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   Chapter 17 BOGGS'S EXPERIENCE.

Wolfville By Alfred Henry Lewis Characters: 19391

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:03


"No; thar's nothin' prolix about Boggs. Which on the contrary, his nacher is shorely arduous that a-way. If it's a meetin' of the committee, for instance, with intent then an' thar to dwell a whole lot on the doin's of some malefactor, Boggs allers gets to a mental show-down ahead of the other gents involved. Either he's out to throw this party loose, or stretch his neck, or run him outen camp, or whatever's deemed exact jestice, long before sech slow-an'-shore people as Old Man Enright even looks at their hands. The trooth is, Boggs ain't so strong on jedgement; his long suit is instinct. An' moreover I knows from his drawin' four kyards so much in poker, Boggs is plumb emotional."

At this point in his discourse the Old Cattle man paused and put in several profound minutes in apparent contemplation of Boggs. Then he went on.

"That's it; Boggs is emotional; an' I shorely reckons which he'd even been a heap religious, only thar's no churches much on Boggs's range. Boggs tells me himse'f he comes mighty near bein' caught in some speritual round-up one time, an' I allers allows, after hearin' Boggs relate the tale, that if he'd only been submerged in what you- alls calls benigner inflooences that a-way, he'd most likely made the fold all right an' got garnered in with the sheep.

"It's just after Short Creek Dave gets to be one of them 'vangelists. Dave has been exhortin' of Wolfville to leave off its ways, over in the warehouse of the New York Store, an' that same evenin' Boggs, bein' some moved, confides in me how once he mebby half-way makes up his mind he'll be saved.

"'Leastwise,' says Boggs, when he takes me into his past that a-way, 'I allows I'll be religious in the spring after the round-up is over. But I don't; so you can't, after all, call it a religious exper'ence none; nothin' more'n a eepisode.

"'It's winter when I makes them grace-of-heaven determinations,' goes on this Boggs, 'an' the spring round-up is months away. But I allers puts it up I'd shorely filled my hand an' got plumb into the play, only it's a bad winter; an' in the spring the cattle, weak an' starved, is gettin' down an' chillin' to death about the water- holes; an' as results tharof I'm ridin' the hills, a-cussin' an' a- swearin'; an' all 'round it's that rough, an' I'm that profane an' voylent, I reckons towards April probably my soul's buried onder ten foot of cuss-words, an' that j'inin' the church in my case is mighty likely to be a bluff. An' so I passes it up.

"'You sees,' says Boggs, 'thar's no good tryin' to hold out kyards on your Redeemer. If your heart ain't right it's no use to set into the game. No cold deck goes. He sees plumb through every kyard you holds, an' nothin' but a straight deal does with Him. Nacherally, then, I thinks-bein' as how you can't bluff your way into heaven, an' recallin' the bad language I uses workin' them cattle-I won't even try. An' that's why, when resolvin' one winter to get religion mebby next June, I persists in my sinful life.

"'It's over to Taos I acquires this religious idee. I'm come new to the camp from some'ers down 'round Seven Rivers in the Pecos country, an' I don't know a gent. Which I'm by nacher gregar'ous; so not knowin' folks that a-way weighs on me; an' the first night I'm thar, I hastens to remedy this yere evil. I'm the possessor of wealth to a limit,-for I shore despises bein' broke complete, an' generally keeps as good as a blue stack in my war-bags,-an' I goes projectin' 'round from dance-hall to baile, an' deciminates my dinero an' draws to me nose-paint an' friends. As thar ain't but three gin-mills, incloosive of the hurdy-gurdy, I'm goin' curvin' in them grand rounds which I institoots, on a sort of triangle.

"'Which it can't be said I don't make runnin' of it, however; I don't reckon now it's mor'n an hour before I knows all Taos, bar Mexicans an' what some folks calls "the better elements." It also follows, like its lariat does a loose pony, that I'm some organized by whiskey, not to say confused.

"'It's because I'm confused I'm misled into this yere pra'r-meetin.' Not that them exercises is due to dim my eternal game none, now nor yereafter; but as I ain't liable to adorn the play nor take proper part tharin, I'd shorely passed out an' kept on to the hurdy-gurdy if I'd knowed. As it stands, I blunders into them orisons inadvertent; but, havin' picked up the hand, I nacherally continues an' plays it.

"'It's this a-way about them religious exercises: I'm emerged from the Tub of Blood, an' am p'intin' out for the dance-hall, when I strikes a wickeyup all lighted, an' singin' on the inside. I takes it for a joint I ain't seen none as yet, an' tharupon heads up an' enters. From the noise, I allows mebby it's Mexican; which Greasers usual puts up a heap of singin' an' scufflin' an' talkin' in everythin' from monte to a bull-fight.

