville; that was printers."
At this the Old Cattleman looked unduly sagacious, refreshed himself with a puff or two at his pipe, and all with the air of one who might, did he see fit, consider the grave questions of capital and labor with an ability equal to their solution. His remark was growth of the strike story of some mill workmen, told glaringly in the newspaper he held in his hands.
"Wolfville is not at that time," he continued, "what you-all East would call a swirlin' vortex of trade; still she has her marts. Thar's the copper mines, the Bird Cafe Op'ry House, the Red Light, the O. K. Restauraw, the Dance Hall, the New York Store an' sim'lar hives of commerce. Which ondoubted the barkeeps is the hardest worked folks in camp, an' yet none of 'em ever goes on the warpath for shorter hours or longer pay, so far as I has notice. Barkeeps that a-way is a light-hearted band an' cheerful onder their burdens. Once when Old Monte brings the stage in late because of some boggin' down he does over at a quicksand ford in the foothills, a shorthorn who arrives with him as a passenger comes edgin' into the Red Light. Bein' it's four o'clock in the mornin', the tenderfoot seems amazed at sech activities as faro-bank, an' high-ball, said devices bein' in full career; to say nothin' of the Dance Hall, which 'Temple of Mirth,' as Hamilton who is proprietor tharof names it, is whoopin' it up across the street.
"'Ain't you open rather late?' says the shorthorn. His tones is apol'getic an' no offence is took.
"That's one of them gratefyin' things about the Southwest. That temperate region don't go pirootin' 'round strivin' to run its brand onto things as insults where none ain't meant. The Southwest ropes only at the intention. You may even go so far as to shoot the wrong gent in a darkened way, an' as long as you pulls off the play in a sperit of honesty, an' the party plugged don't happen to be a pop'lar idol, about the worst you'd get would be a caution from the Stranglers to be more acc'rate in your feuds, sech is the fairmindedness an' toleration of Southwest sentiment.
"As I su'gests, the barkeep, realizin' that the stranger's bluff arises from cur'osity rather than any notion of what booksports calls 'captious criticism,' feels no ombrage.
"'What was you-all pleased to remark?' retorts the barkeep as he slams his nose-paint where the shorthorn can get action.
"'Nothin',' replies the shorthorn, imbibin' of his forty drops, "only it sort o' looks to my onaccustomed eye like this deadfall is open rather late."
"'Which she is some late,' admits the barkeep, as he softly swabs the counter; 'which it is some late for night before last, but it's jest the shank of the evenin' for to-night.'
"But, as I observes a bit back on the trail, I never do hear of any murmur of resentment on the part of the toilin' masses of the town, save in the one instance when that bunch of locoed printers capers out an' defies the editor an' publisher of the Wolfville COYOTE, the same bein' the daily paper of the outfit.
"This yere imprint, the COYOTE, is done owned an' run by Colonel William Greene Sterett. An' I'll pause right yere for the double purpose of takin' a drink an' sympathisin' with you a whole lot in not knowin' the Colonel. You nacherally ain't as acootely aware of the fact as I be, but you can gamble a bloo stack that not knowin' Colonel Sterett borders on a deeprivation. He is shore wise, the Colonel is, an' when it comes to bein' fully informed on every p'int, from the valyoo of queensup before the draw to the political effect of the Declaration of Independence, he's an even break with Doc Peets. An' as I've asserted frequent—an' I don't pinch down a chip—Doc Peet's is the finest eddicated sharp in Arizona.
"We-all will pass up the tale at this crisis, but I'll tell you later about how Colonel Sterett comes a-weavin' into Wolfville that time an' founds the Coyote. It's enough now to know that when these yere printers takes to ghost-dancin' that time, the Colonel has been in our midst crowdin' hard on the hocks of a year, an' is held in high regyard by Old Alan Enright, Doc Peets, Jack Moore, Boggs, Tutt, Cherokee Hall, Faro Nell, and other molders of local opinion, an' sort o' trails in next after Enright an' Peets in public esteem. The Colonel is shore listened to an' heeded at sech epocks as Wolfville sets down serious to think.
"Them printers of the Colonel's stampedes themse'fs jest followin' the latter's misonderstandin' with Huggins, who conducts the Bird Cage Op'ry House, an' who as I've allers maintained, incites them mechanics, private, to rebellion, as a scheme of revenge on the Colonel. The trouble which bears its final froote in this labor uprisin' is like this. Huggins, as noted, holds down the Bird Cage Op'ry House as manager, an' when lie's drunk—which, seein' that Huggins is a bigger sot than Old Monte, is right along he allows he's a 'Impressario.' Mebby you saveys 'Impressario,' an' experiences no difficulty with the same as a term, but Boggs an' Tutt goes to the fringe of a gun play dispootin' about its meanin' the time Huggins plays it on the camp first as deescriptif of his game.
"'A Impressario is a fiddler,' says Boggs; 'I cuts the trail of one in the States once, ropes him up, an' we has a shore enough time.'
"'Sech observations,' observes Tutt, to whom Boggs vouchsafes this information, 'sech observations make me tired. They displays the onlimited ability for ignorance of the hooman mind. Boggs, I don't want to be deemed insultin', but you-all oughter go to night-school some'ers ontil you learns the roodiments of the American language."
"When this yore colloquy ensooes, I'm away on the spring round-up, an' tharfor not present tharat; but as good a jedge as Jack Moore, insists that the remainder of the conversation would have come off in the smoke if he hadn't, in his capacity of marshal, pulled his six-shooter an' invoked Boggs an' Tutt to a ca'mer mood.
"But speakin' of this Huggins party, I never likes him. Aside from his bein' mostly drunk, which, no matter what some may say or think, I holds impairs a gent's valyoo as a social factor, Huggins is avaricious an' dotes on money to the p'int of bein' sordid. He'd gloat over a dollar like it was a charlotte roose, Huggins would. So, as I says, I ain't fond of Huggins, an' takes no more pleasure of his company than if he's a wet dog. Still, thar's sech a thing as dooty; so, when Huggins comes wanderin' wild-eyed into the Red Light about first drink time one evenin', an' confides to me in a whisper that thar's a jack rabbit outside which has sworn to take his life, an' is right then bushwhackin' about the door waitin' to execoote the threat, I calls Doc Peets, an' aids in tyin' Huggins down so that his visions can be met an' coped with medical.
"Peets rides herd on Huggins for about a week, an' at last effects his rescoo from that hostile jack rabbit an' them crimson rattlesnakes an' blue-winged bats that has j'ined dogs with it in its attempts ag'in Huggins. Later, when Peets sends his charges, this yere ingrate Huggins—lovin' money as I states—wants to squar' it with a quart or two of whiskey checks on the Bird Cage bar. Nacherally, Peets waves aside sech ignoble proffers as insults to his professional standin'.
"'An' you all don't owe me a splinter, Huggins,' says Peets, as he turns down the prop'sition to take whiskey checks as his reward. 'We'll jest call them services of mine in subdooin' your delirium treemors a contreebution. It should shorely be remooneration enough to know that I've preserved you to the Wolfville public, an' that the camp can still boast the possession of the meanest sport an' profoundest drunkard outside of the Texas Panhandle.'
"Bar none, Doc Peets is the bitterest gent, verbal, that ever makes a moccasin track in the South-west. An' while Huggins ain't pleased none, them strictures has to go. To take to pawin' 'round for turmoil with Peets would be encroachin' onto the ediotic. Even if he emerges alive from sech controversies—an' it's four to one he wouldn't; for Peets, who's allers framed up with a brace of derringers, is about as vivid an enterprise as Wolfville affords— the Stranglers would convene with Old Man Enright in the cha'r, an' Huggins wouldn't last as long as a drink of whiskey. As it is, Huggins gulps his feelin's an' offers nothin' in return to Peets's remarks.
"No; of course Doc Peets ain't that diffusive in his confidences as to go surgin' about tellin' this story to every gent he meets. It's ag'in roole for physicians that a-way to go draggin' their lariats 'round permiscus an' impartin' all they knows. You-all can see yourse'f that if physicians is that ingenuous, it would prodooce all sorts of troubles in the most onlooked-for places an' most onexpected forms. No; Peets wouldn't give way to conduct so onbecomin' a medicine man an' a sport. But rooles has their exceptions; an so Feets, in one of them moments of sympathy an' confidence, which two highly eddicated gents after the eighth drink is bound to feel for each other, relates to Colonel Sterett concernin' Huggins an' his perfidy with them Bird Cage checks.
"This yere onbosomin' of himse'f to the Colonel ain't none discreet of Peets. The Colonel has many excellencies, but keepin' secrets ain't among 'em; none whatever. The Colonel is deevoid of talents for secrets, an' so the next day he prints this yere outrage onder a derisive headline touchin' Huggins' froogality.
"Huggins don't grade over-high for nerve an' is a long way from bein' clean strain game; but he figgers, so I allers reckons, that the Colonel ain't no thunderbolt of war himse'f, so when he reads as to him an' Peets an' them treemors an' the whiskey checks, he starts in to drink an' discuss about his honor, an' gives it out he'll have revenge.
"It's the barkeep at the Red Light posts Colonel Sterett as to them perils. A Mexican comes trackin' along into the Colonel's room in the second story—what he calls his 'sanctum'—with a note. It's from the barkeep an' reads like this:
RED LIGHT SALOON.
Huggins is in here tankin' up an' makin' war medicine. He's packin' two guns. He says he's going to plug you for that piece. I can keep him here an hour. Meanwhile, heel yourse'f. I'll have him so drunk by the time he leaves that he ought to be easy.
Yours sincerely, BLACK JACK.
P. S. Better send over to the Express Company for one of them shot- guns. Buckshot, that a-way, is a cinch; an' if you're a leetle nervous it don't make no difference. B. J.
"About the time the 10-gauge comes over to the Colonel, with the compliments of the Wells-Fargo Express, an' twenty shells holdin' twenty-one buck-shot to the shell, Doc Peets himse'f comes sa'nterin' into the sanctum.
"'You-all ought never to have printed it, Colonel,' says Peets; 'I'm plumb chagrined over that exposure of Huggins.'
"'Don't you reckon, Doc,' says the Colonel, sort o' coaxin' the play, 'if you was to go down to the Red Light an' say to this inebriated miscreant that you makes good, it would steady him down a whole lot?'
