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Peck's Bad Boy with the Cowboys By George W. Peck Characters: 12466

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:03

The Bad Boy and His Pa Go West-Pa Plans to Be a Dead Ringer for Buffalo Bill-They Visit an Indian Reservation and Pa Has an Encounter with a Grizzly Bear.

Well, I never saw such a change in a man as there has been in pa, since the circus managers gave him a commission to go out west and hire an entire outfit for a wild west show, regardless of cost, to be a part of our show next year. He acts like he was a duke, searching for a rich wife. No country politician that never had been out of his own county, appointed minister to England, could put on more style than Pa does.

The first day after the show left us at St. Louis we felt pretty bum, 'cause we missed the smell of the canvas, and the sawdust, and the animals, and the indescribable odor that goes with a circus. We missed the performers, the band, the surging crowds around the ticket wagon, and the cheers from the seats. It almost seemed as though there had been a funeral in the family, and we were sitting around in the cold parlor waiting for the lawyers to read the will. But in a couple of days Pa got busy, and he hired a young Indian who was a graduate of Carlisle, as an interpreter, and a reformed cowboy, to go with us to the cattle ranges, and an old big game hunter who was to accompany us to the places where we could find buffalo and grizzly bears. Pa chartered a car to take us west, and after the Indian and the cowboy and the hunter got sobered up, on the train, and got the St. Louis ptomaine poison out of their systems, and we were going through Kansas, Pa got us all into the smoking compartment.

"Gentlemen," he said, "I want you to know that this expedition is backed by the wealth of the circus world, and that there is nothing cheap about it. We are to hire, regardless of expense, the best riders, the best cattle ropers, and the best everything that goes with a wild west show. We all know that Buffalo Bill must soon, in the nature of things, pass away as a feature for shows, and I have been selected to take the place of Bill in the circus world, when he cashes in. You may have noticed that I have been letting my hair and mustache and chin whiskers grow the last few months, so that next year I will be a dead ringer for Bill. All I want is some experience as a hero of the plains, as a scout, a hunter, a scalper of Indians, a rider of wild horses, and a few things like that, and next year you will see me ride a white horse up in front of the press seats in our show, take off my broad-brimmed hat, and wave it at the crowned heads in the boxes, give the spurs to my horse, and ride away like a cavalier, and the show will go on, to the music of hand-clapping from the assembled thousands, see?"

The cowboy looked at pa's stomach, and said: "Well, Mr. Man, if you are going to blow yourself for a second Buffalo Bill, I am with you, at the salary agreed upon, till the cows come home, but you have got to show me that you have got no yellow streak, when it comes to cutting out steers that are wild and carry long horns, and you've got to rope 'em, and tie 'em all alone, and hold up your hands for judgment, in ten seconds."

Pa said he could learn to do it in a week, but the cowman said: "Not on your life." The hunter said he would be ready to call pa B. Bill when he could stand up straight, with the paws of a full-grown grizzly on each of his shoulders, and its face in front of pa's, if Pa had the nerve to pull a knife and disembowel the bear, and skin him without help. Pa said that would be right into his hand, 'cause he use to work in a slaughter house when he was a boy, and he had waded in gore.

The Indian said he would be ready to salute Pa as Buffalo Bill the Second, when Pa had an Indian's left hand tangled in his hair, and a knife in his right hand ready to scalp him, if Pa would look the Indian in the eye and hypnotize the red man so he would drop the hair and the knife, turn his back on pa, and invite him to his wigwam as a guest. Pa said all he asked was a chance to look into the very soul of the worst Indian that ever stole a horse, and he would make Mr. Indian penuk, and beg for mercy.

And we all agreed that Pa was a wonder, and then they got out a pack of cards and played draw poker awhile. Pa had bad luck, and when the Indian bet a lot of chips, Pa began to look the Indian in the eye, and the Indian began to quail, and Pa put up all the chips he had, to bluff the Indian, but Pa took his eye off the Indian a minute too quick, and the Indian quit quailing, and bet Pa $70, and Pa called him, and the Indian had four deuces and pa had a full hand, and the Indian took the money. Pa said that comes of educating these confounded red devils, at the expense of the government, and then we all went to bed.

The next morning we were at the station in the far west. We got off and started for the Indian reservation where the Carlisle Indian originally came from, and where we were to hire Indians for our show. We rode about 40 miles in hired buckboards, and just as the sun was Setting there appeared in the distance an Indian camp, where smoke ascended from tepees, tents and bark houses. When the civilized Carlisle Indian jumped up on the front seat of the buckboard and gave a series of yells that caused pa's bald head to look ashamed that it had no hair to stand on end, there came a war whoop from the camp, Indians, squaws, dogs, and everything that contained a noise letting out yells that made me sick. The Carlisle Indian began to pull off his citizen clothes of civilization, and when the horses ran down to the camp in front of the chief's tent the tribes welcomed the Carlisle prodigal son, who had removed every evidence of civilization, except a pair of football pants, and thus he reinstated himself with the affections of his race, who hugged him for joy.

Pa and the rest of us sat in the buckboard while the Indians began to feast on something cooking in a shack. We looked at each other for awhile, not daring to make a noise for fear it would offend the Indians. Pretty soon an old chief came and called Pa the Great Father, and called me a pup, and he invited us to come into camp and partake of the feast.

