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   Chapter 9 No.9

Wolfville Nights By Alfred Henry Lewis Characters: 16728

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


The Influence of Faro Nell.

"Thar's no doubt about it," observed the Old Cattleman, apropos of the fairer, better sex-for woman was the gentle subject of our morning's talk; "thar's no doubt about it, females is a refinin' an' ennoblin' inflooence; you-all can hazard your chips on that an' pile 'em higher than Cook's Peak! An' when Faro Nell prefers them requests, she's ondoubted moved of feelin's of mercy. They shore does her credit, said motives does, an' if she had asked Cherokee or Jack Moore, or even Texas Thompson, things would have come off as effective an' a mighty sight more discreet. But since he's standin' thar handy, Nell ups an' recroots Dan Boggs on the side of hoomanity, an' tharupon Dan goes trackin' in without doo reflection, an' sets the Mexicans examples which, to give 'em a best deescription, is shore some bad. It ain't Nell's fault, but Dan is a gent of sech onusual impulses that you-all don't know wherever Dan will land none, once you goes pokin' up his ha'r-hung sensibil'ties with su'gestions that is novel to his game. Still, Nell can't he'p it; an' in view of what we knows to be the female record since ever the world begins, I re-asserts onhesitatin' that the effects of woman is good. She subdooes the reckless, subjoogates the rebellious, sobers the friv'lous, burns the ground from onder the indolent moccasins of that male she's roped up in holy wedlock's bonds, an' p'ints the way to a higher, happier life. That's whatever! an' this dramy of existence, as I once hears Colonel Sterett say, would be a frost an' a failure an' bog plumb down at that, if you was to cut out the leadin' lady roles an' ring up the curtain with nothin' but bucks in the cast.'

"Narrow an' contracted as you may deem said camp to be, Wolfville itse'f offers plenty proof on this head. Thar's Dave Tutt: Whatever is Dave, I'd like for to inquire, prior to Tucson Jennie runnin' her wifely brand on to him an' redoocin' him to domesticity? No, thar's nothin' so evil about Dave neither, an' yet he has his little ways. For one thing, Dave's about as extemporaneous a prop'sition as ever sets in a saddle, an' thar's times when you give Dave licker an' convince him it's a o'casion for joobilation, an' you-all won't have to leave no 'call' with the clerk to insure yourse'f of bein' out early in the mornin.' Son, Dave would keep that camp settin' up all night.

"But once Dave comes onder the mitigatin' spells of Tucson Jennie, things is changed. Tucson Jennie knocks Dave's horns off doorin' the first two weeks; he gets staid an' circumspect an' tharby plays better poker an' grows more urbane.

"Likewise does Benson Annie work mir'cles sim'lar in the conduct of that maverick French which Enright an' the camp, to allay the burnin' excitement that's rendin' the outfit on account of the Laundry War, herds into her lovin' arms. Tenderfoot as he is, when we-all ups an' marries him off that time, this French already shows symptoms of becomin' one of the most abandoned sports in Arizona. Benson Annie seizes him, purifies him, an' makes him white as snow.

"An' thar's Missis Rucker;-as troo a lady as ever bakes a biscuit! Even with the burdens of the O.K. Restauraw upon her she still finds energy to improve old Rucker to that extent he ups an' rides off towards the hills one mornin' an' never does come back no more.

"'Doc,' he says to Doc Peets, while he's fillin' a canteen in the Red Light prior to his start; 'I won't tell you what I'm aimin' to accomplish, because the Stranglers might regyard it as their dooty to round me up. But thar's something comin' to the public, Doc; so I yereby leaves word that next week, or next month, or mebby later, if doubts is expressed of my fate, I'm still flutterin' about the scenery some'ers an' am a long ways short of dead. An' as I fades from sight, Doc, I'll take a chance an' say that the clause in the Constitootion which allows that all gents is free an' equal wasn't meant to incloode no married man.' An' with these croode bluffs Rucker chases forth for the Floridas.

