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   Chapter 2 No.2

Wolfville Days By Alfred Henry Lewis Characters: 15694

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04


The Grinding of Dave Tutt.

"Yes," said the Old Cattleman, as he took off his sombrero and contemplated the rattlesnake band which environed the crown, "cow- punchers is queer people. They needs a heap of watchin' an' herdin'. I knowed one by the name of Stevenson down on the Turkey Track, as merits plenty of lookin' after. This yere Stevenson ain't exactly ornery; but bein' restless, an' with a disp'sition to be emphatic whenever he's fillin' himse'f up, keepin' your eye on him is good, safe jedgment. He is public-sperited, too, an' sometimes takes lots of pains to please folks an' be pop'lar.

"I recalls once when we're bringin' up a beef herd from the Panhandle country. We're ag'in the south bank of the Arkansaw, tryin' to throw the herd across. Thar's a bridge, but the natifs allows it's plenty weak, so we're makin' the herd swim. Steve is posted at the mouth of the bridge, to turn back any loose cattle that takes a notion to try an' cross that a-way. Thar's nothin' much to engage Steve's faculties, an' he's a-settin' on his bronco, an' both is mighty near asleep. Some women people-from the far East, I reckons-as is camped in town, comes over on the bridge to see us cross the herd. They've lined out clost up to Steve, a-leanin' of their young Eastern chins on the top rail.

"'Which I don't regyard this much,' says one young woman; 'thar's no thrill into it. Whyever don't they do somethin' excitin'?'

"Steve observes with chagrin that this yere lady is displeased; an', as he can't figger nothin' else out quick to entertain her, he gives a whoop, slams his six-shooter off into the scenery, socks his spurs into the pony, an' hops himse'f over the side of the bridge a whole lot into the shallow water below. The jump is some twenty feet an' busts the pony's laigs like toothpicks; also it breaks Steve's collarbone an' disperses his feachers 'round some free an' frightful on account of his sort o' lightin' on his face.

"Well, we shoots the pony; an' Steve rides in the grub wagon four or five days recooperatin'. It's jest the mercy of hell he don't break his neck.

"'Whatever do you jump off for?' I asks Steve when he's comin' 'round.

"'Which I performs said equestrianisms to amoose that she-shorthorn who is cussin' us out.' says Steve 'I ain't permittin' for her to go back to the States, malignin' of us cow-men.'

"Steve gets himse'f downed a year after, an' strikes out for new ranges in the skies. He's over on the upper Red River when he gets creased. He's settin' into a poker game.

"Steve never oughter gambled none. He is a good cow-boy-splendid round-up hand-an' can do his day's work with rope or iron in a brandin' pen with anybody; but comin' right to cases, he don't know no more about playin' poker than he does about preachin'. Actooally, he'd back two pa'r like thar's no record of their bein' beat. This yere, of course, leads to frequent poverty, but it don't confer no wisdom on Steve.

"On this o'casion, when they ships Steve for the realms of light, one of the boys gets a trey-full; Steve being possessed of a heart flush, nine at the head. In two minutes he don't have even his blankets left.

"After he's broke, Steve h'ists in a drink or two an' sours 'round a whole lot; an' jest as the trey-full boy gets into his saddle, Steve comes roamin' along up an' hails him.

"'Pard,' says Steve, a heap gloomy, 'I've been tryin' to school myse'f to b'ar it, but it don't go. Tharfore, I'm yere to say you steals that pa'r of kings as completed my rooin. Comin' to them decisions, I'm goin' to call on you for that bric-a-brac I lose, an' I looks to gain some fav'rable replies.'

"'Oh, you do, do you!' says the trey-full boy. 'Which you-all is a heap too sanguine. Do you reckon I gives up the frootes of a trey- full-as hard a hand to hold as that is? You can go ten to one I won't: not this round-up! Sech requests is preepost'rous!'

"'Don't wax flippant about this yere robbery, says Steve. 'It's enough to be plundered without bein' insulted by gayeties. Now, what I says is this: Either I gets my stuff, or I severs our relations with a gun.' An' tharupon Steve pulls his pistol an' takes hold of the trey-full boy's bridle. "'If thar's one thing makes me more weary than another,' says the trey-full boy, 'it's a gun play; an' to avoid sech exhibitions I freely returns your plunder. But you an' me don't play kyards no more.'

"Whereupon, the trey-full boy gets off his hoss, an' Steve, allowin' the debate is closed, puts up his gun. Steve is preematoor. The next second, 'bang!' goes the trey-full boy's six-shooter, the bullet gets Steve in the neck, with them heavenly results I yeretofore onfolds, an' at first drink time that evenin' we has a hasty but successful fooneral.

"'I don't reckon,' says Wat Peacock, who is range boss, 'thar's need of havin' any law-suits about this yere killin'. I knows Steve for long an' likes him. But I'm yere to announce that them idees he fosters concerinin' the valyoo of poker hands, onreasonable an' plumb extrav'gant as they shorely is, absolootely preeclooded Steve's reachin' to old age. An' Steve has warnin's. Once when he tries to get his life insured down in Austin, he's refoosed.