"'Once I'm in, I notes it ain't Mexicans an' it ain't monte. Good folks though, I sees that; an' as a passel of 'em near the door looks shocked at the sight of me, I'm too bashful to break out ag'in, but sorter aiges into the nearest seat an' stands pat.

"'I can tell the outfit figgers on me raisin' the long yell an' stampedin' round to make trouble; so I thinks to myse'f I'll fool 'em up a lot. I jest won't say a word. So I sets silent as a coyote at noon; an' after awhile the sharp who's dealin' for 'em goes on with them petitions I interrupts as I comes bulgin' in.

"'Their range-boss says one thing I remembers. It's about castin' your bread upon the waters. He allows you'll get it ag'in an' a band of mavericks with it. It's playin' white chips to win blues; that's what this sharp says.

"'It shorely strikes me as easy. Every time you does good, says this party, Fate is out to play a return game with you; an' it's written you quits winner on all the good you promulgates that a-way.

"'I sets the deal out an' gets some sleepy at it, too. But I won't leave an' scand'lize the congregation; an' as I gives up strong when the plate goes by, I ain't regarded as no setback.

"'When the contreebution-box-which she's a tin plate-comes chargin' by, I'm sorter noddin,' I'm that weary. I notes the jingle of money, an' rouses up, allowin' mebby it's a jack-pot, I reckons.

"'"How hard be you-all in?" I says to the gent next to me, who's gone to the center for a peso.

"'"Dollar," says the gent.

"'"Well," I says, "I ain't seen my hand since the draw, but I'll raise you nine blind." An' I boards a ten-dollar bill.

"'When the rest goes, I sorter sidles forth an' lines out for the dance-hall. The fact is I'm needin' what you-alls calls stimulants. But all the same it sticks in my head about castin' good deeds on the water that a-way. It sticks thar yet, for that matter.

"Bein' released from them devotions, I starts to drinkin' ag'in with zeal an' earnestness. An' thar comes a time when all my money's in my boots. Yere's how: I only takes two stacks of reds when I embarks on this yere debauch. Bein' deep an' crafty, an' a new Injun at that agency that a-way, an' not knowin' what game I may go ag'inst, I puts the rest of my bank-roll over in Howard's store. It turns out, too, that every time I acquires silver in change, I commits it to my left boot, which is high an' ample to hold said specie. Why I puts this yere silver money in my boot-laig is shore too many for me. But I feels mighty cunnin' over it at the time, an' regards it as a 'way-up play.

"'As I tells you, thar arrives an hour while I'm in the Tub of Blood when my money's all in my boot, an' thar's still licker to drink. Fact is, I jest meets a gent named Frosty, as good a citizen as ever riffles a deck or pulls a trigger, an' p'liteness demands we-alls puts the nose-paint in play. That's why I has to have money.

"'I don't care to go pullin' off my moccasins in the Tub of Blood, an' makin' a vulgar display of my wealth by pourin' the silver onto the floor. Thar's a peck of it, if thar's dos reals; an' sech an exhibition as spillin' it out in the Tub of Blood is bound to mortify me, an' the barkeep, an' Frosty, an' most likely lead to makin' remarks. So I concloods I'll round up my silver outside an' then return.

"'Excuse me," I says to Frosty. "You stay right yere with the bottle, an' I'll be among you ag'in in a minute all spraddled out."

"'I goes wanderin' out back of the Tub of Blood, where it's lonesome, an' camps down by a Spanish-bayonet, an' tugs away to get my boot off an' my dinero into circ'lation.

"'An' while I'm at it, sleep an' nose-paint seizes me, an' my light goes plumb out. I rolls over behind the bayonet-bush an' raises a snore. As for that Frosty, he waits a while; then he pulls his freight, allowin' I'm too deliberate about comin' back, for him.

"'It must have made them coyotes stop an' consider a whole lot about what I be. To show you how good them coyotes is, I wants to tell you: I don't notice it ontil the next day. While I'm curled up to the r'ar of that bush they comes mighty near gnawin' the scabbard offen my gun. Fact; the leather looks like some pup has been chewin' it. But right then I ain't mindin' nothin' so oninterestin' as a coyote bitin' on the leather of my gun.

"'Now this is where that bluff about bread on the waters comes in; an' it falls so pat on the heels of them devotions of mine, it he'ps brand it on my mem'ry. While I'm layin' thar, an' mighty likely while them coyotes is lunchin' offen my scabbard that a-way, along comes a rank stranger they calls Spanish Bill.