Well, we were hungry, and the meat cert

ainly tasted good, and the Carlisle civilized Indian had no business to say it was dog, 'cause no man likes to smoke his pipe of peace with strong tobacco in a strange pipe, and feel that his stomach is full of dog meat. But we didn't die, and all the evening the Indians talked about the brave great father.

It seemed that they were not going to take much stock in pa's bravery until they had tried him out in Indian fashion. We were standing in the moonlight surrounded by Indians, and Pa had been questioned as to his bravery, and Pa said he was brave like Roosevelt, and he swelled out his chest and looked the part, when the chief said, pointing to a savage, snarling dog that was smelling of pa: "Brave man, kick a dog!"

We all told Pa that the Indian wanted Pa to give an exhibition of his bravery by kicking the dog, and while I could see that Pa had rather hire a man to kick the dog, he knew that it was up to him to show his mettle, so he hauled off and gave the dog a kick near the tail, which seemed to telescope the dog's spine together, and the dog landed far away. The chief patted Pa on the shoulder and said: "Great Father, bully good hero. Tomorrow he kill a grizzly," and then they let us go to bed, after Pa had explained that if everything went well he would hire all the chiefs and young braves for his show.

{Illustration: Pa Kicked the Dog.}

After we got to bed Pa said he was almost sorry he told the chief that he would take a grizzly bear by one ear, and cuff the other ear with the flat of his hand, as he didn't know but a wild grizzly would look upon such conduct differently from our old bear in the show used to. Any person around the show could slap his face, or cuff him, or kick him in the slats, and he would act as though they were doing him a favor. The big game hunter told pa that there was no danger in hunting a grizzly, as you could scare him away, if you didn't want to have any truck with him, by waving your hat and yelling: "Git, Ephraim." He said no grizzly would stand around a minute if you yelled at him. Pa made up his mind he would yell all right enough, if we came up to a grizzly.

Well, we didn't sleep much that night, 'cause Pa kept practicing on his yell to scare a grizzly, for fear he would forget the words, and when they called us in the morning Pa was the poorest imitation of a man going out to test his bravery that I ever saw. While the Indians were getting ready to go out to a canyon and turn the dogs loose to round up a bear, Pa got a big knife and was sharpening it, so he could rip the bear from Genesis to Revelations. After breakfast the chief and the Carlisle Indian, and the big game hunter, and the cowman and I went out about two miles, to the mouth of the canyon, where it was very narrow, and they stationed Pa by a big rock, right where the bear would have to pass; the rest of us got up on a bench of the canyon, where we could see Pa be brave, and the young Indians went up about a mile, and started the dogs. Well, Pa was a sight, as he stood there waiting for the bear, so he could cuff its ears, and rip it open, right in sight of the chief, and skin it; but he was nervous, and we could see that his legs trembled when he heard the dogs bark up the canyon. I yelled to Pa to think of Teddy Roosevelt, and Daniel Boone, and Buffalo Bill, and set his teeth so they would not chatter and scare the bear, but Pa yelled back: "Never you mind, I will kill my bear in my own way, but you can make up your mind to have bear meat for supper."

Pretty soon the big game hunter said: "There he comes, sure's you are born," and we looked up the canyon, and there was something coming, as big as a load of hay, with bristles sticking up a foot high on its back, and its mouth was open, and it was loping right towards pa. Gee, but I was proud of pa, to see him sharpening his knife on his boot leg, but when the great animal got within about a block of pa, the great father seemed to have a streak of yellow, for he dropped his knife and yelled: "Git, Ephraim," in a loud voice, but Ephraim came right along, and didn't git with any great suddenness. When the bear got within about four doors of Pa, he saw the great father, and stood up on his hind legs, and looked as big as a brewery horse, and he opened his mouth and said: "Woof," just like that. That was too much for my Pa, who began to shuck his clothes, and then started on a run towards the mouth of the canyon. The bear looked around as much as to say: "Well, what do you think of that?" and we watched Pa sprinting toward the Indian camp like a scared wolf.

{Illustration: The Grilly Looked as Big as a Brewery Horse.}

The big game hunter put a few bullets in the bear where they would do the most good, and killed it, and we went down in the canyon and skinned it, and took the meat and hide to camp, where we found Pa under a bed in a squaw's tepee, making grand hailing signs of distress, and trying to tell them about his killing a bear by letting it run after him, so it would tire itself out and die of heart failure.

When we found Pa he had come out from under the bed, and was looking at the hide of the bear to find the place where he hit it with the knife, as he said he could see that the only chance for him to kill the bear was to throw the knife at it from a distance, 'cause the bear was four times as big as any bear he had ever killed. Pa took out a handful of gold pieces and distributed them among the Indians, and told the Carlisle Indian to explain to the tribe that the great father had killed the bear by hypnotism, and they all believed it except the chief, who seemed skeptical, for he said: "Great father heap brave man like a sheep. Go play seven-up with squaws." Poor Pa wasn't allowed to talk with the men all day, 'cause the old chief said he was a squaw man. Pa says they don't seem to realize that a man can be brave unless he allows himself to be killed by a bear, but he says he will show them that a great mind and a great head is better in the end than foolishness. Now they want Pa to run a footrace with the young Indians, as the record he made getting to camp ahead of the bear is better than any time ever made on the reservation.

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