"'If I was to take sech steps as you urges, Colonel,' says Peets, 'it would come out how I gives away the secrets of my patients; it would hurt my p'sition. On the level! Colonel, I'd a mighty sight sooner you'd beef Huggins.'
"'But see yere, Doc,' remonstrates the Colonel, wipin' off the water on his fore'ead, 'murder is new to me, an' I shrinks from it. Another thing—I don't thirst to do no five or ten years at Leavenworth for downin' Huggins, an' all on account of you declinin' whiskey chips as a honorarium for them services.'
"'It ain't no question of Leavenworth,' argues Peets; 'sech thoughts is figments. Yere's how it'll be. Huggins comes chargin' up, hungerin' for blood. You-all is r'ared back yere with that 10-gauge, all organized, an' you coldly downs him. Thar ain't no jury, an' thar ain't no Vigilance Committee, in Arizona, who's goin' to carp at that a little bit. Besides, he's that ornery, the game law is out on Huggins an' has been for some time. As for any resk to yourse'f, personal, from Huggins; why! Colonel, you snaps your fingers tharat. You hears Huggins on the stairs; an' you gives him both barrels the second he shows in the door. It's as plain as monte. Before Huggins can declar' himse'f, Colonel, he's yours, too dead to skin. It's sech a shore thing,' concloodes Peets, 'that, after all, since you're merely out for safety, I'd get him in the wing, an' let it go at that. Once his arm is gone, it won't be no trouble to reason with Huggins.'
"'Don't talk to me about no arms,' retorts the Colonel, still moppin' his feachers plenty desperate. 'I ain't goin' to do no fancy shootin'. If Huggins shows up yere, you can put down a yellow stack on it, I'll bust him where he looks biggest. Huggins is goin' to take all the chances of this embroglio.'
"But Huggins never arrives. It's Dan Boggs who abates him an' assoomes the pressure for the Colonel. Boggs is grateful over some compliments the Colonel pays him in the Coyote the week previous. It's right in the midst of Huggins' prep'rations for blood that Boggs happens up on him in the Red Light.
"'See yere, Huggins,' says Boggs, as soon as ever he gets the Impressario's grievance straight in his mind, 'you-all is followin' off the wrong wagon track. The Colonel ain't your proper prey at all; it's me. I contreebutes that piece in the Coyote about you playin' it low on Peets myse'f.'
"Huggins gazes at Boggs an' never utters a word; Boggs is too many for him.
"'Which I'm the last sport,' observes Boggs after a pause, 'to put a limit on the reccreations or meddle with the picnics of any gent, but this yere voylence of yours, Huggins, has gone too far. I'm obleeged to say, tharfore, that onless you aims to furnish the painful spectacle of me bendin' a gun over your head, you had better sink into silence an' pull your freight. I'm a slow, hard team to start, Huggins,' says Boggs, 'but once I goes into the collar, I'm irresist'ble.'
"Huggins don't know much, but he knows Boggs; an' so, followin' Boggs' remarks, Huggins ups an' ceases to clamor for the Colonel right thar. Lambs is bellig'rent compared with Huggins. The barkeep, in the interests of peace, cuts in on the play with the news that the drinks is on the house, an' with that the eepisode comes to a close.
"Now you-all has most likely begun to marvel where them labor struggles comes buttin' in. We're within ropin' distance now. It's not made cl'ar, but, as I remarks prior, I allers felt like Huggins is the bug onder the chip when them printers gets hostile that time an' leaves the agency. Huggins ain't feeble enough mental to believe for a moment Boggs writes that piece. The fact that Boggs can't even write his own name—bein' onfortunately wantin' utterly in eddication—is of itse'f enough to breed doubts. Still, I don't ondervalue Huggins none in layin' down to Boggs, that time Boggs allows he's the author. With nothin' at stake more than a fact, an' no money up nor nothin', he shorely wouldn't be jestified in contendin' with a gent of Boggs' extravagant impulses, an' who is born with the theery that six-shooters is argyments.
"But, as I was observin', Huggins is no more misled by them bluffs of Boggs than he is likely to give up his thoughts of revenge on the Colonel. Bein' headed off from layin' for the Colonel direct—for Boggs reminds him at closin' that, havin' asserted his personal respons'bility for that piece, he'll take it as affronts if Huggins persists in goin' projectin' 'round for Colonel Sterett—thar's no doubt in my mind that Huggins goes to slyin' about, an' jumpin' sideways at them printers on the quiet, an fillin' 'em up with nose- paint an' notions that they're wronged in equal quantities. An' Huggins gets results.
"Which the Colonel pays off his five printers every week. It's mebby the second Saturday after the Huggins trouble, an' the Colonel is jest finished measurin' up the 'strings,' as he calls 'em, an' disbursin' the dinero. At the finish, the head-printer stiffens up, an' the four others falls back a pace an' looks plenty hard.
"'Colonel,' says the head-printer, 'we-all sends on to the national council, wins out a charter, an' organizes ourse'fs into a union. You're yereby notified we claims union wages, the same bein' forty- five centouse a thousand ems from now ontil further orders.'
"'Jim,' retorts the Colonel, 'what you an' your noble assistants demands at my hands, goes. From now I pays the union schedoole, the same bein' five cents a thousand ems more than former. The Coyote as yet is not self-supportin', but that shall not affect this play. I have so far made up deeficiencies by draw-poker, which I finds to be fairly soft an' certain in this camp, an' your su'gestions of a raise merely means that I've got to set up a leetle later in a game, an' be a trifle more remorseless on a shore hand. Wharfore I yields to your requests with pleasure, as I says prior.'
"It's mighty likely Colonel Sterett acquiesces in them demands too quick; the printers is led to the thought that he's as simple to work as a Winchester. It's hooman nature to brand as many calves as you can, an' so no one's surprised when, two weeks later, them voracious printers comes frontin' up for more. The head-printer stiffens up, an' the four others assoomes eyes of iron, same as before, an' the pow wow re-opens as follows:
"'Colonel,' says the range boss for the printers, while the others stands lookin' an' listenin' like cattle with their y'ears all for'ard, 'Colonel, the chapel's had a meetin', an' we-all has decided that you've got to make back payments at union rates for the last six months, which is when we sends back to the States for that charter. The whole throw is twelve hundred dollars, or two hundred and forty a gent. No one wants to crowd your hand, Colonel, an' if you don't jest happen to have said twelve hundred in your war-bags, we allows you one week to jump 'round an' rustle it.'
"But the Colonel turns out bad, an' shows he can protect himse'f at printin' same as he can at poker. He whirls on them sharps like a mountain lion.
"'Gents,' says the Colonel, 'you-all is up ag'inst it. I don't care none if the cathedral's had a meetin', I declines to bow to your claims. As I states before, I obtains the money to conduct this yere journal by playin' poker. Now I can't play no ex post facto poker, nor get in on any rectroactive hands, which of itse'f displays your attitoode on this o'casion as onjust. What you-all asks is refoosed.'
"'See yere, Colonel,' says the head-printer, beginnin' to arch his back like he's goin' to buck some, 'don't put on no spurs to converse with us; an' don't think to stampede us none with them Latin bluffs you makes. You either pays union rates since February, or we goes p'intin' out for a strike.'
"'Strike!' says the Colonel, an' his tones is decisive, 'strike, says you! Which if you-all will wait till I gets my coat, I'll strike with you.'
"Tharupon the entire passel, the Colonel an' them five printers, comes over to the Red Light, takes a drink on the Colonel, an' disperses themse'fs on the strike. Of course Wolfville looks on some amazed at this yere labor movement, but declar's itse'f nootral.
"'Let every gent skin his own eel,' says Enright; 'the same bein' a fav'rite proverb back in Tennessee when I'm a yooth. This collision between Colonel Sterett an' them free an' independent printers he has in his herd is shorely what may be called a private game. Thar's no reason an' no call for the camp to be heard. What's your idea, Doc?'
"'I yoonites with you in them statements,' says Peets. 'While my personal symp'thies is with Colonel Sterett in this involvement, as yet the sityooation offers no reason for the public to saddle up an' go to ridin' 'round tharin.'
"'Don't you-all think,' says Boggs, appealin' to Enright, 'don't you reckon now if me an' Tutt an' Jack Moore, all casooal like, was to take our guns an' go cuttin' up the dust about the moccasins of them malcontent printers—merely in our private capacity, I means—it would he'p solve this yere deadlock a whole lot?' Boggs is a heap headlong that a-way, an' likin' the Colonel, nacherally he's eager to take his end.
"'Boggs,' replies Enright, an' his tones is stern to the verge of being ferocious; 'Boggs, onless you wants the law-abidin' element to hang you in hobbles, you had better hold yourse'f in more subjection. Moreover, what you proposes is childish. If you was to appear in the midst of this industr'al excitement, an' take to romancin' 'round as you su'gests, you'd chase every one of these yere printers plumb off the range. Which they'd hit a few high places in the landscape an' be gone for good. Then the Colonel never could get out that Coyote paper no more. Let the Colonel fill his hand an' play it his own way. I'll bet, an' go as far as you like, that if we-all turns our backs on this, an' don't take to pesterin' either side, the Colonel has them parties all back in the corral ag'in inside of a week.'
"Old Man Enright is right, same as he ever is. It's about fourth drink time in the evenin' of the second day. Colonel Sterett, who's been consoomin' his licker at intervals not too long apart, is seated in the Red Light in a reelaxed mood. He's sayin' to Boggs, who has been faithful at his elbow from the first, so as to keep up his sperits, that he looks on this strike as affordin' him a much- needed rest.
"'An' from the standp'int of rest, Dan,' observes the Colonel to Boggs as the barkeep brings them fresh glasses, 'I really welcomes this difference with them blacksmiths of mine. I shorely needs this lay-off; literatoor that a-way, Dan, an' partic'lar daily paper literatoor of the elevated character I've been sawin' off on this camp in the Coyote, is fa-tiguin' to the limit. When them misguided parties surrenders their absurd demands—an' between us, Dan, I smells Huggins in this an' expects to lay for him later tharfor—I say, when these obtoose printers gives up, an' returns to their 'llegiance, I'll assoome the tripod like a giant refreshed.'