"'"In a five-hand game, table stakes, what is a pair of aces worth before the draw?" is one of them questions that company asks.

"'"Table stakes?" says Steve. "Every chip you've got."

"'"That settles it, says the company; "we don't want no sech resk. Thar never is sech recklessness! You won't live a year; you're lucky to be alive right now." An' they declines to insure Steve.'

"However," continued my friend musingly, "I've been puttin' it up to myself, that mighty likely I does wrong to tell you these yere tales. Which you're ignorant of cow folks, an' for me to go onloadin' of sech revelations mebby gives you impressions that's a lot erroneous. Now I reckons from that one eepisode you half figgers cow people is morose an' ferocious as a bunch?"

As the old gentleman gave his tones the inflection of inquiry, I hastened to interpose divers flattering denials. His recitals had inspired an admiration for cow men rather than the reverse.

This setting forth of my approval pleased him. He gave me his word that I in no sort assumed too much in the matter. Cow men, he asserted, were a light-hearted brood; over-cheerful, perhaps, at times, and seeking amusement in ways beyond the understanding of the East; but safe, upright, and of splendid generosity. Eager to correct within me any mal-effects of the tragedy just told, he recalled the story of a Tucson day of merry relaxation with Dave Tutt. He opined that it furnished a picture of the people of cows in lighter, brighter colors, and so gave me details with a sketchy gladness.

"Which you're acc'rate in them thoughts," he said, referring to my word that I held cow folk to be engaging characters. After elevating his spirit with a clove, He went forward. "Thar ain't much paw an' bellow to a cowboy. Speakin' gen'ral, an' not allowin' for them inflooences which disturbs none-I adverts to mescal an' monte, an' sech abnormalities-he's passive an' easy; no more harm into him than a jack rabbit.

"Of course he has his moods to be merry, an' mebby thar's hours when he's gay to the p'int of over-play. But his heart's as straight as a rifle bar'l every time.

"It's a day I puts in with Dave Tutt which makes what these yere law-sharps calls 'a case in p'int,' an' which I relates without reserve. It gives you some notion of how a cowboy, havin' a leesure hour, onbuckles an' is happy nacheral.

"This yere is prior to Dave weddin' Tucson Jennie. I'm pirootin' 'round Tucson with Dave at the time, Dave's workin' a small bunch of cattle, 'way over near the Cow Springs, an' is in Tucson for a rest. We've been sloshin'

'round the Oriental all day, findin' new virchoos in the whiskey, an' amoosin' ourse'fs at our own expense, when about fifth drink time in the evenin' Dave allows he's some sick of sech revels, an' concloods he'll p'int out among the 'dobys, sort o' explorin' things up a lot. Which we tharupon goes in concert.

"I ain't frothin' at the mouth none to go myse'f, not seein' reelaxation in pokin' about permiscus among a passel of Mexicans, an' me loathin' of 'em from birth; but I goes, aimin' to ride herd on Dave. Which his disp'sition is some free an' various; an' bein' among Mexicans, that a-way, he's liable to mix himse'f into trouble. Not that Dave is bad, none whatever; but bein' seven or eight drinks winner, an' of that Oriental whiskey, too, it broadens him an' makes him feel friendly, an' deloodes him into claimin' acquaintance with people he never does know, an' refoosin' to onderstand how they shows symptoms of doubt. So we capers along; Dave warblin' 'The Death of Sam Bass' in the coyote key.

"The senoras an' senoritas, hearin' the row, would look out an' smile, an' Dave would wave his big hat an' whoop from glee. If he starts toward 'em, aimin' for a powwow-which he does frequent, bein' a mighty amiable gent that a-way-they carols forth a squawk immediate an' shets the door. Dave goes on. Mebby he gives the door a kick or two, a-proclaimin' of his discontent.

"All at once, while we're prowlin' up one of them spacious alleys a Mexican thinks is a street, we comes up on a Eytalian with a music outfit which he's grindin'. This yere music ain't so bad, an' I hears a heap worse strains. As soon as Dave sees him he tries to figger on a dance, but the 'local talent' declines to dance with him.

"'In which event,' says Dave, 'I plays a lone hand."

"So Dave puts up a small dance, like a Navajo, accompanyin' of himse'f with outcries same as a Injun. But the Eytalian don't play Dave's kind of music, an' the bailee comes to a halt.

"'Whatever is the matter with this yere tune-box, anyhow?' says Dave. 'Gimme the music for a green-corn dance, an' don't make no delay.' "'This yere gent can't play no green-corn dance,' I says.

"'He can't, can't he?' says Dave; 'wait till he ropes at it once. I knows this gent of yore. I meets him two years ago in El Paso; which me an' him shorely shakes up that village.'

"'Whatever is his name, then?' I asks.

"'Antonio Marino,' says the Eytalian.

"'Merino?' says Dave; 'that's right. I recalls it, 'cause it makes me think at the jump he's a sheep man, an' I gets plumb hostile.'

"'I never sees you,' says the Eytalian.