"No, the camp don't do nothin'; the word gets passed 'round that old Rucker's gone prospectin' an' that he will recur in our midst whenever thar's a reg'lar roll-call. As for Missis Rucker, personal, from all we can jedge by lookin' on-for thar's shore none of us who's that locoed we ups an' asks-I don't reckon now she ever notices that Rucker's escaped.

"Yere's how it is the time when Faro Nell, her heart bleedin' for the sufferin's of dumb an' he'pless brutes, employs Dan Boggs in errants of mercy an' Dan's efforts to do good gets ill-advised. Not that Dan is easily brought so he regyards his play as erroneous; Enright has to rebooke Dan outright in set terms an' assoome airs of severity before ever Dan allows he entertains a doubt.

"'Suppose I does retire that Greaser's hand from cirk'lation?' says Dan, sort o' dispootatious with Enright an' Doc Peets, who's both engaged in p'intin' out Dan's faults. 'Mexicans ain't got no more need for hands than squinch owls has for hymn books. They won't work; they never uses them members except for dealin' monte or clawin' a guitar. I regyards a Mexican's hands that a-way, when considered as feachers in his makeup, as sooperfluous.'

"'Dan, you shore is the most perverse sport!' says Enright, makin' a gesture of impatience an' at the same time refillin' his glass in hopes of a ca'mer frame. 'This ain't so much a question of hands as it's a question of taste. Nell's requests is right, an' you're bound to go about the rescoo of said chicken as the victim of crooelties. Where you-all falls down is on a system. The method you invokes is impertinent. Don't you say so, Doc?'

"'Which I shore does,' says Peets. 'Dan's conduct is absolootely oncouth.'

"Dan lays the basis for these strictures in the follow-in' fashion: It's a fieste with the Mexicans-one of the noomerous saint's days they gives way to when every Greaser onbuckles an' devotes himse'f to merriments-an' over in Chihuahua, as the Mexican part of the camp is called, the sunburnt portion of Wolfville's pop'lation broadens into quite a time. Thar's hoss races an' monte an' mescal an' pulque, together with roode music sech as may be wrung from primitive instruments like the guitar, the fiddle, an' tin cans half filled with stones.

"Faro Nell, who is only a child as you-all might say, an' ready to be engaged an' entertained with childish things, goes trippin' over to size up the gala scene.

"Thar's a passel of young Mexicans who's Ridin' for the Chicken's Head. This yere is a sport something like a Gander Pullin', same as we-all engages in on Thanksgivin' days an' Christmas, back when I'm a boy in Tennessee. You saveys a Gander Pullin'? Son, you don't mean sech ignorance! Thar must have been mighty little sunshine in the life of a yooth in the morose regions where you was raised for you-all never to disport yourse'f, even as a spectator, at a Gander Pullin'! It wouldn't surprise me none after that if you ups an' informs me you never shakes a fetlock in that dance called money-musk.

"To the end that you be eddicated,-for it's better late than never,"-I'll pause concernin' Boggs an' the Mexicans long enough to eloocidate of Gander Pullin's.

"As I su'gests, we onbends in this pastime at sech epocks as Christmas an' Thanksgivin.' I don't myse'f take actooal part in any Gander Pullin's. Not that I'm too delicate, but I ain't got no hoss. Bein' a pore yooth, I spends the mornin' of my c'reer on foot, an' as a hoss is a necessary ingreedient to a Gander Pullin', I never does stand in personal on the festival, but is redooced to become a envy-bitten looker-on.

"Gander Pullin's is conducted near a tavern or a still house so's the assembled gents won't want the inspiration befittin' both the season an' the scene, an' is commonly held onder the auspices of the proprietor tharof. Thar's a track marked out in a cirkle like a little racecourse for the hosses to gallop on. This course runs between two poles pinned into the ground; or mebby it's two trees. Thar's a rope stretched from pole to pole,-taut an' stiff she's stretched; an' the gander who's the object of the meetin', with his neck an' head greased a heap lavish, is hung from the rope by his two hind laigs. As the gander hangs thar, what Colonel Sterett

would style 'the cynosure of every eye,' you'll notice that a gent by standin' high in the stirrups can get a grip of the gander's head.