"'That's whatever!' says Boggs, coincidin' with the Colonel, though he ain't none shore as to his drift.
"'I'll be recooperated,' continues the Colonel, sloppin' out another drink; 'I'll be a new man when I takes hold ag'in, an' will make the Coyote, ever the leadin' medium of the Southwest, as strong an' invincible as four kings an' a ace.'
"It's at this p'int the five who's on the warpath comes into the Red Light. The head-printer, lookin' apol'getic an' dejected, j'ins Boggs an' the Colonel where they sits.
"'Colonel,' observes the head-printer, 'the chapel's had another meetin'; an' the short an' the long is, the boys kind o' figger they're onjust in them demands for back pay—sort o' overplays their hands, They've decided, Colonel, that you're dead right; an' I'm yere now to say we're sorry, an' we'll all go back an' open up an' get the Coyote out ag'in in old-time form.'
"'Have a drink, Jim,' says the Colonel, an' his face has a cloud of regrets onto it; 'take four fingers of this red-eye an' cheer up. You-all assoomes too sombre a view of this contention.'
"'I'm obleeged to you, Colonel,' replies the head-printer; 'but I don't much care to drink none before the boys. They ain't got no bank-roll an' no credit like you has, Colonel—that's what makes them see their errors—an' the plain trooth is they ain't had nothin' to drink for twenty-four hours. That's why I don't take nothin'. It would shore seem invidious for me to be settin' yere h'istin' in my nose-paint, an' my pore comrades lookin' he'plessly on; that's whatever! I'm too much a friend of labor to do it, Colonel.'
"'What!' says Boggs, quite wrought up; 'do you-all mean to tell me them onhappy sports ain't had a drink since yesterday? It's a stain on the camp! Whoopee, barkeep! see what them gents will have; an' keep seein' what they'll have endoorin' this conference.'
"'Jim,' says the Colonel, mighty reluctant, 'ain't you-all abandonin' your p'sition prematoor? Thar's somethin' doo to a principle, Jim. I'd rather looked for a continyooation of this estrangement for a while at least. I'd shore take time to consider it before ever I'd let this strike c'llapse.'
"'That's all right, Colonel,' says the head-printer, 'about c'llapsin'; an' I onderstands your feelin's an' symp'thises tharwith. But I've explained to you the financial condition of this movement. Thar stands the boys, pourin' in the first fire-water that has passed their lips for a day. An' you knows, Colonel, no gent, nor set of gents, can conduct strikes to a successful issue without whiskey.'
"'But, Jim,' pleads the Colonel, who hates to come off his vacation, 'if I fixes the Red Light say for fifteen drinks all 'round each day, don't you reckon you can prevail on them recalcitrant printers to put this reeconciliation off a week?'
"However, Enright, who at this p'int comes trailin' in, takes up the head-printer's side, an' shows the Colonel it's his dooty.
"'You owes it to the Wolfville public, Colonel,' says Enright. 'The Coyote has now been suppressed two days. We-all has been deprived of our daily enlightenment an' our intellects is boggin' down. For two entire days Wolfville has been in darkness as to worldly events, an' is right now knockin' 'round in the problem of existence like a blind dog in a meat shop. Your attitoode of delay, Colonel, is impossible; the public requests your return. If you ain't back at the Coyote office to-morry mornin' by second drink time, dealin' your wonted game, I wouldn't ondertake to state what shape a jest pop'lar resentment will assoome.'
"'An', of course,' observes the Colonel with a sigh, 'when you-all puts it in that loocid an' convincin' way, Enright, thar's no more to be said. The strike is now over an' the last kyard dealt. Jim, you an' me an' them printers will return to the vineyard of our efforts. This over-work may be onderminin' me, but Wolfville shall not call to me in vain.'"
The Grinding of Dave Tutt.
"Yes," said the Old Cattleman, as he took off his sombrero and contemplated the rattlesnake band which environed the crown, "cow- punchers is queer people. They needs a heap of watchin' an' herdin'. I knowed one by the name of Stevenson down on the Turkey Track, as merits plenty of lookin' after. This yere Stevenson ain't exactly ornery; but bein' restless, an' with a disp'sition to be emphatic whenever he's fillin' himse'f up, keepin' your eye on him is good, safe jedgment. He is public-sperited, too, an' sometimes takes lots of pains to please folks an' be pop'lar.
"I recalls once when we're bringin' up a beef herd from the Panhandle country. We're ag'in the south bank of the Arkansaw, tryin' to throw the herd across. Thar's a bridge, but the natifs allows it's plenty weak, so we're makin' the herd swim. Steve is posted at the mouth of the bridge, to turn back any loose cattle that takes a notion to try an' cross that a-way. Thar's nothin' much to engage Steve's faculties, an' he's a-settin' on his bronco, an' both is mighty near asleep. Some women people—from the far East, I reckons—as is camped in town, comes over on the bridge to see us cross the herd. They've lined out clost up to Steve, a-leanin' of their young Eastern chins on the top rail.
"'Which I don't regyard this much,' says one young woman; 'thar's no thrill into it. Whyever don't they do somethin' excitin'?'
"Steve observes with chagrin that this yere lady is displeased; an', as he can't figger nothin' else out quick to entertain her, he gives a whoop, slams his six-shooter off into the scenery, socks his spurs into the pony, an' hops himse'f over the side of the bridge a whole lot into the shallow water below. The jump is some twenty feet an' busts the pony's laigs like toothpicks; also it breaks Steve's collarbone an' disperses his feachers 'round some free an' frightful on account of his sort o' lightin' on his face.
"Well, we shoots the pony; an' Steve rides in the grub wagon four or five days recooperatin'. It's jest the mercy of hell he don't break his neck.
"'Whatever do you jump off for?' I asks Steve when he's comin' 'round.
"'Which I performs said equestrianisms to amoose that she-shorthorn who is cussin' us out.' says Steve 'I ain't permittin' for her to go back to the States, malignin' of us cow-men.'
"Steve gets himse'f downed a year after, an' strikes out for new ranges in the skies. He's over on the upper Red River when he gets creased. He's settin' into a poker game.
"Steve never oughter gambled none. He is a good cow-boy—splendid round-up hand—an' can do his day's work with rope or iron in a brandin' pen with anybody; but comin' right to cases, he don't know no more about playin' poker than he does about preachin'. Actooally, he'd back two pa'r like thar's no record of their bein' beat. This yere, of course, leads to frequent poverty, but it don't confer no wisdom on Steve.
"On this o'casion, when they ships Steve for the realms of light, one of the boys gets a trey-full; Steve being possessed of a heart flush, nine at the head. In two minutes he don't have even his blankets left.
"After he's broke, Steve h'ists in a drink or two an' sours 'round a whole lot; an' jest as the trey-full boy gets into his saddle, Steve comes roamin' along up an' hails him.
"'Pard,' says Steve, a heap gloomy, 'I've been tryin' to school myse'f to b'ar it, but it don't go. Tharfore, I'm yere to say you steals that pa'r of kings as completed my rooin. Comin' to them decisions, I'm goin' to call on you for that bric-a-brac I lose, an' I looks to gain some fav'rable replies.'
"'Oh, you do, do you!' says the trey-full boy. 'Which you-all is a heap too sanguine. Do you reckon I gives up the frootes of a trey- full—as hard a hand to hold as that is? You can go ten to one I won't: not this round-up! Sech requests is preepost'rous!'
"'Don't wax flippant about this yere robbery, says Steve. 'It's enough to be plundered without bein' insulted by gayeties. Now, what I says is this: Either I gets my stuff, or I severs our relations with a gun.' An' tharupon Steve pulls his pistol an' takes hold of the trey-full boy's bridle. "'If thar's one thing makes me more weary than another,' says the trey-full boy, 'it's a gun play; an' to avoid sech exhibitions I freely returns your plunder. But you an' me don't play kyards no more.'
"Whereupon, the trey-full boy gets off his hoss, an' Steve, allowin' the debate is closed, puts up his gun. Steve is preematoor. The next second, 'bang!' goes the trey-full boy's six-shooter, the bullet gets Steve in the neck, with them heavenly results I yeretofore onfolds, an' at first drink time that evenin' we has a hasty but successful fooneral.
"'I don't reckon,' says Wat Peacock, who is range boss, 'thar's need of havin' any law-suits about this yere killin'. I knows Steve for long an' likes him. But I'm yere to announce that them idees he fosters concerinin' the valyoo of poker hands, onreasonable an' plumb extrav'gant as they shorely is, absolootely preeclooded Steve's reachin' to old age. An' Steve has warnin's. Once when he tries to get his life insured down in Austin, he's refoosed.
"'"In a five-hand game, table stakes, what is a pair of aces worth before the draw?" is one of them questions that company asks.
"'"Table stakes?" says Steve. "Every chip you've got."
"'"That settles it, says the company; "we don't want no sech resk. Thar never is sech recklessness! You won't live a year; you're lucky to be alive right now." An' they declines to insure Steve.'
"However," continued my friend musingly, "I've been puttin' it up to myself, that mighty likely I does wrong to tell you these yere tales. Which you're ignorant of cow folks, an' for me to go onloadin' of sech revelations mebby gives you impressions that's a lot erroneous. Now I reckons from that one eepisode you half figgers cow people is morose an' ferocious as a bunch?"
As the old gentleman gave his tones the inflection of inquiry, I hastened to interpose divers flattering denials. His recitals had inspired an admiration for cow men rather than the reverse.
This setting forth of my approval pleased him. He gave me his word that I in no sort assumed too much in the matter. Cow men, he asserted, were a light-hearted brood; over-cheerful, perhaps, at times, and seeking amusement in ways beyond the understanding of the East; but safe, upright, and of splendid generosity. Eager to correct within me any mal-effects of the tragedy just told, he recalled the story of a Tucson day of merry relaxation with Dave Tutt. He opined that it furnished a picture of the people of cows in lighter, brighter colors, and so gave me details with a sketchy gladness.
"Which you're acc'rate in them thoughts," he said, referring to my word that I held cow folk to be engaging characters. After elevating his spirit with a clove, He went forward. "Thar ain't much paw an' bellow to a cowboy. Speakin' gen'ral, an' not allowin' for them inflooences which disturbs none—I adverts to mescal an' monte, an' sech abnormalities—he's passive an' easy; no more harm into him than a jack rabbit.
