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   Chapter 11 No.11

Peck's Bad Boy with the Cowboys By George W. Peck Characters: 10517

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:03

The Bad Boy Relates the Automobile Ride He and Dad Had-They Sneak Out of Town.

"Give me a package of your strongest breakfast food, and a big onion," said the Bad Boy, as he came into the grocery, looking as weak as a fever convalescent, "and I want to eat the onion right now."

"Well, that is a combination, sure enough," said the old groceryman, as he wrapped a package of breakfast food in a paper and watched the boy rub half an onion on a salt bag, and eat it greedily. "What is the matter with you to look so sick, and eat raw onion before breakfast?"

"Oh, it is this new-fashioned way of living that is killing little Hennery. When I lived at home before we used to have sassidge and pancakes for breakfast, roast meat for dinner and cold meat for supper, and dad was healthy as a tramp, ma could dance a highland fling, I could play all kinds of games and jump over a high board fence when anybody was chasing me. Now we have some kind of breakfast food three times a day because ma reads the advertisements, and dad is so weak he has to be helped to dress, ma goes moping around like a fashionable invalid, I am so tired I can't hit a window with a snowball, and the dog that used to fight cats now wants to lay in front of the grate and wish he was dead. Gosh, but there ought to be a law that any man that invents a new breakfast food should be compelled to eat it. Gee, but that onion gives a man strength."

{Illustration: "Jerusalem, but You Are a Sight," Said the old Grocery man.}

"I should think so," said the old groceryman, as he took a rag and set it on fire and let the smoke purify the room. "But I suppose your folks are like a great many others who have quit eating meat on account of the meat trust, and are going to die in their tracks on health food. Is your dad going out today to get the fresh air and brace up for his next trip?"

"No, dad is going to stay in the house. He wants ma to get him a female trained nurse, but ma kicks. They had a trained nurse for a week, once, but ma had one of those little electric flash-lights that you touch a button and it lights up the room like a burglar was in the house, and she used to get up in the night and flash the light into dad's room. Dad always had nervous prostration after ma flashed the light, and the nurse fainted dead away, so ma and I are going to do the nursing until dad is strong enough to travel again, and then he and I skip."

"Where are you going first?" asked the old groceryman, as he opened the door to let the odor of onion, and burned rag out of the room. "What kind of treatment do the doctors advise to bring the old man around so he will be himself again?"

"They want him to go where he can take baths, and gamble, and attend horse races, and go into fast society, and maybe have a fight or two so as to stir his blood, and we have decided to take him first to the hot springs and turn him loose, and we are packing up now and shall go next week. They tell me that at the Arkansaw Hot Springs you can get into any kind of a scrape you want, and you don't have to look around for trouble. It comes to you. Oh, we won't do a thing down there. I broke the news to dad last night, and he said that was good enough for him, and he has packed up his poker chips and some marked cards he used to win money with from the deacons in the church, and he wants to go as quick as possible. You will have to excuse me now, for I am going to take dad out in an automobile after breakfast to give him his first dose of excitement. I will make dad think that automobiling is a sport next to fox hunting, and I will drop in this afternoon and tell you about it," and the Bad Boy took his breakfast food and went home.

"Jerusalem, but you are a sight," said the groceryman late in the afternoon, as the bad boy came in with a pair of black goggles on, his coat torn down the back and his pants ripped up the legs. "What a time you must have had in the automobile. Did you run over anybody?"

"Everybody," said the bad boy, as he pinned his trousers leg together with a safety pin. "There they go now with dad in a milk wagon. Say, these airships that run on the ground give a man all the excitement he needs."

"Hurry up and tell me about your automobile ride," said the groceryman as he brushed off the bad boy's clothes with an old blacking brush.

"Well, dad said he had never taken a ride in one of the devil wagons, though he had got a good deal of exercise the last year or two dodging them on the streets, but he said he was tickled to death to hear that I was an expert performer, and he would go out with me, and if he liked the sensation, he would buy one. The machine I hired was one of those doublets for two persons, one seat, you know, a runabout. It was a runabout all right. It run about eighteen miles in fifteen minutes. I got dad tucked in, and touched her on a raw spot, and we were off. I run her around town for a while on the streets that had no teams on, and dad was pleased. He said:

"'Hennery, I like a boy that knows something about machinery, and who knows what dingus to touch to make his machine do a certain thing, and I am proud of you.'

