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   Chapter 7 No.7

Peck's Bad Boy with the Cowboys By George W. Peck Characters: 10074

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:03


Pa and the Bad Boy Stop Off at a Lively Western Town-Pa Buys Mining Stock and Takes Part in a Rabbit Drive.

Well, we are on the way back home, after having engaged Indians, cowboys, rough riders and highway robbers to join our show for next season. Pa felt real young and kitteny when we cam to the railroad, after leaving our robber friends at the Hole-in-the-Wall, far into the mountain country. We came to a lively town on the railroad, where every other house is a gambling house, and every other one a plain saloon, and there was great excitement in the town over our arrival, 'cause there don't very many rich and prosperous people stop there.

Pa had looked over the money the robbers had given him, to throw it away, because it was old-fashioned confederate money, when he found that there was only one bundle of confederate money, and the rest was all good greenbacks, the bundle of confederate money probably having been shipped west to some museum, and the robbers having got hold of it in the dark, brought it along. Pa burned up the bad money at the hotel, and then he got stuck on the town, and said he would stay there a few days and rest up, and incidentally break a few faro banks, by a system, the way the smart alecks break the bank at Monte Carlo.

I teased Pa to take the first train for home, so we could join the circus before it closed the season, and he could report to the managers the result of his business trip to the west, but Pa said he had heard of a man who had a herd of buffalo on a ranch not far from that town, and before he returned to the show he was going to buy a herd of buffalo for the cowboys and Indians to chase around the wild west show.

I couldn't do anything with pa, so we stayed at that town until pa got good and ready to go home. He bucked the faro bank some, but the gamblers soon found he had so much money that he could break any bank, so they closed up their lay-outs and began to sell pa mining stock in mines which were fabulously rich if they only had money to develop them. They salted some mines near town for Pa to examine, and when he found that they contained gold enough in every shovelful of dirt to make a man crazy, he bought a whole lot of stock, and then the gamblers entertained Pa for all that was out.

They got up dances and fandangos, and Pa was it, sure, and I was proud of him, cause he did not lose his head. He just acted dignified, and they thought they were entertaining a distinguished man. Everything would have gone all right, and we would have got out with honor, if it hadn't been for the annual rabbit drive that came off while we were there. Part of the country is irrigated, and good crops are grown, but the jackrabbits are so numerous that they come in off the plains adjoining the green spots, at night, and eat everything in sight, so once a year the people get up a rabbit drive and go out in the night by the hundred, on horseback, and surround the country for ten miles or so, and at daylight ride along towards a corral, where thousands of rabbits are driven in and slaughtered with clubs. The men ride close together, with dogs, and no guilty rabbit can escape.

Pa thought it would be a picnic, and so we went along, but pa wishes that he had let well enough alone and kept out of the rabbit game. Those natives are full of fun, and on these rabbit drives they always pick out some man to have fun with, and they picked out Pa as the victim. We rode along for a couple of hours, flushing rabbits by the dozen, and they would run along ahead of us, and multiply, so that when the corral was in sight ahead the prairie was alive with long eared animals, so the earth seemed to be moving, and it almost made a man dizzy to look at them.

The hundreds of men on horseback had come in close together from all sides, and when we were within half a mile of the corral the crowd stopped at a signal, and the leader told Pa that now was the time to make a cavalry charge on the rabbits, and he asked Pa if he was afraid and wanted to go back, and Pa said he had been a soldier and charged the enemy; had been a politician and had fought in hot campaigns; had hunted tigers and lions in the jungle, and rode barebacked in the circus, and gone into lions' dens, and been married, and he guessed he was not going to show the white feather chasing jackrabbits. They could sound the bugle charge as soon as they got ready, and they would find him in the game till the curtain was rung down.

That was what they wanted Pa to say, so, as pa's horse was tired, they suggested that he get on to a fresh horse, and Pa said all right, they couldn't get a horse too fresh for him, and he got on to a spunky pony, and I noticed that there was no bit in the pony's mouth, but only a rope around the pony's nose, and I was afraid something would happen to pa. I told him he and I better dismount, and climb a mesquite tree and watch the fun from a safe place.

Pa said: "Not on your life; your Pa is going right amongst the big game, and is

going to make those rabbits think the day of judgment has arrived. Give me a club."