"Of course he has his moods to be merry, an' mebby thar's hours when he's gay to the p'int of over-play. But his heart's as straight as a rifle bar'l every time.
"It's a day I puts in with Dave Tutt which makes what these yere law-sharps calls 'a case in p'int,' an' which I relates without reserve. It gives you some notion of how a cowboy, havin' a leesure hour, onbuckles an' is happy nacheral.
"This yere is prior to Dave weddin' Tucson Jennie. I'm pirootin' 'round Tucson with Dave at the time, Dave's workin' a small bunch of cattle, 'way over near the Cow Springs, an' is in Tucson for a rest. We've been sloshin' 'round the Oriental all day, findin' new virchoos in the whiskey, an' amoosin' ourse'fs at our own expense, when about fifth drink time in the evenin' Dave allows he's some sick of sech revels, an' concloods he'll p'int out among the 'dobys, sort o' explorin' things up a lot. Which we tharupon goes in concert.
"I ain't frothin' at the mouth none to go myse'f, not seein' reelaxation in pokin' about permiscus among a passel of Mexicans, an' me loathin' of 'em from birth; but I goes, aimin' to ride herd on Dave. Which his disp'sition is some free an' various; an' bein' among Mexicans, that a-way, he's liable to mix himse'f into trouble. Not that Dave is bad, none whatever; but bein' seven or eight drinks winner, an' of that Oriental whiskey, too, it broadens him an' makes him feel friendly, an' deloodes him into claimin' acquaintance with people he never does know, an' refoosin' to onderstand how they shows symptoms of doubt. So we capers along; Dave warblin' 'The Death of Sam Bass' in the coyote key.
"The senoras an' senoritas, hearin' the row, would look out an' smile, an' Dave would wave his big hat an' whoop from glee. If he starts toward 'em, aimin' for a powwow—which he does frequent, bein' a mighty amiable gent that a-way—they carols forth a squawk immediate an' shets the door. Dave goes on. Mebby he gives the door a kick or two, a-proclaimin' of his discontent.
"All at once, while we're prowlin' up one of them spacious alleys a Mexican thinks is a street, we comes up on a Eytalian with a music outfit which he's grindin'. This yere music ain't so bad, an' I hears a heap worse strains. As soon as Dave sees him he tries to figger on a dance, but the 'local talent' declines to dance with him.
"'In which event,' says Dave, 'I plays a lone hand."
"So Dave puts up a small dance, like a Navajo, accompanyin' of himse'f with outcries same as a Injun. But the Eytalian don't play Dave's kind of music, an' the bailee comes to a halt.
"'Whatever is the matter with this yere tune-box, anyhow?' says Dave. 'Gimme the music for a green-corn dance, an' don't make no delay.' "'This yere gent can't play no green-corn dance,' I says.
"'He can't, can't he?' says Dave; 'wait till he ropes at it once. I knows this gent of yore. I meets him two years ago in El Paso; which me an' him shorely shakes up that village.'
"'Whatever is his name, then?' I asks.
"'Antonio Marino,' says the Eytalian.
"'Merino?' says Dave; 'that's right. I recalls it, 'cause it makes me think at the jump he's a sheep man, an' I gets plumb hostile.'
"'I never sees you,' says the Eytalian.
"'Yes you do,' says Dave; 'you jest think you didn't see me. We drinks together, an' goes out an' shoots up the camp, arm an' arm.'
"But the Eytalian insists he never meets Dave. This makes Dave ugly a lot, an' before I gets to butt in an' stop it, he outs with his six-shooter, an' puts a hole into the music-box.'
"'These yere tunes I hears so far,' says Dave, 'is too frivolous; I figgers that oughter sober 'em down a whole lot.'
"When Dave shoots, the Eytalian party heaves the strap of his hewgag over his head, an' flies. Dave grabs the music-box, keepin' it from fallin', an' then begins turnin' the crank to try it. It plays all right, only every now an' then thar's a hole into the melody like it's lost a tooth.
"'This yere's good enough for a dog!' says Dave, a-twistin' away on the handle. 'Where's this yere Merino? Whatever is the matter with that shorthorn? Why don't he stand his hand?'
"But Merino ain't noomerous no more; so Dave allows it's a shame to let it go that a-way, an' Mexicans sufferin' for melody. With that he straps on the tune-box, an' roams 'round from one 'doby to another, turnin' it loose.
"'How long does Merino deal his tunes,' says Dave, 'before he c'llects? However, I makes new rooles for the game, right yere. I plays these cadences five minutes; an' then I gets action on 'em for five. I splits even with these Mexicans, which is shorely fair.'
"So Dave twists away for five minutes, an' me a-timin' of him, an' then leans the hewgag up ag'in a 'doby, an' starts in to make a round-up. He'll tackle a household, sort o' terrorisin' at 'em with his gun; an' tharupon the members gets that generous they even negotiates loans an' thrusts them proceeds on Dave. That's right; they're that ambitious to donate.
"One time he runs up on a band of tenderfeet, who's skallyhootin' 'round; an' they comes up an' bends their y'ears a-while. They're turnin' to go jest before c'llectin' time.
"'Hold on,' says Dave, pickin' up his Colt's offen the top of the hewgag; 'don't get cold feet. Which I've seen people turn that kyard in church, but you bet you don't jump no game of mine that a-way. You-all line up ag'in the wall thar ontil I tucks the blankets in on this yere outbreak in F flat, an' I'll be with you.'
"When Dave winds up, he goes along the line of them tremblin' towerists, an' they contreebutes 'leven dollars.
"'They aims to go stampedin' off with them nocturnes, an' 'peggios, an' arias, an' never say nothin',' says Dave; 'but they can't work no twist like that, an' me a-ridin' herd; none whatever.'
"Dave carries on sim'lar for three hours; an' what on splits, an' what on bets he wins, he's over a hundred dollars ahead. But at last he's plumb fatigued, an' allows he'll quit an' call it a day. So he packs the tom-tom down to Franklin's office. Franklin is marshal of Tucson, an' Dave turns over the layout an' the money, an' tells Franklin to round up Merino an' enrich him tharwith.
"'Where is this yere Dago?' says Franklin.
"'However do I know?' says Dave. 'Last I notes of him, he's canterin' off among the scenery like antelopes.'
"It's at this p'int Merino comes to view. He starts in to be a heap dejected about that bullet; but when he gets Dave's donation that a- way, his hopes revives. He begins to regyard it as a heap good scheme.
"'But you'll have to cirkle up to the alcalde, Tutt,' says Franklin. 'I ain't shore none you ain't been breakin' some law.'
"Dave grumbles, an' allows Tucson is gettin' a heap too staid for him.
"'It's gettin' so,' says Dave, 'a free American citizen don't obtain no encouragements. Yere I puts in half a day, amassin' wealth for a foreign gent who is settin' in bad luck; an' elevatin' Mexicans, who shorely needs it, an' for a finish I'm laid for by the marshal like a felon.'
"Well, we-all goes surgin' over to the alcalde's. Franklin, Dave an' the alcalde does a heap of pokin' about to see whatever crimes, if any, Dave's done. Which they gets by the capture of the hewgag, an' shootin' that bullet into its bowels don't bother 'em a bit. Even Dave's standin' up them towerists, an' the rapine that ensoos don't worry 'em none; but the question of the music itse'f sets the alcalde to buckin'.
"'I'm shorely depressed to say it, Dave,' says the alcalde, who is a sport named Steele, 'but you've been a-bustin' of ord'nances about playin' music on the street without no license.'
"'Can't we-all beat the game no way?' says Dave.
"'Which I shorely don't see how,' says the alcalde.
"'Nor me neither,' says Franklin.
"'Whatever is the matter with counter-brandin' them tunes over to Merino's license?' says Dave.
"'Can't do it nohow,' says the alcalde.
"'Well, is this yere ord'nance accordin' to Hoyle an' the Declaration of Independence?' says Dave. 'I don't stand it none onless.'
"'Shore!' says the alcalde.
"'Ante an' pass the buck, then,' says Dave. 'I'm a law-abidin' citizen, an' all I wants is a squar' deal from the warm deck.'
"So they fines Dave fifty dollars for playin' them harmonies without no license. Dave asks me later not to mention this yere outcome in Wolfville, an' I never does. But yere it's different."
The Feud of Pickles.
"Thar's a big crowd in Wolfville that June day." The Old Cattleman tilted his chair back and challenged my interest with his eye. "The corrals is full of pack mules an' bull teams an' wagon-trains; an' white men, Mexicans, half-breeds an' Injuns is a-mixin' an' meanderin' 'round, a-lyin' an' a-laughin' an' a-drinkin' of Red Light whiskey mighty profuse. Four or five mule skinners has their long limber sixteen-foot whips, which is loaded with dust-shot from butt to tip, an' is crackin' of 'em at a mark. I've seen one of these yere mule experts with the most easy, delicate, delib'rate twist of the wrist make his whip squirm in the air like a hurt snake; an' then he'll straighten it out with the crack of twenty rifles, an' the buckskin popper cuts a hole in a loose buffalo robe he's hung up; an' all without investin' two ounces of actooal strength. Several of us Wolfville gents is on the sidewalk in front of the O. K. Restauraw, applaudin' of the good shots, when Dave Tutt speaks up to Jack Moore, next to me, an' says:
"'Jack, you minds that old Navajo you downs over on the San Simon last Fall?'"
"'I minds him mighty cl'ar,' says Jack. 'He's stealin' my Alizan hoss at the time, an' I can prove it by his skelp on my bridle now.'
"'Well,' says Dave, p'intin' to a ornery, saddle-colored half-breed who's makin' himse'f some frequent, 'that Injun they calls "Pickles" is his nephy, an' you wants to look out a whole lot. I hears him allow that the killin' of his relatif is mighty rank, an' that he don't like it nohow.'
"'That's all right,' says Jack; 'Pickles an' me has been keepin' cases on each other an hour; an' I'll post you-all private, if he goes to play hoss a little bit, him an' his oncle will be able to talk things over before night.'
"Which it's mighty soon when Pickles comes along where we be.
"'Hello, Jack,' he says, an' his manner is insultin'; 'been makin' it smoky down on the old San Simon lately?'
