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   Chapter 16 No.16

Peck's Bad Boy with the Cowboys By George W. Peck Characters: 11159

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:03


The Bad Boy Tells the Story of the Bears in Yellowstone Park and How Brave Dad Was.

The old groceryman was down on his knees, with a wet cloth, swabbing up something from the floor with one hand, while he held his nose with the other, his back toward the door, when suddenly the door opened with a bank, striking the old man in the back, knocking him over and landing him with his head in a basket of strictly fresh eggs, breaking at least a dozen of them, and filling the air with an odor that was unmistakable; and the bad boy followed the door into the grocery.

"What's your notion of taking a nap, with a basket of stale eggs for a pillow," said the bad boy, as he took the old man by the arm and raised him up, and looked at him with a grin that was tantalizing. "What is it, sewer gas? My, but the board of health won't do a thing to you if the inspector happens in here. Those eggs must have been mislaid by a hen that had a diseased mind," and the bad boy took a bottle of cologne out of the show case and began to sprinkle the floor, and squirted some of it on the old man's clothes.

"Say, do you know I bought those eggs of a man dressed like a farmer, who came in here yesterday with his pants in his boots, and smelling as though he had just come out of his cow stable?" said the old groceryman, as he took a piece of coffee sack and wiped yellow egg off his whiskers. "And yet they are old enough to attend caucuses. I tell you that you have got to watch a farmer the same as you do a crook, or he will get the best of you. And to think I sold four dozen of those eggs to a church sociable committee that is going to make ice cream for a celebration to-night. But what in thunder do you come in here for, like a toboggin, and knock me all over the floor, into eggs, when you could come in gently and save a fellow's life; and me a sick man, too. Ever since that explosion, when we tried to see how they blow up battleships, I have had nervous prostration, and I am just about sick of this condemned foolishness. I like to keep posted on current events, and want to learn how things are going on outside in the world, and I realize that for an old man to associate with a bright boy like you keeps him young, but, by ginger, when I think how you have done me up several times, I sometimes think I better pick out a boy that is not so strenuous, so you can tell your Pa I rather he wouldn't trade here any more, for him to keep you away from here. It is hard on me, I know, but life is dear to all of us, and the life insurance company that I am contributing to has notified me that if I don't quit having you around they will cancel my policy. Now, you may say farewell, and get out of here forever, and I will try and pull along with the cat, and such boys as come in here to be sociable. Go on now," and the old groceryman threw the eggs out in the alley, and washed his whiskers at the sink.

{Illustration: Landed With His Head in a Basket of Strictly Fresh Eggs.}

"Oh, I guess not," said the boy, as he sat down on a tin cracker box and began to eat figs out of a box. "I know something about the law myself, and if you drive me away, you could be arrested for breach of promise, and arson, and you would go to the penitentiary. It was all I could do to make the police believe you didn't set this old shebang afire to get the insurance, and my being here has drawn more custom to your store than the quality of your goods would warrant. No, sir, I stay right here, and advise with you, and keep you out of trouble. If I went home and told dad what you said he would fall in a fit, and would sue you for damages for ruining my reputation, if he didn't come over here with a club and take it out of your hide. Dad can stand a good many things, but when anybody insults one of our family, dad gets violent, and he had rather kill a man than eat. You read about their finding the body of a man in an alley, with his head crushed? Well, I don't want to say anything, but it is rumored that dad was seen near that alley the night before, and that man chased me once for throwing snow balls at him. We move in good society, and are looked upon as good citizens, but dad's temper gets worse every year. Can I stay around here more or less, or do I have to go out into the world, branded as a criminal, because an old fool fell into a basket of his own eggs? Say, now, answer up quick," and the bad boy sharpened a match with a big dirk knife and picked fig seeds out of his teeth.

"Oh, sugar, no; you don't need to go," said the old groceryman, as he came up to the boy, wiping the soapsuds off, and trying to smile. "I was only joshing you, and, honestly, I enjoy you. Life is a dreary burden when you are away. Somehow I have got so my blood gets thick, and my appetite fails, when you are away from town, and when you play some low down trick on me, while I seem mad at the time, it does me good, starts the circulation, and when you go away I seem a new man, and laugh, and feel like I had been off on a vacation, fishing, or something. It was a great mistake that I did not have a family of boys to keep me mad part of the time, because a man that never has anything to make him mad is no good. I envy your dad in having you around constantly to keep his blood in circulation. I suppose you are responsible for his being, at his age, as spry as a boy. He told me when he and you got back from Yellowstone park last summer that the trip did him a world of good, and that he got so he could climb a tree-just shin right up like a cat, and that you we

re the bravest boy he ever saw, said that you would fight a bear as quick as eat. Such a boy I am proud to call my friend. What was it about your fighting bears, single-handed, with no weapon but empty tomato cans? You ought to be in the history books. Your dad said bravery run in the family."

