Project Gutenberg Australia
a treasure-trove of literature
treasure found hidden with no evidence of ownership
DefectiveByDesign.org



Title: Pistol Politics
Author: Robert E. Howard
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0608731.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: November 2006
Date most recently updated: November 2006

This eBook was produced by: Richard Scott

Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions
which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice
is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular
paper edition.

Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the
copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this
file.

This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions
whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms
of the Project Gutenberg of Australia License which may be viewed online at
http://gutenberg.net.au/licence.html


To contact Project Gutenberg of Australia go to http://gutenberg.net.au



Pistol Politics
Robert E. Howard


Politics and book-learning is bad enough took separate; together
they're a blight and a curse. Take Yeller Dog for a instance, a mining
camp over in the Apache River country, where I was rash enough to take
up my abode in onst.

Yeller Dog was a decent camp till politics reared its head in our
midst and education come slithering after. The whiskey was good and
middling cheap. The poker and faro games was honest if you watched the
dealers clost. Three or four piddlin' fights a night was the usual
run, and a man hadn't been shot dead in more than a week by my
reckoning. Then, like my Aunt Tascosa Polk would say, come the deluge.

It all begun when Forty-Rod Harrigan moved his gambling outfit
over to Alderville and left our one frame building vacant, and
Gooseneck Wilkerson got the idee of turning it into a city hall. Then
he said we ought to have a mayor to go with it, and announced hisself
as candidate. Naturally Bull Hawkins, our other leading citizen, come
out agen him. The election was sot for April 11. Gooseneck established
his campaign headquarters in the Silver Saddle saloon, and Bull taken
up his'n in the Red Tomahawk on t'other side of the street. First
thing we knowed, Yeller Dog was in the grip of politics.

The campaign got under way, and the casualties was mounting daily
as public interest become more and more fatally aroused, and on the
afternoon of the 9th Gooseneck come into his headquarters. and says:
"We got to make a sweepin' offensive, boys. Bull Hawkins is
outgeneralin' us. That shootin' match he put on for a prime beef steer
yesterday made a big hit with the common herd. He's tryin' to convince
Yeller Dog that if elected he'd pervide the camp with more high-class
amusement than I could. Breck Elkins, will you pause in yore guzzlin'
and lissen here a minute? As chief of this here political organization
I demand yore attention!"

"I hear you," I says. "I was to the match, and they barred me on a
tecknicality, otherwise I would of won the whole steer. It warn't so
excitin', far as I could see. Only one man got shot."

"And he was one of my voters," scowled Gooseneck. "But we got to
outshine Bull's efforts to seduce the mob. He's resortin' to low,
onder-handed tactics by buyin' votes outright. I scorns sech
measures--anyway, I've bought all I'm able to pay for. We got to put
on a show which out-dazzles his dern' shootin' match."

"A rodeo, maybe," suggested Mule McGrath. "Or a good dog-fight."

"Naw, naw," says Gooseneck. "My show will be a symbol of progress
and culture. We stages a spellin' match tomorrow night in the city
hall. Next mornin' when the polls opens the voters'll still be so
dazzled by the grandeur of our entertainment they'll eleck me by a
vast majority."

"How many men in this here camp can spell good enough to git into
a spellin' bee?" says I.

"I'm confident they's at least thirty-five men in this camp which
can read and write," says Gooseneck. "That's plenty. But we got to
find somebody to give out the words. It wouldn't look right for me--
it'd be beneath my offishul dignity. