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   Chapter 20 No.20

Wolfville Nights By Alfred Henry Lewis Characters: 16108

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


Colonel Coyote Clubbs.

"Which as a roole," said the Old Cattleman, "I speaks with deference an' yields respects to whatever finds its source in nacher, but this yere weather simply makes sech attitoode reedic'lous, an' any encomiums passed thar-on would sound sarkastic." Here my friend waved a disgusted hand towards the rain-whipped panes and shook his head. "Thar's but one way to meet an' cope successful with a day like this," he ran on, "an' that is to put yourse'f in the hands of a joodicious barkeep-put yourse'f in his hands an' let him pull you through. Actin' on this idee I jest despatches my black boy Tom for a pitcher of peach an' honey, an', onless you-all has better plans afoot, you might as well camp an' wait deevelopments, same as old man Wasson does when he's treed by the b'ar."

Promptly came the peach and honey, and with its appearance the pelting storm outside lost power to annoy. My companion beamingly did me honour in a full glass. After a moment fraught of silence and peach and honey, and possibly, too, from some notion of pleasing my host with a compliment, I said: "That gentleman with whom you were in converse last evening told me he never passed a more delightful hour than he spent listening to you. You recall whom I mean?"

"Recall him? Shore," retorted my friend as he recurred to the pitcher for a second comforter. "You-all alloodes to the little gent who's lame in the nigh hind laig. He appeals to me, speshul, as he puts me in mind of old Colonel Coyote Clubbs who scares up Doc Peets that time. Old Coyote is lame same as this yere person."

"Frighten Peets!" I exclaimed, with a great air; "you amaze me! Give me the particulars."

"Why, of course," he replied, "I wouldn't be onderstood that Peets is terrorised outright. Still, old Colonel Coyote shore stampedes him an' forces Peets to fly. It's either vamos or shoot up pore Coyote; an' as Peets couldn't do the latter, his only alternative is to go scatterin' as I states.

"This yere Coyote has a camp some ten miles to the no'th an' off to one side of the trail to Tucson. Old Coyote lives alone an' has built himse'f a dugout-a sort o' log hut that's half in an' half outen the ground. His mission on earth is to slay coyotes-'Wolfin'' he calls it-for their pelts; which Coyote gets a dollar each for the furs, an' the New York store which buys 'em tells Coyote to go as far as he likes. They stands eager to purchase all he can peel offen them anamiles.

"No; Coyote don't shoot these yere little wolves; he p'isens 'em. Coyote would take about twelve foot, say, of a pine tree he's cut down-this yere timber is mebby eight inches through-an' he'll bore in it a two-inch auger hole every two foot. These holes is some deep; about four inches it's likely. Old Coyote mixes his p'isen with beef tallow, biles them ingredients up together a lot, an' then, while she's melted that a-way, he pours it into these yere auger holes an' lets it cool. It gets good an' hard, this arsenic-tallow does, an' then Coyote drags the timber thus reg'lated out onto the plains to what he regyards as a elegible local'ty an' leaves it for the wolves to come an' batten on. Old Coyote will have as many as a dozen of these sticks of timber, all bored an' framed up with arsenic-tallow, scattered about. Each mornin' while he's wolfin', Coyote makes a round-up an' skins an' counts up his prey. An' son, you hear me! he does a flourishin' trade.

"Why don't Coyote p'isen hunks of meat you asks? For obvious reasons. In sech events the victim bolts the piece of beef an' lopes off mebby five miles before ever he succumbs. With this yere augur hole play it's different. The wolf has to lick the arsenic-tallow out with his tongue an' the p'isen has time an' gets in its work. That wolf sort o' withers right thar in his tracks. At the most he ain't further away than the nearest water; arsenic makin' 'em plenty thirsty, as you-all most likely knows.

"Old Coyote shows up in Wolfville about once a month, packin' in his pelts an' freightin' over to his wickeyup whatever in the way of grub he reckons he needs. Which, if you was ever to see Coyote once, you would remember him. He's shore the most egreegious person, an' in appearance is a cross between a joke, a disaster an' a cur'osity. I don't reckon now pore Coyote ever sees the time when he weighs a hundred pound; an' he's grizzled an' dried an' lame of one laig, while his face is like a squinch owl's face-kind o' wide-eyed an' with a expression of ignorant wonder, as if life is a never-endin' surprise party.

"Most likely now what fixes him firmest in your mind is, he don't drink none. He declines nosepaint in every form; an' this yere abstinence, the same bein' yoonique in Wolfville, together with Coyote conductin' himse'f as the p'litest an' best-mannered gent to be met with in all of Arizona, is apt to introode on your attention. Colonel Sterett once mentions Coyote's manners.

"'Which he could give Chesterfield, Coyote could, kyards an' spades,' observes the Colonel. I don't, myse'f, know this Chesterfield none, but I can see by the fashion in which Colonel Sterett alloodes to him that he's a Kaintuckian an' a jo-darter on manners an' etiquette.