"We had to go through the business part of town, and dad looked aroun

d at the people on the streets that he knew, and he swelled up and tried to look as though he owned a brewery, and told me to let her out, and I thought if dad could stand it to let her out I could, so I pulled her open just as one of these station fruit venders with a hand cart was crossing the street. The cowcatcher in front caught the hand cart right in the middle and threw it into the air and it rained bananas and oranges, and the dago came down on his head and swore in Italian, and dad said, 'Good shot, Hennery,' and then the machine swung across the street and knocked the fender off a street car, and then I got her in the road straight and by gosh I couldn't stop her. Something had got balled up, and the more I touched things the faster she went. We frightened four teams and had three runaways, and the air seemed full of horses rearing up and drivers yelling for us to stop. One farmer with a load of hay would not give any of the road, and I guess his hay came in contact with the gasoline tank, for the hay took fire, his team ran away, and as we went over the hill I looked back and saw a fire engine trying to catch up with the red-hot load of hay, and the farmer had grabbed hold of a wire sign across the street and let the wagon run out from under him, and they had to take him down with a fire ladder.

{Illustration: "It Rained Bananas and the Dago Came Down on His Head."}

"We kept going faster, and dad began to get frightened and asked me to slow up, but I couldn't. We must have got in the country about eight miles, and dad was getting scared, and his face was just the color of salt pork, and he said:

"'Hennery, this excursion is going to wind up in a tragedy, and if I die I want you to have a post-mortem examination made, just to see if I am right about those doctors leaving that monkey wrench in me. For heaven's sake make the machine jump that fence, for here comes a drove of cattle in the road, more'n a hundred horned steers, and we never can pass them alive.'"

"Gee, but when I saw those cattle ahead and the machine running away, I tried to pray, and then I steered her towards an old rail fence that looked as though it was rotten, and then there was a crash, the air was full of rails, and dad said, 'This is no hurdle race,' and we landed in a field where there was an old hard snow bank. She went up on the side, hit the frozen snow, turned a summersault, the gasoline tank exploded and I didn't remember anything till some farmers that were spreading manure in the field turned me over with a pitchfork and asked me who the old dead man was standing on his head in the snow bank with his plug hat around his neck. As soon as I came to I went to dad, and he was just coming out of a trance, and asked him if he didn't think a little excitement sort of made the sluggish blood circulate, and he looked at the blood on the snow, and said he thought there was no doubt about the circulation of his blood.

{Illustration: "The farmer had graced hold of a wire sign across the street."}

"He got up, got his hat untangled, told the farmers he was obliged to them for their courtesy and then he called me one side and said:

"'Hennery, this attempt on your part to murder me was not the success that you expected, but you keep on and you will get me all right. Now, as a business man, I want to say we have got to get out of this town to-night or we will be arrested and sent to the penitentiary; besides, I will have to pay a thousand dollars damage at the least calculation. Get me a carriage for home, and you stay and set this machine on fire and skip back to town in time for the evening train south, and we will go where the climate is more genial.'

"Just then the steers we saw in the road came into the field through the fence we had broken, and when they smelled the blood they began to paw and beller, and look like they would run at dad, so the farmers got dad into a milk wagon that was going to town, and when the wagon started dad was pouring a cup of milk on him where the gasoline had scorched him when it exploded, and I walked in town helping the fellows drive the steers, and here I am, alive and ready to travel at 8 p. m.

{Illustration: "Hennery, This Attempt on Your Part to Murder Me Was Not the Success You Expected."}

"If my chum comes around tell him I will write him from Hot Springs and give him the news."

"If that don't beat anything I ever heard of," said the old grocery man. "I have always been afraid of those automobiles, and when one of the horns blow I go in the first gate, say my prayers and wait for it to go by and run over some one farther down the block. Did your dad say anything about buying an automobile after he came to?"

"Yes, as I remember it, he said he would see me in h-- first, or something like that. He remarked, as he got in the milk wagon, that every man that owned an automobile ought to be examined by an insanity expert and sent to the penitentiary for letting concealed weapons carry him.

"Well, good-by, old man," and the bad boy went limping out of the grocery to go home and tell his mother that he and dad had been scoring up for the good time they were going to have when they got out on the road for dad's health.

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