"Oh, get out. Did dad tell you about that bear story?" said the bad boy, as he sharpened his knife on his boot. "Well, you'd a dide right there, if you could have seen dad.

{Illustration: "You Ought to Have Seen Dad's Short Legs Carry Him to a Tree."}

He is one of these men that is brave sort of intermittent, like folks have fever. Half the time he is a darn coward, but when you don't expect it, for instance when the pancakes are burned, or the steak is raw, and his dyspepsia seems to work just right, he will flare up and sass the cook, and I don't know of anything braver than that; but ordinarily he is meek as a lam. I think the stomach has a good deal to do with a man's bravery. You take a soldier in battle, and if he is hungry he is full of fight, but you fill him up with baked beans and things and he is willing to postpone a fight, and he don't care whether there is any fight at all or not. I think the trip through Yellowstone park took the tar out of dad. Those geysers throwing up hot water, apparently right out of the hot place the preachers tell about, seemed to set him to thinking that may be he had got nearer h-l, on a railroad pass, than he had ever expected to get. He told me, one day, when we stood beside old Faithful geyser, and the hot water belched up into the air a hundred feet, that all it wanted was for the lid to be taken off, and h-l would be yawning right there, and he was going to try to lead a different life, and if he ever got out of that park alive he should go home and join every church in town, and he should advise ministers to get the sinners to take a trip to the park, if they wanted to work religion into them. Dad would wake up in the night, at the hotels in the park, when a geyser went off suddenly, and groan, and cross himself, as he had seen religious people do, and tell me that in a few days more we would be safe out of the d-n place, and you would never catch him in it again.

"Well, there is one hotel where a lot of bears come out of the woods in the evening, to eat the garbage that is thrown out from the hotel. They are wild bears, all right, but they have got so tame that they come right near folks, and don't do anything but eat garbage and growl, and fight each other. The cook told me about it, and said there was no danger, 'cause you could take a club and scare them into the woods.

"We got to the hotel in the afternoon, and dad went to our room to say his prayers, and take a nap, and had his supper taken to the room, and he was so scared at the awful surroundings in the park that he asked a blessing on the supper, though it was the bummest supper I ever struck. After dark I told dad we better go out and take a walk and inspect the scenery, 'cause it was all in the bill, and if you got a bum supper and didn't get the scenery you were losing money on the deal. I saw the man emptying the garbage and I knew the bears would be getting in their work pretty soon, so I took dad and we walked away off, and he talked about how God had prepared that park as a warning to sinners of what was to come, and I knew his system was sort of running down, and I knew he needed excitement, a shock or something to make a reaction, so I steered him around by the garbage pile.

{Illustration: "I Studied the Bears for Awhile and Let Dad Yell for the Police."}

"Say, before he knew it we were right in the midst of about nine bears, grizzlies, cinnamon bears, black bears, and all of them raised up and said, 'Whoof!' and they growled, and, by gosh, just as quick as I could run this knife into your liver, I missed dad. He just yelled: 'Hennery, this is the limit, and here is where your poor old dad sprints for tall timber,' and he made for a tree, and I yelled: 'Hurry up, dad!' and he said: 'I ain't walking, am I?' and you ought to have seen his short legs carry him to the tree, and help him skin up it. I have seen squirrels climb trees, when a dog was after them, but they were slow compared to dad. When he got up to a limb he yelled to me to come on up, as he wanted to give me a few last instructions about settling his estate, but I told him I was going to play I was Daniel in the lion's den, so I studied the bears for a while and let dad yell for the police, and then I picked up an armful of tomato cans and made a rush for the bears, and yelled and threw cans at them, and pretty soon every bear went off into the woods, growling and scrapping with each other, and I told dad to come down and I would save him at the risk of my life. Dad came down as quick as he went up, and I took his arm and led him to the hotel, and when we got to the room he would have collapsed, only I gave him a big drink of whiskey, and then he braced up and said: 'Hennery, when it comes to big game, you and I are the wonders of the world. You are brave, and I am discreet, and we make a team hard to beat.' I told dad he covered himself with glory, but that he left most of his pants on the tree, but he said he didn't care for a few pants when he had a boy that was the bravest that ever came down the pike. When we got home alive he didn't join the church, but he gave me a gold watch. Well, I'll have to depart," and the bad boy went out and left the old groceryman thinking of the hereafter.

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