"'Yes you do,' says Dave; 'you jest think you didn't see me. We drinks together, an' goes out an' shoots up the camp, arm an' arm.'

"But the Eytalian insists he never meets Dave. This makes Dave ugly a lot, an' before I gets to butt in an' stop it, he outs with his six-shooter, an' puts a hole into the music-box.'

"'These yere tunes I hears so far,' says Dave, 'is too frivolous; I figgers that oughter sober 'em down a whole lot.'

"When Dave shoots, the Eytalian party heaves the strap of his hewgag over his head, an' flies. Dave grabs the music-box, keepin' it from fallin', an' then begins turnin' the crank to try it. It plays all right, only every now an' then thar's a hole into the melody like it's lost a tooth.

"'This yere's good enough for a dog!' says Dave, a-twistin' away on the handle. 'Where's this yere Merino? Whatever is the matter with that shorthorn? Why don't he stand his hand?'

"But Merino ain't noomerous no more; so Dave allows it's a shame to let it go that a-way, an' Mexicans sufferin' for melody. With that he straps on the tune-box, an' roams 'round from one 'doby to another, turnin' it loose.

"'How long does Merino deal his tunes,' says Dave, 'before he c'llects? However, I makes new rooles for the game, right yere. I plays these cadences five minutes; an' then I gets action on 'em for five. I splits even with these Mexicans, which is shorely fair.'

"So Dave twists away for five minutes, an' me a-timin' of him, an' then leans the hewgag up ag'in a 'doby, an' starts in to make a round-up. He'll tackle a household, sort o' terrorisin' at 'em with his gun; an' tharupon the members gets that generous they even negotiates loans an' thrusts them proceeds on Dave. That's right; they're that ambitious to donate.

"One time he runs up on a band of tenderfeet, who's skallyhootin' 'round; an' they comes up an' bends their y'ears a-while. They're turnin' to go jest before c'llectin' time.

"'Hold on,' says Dave, pickin' up his Colt's offen the top of the hewgag; 'don't get cold feet. Which I've seen people turn that kyard in church, but you bet you don't jump no game of mine that a-way. You-all line up ag'in the wall thar ontil I tucks the blankets in on this yere outbreak in F flat, an' I'll be with you.'

"When Dave winds up, he goes along the line of them tremblin' towerists, an' they contreebutes 'leven dollars.

"'They aims to go stampedin' off with them nocturnes, an' 'peggios, an' arias, an' never say nothin',' says Dave; 'but they can't work no twist like that, an' me a-ridin' herd; none whatever.'

"Dave carries on sim'lar for three hours; an' what on splits, an' what on bets he wins, he's over a hundred dollars ahead. But at last he's plumb fatigued, an' allows he'll quit an' call it a day. So he packs the tom-tom down to Franklin's office. Franklin is marshal of Tucson, an' Dave turns over the layout an' the money, an' tells Franklin to round up Merino an' enrich him tharwith.

"'Where is this yere Dago?' says Franklin.

"'However do I know?' says Dave. 'Last I notes of him, he's canterin' off among the scenery like antelopes.'

"It's at this p'int Merino comes to view. He starts in to be a heap dejected about that bullet; but when he gets Dave's donation that a- way, his hopes revives. He begins to regyard it as a heap good scheme.

"'But you'll have to cirkle up to the alcalde, Tutt,' says Franklin.

'I ain't shore none you ain't been breakin' some law.'

"Dave grumbles, an' allows Tucson is gettin' a heap too staid for him.

"'It's gettin' so,' says Dave, 'a free American citizen don't obtain no encouragements. Yere I puts in half a day, amassin' wealth for a foreign gent who is settin' in bad luck; an' elevatin' Mexicans, who shorely needs it, an' for a finish I'm laid for by the marshal like a felon.'

"Well, we-all goes surgin' over to the alcalde's. Franklin, Dave an' the alcalde does a heap of pokin' about to see whatever crimes, if any, Dave's done. Which they gets by the capture of the hewgag, an' shootin' that bullet into its bowels don't bother 'em a bit. Even Dave's standin' up them towerists, an' the rapine that ensoos don't worry 'em none; but the question of the music itse'f sets the alcalde to buckin'.

"'I'm shorely depressed to say it, Dave,' says the alcalde, who is a sport named Steele, 'but you've been a-bustin' of ord'nances about playin' music on the street without no license.'

"'Can't we-all beat the game no way?' says Dave.

"'Which I shorely don't see how,' says the alcalde.

"'Nor me neither,' says Franklin.

"'Whatever is the matter with counter-brandin' them tunes over to

Merino's license?' says Dave.

"'Can't do it nohow,' says the alcalde.

"'Well, is this yere ord'nance accordin' to Hoyle an' the Declaration of Independence?' says Dave. 'I don't stand it none onless.'

"'Shore!' says the alcalde.

"'Ante an' pass the buck, then,' says Dave. 'I'm a law-abidin' citizen, an' all I wants is a squar' deal from the warm deck.'

"So they fines Dave fifty dollars for playin' them harmonies without no license. Dave asks me later not to mention this yere outcome in Wolfville, an' I never does. But yere it's different."

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