"'No; not since last fall,' says Jack, plenty light an' free; 'an' now I thinks of it, I b'lieves I sees that Navajo hoss-thief of an oncle of yours when I'm down thar last. I ain't run up on him none lately, though. Where do you-all reckon he's done 'loped to?'
"'Can't say, myse'f,' says Pickles, with a kind o' wicked cheerfulness; 'our fam'ly has a round-up of itse'f over on B'ar Creek last spring, an' I don't count his nose among 'em none. Mebby he has an engagement, an' can't get thar. Mebby he's out squanderin' 'round in the high grass some'ers. Great man to go 'round permiscus, that Injun is.'
"'You see,' says Jack, 'I don't know but he might be dead. Which the time I speaks of, I'm settin' in camp one day. Something attracts me, an' I happens to look up, an' thar's my hoss, Alizan, with a perfect stranger on him, pitchin' an' buckin', an' it looks like he's goin' to cripple that stranger shore. Pickles, you knows me! I'd lose two hosses rather than have a gent I don't know none get hurt. So I grabs my Winchester an' allows to kill Alizan. But it's a new gun; an' you know what new sights is—coarse as sandburrs; you could drag a dog through 'em—an' I holds too high. I fetches the stranger, "bang!" right back of his left y'ear, an' the bullet comes outen his right y'ear. You can bet the limit, I never am so displeased with my shootin'. The idee of me holdin' four foot too high in a hundred yards! I never is that embarrassed! I'm so plumb disgusted an' ashamed, I don't go near that equestrian stranger till after I finishes my grub. Alizan, he comes up all shiverin' an' sweatin' an' stands thar; an' mebby in a hour or so I strolls out to the deceased. It shorely wearies me a whole lot when I sees him; he's nothin' but a common Digger buck. You can drink on it if I ain't relieved. Bein' a no-account Injun, of course, I don't paw him over much for brands; but do you know, Pickles, from the casooal glance I gives, it strikes me at the time it's mighty likely to be your oncle. This old bronco fancier's skelp is over on my bridle, if you thinks you'd know it.'
"'No,' says Pickles, mighty onconcerned, 'it can't be my oncle nohow. If he's one of my fam'ly, it would be your ha'r on his bridle. It must be some old shorthorn of a Mohave you downs. Let's all take a drink on it.'
"So we-all goes weavin' over to the Red Light, Jack an' Pickles surveyin' each other close an' interested, that a-way, an' the rest of us on the quee vee, to go swarmin' out of range if they takes to shootin'.
"'It's shore sad to part with friends,' says Pickles, as he secretes his nose-paint, 'but jest the same I must saddle an' stampede out of yere. I wants to see that old villyun, Tom Cooke, an' I don't reckon none I'll find him any this side of Prescott, neither. Be you thinkin' of leavin' camp yourse'f, Jack?'
"'I don't put it up I'll leave for a long time,' says Jack. 'Mebby not for a month—mebby it's even years before I go wanderin' off—so don't go to makin' no friendly, quiet waits for me nowhere along the route, Pickles, 'cause you'd most likely run out of water or chuck or something before ever I trails up.'
"It ain't long when Pickles saddles up an' comes chargin' 'round on his little buckskin hoss. Pickles takes to cuttin' all manner of tricks, reachin' for things on the ground, snatchin' off Mexicans' hats, an' jumpin' his pony over wagon tongues an' camp fixin's. All the time he's whoopin' an' yellin' an' carryin' on, an havin' a high time all by himse'f. Which you can see he's gettin' up his blood an' nerve, reg'lar Injun fashion.
"Next he takes down his rope an' goes to whirlin' that. Two or three times he comes flashin' by where we be, an' I looks to see him make a try at Jack. But he's too far back, or thar's too many 'round Jack, or Pickles can't get the distance, or something; for he don't throw it none, but jest keeps yellin' an' ridin' louder an' faster. Pickles shorely puts up a heap of riot that a-way! It's now that Enright calls to Pickles.
"'Look yere, Pickles,' he says, 'I've passed the word to the five best guns in camp to curl you up if you pitch that rope once. Bein' as the news concerns you, personal, I allows it's nothin' more'n friendly to tell you. Then ag'in, I don't like to lose the Red Light sech a customer like you till it's a plumb case of crowd.'
"When Enright vouchsafes this warnin', Pickles swings down an' leaves his pony standin', an' comes over.
"'Do you know, Jack,' he says, 'I don't like the onrespectful tones wherein you talks of Injuns. I'm Injun, part, myse'f, an' I don't like it.'
"'No?' says Jack; 'I s'pose that's a fact, too. An' yet, Pickles, not intendin' nothin' personal, for I wouldn't be personal with a prairie dog, I'm not only onrespectful of Injuns, an' thinks the gov'ment ought to pay a bounty for their skelps, but I states beliefs that a hoss-stealin', skulkin' mongrel of a half-breed is lower yet; I holdin' he ain't even people—ain't nothin', in fact. But to change the subjeck, as well as open an avenoo for another round of drinks, I'll gamble, Pickles, that you-all stole that hoss down thar, an' that the "7K" brand on his shoulder ain't no brand at all, but picked on with the p'int of a knife.'
"When Jack puts it all over Pickles that a-way, we looks for shootin' shore. But Pickles can't steady himse'f on the call. He's like ponies I've met. He'll ride right at a thing as though he's goin' plumb through or over, an' at the last second he quits an' flinches an' weakens. Son, it ain't Pickles' fault. Thar ain't no breed of gent but the pure white who can play a desp'rate deal down through, an' call the turn for life or death at the close; an' Pickles, that a-way, is only half white. So he laughs sort o' ugly at Jack's bluff, an' allows he orders drinks without no wagers.
"'An' then, Jack,' he says, 'I wants you to come feed with me. I'll have Missis Rucker burn us up something right.'
"'I'll go you,' says Jack, 'if it ain't nothin' but salt hoss.'
"'I'll fix you-all folks up a feed,' says Missis Rucker, a heap grim, 'but you don't do no banquetin' in no dinin' room of mine. I'll spread your grub in the camp-house, t'other side the corral, an' you-all can then be as sociable an' smoky as you please. Which you'll be alone over thar, an' can conduct the reepast in any fashion to suit yourse'fs. But you don't get into the dinin' room reg'lar, an' go to weedin' out my boarders accidental, with them feuds of yours.'
"After a little, their grub's got ready in the camp house. It's a jo-darter of a feed, with cake, pie, airtights, an' the full game, an' Jack an' Pickles walks over side an' side. They goes in alone an' shets the door. In about five minutes, thar's some emphatic remarks by two six-shooters, an' we-all goes chargin' to find out. We discovers Jack eatin' away all right; Pickles is the other side, with his head in his tin plate, his intellects runnin' out over his eye. Jack's shore subdooed that savage for all time.
"'It don't look like Pickles is hungry none,' says Jack.
"They both pulls their weepons as they sets down, an' puts 'em in their laps; but bein' bred across, that a-way, Pickles can't stand the strain. He gets nervous an' grabs for his gun; the muzzle catches onder the table-top, an' thar's his bullet all safe in the wood. Jack, bein' clean strain American, has better luck, an' Pickles is got. Shore, it's right an' on the squar'!
"'You sees,' says Dan Boggs, 'this killin's bound to be right from the jump. It comes off by Pickles' earnest desire; Jack couldn't refoose. He would have lost both skelp an' standin' if he had. Which, however, if this yere 'limination of Pickles has got to have a name, my idee is to call her a case of self-deestruction on Pickles' part, an' let it go at that.'"
Johnny Florer's Axle Grease.
It was the afternoon—cool and beautiful. I had been nursing my indolence with a cigar and one of the large arm-chairs which the veranda of the great hotel afforded. Now and then I considered within myself as to the whereabouts of my Old Cattleman, and was in a half humor to hunt him up. Just as my thoughts were hardening into decision in that behalf, a high, wavering note, evidently meant for song, came floating around the corner of the house, from the veranda on the end. The singer was out of range of eye, but I knew him for my aged friend. Thus he gave forth:
"Dogville, Dogville! A tavern an' a still, That's all thar is in all Dog-ville."
"How do you feel to-day?" I asked as I took a chair near the venerable musician. "Happy and healthy, I trust?"
"Never feels better in my life," responded the Old Cattleman. "If I was to feel any better, I'd shorely go an' see a doctor."
"You are a singer, I observe."
"I'm melodious nacheral, but I'm gettin' so I sort o' stumbles in my notes. Shoutin' an' singin' 'round a passel of cattle to keep 'em from stampedin' on bad nights has sp'iled my voice, that a-way. Thar's nothin' so weakenin', vocal, as them efforts in the open air an' in the midst of the storms an' the elements. What for a song is that I'm renderin'? Son, I learns that ballad long ago, back when I'm a boy in old Tennessee. It's writ, word and music, by little Mollie Hines, who lives with her pap, old Homer Hines, over on the 'Possum Trot. Mollie Hines is shore a poet, an' has a mighty sight of fame, local. She's what you-all might call a jo-darter of a poet, Mollie is; an' let anythin' touchin' or romantic happen anywhere along the 'Possum Trot, so as to give her a subjeck, an' Mollie would be down on it, instanter, like a fallin' star. She shorely is a verse maker, an' is known in the Cumberland country as 'The Nightingale of Big Bone Lick.' I remembers when a Shylock over to the Dudleytown bank forecloses a mortgage on old Homer Hines, an' offers his settlements at public vandue that a-way, how Mollie prances out an' pours a poem into the miscreant. Thar's a hundred an' 'levcn verses into it, an' each one like a bullet outen a Winchester. It goes like this: "Thar's a word to be uttered to the rich man in his pride. (Which a gent is frequent richest when it's jest before he died!) Thar's a word to be uttered to the hawg a-eatin' truck. (Which a hawg is frequent fattest when it's jest before he's stuck!)
"Mighty sperited epick, that! You recalls that English preacher sharp that comes squanderin' 'round the tavern yere for his health about a month ago? Shore! I knows you couldn't have overlooked no bet like that divine. Well, that night in them parlors, when he reads some rhymes in a book,—whatever is that piece he reads? Locksley Hall; right you be, son! As I was sayin', when he's through renderin' said Locksley Hall, he comes buttin' into a talk with me where I'm camped in a corner all cosy as a toad onder a cabbage leaf, reecoverin' myse'f with licker from them recitals of his, an' he says to me, this parson party does:
"'Which it's shorely a set-back America has no poets,' says he.