"As many as determines to distinguish themse'fs in the amoosement throws a two-bit piece into a hat. Most likely thar'll be forty partic'pants. They then lines up, Injun file, an' goes caperin' round the course, each in his place in the joyous procession. As a gent goes onder the rope he grabs for the gander's head; an' that party who's expert enough to bring it away in his hand, wins the hat full of two-bit pieces yeretofore deescribed.

"Which, of course, no gent succeeds the first dash outen the box, as a gander's head is on some good and strong; an' many a saddle gets emptied by virchoo of the back'ard yanks a party gets. But it's on with the dance! They keeps whoopin' an' shoutin' an' ridin' the cirkle an' grabbin' at the gander, each in his cheerful turn, ontil some strong or lucky party sweeps away the prize, assoomes title to the two-bit pieces, goes struttin' to the licker room an' buys nosepaint for the pop'lace tharwith.

"Shore, doorin' a contest a gent's got to keep ridin'; he's not allowed to pause an' dally with the gander an' delay the game. To see to this a brace of brawny sharps is stationed by each pole with clubs in their willin' hands to reemonstrate with any hoss or gent who slows down or stops as he goes onder the gander.

"Thar you have it, son; a brief but lively picture of a Gander Pullin' as pulled former in blithe old Tennessee. An' you'll allow, if you sets down to a ca'm, onja'ndiced study of the sport, that a half hour of reasonable thrill might be expected to flow from it. Gander Pullin's is popular a lot when I'm a yearlin'; I knows that for shore; though in a age which grows effete it's mighty likely if we-all goes back thar now, we'd find it fallen into disuse as a reelaxation.

"In Ridin' for the Chicken's Head, a Mexican don't hang up his prey none same as we-all does at Gander Pullin's. He buries it in the ground to sech degrees that nothin' but the head an' neck protroodes. An' as the Mexicans goes flashin' by on their broncos, each in turn swings down an' makes a reach for the chicken's head. The experiment calls for a shore-enough rider; as when a party is over on one side that a-way, an' nothin' to hold by but a left hand on the saddlehorn an' a left spur caught in the cantle, any little old pull will fetch him out on his head.

"This day when Faro Nell comes bulgin' up to amoose her young an' idle cur'osity with the gayeties of Chihuahua, the Ridin' for the Chicken's Head is about to commence. Which they're jest plantin' the chicken. At first Nell don't savey, as she ain't posted deep on Mexican pastimes. But Nell is plenty quick mental; as, actin' look-out for Cherokee's bank, she's bound to be. Wherefore Nell don't study the preeliminaries long before she gets onto the roodiments of some idee concernin' the jocund plans of the Greasers.

"At last the chicken is buried, an' thar's nothin' in sight but its anxious head. Except that it can turn an' twist its neck some, it's fixed in the ground as firm an' solid as the stumps of a mesquite bush.

"The first Greaser-he's a gaudy party with more colours than you could count in any rainbow-is organisin' for a rush. He's pickin' up his reins an' pushin' his moccasins deep into his tappedaries, when, as he gives his cayouse the spur, the beauty of Ridin' for the Chicken's Head bursts full on Faro Nell. Comin' on her onexpected, Nell don't see no pleasure in it. It don't present the attractions which so alloores the heart of a Greaser. Without pausin' to think, an' feelin' shocked over the fate that's ridin' down on the buried chicken, Nell grips her little paws convulsive an' snaps her teeth. It's then her eye catches Dan Boggs, who's contemplatin' details an' awaitin' the finish with vivid interest.

"'Oh, Dan!' says Nell, grabbin' Dan's arm, 'I don't want that chicken hurt none! Can't you-all make 'em stop?'

"'Shore!' says Dan, prompt to Nell's cry. 'I preevails on 'em to cease easy.'

"As Dan says this, that radiant cavalier is sweepin' upon the pore chicken like the breath of destiny. He's bendin' from the saddle to make a swoop as Dan speaks. Thar ain't a moment to lose an' Dan's hand goes to his gun.

