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   Chapter 3 No.3

Wolfville Days By Alfred Henry Lewis Characters: 9818

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04


The Feud of Pickles.

"Thar's a big crowd in Wolfville that June day." The Old Cattleman tilted his chair back and challenged my interest with his eye. "The corrals is full of pack mules an' bull teams an' wagon-trains; an' white men, Mexicans, half-breeds an' Injuns is a-mixin' an' meanderin' 'round, a-lyin' an' a-laughin' an' a-drinkin' of Red Light whiskey mighty profuse. Four or five mule skinners has their long limber sixteen-foot whips, which is loaded with dust-shot from butt to tip, an' is crackin' of 'em at a mark. I've seen one of these yere mule experts with the most easy, delicate, delib'rate twist of the wrist make his whip squirm in the air like a hurt snake; an' then he'll straighten it out with the crack of twenty rifles, an' the buckskin popper cuts a hole in a loose buffalo robe he's hung up; an' all without investin' two ounces of actooal strength. Several of us Wolfville gents is on the sidewalk in front of the O. K. Restauraw, applaudin' of the good shots, when Dave Tutt speaks up to Jack Moore, next to me, an' says:

"'Jack, you minds that old Navajo you downs over on the San Simon last Fall?'"

"'I minds him mighty cl'ar,' says Jack. 'He's stealin' my Alizan hoss at the time, an' I can prove it by his skelp on my bridle now.'

"'Well,' says Dave, p'intin' to a ornery, saddle-colored half-breed who's makin' himse'f some frequent, 'that Injun they calls "Pickles" is his nephy, an' you wants to look out a whole lot. I hears him allow that the killin' of his relatif is mighty rank, an' that he don't like it nohow.'

"'That's all right,' says Jack; 'Pickles an' me has been keepin' cases on each other an hour; an' I'll post you-all private, if he goes to play hoss a little bit, him an' his oncle will be able to talk things over before night.'

"Which it's mighty soon when Pickles comes along where we be.

"'Hello, Jack,' he says, an' his manner is insultin'; 'been makin' it smoky down on the old San Simon lately?'

"'No; not since last fall,' says Jack, plenty light an' free; 'an' now I thinks of it, I b'lieves I sees that Navajo hoss-thief of an oncle of yours when I'm down thar last. I ain't run up on him none lately, though. Where do you-all reckon he's done 'loped to?'

"'Can't say, myse'f,' says Pickles, with a kind o' wicked cheerfulness; 'our fam'ly has a round-up of itse'f over on B'ar Creek last spring, an' I don't count his nose among 'em none. Mebby he has an engagement, an' can't get thar. Mebby he's out squanderin' 'round in the high grass some'ers. Great man to go 'round permiscus, that Injun is.'

"'You see,' says Jack, 'I don't know but he might be dead. Which the time I speaks of, I'm settin' in camp one day. Something attracts me, an' I happens to look up, an' thar's my hoss, Alizan, with a perfect stranger on him, pitchin' an' buckin', an' it looks like he's goin' to cripple that stranger shore. Pickles, you knows me! I'd lose two hosses rather than have a gent I don't know none get hurt. So I grabs my Winchester an' allows to kill Alizan. But it's a new gun; an' you know what new sights is-coarse as sandburrs; you could drag a dog through 'em-an' I holds too high. I fetches the stranger, "bang!" right back of his left y'ear, an' the bullet comes outen his right y'ear. You can bet the limit, I never am so displeased with my shootin'. The idee of me holdin' four foot too high in a hundred yards! I never is that embarrassed! I'm so plumb disgusted an' ashamed, I don't go near that equestrian stranger till after I finishes my grub. Alizan, he comes up all shiverin' an' sweatin' an' stands thar; an' mebby in a hour or so I strolls out to the deceased. It shorely wearies me a whole lot when I sees him; he's nothin' but a common Digger buck. You can drink on it if I ain't relieved. Bein' a no-account Injun, of course, I don't paw him over much for brands; but do you know, Pickles, from the casooal glance I gives, it strikes me at the time it's mighty likely to be your oncle. This old bronco fancier's skelp is over on my bridle, if you thinks you'd know it.'

"'No,' says Pickles, mighty onconcerned, 'it can't be my oncle nohow. If he's one of my fam'ly, it would be your ha'r on his bridle. It must be some old shorthorn of a Mohave you downs. Let's all take a drink on it.'

"So we-all goes weavin' over to the Red Light, Jack an' Pickles surveyin' each other close an' interested, that a-way, an' the rest of us on the quee vee, to go swarmin' out of range if they takes to shootin'.

"'It's shore sad to part with friends,' says Pickles, as he secretes his nose-paint, 'but jest the same I must saddle an' stampede out of yere. I wants to see that old villyun, Tom Cooke, an' I don't reckon none I'll find him any this side of Prescott, neither. Be you thinkin' of leavin' camp yourse'f, Jack?'