"'It's evident,' I says, 'that you never hears of Mollie Hines.'
"'No, never once,' he replies; 'is this yere Miss Hines a poet?'
"Is Mollie Hines a poet!' I repeats, for my scorn at the mere idee kind o' stiffens its knees an' takes to buckin' some. 'Mollie Hines could make that Locksley Hall gent you was readin' from, or even the party who writes Watt's Hymns, go to the diskyard.' An' then I repeats some forty of them stanzas, whereof that one I jest now recites is a speciment.
"What does this pulpit gent say? He see I has him cinched, an' he's plumb mute. He confines himse'f to turnin' up his nose in disgust like Bill Storey does when his father-in-law horsewhips him."
Following this, the Old Cattleman and I wrapped ourselves in thoughtful smoke, for the space of five minutes, as ones who pondered the genius of "The Nightingale of Big Bone Lick"—Mollie Hines on the banks of the Possom Trot. At last my friend broke forth with a question.
"Whoever is them far-off folks you-all was tellin' me is related to Injuns?"
"The Japanese." I replied. "Undoubtedly the Indians and the Japanese are of the same stock."
"Which I'm foaled like a mule," said the old gentleman, "a complete prey to inborn notions ag'in Injuns. I wouldn't have one pesterin' 'round me more'n I'd eat off en the same plate with a snake. I shore has aversions to 'em a whole lot. Of course, I never sees them Japs, but I saveys Injuns from feathers to moccasins, an' comparin' Japs to Injuns, I feels about 'em like old Bill Rawlins says about his brother Jim's wife."
"And how was that?" I asked.
The afternoon was lazy and good, and I in a mood to listen to my rambling grey comrade talk of anybody or anything.
"It's this a-way," he began. "This yere Bill an' Jim Rawlins is brothers an' abides in Roanoke, Virginny. They splits up in their yooth, an' Jim goes p'intin' out for the West. Which he shore gets thar, an' nothin' is heard of him for forty years.
"Bill Rawlins, back in Roanoke, waxes a heap rich, an' at last clears up his game an' resolves lie takes a rest. Also he concloods to travel; an' as long as he's goin' to travel, he allows he'll sort o' go projectin' 'round an' see if he can't locate Jim.
"He gets a old an' musty tip about Jim, this Bill Rawlins does, an' it works out all right. Bill cuts Jim's trail 'way out yonder on the Slope at a meetropolis called Los Angeles. But this yere Jim ain't thar none. The folks tells Bill they reckons Jim is over to Virginny City.
"It's a month later, an' Bill is romancin' along on one of them Nevada mountain-meadow trails, when he happens upon a low, squatty dugout, the same bein' a camp rather than a house, an' belongs with a hay ranche. In the door is standin' a most ornery seemin' gent, with long, tangled ha'r an' beard, an' his clothes looks like he's shorely witnessed times. The hands of this ha'ry gent is in his pockets, an' he exhibits a mighty soopercilious air. Bill pulls up his cayouse for a powwow.
"How far is it to a place where I can camp down for the night?' asks Bill.
"'It's about twenty miles to the next wickeyup,' says the soopercilious gent.
"'Which I can't make it none to-night, then,' says Bill.
"'Not on that hoss,' says the soopercilious gent, for Bill's pony that a-way is plenty played.
"'Mebby, then,' says Bill, ' I'd better bunk in yere.'
"'You can gamble you-all don't sleep yere,' says the soopercilious gent; 'none whatever!'
'An' why not?' asks Bill.
"'Because I won't let you,' says the soopercilious gent, a-bitin' off a piece of tobacco. 'This is my camp, an' force'ble invasions by casooal hold-ups like you, don't preevail with me a little bit. I resents the introosion on my privacy.'
"'But I'll have to sleep on these yere plains,' says Bill a heap plaintif.
"'Thar's better sports than you-all slept on them plains,' says the soopercilious gent.
"Meanwhile, thar's a move or two, speshully the way he bats his eyes, about this soopercilious gent that sets Bill to rummagin' 'round in his mem'ry. At last he asks:
"'Is your name Rawlins?'
"'Yes, sir, my name's Rawlins,' says the soopercilious gent.
"'Jim Rawlins of Roanoke?'
"'Jim Rawlins of Roanoke;' an' the soopercilious gent reaches inside the door of the dugout, searches forth a rifle an' pumps a cartridge into the bar'l.
"'Stan' your hand, Jim!' says Bill, at the same time slidin' to the ground with the hoss between him an' his relatif; 'don't get impetyoous. I'm your brother Bill.'
"'What!' says the soopercilious gent, abandonin' them hostile measures, an' joy settlin' over his face. 'What!' he says; 'you my brother Bill? Well, don't that beat grizzly b'ars amazin'! Come in, Bill, an' rest your hat. Which it's simply the tenderness of hell I don't miss you.'
"Whereupon Bill an' Jim tracks along inside an' goes to canvassin' up an' down as to what ensooes doorin' them forty years they've been parted. Jim wants to know all about Roanoke an' how things stacks up in old Virginny, an' he's chuckin' in his questions plenty rapid.
"While Bill's replyin', his eye is caught by a frightful-lookin' female who goes slyin' in an' out, a-organizin' of some grub. She's the color of a saddle, an' Bill can't make out whether she's a white, a Mexican, a Digger Injun or a nigger. An' she's that hideous, this female is, she comes mighty near givin' Bill heart failure. Son, you-all can't have no idee how turribie this person looks. She's so ugly the flies won't light on her. Yes, sir! ugly enough to bring sickness into a fam'ly. Bill can feel all sorts o' horrors stampedin' about in his frame as he gazes on her. Her eyes looks like two bullet holes in a board, an' the rest of her feachers is tetotaciously indeescrib'ble. Bill's intellects at the awful sight of this yere person almost loses their formation, as army gents would say. At last Bill gets in a question on his rapid-fire relatif, who's shootin' him up with queries touchin' Roanoke to beat a royal flush.
"'Jim,' says Bill, sort o' scared like, 'whoever is this yere lady who's roamin' the scene?'
"'Well, thar now!' says Jim, like he's plumb disgusted, 'I hope my gun may hang fire, if I don't forget to introdooce you! Bill, that's my wife.'
"Then Jim goes surgin' off all spraddled out about the noomerous an' manifest excellencies of this female, an' holds forth alarmin' of an' concernin' her virchoos an' loveliness of face an' form, an' all to sech a scand'lous degree, Bill has to step outdoors to blush.
"'An', Bill,' goes on Jim, an' he's plumb rapturous, that a-way, 'may I never hold three of a kind ag'in, if she ain't got a sister who's as much like her as two poker chips. I'm co'tin' both of 'em mighty near four years before ever I can make up my mind whichever of 'em I needs. They're both so absolootely sim'lar for beauty, an' both that aloorin' to the heart, I simply can't tell how to set my stack down. At last, after four years, I ups an' cuts the kyards for it, an' wins out this one.'
"'Well, Jim,' says Bill, who's been settin' thar shudderin' through them rhapsodies, an' now an' then gettin' a glimpse of this yere female with the tail of his eye: 'Well, Jim, far be it from me, an' me your brother, to go avouchin' views to make you feel doobious of your choice. But candor's got the drop on me an' compels me to speak my thoughts. I never sees this sister of your wife, Jim, but jest the same, I'd a heap sight rather have her.'
"An' as I observes previous," concluded the old gentleman, "I feels about Japs an' Injuns like Bill does about Jim's wife that time. I never sees no Japs, but I'd a mighty sight rather have 'em."
There was another pause after this, and cigars were produced. For a time the smoke curled in silence. Then my friend again took up discussion.
"Thar comes few Injuns investigatin' into Wolfville. Doorin' them emutes of Cochise, an' Geronimo, an' Nana, the Apaches goes No'th an' South clost in by that camp of ours, but you bet! they're never that locoed as to rope once at Wolfville. We-all would shorely have admired to entertain them hostiles; but as I su'gests, they're a heap too enlightened to give us a chance.
"Savages never finds much encouragement to come ha'ntin' about Wolfville. About the first visitin' Injun meets with a contreetemps; though this is inadvertent a heap an' not designed. This buck, a Navajo, I takes it, from his feathers, has been pirootin' about for a day or two. At last I reckons he allows he'll eelope off into the foothills ag'in. As carryin' out them roode plans which he forms, he starts to scramble onto the Tucson stage jest as Old Monte's c'llectin' up his reins. But it don't go; Injuns is barred. The gyard, who's perched up in front next to Old Monte, pokes this yere aborigine in the middle of his face with the muzzle of his rifle; an' as the Injun goes tumblin', the stage starts, an' both wheels passes over him the longest way. That Injun gives a groan like twenty sinners, an his lamp is out.
"Old Monte sets the brake an' climbs down an' sizes up the remainder. Then he gets back on the box, picks up his six hosses an' is gettin' out.
"'Yere, you!' says French, who's the Wells-Fargo agent, a-callin' after Old Monte, 'come back an' either plant your game or pack it with you. I'm too busy a gent to let you or any other blinded drunkard go leavin' a fooneral at my door. Thar's enough to do here as it is, an' I don't want no dead Injuns on my hands.'
"'Don't put him up thar an' go sp'ilin' them mail-bags,' howls Old Monte, as French an' a hoss-hustler from inside the corral lays hold of the Navajo to throw him on with the baggage.
"'Then come down yere an' ride herd on the play yourse'f, you murderin' sot!' says French.
"An' with that, he shore cuts loose an' cusses Old Monte frightful; cusses till a cottonwood tree in front of the station sheds all its leaves, an' he deadens the grass for a hundred yards about.
"'Promotin' a sepulcher in this rock-ribbed landscape,' says French, as Jack Moore comes up, kind o' apol'gisin' for his profane voylence at Old Monte; 'framin' up a tomb, I say, in this yere rock-ribbed landscape ain't no child's play, an' I'm not allowin' none for that homicide Monte to put no sech tasks on me. He knows the Wolfville roole. Every gent skins his own polecats an' plants his own prey.'