"As I says, a pecooliar trait of Coyote is that he won't drink nothin' but water. Despite this blemish, however, when the camp gets so it knows him it can't he'p but like him a heap. He's so quiet an' honest an' ignorant an' little an' lame, an' so plumb p'lite besides, he grows on you. I can almost see the weasened old outlaw now as he comes rockin' into town with his six or seven burros packed to their y'ears with pelts!

"This time when Coyote puts Doc Peets in a toomult is when he's first pitched his dug-out camp an' begins to honour Wolfville with his visits. As yet none of us appreciates pore Coyote at his troo worth, an' on account of them guileless looks of his sech humourists as Dan Boggs an' Texas Thompson seizes on him as a source of merriment.

"It's Coyote's third expedition into town, an' he's hoverin' about the New York store waitin' for 'em to figger up his wolf pelts an' cut out his plunder so he freights it back to his dug-out. Dan an' Texas is also procrastinatin' 'round, an' they sidles up allowin' to have their little jest. Old Coyote don't know none of 'em-quiet an' sober an' p'lite like I relates, he's slow gettin' acquainted-an' Dan an' Texas, as well as Doc Peets, is like so many onopened books to him. For that matter, while none of them pards of mine knows Coyote, they manages to gain a sidelight on some of his characteristics before ever they gets through. Doc Peets later grows ashamed of the part he plays, an' two months afterwards when Coyote is chewed an' clawed to a standstill by a infooriated badger which he mixes himse'f up with, Peets binds him up an' straightens out his game, an' declines all talk of recompense complete.

"'It's merely payin' for that outrage I attempts on your feelin's when you rebookes me so handsome,' says Peets, as he turns aside Coyote's dinero an' tells him to replace the same in his war-bags.

"However does Coyote get wrastled by that badger? It's another yarn, but at least she's brief an' so I'll let you have it. Badgers, you saveys, is sour, sullen, an' lonesome. An' a badger's feelin's is allers hurt about something; you never meets up with him when he ain't hostile an' half-way bent for war. Which it's the habit of these yere morose badgers to spend a heap of their time settin' half in an' half outen their holes, considerin' the scenery in a dissatisfied way like they has some grudge ag'inst it. An' if you approaches a badger while thus employed he tries to run a blazer on you; he'll show his teeth an' stand pat like he meditates trouble. When you've come up within thirty feet he changes his mind an' disappears back'ard into his hole; but all malignant an' reluctant.

"Now, while Coyote saveys wolves, he's a heap dark on badgers that a-way. An' also thar's a badger who lives clost to Coyote'

s dug-out. One day while this yere ill-tempered anamile is cocked up in the mouth of his hole, a blinkin' hatefully at surroundin' objects. Coyote cuts down on him with a Sharp's rifle he's got kickin' about his camp an' turns that weepon loose.

"He misses the badger utter, but he don't know it none. Comin' to the hole, Coyote sees the badger kind o' quiled up at the first bend in the burrow, an' he exultin'ly allows he's plugged him an' tharupon reaches in to retrieve his game. That's where Coyote makes the mistake of his c'reer; that's where he drops his watermelon!

"That badger's alive an' onhurt an' as hot as a lady who's lost money. Which he's simply retired a few foot into his house to reconsider Coyote an' that Sharp's rifle of his. Nacherally when the ontaught Coyote lays down on his face an' goes to gropin' about to fetch that badger forth the latter never hes'tates. He grabs Coyote's hand with tooth and claw, braces his back ag'in the ceilin' of his burrow an' stands pat.

"Badgers is big people an' strong as ponies too. An' obdurate! Son, a badger is that decided an' set in his way that sech feather-blown things as hills is excitable an' vacillatin' by comparison. This yere particular badger has the fam'ly weaknesses fully deeveloped, an' the moment he cinches onto Coyote, he shore makes up his mind never to let go ag'in in this world nor the next.

"As I tells you, Coyote is little an' weak, an' he can no more move that hardened badger, nor yet fetch himse'f loose, than he can sprout wings an' soar. That badger's got Coyote; thar he holds him prone an' flat ag'in the ground for hours. An' at last Coyote swoons away.

"Which he'd shore petered right thar, a prey to badgers, if it ain't for a cowpuncher-he's one of Old Man Enright's riders-who comes romancin' along an' is attracted to the spot by some cattle who's prancin' an' waltzin' about, sizin' Coyote up as he's layin' thar, an' snortin' an' curvin' their tails in wonder at the spectacle. Which the visitin' cow sharp, seein' how matters is headed, shoves his six-shooter in along-side of Coyote's arm, drills this besotted badger, an' Coyote is saved. It's a case of touch an' go at that. But to caper back to where we leaves Dan an' Texas on the verge of them jocyoolarities.

"'No, gentlemen,' Coyote is sayin', in response to some queries of Dan an' Texas; 'I've wandered hither an' yon a heap in my time, an' now I has my dug-out done, an' seein' wolves is oncommon plenty, I allows I puts in what few declinin' days remains to me right where I be. I must say, too, I'm pleased with Wolfville an' regyards myse'f as fortunate an' proud to be a neighbour to sech excellent folks as you-all."