"'I don't put it up I'll leave for a long time,' says Jack. 'Mebby not for a

month-mebby it's even years before I go wanderin' off-so don't go to makin' no friendly, quiet waits for me nowhere along the route, Pickles, 'cause you'd most likely run out of water or chuck or something before ever I trails up.'

"It ain't long when Pickles saddles up an' comes chargin' 'round on his little buckskin hoss. Pickles takes to cuttin' all manner of tricks, reachin' for things on the ground, snatchin' off Mexicans' hats, an' jumpin' his pony over wagon tongues an' camp fixin's. All the time he's whoopin' an' yellin' an' carryin' on, an havin' a high time all by himse'f. Which you can see he's gettin' up his blood an' nerve, reg'lar Injun fashion.

"Next he takes down his rope an' goes to whirlin' that. Two or three times he comes flashin' by where we be, an' I looks to see him make a try at Jack. But he's too far back, or thar's too many 'round Jack, or Pickles can't get the distance, or something; for he don't throw it none, but jest keeps yellin' an' ridin' louder an' faster. Pickles shorely puts up a heap of riot that a-way! It's now that Enright calls to Pickles.

"'Look yere, Pickles,' he says, 'I've passed the word to the five best guns in camp to curl you up if you pitch that rope once. Bein' as the news concerns you, personal, I allows it's nothin' more'n friendly to tell you. Then ag'in, I don't like to lose the Red Light sech a customer like you till it's a plumb case of crowd.'

"When Enright vouchsafes this warnin', Pickles swings down an' leaves his pony standin', an' comes over.

"'Do you know, Jack,' he says, 'I don't like the onrespectful tones wherein you talks of Injuns. I'm Injun, part, myse'f, an' I don't like it.'

"'No?' says Jack; 'I s'pose that's a fact, too. An' yet, Pickles, not intendin' nothin' personal, for I wouldn't be personal with a prairie dog, I'm not only onrespectful of Injuns, an' thinks the gov'ment ought to pay a bounty for their skelps, but I states beliefs that a hoss-stealin', skulkin' mongrel of a half-breed is lower yet; I holdin' he ain't even people-ain't nothin', in fact. But to change the subjeck, as well as open an avenoo for another round of drinks, I'll gamble, Pickles, that you-all stole that hoss down thar, an' that the "7K" brand on his shoulder ain't no brand at all, but picked on with the p'int of a knife.'

"When Jack puts it all over Pickles that a-way, we looks for shootin' shore. But Pickles can't steady himse'f on the call. He's like ponies I've met. He'll ride right at a thing as though he's goin' plumb through or over, an' at the last second he quits an' flinches an' weakens. Son, it ain't Pickles' fault. Thar ain't no breed of gent but the pure white who can play a desp'rate deal down through, an' call the turn for life or death at the close; an' Pickles, that a-way, is only half white. So he laughs sort o' ugly at Jack's bluff, an' allows he orders drinks without no wagers.

"'An' then, Jack,' he says, 'I wants you to come feed with me. I'll have Missis Rucker burn us up something right.'

"'I'll go you,' says Jack, 'if it ain't nothin' but salt hoss.'

"'I'll fix you-all folks up a feed,' says Missis Rucker, a heap grim, 'but you don't do no banquetin' in no dinin' room of mine. I'll spread your grub in the camp-house, t'other side the corral, an' you-all can then be as sociable an' smoky as you please. Which you'll be alone over thar, an' can conduct the reepast in any fashion to suit yourse'fs. But you don't get into the dinin' room reg'lar, an' go to weedin' out my boarders accidental, with them feuds of yours.'

"After a little, their grub's got ready in the camp house. It's a jo-darter of a feed, with cake, pie, airtights, an' the full game, an' Jack an' Pickles walks over side an' side. They goes in alone an' shets the door. In about five minutes, thar's some emphatic remarks by two six-shooters, an' we-all goes chargin' to find out. We discovers Jack eatin' away all right; Pickles is the other side, with his head in his tin plate, his intellects runnin' out over his eye. Jack's shore subdooed that savage for all time.

"'It don't look like Pickles is hungry none,' says Jack.

"They both pulls their weepons as they sets down, an' puts 'em in their laps; but bein' bred across, that a-way, Pickles can't stand the strain. He gets nervous an' grabs for his gun; the muzzle catches onder the table-top, an' thar's his bullet all safe in the wood. Jack, bein' clean strain American, has better luck, an' Pickles is got. Shore, it's right an' on the squar'!

"'You sees,' says Dan Boggs, 'this killin's bound to be right from the jump. It comes off by Pickles' earnest desire; Jack couldn't refoose. He would have lost both skelp an' standin' if he had. Which, however, if this yere 'limination of Pickles has got to have a name, my idee is to call her a case of self-deestruction on Pickles' part, an' let it go at that.'"

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