"'I learns afterward how this Spanish Bill is hard, plumb through. He's rustled everythin' from a bunch of ponies to th

e mail-bags, an' is nothin' but a hold-up who needs hangin' every hour. Whatever takes him to where I lays by my bayonet-bush I never knows. He don't disclose nothin' on that p'int afterward, an' mebby he tracks up on me accidental.

"'But what informs me plain that he explores my war-bags for stuff, before ever he concloods to look after my health, is this: Later, when we gets acquainted an' I onfurls my finances onto him, he seems disapp'inted an' hurt.

"'The statistics of the barkeep of the Tub of Blood next day, goes to the effect that I'm shorely out thar four hours; an' when Spanish Bill discovers me I'm mighty near froze. Taos nights in November has a heap of things in common with them Artic regions we hears of, where them fur-lined sports goes in pursoot of that North Pole. Bein' froze, an' mebby from an over-dab of nose-paint, I never saveys about this yere Spanish Bill meetin' up with me that a-way ontil later. But by what the barkeep says, he drug me into the Tub of Blood an' allows he's got a maverick.

"'"Fix this yere froze gent up somethin' with teeth," says Spanish Bill to the barkeep. "I don't know his name none, but he's sufferin' an' has got to be recovered if it takes the entire check-rack."

"'Which the barkeep stands in an' brings me to. I comes 'round an' can walk some if Spanish Bill goes along steadyin' of me by the collar. Tharupon said Bill rides herd on me down to the Jackson House an' spreads me on some blankets.

"'It's daylight when I begins to be aware my name's Boggs, an' that I'm a native of Kentucky, an' little personalities like that; an' what wakes me up is this Spanish Bill.

"'"See yere," says this hold-up, "I'm goin' to turn in now, an' it's time you-all is up. Yere's what you do: Thar's five whiskey-checks on the Tub of Blood, which will he'p you to an appetite. Followin' of a s'fficient quantity of fire-water, you will return to the Jackson House an' eat. I pays for it. I won't be outen my blankets by then; but they knows that Spanish Bill makes good, 'cause I impresses it on 'em speshul when I comes in.

"'"You-all don't know me," goes on this Spanish Bill, as I sets up an' blinks at him some foggy an' blurred, "an' I don't know you"- which we-alls allows, outen p'liteness, is a dead loss to both. "But my name's Spanish Bill, an' I'm turnin' monte in the Bank Exchange. I'll be thar at my table by first-drink time this evenin'; an' if you sa'nters that a-way at that epock, we'll have a drink; an' bein' as you're busted, of course I stakes you moderate on your way."

"'It's this bluff about me not havin' money puts me in mind later that this Bill must have rustled my raiments when he finds me that time when I'm presided over by coyotes while I sleeps. When he says it, however, I merely remarks that while I'm grateful to him as mockin'-birds, money after all ain't no object with me; an', pullin' off my nigh moccasin, I pours some two pounds of specie onto the blankets.

"'"Which I packs this in my boot," I observes, "to put mysc'f in mind I've got a roll big enough to fill a nose-bag over to Howard's store."

"'"An' I'm feelin' the galiest to hear it," says this Spanish Bill; though as I su'gests he acts pained an' amazed, like a gent who's over-looked a bet.

"'Well, that's all thar is to that part. That's where Spanish Bill launches that bread of his'n; an' the way it later turns out it sorter b'ars down on me, an' keeps me rememberin' what that skyscout says at the pra'r-meetin' about the action a gent gets by playin' a good deed to win.

"'It's the middle of January, mebby two months later, when I'm over on the Upper Caliente about fifty miles back of the Spanish Peaks. I'm workin' a bunch of cattle; Cross-K is the brand; y'ear-marks a swallow-fork in the left, with the right y'ear onderhacked.'

"What's the good of a y'ear-mark when thar's a brand?" repeated the Old Cattleman after me, for I had interrupted with the question. "Whatever's the good of y'ear-marks? Why, when mixed cattle is in a bunch, standin' so close you can't see no brands on their sides, an' you-all is ridin' through the outfit cuttin' out, y'ear-marks is what you goes by. Cattle turns to look as you comes ridin' an' pesterin' among 'em, an' their two y'ears p'ints for'ard like fans. You gets their y'ear-marks like printin' on the page of a book. If you was to go over a herd by the brands, you wouldn't cut out a steer an hour. But to trail back after Boggs.

"`It's two months later, an' I'm ridin' down a draw one day,' says this Dan Boggs, 'cussin' the range an' the weather, when my pony goes to havin' symptoms. This yere pony is that sagacious that while it makes not the slightest mention of cattle when they's near, it never comes up on deer, or people in the hills, but it takes to givin' of manifestations. This is so I can squar myse'f for whatever game they opens on us.