"'That's whatever!' says Jack Moore, 'an' onless Old Monte is thirstin' for trouble in elab'rate forms, he acquiesces tharin.'
"With that Old Monte hitches the Navajo to the hind axle with a lariat which French brings out, an' then the stage, with the savage coastin' along behind, goes rackin' off to the No'th. Later, Monte an' the passengers hangs this yere remainder up in a pine tree, at an Injun crossin' in the hills, as a warnin'. Whether it's a warnin' or no, we never learns; all that's shore is that the remainder an' the lariat is gone next day; but whatever idees the other Injuns entertains of the play is, as I once hears a lecture sharp promulgate, 'concealed with the customary stoicism of the American savage.'
"Most likely them antipathies of mine ag'in Injuns is a heap enhanced by what I experiences back on the old Jones an' Plummer trail, when they was wont to stampede our herds as we goes drivin' through the Injun Territory. Any little old dark night one of them savages is liable to come skulkin' up on the wind'ard side of the herd, flap a blanket, cut loose a yell, an' the next second thar's a hundred an' twenty thousand dollars' worth of property skally- hootin' off into space on frenzied hoofs. Next day, them same ontootered children of the woods an' fields would demand four bits for every head they he'ps round up an' return to the bunch. It's a source of savage revenoo, troo; but plumb irritatin'. Them Injuns corrals sometimes as much as a hundred dollars by sech treacheries. An' then we-all has to rest over one day to win it back at poker.
"Will Injuns gamble? Shore! an' to the limit at that! Of course, bein', as you saveys, a benighted people that a-way, they're some easy, havin' no more jedgment as to the valyoo of a hand than Steve Stevenson, an' Steve would take a pa'r of nines an' bet 'em higher than a cat's back. We allers recovers our dinero, but thar's time an' sleep we lose an' don't get back.
"Yes, indeed, son, Injuns common is as ornery as soapweed. The only good you-all can say of 'em is, they're nacheral-born longhorns, is oncomplainin', an' saveys the West like my black boy saveys licker. One time—this yere is 'way back in my Texas days—one time I'm camped for long over on the Upper Hawgthief. It's rained a heap, an' bein' as I'm on low ground anyhow, it gets that soft an' swampy where I be it would bog a butterfly. For once I'm took sick; has a fever, that a-way. An' lose flesh! shorely you should have seen me! I falls off like persimmons after a frost, an' gets as ga'nt an' thin as a cow in April. So I allows I'll take a lay-off for a couple of months an' reecooperate some.
"Cossettin' an' pettin' of my health, as I states, I saddles up an' goes cavortin' over into the Osage nation to visit an old compadre of mine who's a trader thar by the name of Johnny Florer. This yere Florer is an old-timer with the Osages; been with 'em it's mighty likely twenty year at that time, an' is with 'em yet for all the notice I ever receives.
"On the o'casion of this ambassy of mine, I has a chance to study them savages, an' get a line on their char'cters a whole lot. This tune I'm with Johnny, what you-all might call Osage upper circles is a heap torn by the ontoward rivalries of a brace of eminent bucks who's each strugglin' to lead the fashion for the tribe an' raise the other out.
"Them Osages, while blanket Injuns, is plumb opulent. Thar's sixteen hundred of 'em, an' they has to themse'fs 1,500,000 acres of as good land as ever comes slippin' from the palm of the Infinite. Also, the gov'ment is weak-minded enough to confer on every one of 'em, each buck drawin' the dinero for his fam'ly, a hundred an' forty big iron dollars anyooally. Wherefore, as I observes, them Osages is plenty strong, financial.
"These yere two high-rollin' bucks I speaks of, who's strugglin' for the social soopremacy, is in the midst of them strifes while I'm visitin' Florer. It's some two moons prior when one of 'em, which we'll call him the 'Astor Injun,' takes a heavy fall out of the opp'sition by goin' over to Cherryvale an' buyin' a sooperannuated two-seat Rockaway buggy. To this he hooks up a span of ponies, loads in his squaws, an' p'rades 'round from Pawhusky to Greyhoss—the same bein' a couple of Osage camps—an' tharby redooces the enemy— what we'll name the 'Vanderbilt Injuns'—to desp'ration. The Astor savage shorely has the call with that Rockaway.
"But the Vanderbilt Osage is a heap hard to down. He takes one look at the Astor Injun's Rockaway with all its blindin' splendors, an' then goes streakin' it for Cherryvale, like a drunkard to a barbecue. An' he sees the Rockaway an' goes it several better. What do you-all reckon now that savage equips himse'f with? He wins out a hearse, a good big black roomy hearse, with ploomes onto it an' glass winders in the sides.
"As soon as ever this Vanderbilt Injun stiffens his hand with the hearse, he comes troopin' back to camp with it, himse'f on the box drivin', an' puttin' on enough of lordly dog to make a pack of hounds. Which he shorely squelches the Astors; they jest simply lay down an' wept at sech grandeur. Their Rockaway ain't one, two, three,—ain't in the money.
"An' every day the Vanderbilt Injun would load his squaws an' papooses inside the hearse, an' thar, wropped in their blankets an' squattin' on the floor of the hearse for seats, they would be lookin' out o' the winders at common savages who ain't in it an' don't have no hearse. Meanwhiles, the buck Vanderbilt is drivin' the outfit all over an' 'round the cantonments, the entire bunch as sassy an' as flippant as a coop o' catbirds. It's all the Astors can do to keep from goin' plumb locoed. The Vanderbilts win.
"One mornin', when Florer an' me has jest run our brands onto the fourth drink, an old buck comes trailin' into the store. His blanket is pulled over his head, an' he's pantin' an' givin' it out he's powerful ill.
"'How is my father?' says Johnny in Osage.
"'Oh, my son,' says the Injun, placin' one hand on his stomach, an' all mighty tender, 'your father is plenty sick. Your father gets up this mornin', an' his heart is very bad. You must give him medicine or your father will die.'
"Johnny passes the invalid a cinnamon stick an' exhorts him to chew on that, which he does prompt an' satisfactory, like cattle on their cud. This cinnamon keeps him steady for 'most five minutes.
"'Whatever is the matter with this savage?' I asks of Johnny.
"'Nothin' partic'lar,' says Johnny. 'Last night he comes pushin' in yere an' buys a bottle of Worcestershire sauce; an' then he gets gaudy an' quaffs it all up on a theery she's a new-fangled fire water. He gets away with the entire bottle. It's now he realizes them errors, an' takes to groanin' an' allowin' it gives him a bad heart. Which I should shorely admit as much!'
"'Your father is worse,' says the Osage, as he comes cuttin' in on Johnny ag'in. 'Must have stronger medicine. That medicine,' holdin' up some of the cinnamon, 'that not bad enough.'
"At this, Johnny passes his 'father' over a double handful of black pepper before it's ground.
"'Let my father get away with that,' says Johnny, 'an' he'll feel like a bird. It will make him gay an' full of p'isen, like a rattlesnake in August.'
"Out to the r'ar of Johnny's store is piled up onder a shed more'n two thousand boxes of axle grease. It was sent into the nation consigned to Johnny by some ill-advised sports in New York, who figgers that because the Osages as a tribe abounds in wagons, thar must shorely be a market for axle grease. That's where them New York persons misses the ford a lot. Them savages has wagons, troo; but they no more thinks of greasin' them axles than paintin' the runnin' gear. They never goes ag'inst that axle grease game for so much as a single box; said ointment is a drug. When he don't dispose of it none, Johnny stores it out onder a shed some twenty rods away, an' regyards it as a total loss.
"'Axle grease,' says Johnny, 'makes a p'int in civilization to which the savage has not yet clambered, an' them optimists, East, who sends it on yere, should have never made no sech break.'
"Mebby it's because this axle grease grows sullen an' feels neglected that a-way; mebby it's the heats of two summers an' the frosts of two winters which sp'iles its disp'sition; shore it is at any rate that at the time I'm thar, that onguent seems fretted to the core, an' is givin' forth a protestin' fragrance that has stood off a coyote an' made him quit at a distance of two hundred yards. You might even say it has caused Nacher herse'f to pause an' catch her breath.
"It's when the ailin' Osage, whose malady is too deep-seated to be reached by cinnamon or pimento, comes frontin' up for a third preescription, that the axle grease idee seizes Johnny.
"'Father,' says Johnny, 'come with me. Your son will now saw off some big medicine on you; a medicine meant for full-blown gents like you an' me. Come, father, come with your son, an' you shall be cured in half the time it takes to run a loop on a lariat.'
"Johnny breaks open one of the axle grease boxes, arms the savage with a chip for a spoon, an' exhorts him to cut in on it a whole lot.
"Son, the odors of them wares is awful; Kansas butter is violets to it; but it never flutters that Osage. Ile takes Johnny's chip an' goes to work, spadin' that axle grease into his mouth, like he ain't got a minute to live. When he's got away with half the box, he tucks the balance onder his blanket an' retires to his teepee with a look of gratitoode on his face. His heart has ceased to be bad, an' them illnesses, which aforetime has him on the go, surrenders to the powers of this yere new medicine like willows to the wind. With this, he goes caperin' out for his camp, idly hummin' a war song, sech is his relief.
"An' here's where Johnny gets action on that axle grease. It shorely teaches, also, the excellence of them maxims, 'Cast your bread upon the waters an' you'll be on velvec before many days.' Within two hours a couple of this sick buck's squaws comes sidlin' tip to Johnny an' desires axle grease. It's quoted at four bits a box, an' the squaws changes in five pesos an' beats a retreat, carryin' away ten boxes. Then the fame of this big, new medicine spreads; that axle grease becomes plenty pop'lar. Other bucks an' other squaws shows up, changes in their money, an' is made happy with axle grease. They never has sech a time, them Osages don't, since the battle of the Hoss-shoe. Son, they packs it off in blankets, freights it away in wagons. They turns loose on a reg'lar axle grease spree. In a week every box is sold, an' thar's orders stacked up on Florer's desk for two kyar-loads more, which is bein' hurried on from the East. Even the Injuns' agent gets wrought up about it, an' begins to bellow an' paw 'round by way of compliments to Johnny. He makes Johnny a speech.