"'Which I'm shore sorry a lot,' says Dan, 'to hear you speak as you does. Thar's a rapacious sport about yere who the instant he finds how you makes them dug-out improvements sends on an' wins out a gov'ment patent an' takes title to that identical quarter-section which embraces your camp. Now he's allowin' to go squanderin' over to Tucson an' get a docyment or two from the jedge an' run you out.'

"Son, this pore innocent Coyote takes in Dan's fictions like so much spring water; he believes 'em utter. But the wonder is to see how he changes. He don't say nothin', but his-eyes sort o' sparks up an' his face gets as gray as his ha'r. It's now that Doc Peets comes along.

"'Yere is this devourin' scoundrel now,' says Texas Thompson, p'intin' to Peets. 'You-all had better talk to him some about it.' Then turnin' to Peets with a wink, Texas goes on: 'Me an' Mister Boggs is tellin' our friend how you gets a title to that land he's camped on, an' that you allows you'll take possession mebby next week.'

"'Why, shore,' says Peets, enterin' into the sperit of the hoax, an' deemin' it a splendid joke; 'be you-all the maverick who's on that quarter-section of mine?'

"'Which I'm Colonel Coyote Clubbs,' says Coyote, bowin' low while his lips trembles, 'an' I'm at your service.'

"'Well,' says Peets, 'it don't make much difference about your name, all you has to do is hit the trail. I needs that location you've done squatted on because of the water.'

"'An' do I onderstand, sir,' says Coyote some agitated, 'that you'll come with off'cers to put me outen my dug-out?'

"'Shore,' says Peets, in a case-hardened, pitiless tone, 'an' why not? Am I to be debarred of my rights by some coyote-slaughterin' invader an' onmurmurin'ly accede tharto? Which I should shore say otherwise.'

"'Then I yereby warns you, sir,' says Coyote, gettin' pale as paper.

'I advises you to bring your coffin when you comes for that land, for

I'll down you the moment you're in range.'

"'In which case,' says Peets, assoomin' airs of blood-thirsty trucyoolence, 'thar's scant use to wait. If thar's goin' to be any powder burnin' we might better burn it now.'

"'I've no weepon, sir,' says Coyote, limpin' about in a circle, 'but if ary of these gentlemen will favour me with a gun I'll admire to put myse'f in your way.'

"Which the appearance of Coyote when he utters this, an' him showin' on the surface about as war-like as a prairie-dog, convulses Dan an' Texas. It's all they can do to keep a grave front while pore Coyote in his ignorance calls the bluff of one of the most deadly an' gamest gents who ever crosses the Missouri-one who for nerve an' finish is a even break with Cherokee Hall.

"'Follow me,' says Peets, frownin' on Coyote like a thunder cloud; 'I'll equip you with a weepon myse'f. I reckons now that your death an' deestruction that a-way is after all the best trail out.

"Peets moves off a heap haughty, an' Coyote limps after him. Peets goes over where his rooms is at. 'Take a cha'r,' says Peets, as they walks in, an' Coyote camps down stiffly in a seat. Peets crosses to a rack an' searches down a 8-inch Colt's. Then he turns towards Coyote. 'This yere discovery annoys me,' says Peets, an' his words comes cold as ice, 'but now we're assembled, I finds that I've only got one gun.'

"'Well, sir,' says Coyote, gettin' up an' limpin' about in his nervous way, his face workin' an' the sparks in his eyes beginnin' to leap into flames; 'well, sir, may I ask what you aims to propose?'

"'I proposes to beef you right yere,' says Peets, as f'rocious as a grizzly. 'Die, you miscreant!' An' Peets throws the gun on Coyote, the big muzzle not a foot from his heart.

"Peets, as well as Dan an' Texas, who's enjoyin' the comedy through a window, ondoubted looks for Coyote to wilt without a sigh. An' if he had done so, the joke would have been both excellent an' complete. But Coyote never wilts. He moves so quick no one ever does locate the darkened recess of his garments from which he lugs out that knife; the first p'inter any of 'em gets is that with the same breath wherein Peets puts the six-shooter on him, Coyote's organised in full with a bowie.

"'Make a centre shot, you villyun!' roars Coyote, an' straight as adders he la'nches himse'f at Peets's neck.

"Son, it's the first an' last time that Doc Peets ever runs. An' he don't run now, he flies. Peets comes pourin' through the door an' into the street, with Coyote frothin' after him not a yard to spar'. The best thing about the whole play is that Coyote's a cripple; it's this yere element of lameness that lets Peets out. He can run thirty foot to Coyote's one, an' the result occurs in safety by the breadth of a ha'r.

"It takes two hours to explain to Coyote that this eepisode is humour, an' to ca'm him an' get his emotions bedded down. At last, yoonited Wolfville succeeds in beatin' the trooth into him, an' he permits Peets to approach an' apol'gise.

"'An' you can gamble all the wolves you'll ever kill an' skin,' says Doc Peets, as he asks Coyote to forgive an' forget, 'that this yere is the last time I embarks in jests of a practical character or gives way to humour other than the strickly oral kind. Barkeep, my venerated friend, yere will have a glass of water; but you give me Valley Tan.'"

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