"`As I says, me an' this yere wise pony is pushin' out into the Caliente when the pony begins to make signs. I brings him down all cautious where we can look across the valley, an'

[Illustration with caption: "Nacherally I stops an' surveys him careful]

you-all can gamble I'm some astonished to see a gent walkin' along afoot, off mebby a couple hundred yards. He sorter limps an' leans over on one side like he's hurt. Nacherally I stops an' surveys him careful. It's plenty strange he's thar at all; an' stranger still he's afoot. I looks him over for weepons; I wants to note what he's like an' how he's heeled.

"'You saveys as well as me it don't do to go canterin' out to strangers that a-way in the hills; speshully a stranger who's afoot. He might hunger for your pony for one thing, an' open a play on you with his gun, as would leave you afoot an' likewise too dead to know it.

"'I'm allers cautious that a-way, around a party who's lost his hoss. It locoes him an' makes him f'rocious; I s'pose bein' afoot he feels he'pless, an' let out an' crazy. A gent afoot is a heap easier to aggravate, too; an' a mighty sight more likely to lay for you than when he's in a Texas saddle with a pony between his knees.

"'Which is why I remarks, that I stacks up this pedestrian careful an' accurate before I goes after him.

"'As I says, he carries on like he's hurt; an' he's packin' a six- shooter. He seems familiar, too; an' while I looks him over I'm wonderin' where I cuts his trail before.

"'As I has the advantage of a Winchester, I at last rides into the open an' gives a whoopee. The party turns, comes limpin' toward me, an' whoever do you allow it is? Which it's shorely Spanish Bill; an' it's right yere he gets action on that bread on the waters he plays in when he recovers me that time in Taos.

"'To make it brief, Spanish Bill tells me that after I leaves Taos he goes over an' deals monte a bit at Wagon Mound. One night a Mexican comes caperin' in, an' Bill gives him a layout or two. At last he makes an alcy bet of fifty dollars on the queen; what the Greasers calls the "hoss." The Mexican loses; an' instead of takin' it easy like a sport should, he grabs the money.

"'As was his dooty, Spanish Bill bends his six-shooter over the

Mexican. Tharupon he searches out a knife; an' this yere so

complicates the business, Bill, to simplify things, plugs the

Mexican full of holes.

"'This shootin' is on the squar', an' no one takes hostile notice of it. Spanish Bill goes on layin' out his monte same as usual. Two days later, though, he gets a p'inter the Mexicans is fixin' for him. So that night he moves camp-mebby to where it's a hundred an' sixty miles from Wagon Mound, over on the Vermejo.

"'But it looks like the Greasers hangs to the trail; for the day before I tracks up on him a band of 'em hops outen a dry arroya, where they's bush-wackin' for him, an' goes to shootin'. As might be expected, Spanish Bill turns loose, free an' frequent, an' they all shorely has a high, excessive time.

"'The Mexicans downs Spanish Bill's pony, an' a bullet creases Bill's side; which last is what curves him over an' indooces him to limp when I trails up with him.

"'As Spanish Bill goes down, the Mexicans scatter. The game is too high for 'em. They was shy two people, with another plugged deep an' strong; by which you notes that Bill is aimin' low an' good.

"'After the shootin' Spanish Bill crawls over to a ranch, an', gettin' a pony an' saddle, which he easy does, he breaks back into the hills where I encounters him. It's that morning his pony gets tired of the deal, an' bucks him off, an' goes stampedin' back. That's why he's afoot.

"'While he's talkin' all this, I recalls how Spanish Bill rounds me up that night in Taos, so I don't hesitate. I takes him over to my camp. The next mornin' he turns his nose for Texas on my best pony; which is the last I sees or hears of Spanish Bill, onless he's the Bill who's lynched over near Eagle Pass a year later, of which I surmises it's some likely.

"'But whether Bill's lynched or not, it all brings up ag'in what that Gospel-gent says about doin' benev'lences; an' how after many days you dies an' makes a winnin', an' lives on velvet all eternity. An' don't you know this Spanish Bill pickin' me up that night, an' then in less than two months, when he's afoot an' hurt in the hills, gettin' ag'inst me an' drawin' out of the game ahead a saddle, a pony an' safety, makes it seem like that Bible-sharp is right a whole lot?

"'That's how it strikes me,' concloods Boggs. 'An' as I tells you; if so many cattle don't die that spring; an' if I don't give way so frightful in my talk, I'd shorely hunted down a congregation the next June, an' stood in."'

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