"'Watch me stop him,' says Dan; an' as he does, his bullet makes rags of the Mexican's hand not a inch from the chicken's head.

"For what time you-all might need to slop out a drink, the onlookin' Mexicans stands still. Then the stoopefyin' impressions made by Dan's pistol practice wears off an' a howl goes up like a hundred wolves. At this Dan gets his number-two gun to b'ar, an' with one in each hand, confronts the tan-coloured multitoode.

"'That's shore a nice shot, Nell!' says Dan over his shoulder, ropin' for the congratoolations he thinks is comin.'

"But Nell don't hear him; she's one hundred yards away an' streakin' it for the Red Light like a shootin' star. She tumbles in on us with the brake off like a stage-coach downhill.

"'Dan's treed Chihuahua!' gasps Nell, as she heads straight for

Cherokee; 'you-all better rustle over thar plumb soon!'

"Cherokee jumps an' grabs his hardware where they're layin' onder the table. Bein' daylight an' no game goin', an' the day some warm besides, he ain't been wearin' 'em, bein' as you-all might say in negligee. Cherokee buckles on his belts in a second an' starts; the rest of us, however, since we're more ackerately garbed, don't lose no time an' is already half way to Dan.

"It ain't a two-minute run an' we arrives in time. Thar's no more blood, though thar might have been, for we finds Dan frontin' up to full two hundred Greasers, their numbers increasin' and excitement runnin' a heap high. We cuts in between Dan an' Mexican public opinion and extricates that over-vol'tile sport.

"But Dan won't return ontil he exhoomes the chicken, which is still bobbin' an' twistin' its onharmed head where the Mexican buries it. Dan digs it up an' takes it by the laigs; Enright meanwhile cussin' him out, fervent an' nervous, for he fears some locoed Greaser will cut loose every moment an' mebby crease a gent, an' so leave it incumbent on the rest of us to desolate Chihuahua.

"'It's for Nell,' expostulates Dan, replyin' to Enright's criticisms.

'I knows she wants it by the way she grabs my coat that time.

Moreover, from the tones she speaks in, I reckons she wants it alive.

Also, I don't discern no excoose for this toomult neither; which

you-all is shore the most peevish bunch, Enright, an' that's whatever!'

"'Peevish or no,' retorts Enright, 'as a jedge of warjigs I figgers that we gets here jest in time. Thar you be, up ag'inst the entire tribe, an' each one with a gun. It's one of the deefects of a Colt's six-shooter that it hits as hard an' shoots as troo for a Injun or a Greaser as it does for folks. Talk about us bein' peevish! what do you-all reckon would have been results if we hadn't cut in on the baile at the time we does?'

"'Nothin',' says Dan, with tones of soopreme vanity, at the same time dustin' the dirt off Nell's chicken, 'nothing except I'd hung crape on half the dobies in Chihuahua.'

"About two hours after, when things ag'in simmers to the usual, an'

Nell is makin' her chicken a coop out to the r'ar of the Red Light,

Enright gives a half laugh.

"'Dan,' says Enright, 'when I reflects on the hole we drug you out of, an' the way you-all gets in, you reminds me of that Thomas Benton dog I owns when I'm a yoothful child on the Cumberland. Which Thomas Benton that a-way is a mighty industrious dog an' would turn over a quarter-section of land any afternoon diggin' out a ground-hawg. But thar's this drawback to Thomas Benton which impairs his market valyoo. Some folks used to regyard it as a foible; but it's worse, it's a deefect. As I remarks, this Thomas Benton dog would throw his whole soul into the work, an' dig for a groundhawg like he ain't got another dollar. But thar's this pecooliarity: After that Thomas Benton dog has done dug out the ground-hawg for a couple of hours, you-all is forced to get a spade an' dig out that Thomas Benton dog. He's dead now these yere forty years, but if he's livin' I'd shore change his name an' rebrand him "Dan'l Boggs."'"

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