The leader handed Pa an ax handle, and when we looked ahead towards the corral where the rabbits had been driven, it seemed as though there were a million of them, and they were jumping over each other so it looked as though there was a snow bank of rabbits four feet thick. When Pa said he was ready a fellow sounded a bugle, and pa's pony started off on the jump for the corral, and all the other horses started, and everybody yelled, but they held back their horses so Pa could have the whole field to himself.

Gee, but I was sorry for pa. His horse rushed right into the corral amongst the rabbits, and when it got right where the rabbits were the thickest, the darn horse began to buck, and tossed Pa in the air just as though he had been thrown up in a blanket, and he came down on a soft bed of struggling and scared rabbits, and the other horsemen stopped at the edge of the corral and watched pa, and I got off my horse and climbed up on a post of the corral and tried to pick out pa. Then all the hundred or more dogs were let loose in amongst Pa and the rabbits, and it was a sight worth going miles to see if it had been somebody else than Pa that was holding the center of the stage, and all the crowd laughing at pa, and yelling to him to stand his ground.

{Illustration: The Pony Tossed Pa In the Air.}

Well, Pa swung his ax handle and killed an occasional rabbit, but there were thousands all around, and Pa seemed to be wading up to his middle in rabbits, and they would jump all over him, and bunt him with their heads, and scratch him with their toe-nails, and the dogs would grab rabbits and shake them, and Pa would fall down and rabbits would run over him till you couldn't see Pa at all. Then he would raise up again and maul the animals with his club, and his clothes were so covered with rabbit hair that he looked like a big rabbit himself. He lost his hat and looked as though he was getting exhausted, and then he stopped and spit on his hands and yelled to the rest of the men, who had dismounted and were lined up at the edge of the corral, and said: "You condemned loafers, why don't you come in here and help us dogs kill off these vermin, cause I don't want to have all the fun. Come on in, the water is fine," and Pa laughed as though he was in swimming and wanted the rest of the gang to come in.

{Illustration: Pa Swinging His Ax Handle.}

The crowd thought they had given the distinguished stranger his inning, and so they all rushed in with clubs and began to kill rabbits and drive them away from pa. In an hour or so the most of them were killed, and Pa was so tired he went and sat down on the ground to rest, and I got down off my perch and went to Pa and asked him what he thought of this latest experience, and I began to pick rabbit hairs off pa's clothes.

"I'll tell you what it is, Hennery," said pa, as he breathed hard, as though he had been running a foot race, "this rabbit drive reminds me of the way the rich corporations look upon the poor people, just as we look upon the jackrabbits. We pity a single jackrabbit, and he runs when he sees us, and seems to say: 'Please, mister, let me alone, and let me nibble around and eat the stuff you do not want, and we drive them into a bunch, the way the rich and mean iron-handed trusts drive the people, and then we turn in and club them with the ax handle of graft and greed, and we keep our power over them, if enough are killed off so we are in the majority, but the jackrabbits that escape the drive keep on breeding, like the poor people that the trusts try to exterminate. Some day the jackrabbit and the poor people will get nerve enough to fight back, and then the jackrabbit and the poor people will outnumber the men who fight them and kill them, and they will turn on the cowboys with the clubs, and the trusts with the big head, and drive those who now pursue them into corrals on the prairies and into penitentiaries in the states, and those who are pig-headed and cruel will get theirs, see?"

I told Pa I thought I could see, though there were rabbit hairs in my eyes, and then I got Pa to get up and mount his horse, and we rode back to town with the gang, while the 5,000 rabbit carcasses were hauled to town in wagons and loaded on the cars.

"Where do you send those jackrabbits?" asked Pa of the leader of the slayers, as he watched them loading the rabbits.

"To the Chicago packing houses," said the man. "They make the finest canned chicken you ever et."

"The devil, you say," said pa. "Then we have been working all day to make packing houses rich. Wouldn't that skin you?"

Then we went to the hotel and I put court-plaster on Pa where the rabbits had scratched the skin off, and Pa arranged to go out next day to the ranch where the herd of buffaloes live, to look for bigger game for the show, though he would like to have a rabbit drive in the circus ring next year if he could train the rabbits.

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