"'Which I've made your excellent discovery, Mr. Florer,' says this agent, 'the basis of a report to the gov'ment at Washin'ton. I sets forth the mad passion of these yere Osages for axle grease as a condiment, a beverage, an' a cure. I explains the tribal leanin' that exists for that speshul axle grease which is crowned with years, an' owns a strength which comes only as the cor'lary of hard experience. Axle grease is like music an' sooths the savage breast. It is oil on the troubled waters of aboriginal existence. Its feet is the feet of peace. At the touch of axle grease the hostile abandons the war path an' surrenders himse'f. He washes off his paint an' becometh with axle grease as the lamb that bleateth. The greatest possible uprisin' could be quelled with a consignment of axle grease. Mr. Florer, I congratulate you. From a humble store- keep, sellin' soap, herrin' an' salt hoss, you takes your stand from now with the ph'lanthropists an' leaders among men. You have conjoined Injuns an' axle grease. For centuries the savage has been a problem which has defied gov'ment. He will do so no more. Mr. Florer, you have solved the savage with axle grease.'"
Toothpick Johnson's Ostracism.
"You sees," observed the Old Cattleman, as he moved into the deeper shade; "you sees this yere Toothpick disgraces Wolfville; that's how it is. Downs a party, Toothpick Johnson does, an' no gun on the gent, the same bein' out of roole entire. Nacherally, while no one blames Toothpick, who makes the play what you-all calls 'bony fidis,' the public sort o' longs for his eelopement. An' that settles it; Toothpick has to hunt out for different stampin' grounds.
"It all comes from Toothpick bein' by nacher one of these yere over- zealous people, an' prematoorely prone that a-way. He's born eager, Toothpick is, an' can't he'p it none.
"You-all has tracked up on that breed of cimmaron plenty frequent now. They're the kind who picks up a poker hand, kyard by kyard, as they comes. They're that for'ard,—that headlong to get outer the present an' into the footure, they jest can't wait for things to have a chance to happen.
"'Whyever do you pull in your kyards that a-way?' I says to Toothpick, reprovin' of him. 'Why can't you let 'em lay till the hand's dealt?'
"'Which I'm shorely that locoed to look if I ain't got three aces or some sech,' says Toothpick, 'I must turn 'em up to see.'
"'Well,' says I, an' the same is wisdom every time, 'you-all would appear more like a dead cold sport to let 'em be, an' pick up your whole hand together. Likewise, you'd display a mighty sight more savey if you keeps your eyes on the dealer till he lays down the deck. You'd be less afflicted by disagreeable surprises if you'd freeze to the last idee; an' you'd lay up money besides.'
"But that's the notion I'm aimin' to convey; Toothpick is too quick. His intellects, it looks like, is on eternal tip-toe to get in a stack.
"'He's too simooltaneous, is Toothpick,' says Jack Moore once, when him an' Boggs is discoursin' together, sizin' up Toothpick. 'He's that simooltaneous he comes mighty near bein' a whole lot too adjacent.'
"What does Toothpick do that time we-all disapproves an' stampedes him? It's a accidental killin'.
"It's second drink time in the evenin', an' the Tucson stage is in. Thar's a passel of us who has roped up our mail, an' now we're standin' 'round in front of the Red Light, breakin' into letters an' papers, an' a-makin' of comments, when along wanders a party who's been picnicin' with the camp. As the deal turns, he never does stay long nohow; never long enough to become a 'genial 'quaintance an' a fav'rite of all.'
"This party who comes sidlin' up is, as we hears, late from Red Dog; an' doorin' them four hours wherein he confers his society onto us, he stays drunk habityooal an' never does lapse into bein' sober for a second. It's shore remark'ble, now, how all them Red Dog people stays intox'cated while they sojourns in Wolfville. Never knows it to fail; an' I allows, as a s'lootion that a-way, it's owin' to the sooperior merits of our nose-paint. It's a compliment they pays us.
"However, this Red Dog gent's drinkin' is his own affairs. An' his earnestness about licker may have been his system; then ag'in it may not; I don't go pryin' none to determine. But bein' he's plumb drunk, as you readily discerns, it keeps up a barrier ag'in growin' intimate with this party; an' ontil Toothpick opens on him, his intercourse with Wolfville is nacherally only formal.
"This visitor from Red Dog—which Red Dog itse'f is about as low- flung a bunch of crim'nals as ever gets rounded up an' called a camp—but, as I'm sayin', this totterin' wreck I mentions comes stragglin' up, more or less permiscus an' vague, an', without sayin' a word or makin' a sign, or even shakin' a bush, stands about lariat distance away an' star's at Toothpick, blinkin' his eyes mighty malevolent.
"It ain't no time when this yere bluff on the part of the drinkin' Red Dog gent attracts Toothpick, who's been skirmishin' 'round among us where we're standin', an' is at that time mentionin' Freighter's Stew, as a good thing to eat, to Dave Tutt.
"'Who be you-all admirin' now?' asks Toothpick of the Red Dog party, who's glarin' towards him. It's then I notes the lights begin to dance in Toothpick's eyes; with that impulsive sperit of his, he's doo to become abrupt with our visitor at the drop of the hat.
"That Red Dog gent don't make no retort, but stands thar with his eyes picketed on Toothpick like he's found a victim. Toothpick is fidgetin' on his feet, with his thumbs stuck in his belt; which this last is a bad symptom, as it leaves a gent's artillery easy to reach.
"It strikes me at the time that it's even money thar's goin' to be some shootin'. I don't then nor now know why none. But that ignorance is common about shootin's; two times in three nobody ever does know why.
"I reckons now it's Toothpick's fidgetin' makes me suspicious he's on the brink of rousin' the o'casion with his six-shooter. Which if he's cool an' ca'm, it would never come to me that a-way; a cool gent never pulls the first gun, leastways never when the pretext is friv'lous an' don't come onder the head of 'Must'.
"'Well.' savs Toothpick ag'in, 'whatever be you-all gloatin' over, I asks? Or, mebby you're thinkin' of 'doptin' me as a son or somethin'?' says Toothpick.
"Still the party from Red Dog don't say nothin'. As Toothpick ceases, however, this Red Dog person makes a move, which is reasonable quick, for his hip. He's got on a long coat, an' while no gent can see, thar's none of us has doubts but he is fully dressed, an' that he's searchin' out his Colt's.
"That's what Toothpick allows; an' the Red Dog party's hand ain't traveled two inches onder his surtoot, when Toothpick cuts free his '44, an' the Red Dog party hits the ground, face down, like a kyard jest dealt.
"Yes, he's dead enough; never does kick or flutter once. It's shorely a shot in the cross.
"'Do you-all note how he tries to fill his hand on me?' asks Toothpick, mighty cheerful.
"Toothpick stoops down for the Red Dog man's gun, an' what do you- all think? He don't have no weapon, none whatever; nothin' more vig'rous than a peaceful flask of whiskey, which the same is still all safe in his r'ar pocket.
"'He warn't heeled!' says Toothpick, straightenin' up an' lookin' at us apol'getic an' disgusted.
"It's jestice to Toothpick to say, I never yet overtakes that gent who's more abashed an' discouraged than he is when he finds this person ain't packin' no gun. He surveys the remainder a second, an' says:
"'Gents, if ever the licker for the camp is on Toothpick Johnson, it's now. But thar's one last dooty to perform touchin' deceased. It's evident, departed is about to ask me to drink. It's this yere motion he makes for his whiskey which I mistakes for a gun play. Thar I errs, an' stacks up this Red Dog person wrong. Now that I onderstands, while acknowledgin' my fal'cies, the least I can do is to respect deceased's last wishes. I tharfore," says Toothpick, raisin' the Red Dog party's flask, "complies with what, if I hadn't interrupted him, would have been his last requests. An' regrettin' I don't savey sooner, I drinks to him."
"No," concluded the Old Cattleman, "as I intimates at the go-off, Toothpick don't stay long after that. No one talks of stringin' him for what's a plain case of bad jedgment, an' nothin' more. But still, Wolfville takes a notion ag'in him, an' don't want him 'round none. So he has to freight out.
"'You are all right, Toothpick, speakin' gen'ral,' says Old Man Enright, when him an' Doc Peets an' Jack Moore comes up on Toothpick to notify him it's the Stranglers' idee he'd better pack his wagons an' hit the trail, "but you don't hold your six-shooter enough in what Doc Peets yere calls 'abeyance.' Without puttin' no stain on your character, it's right to say you ain't sedentary enough, an' that you-all is a heap too soon besides. In view, tharfore, of what I states, an' of you droppin' this yere Red Dog gent—not an ounce of iron on him at the time!—while we exonerates, we decides without a dissentin' vote to sort o' look 'round the camp for you to-morry, say at sundown, an' hang you some, should you then be present yere. That's how the herd is grazin', Toothpick: an' if you're out to commit sooicide, you'll be partic'lar to be with us at the hour I names.'"
The Wolfville Daily Coyote.
You-all remembers back," said the Old Cattleman, "that yeretofore I su'gests how at some appropriate epock, I relates about the comin' of Colonel William Greene Sterett an' that advent of Wolfville's great daily paper, the Coyote."
It was evening and sharply in the wake of dinner. We were gathered unto ourselves in my friend's apartments. In excellent mood to hear of Colonel Sterett and his celebrated journal, I eagerly assured him that his promise in said behalf was fresh and fragrant in my memory, and that I trusted he would find present opportunity for its redemption. Thus encouraged, the old gentleman shoved the box of cigars towards me, poured a generous glass, and disposed himself to begin.
"Red Dog in a sperit of vain competition," observed my friend, "starts a paper about the same time Colonel Sterett founds the Coyote; an', son, for a while, them imprints has a lurid life! The Red Dog paper don't last long though; it lacks them elements of longevity which the Coyote possesses, an' it ain't runnin' many weeks before it sort o' rots down all at once, an' the editor jumps the game.
"It's ever been a subject of dissensions between Colonel Sterett an' myse'f as to where impartial jestice should lay the blame of that Red Dog paper's failure. Colonel Sterett charges it onto the editor; but it's my beliefs, an' I'm j'ined tharin by Boggs an' Texas Thompson, that no editor could flourish an' no paper survive in surroundin's so plumb venomous an' p'isen as Red Dog. Moreover, I holds that Colonel Sterett, onintentional no doubt, takes a ja'ndiced view of that brother publisher. But I rides ahead of my tale.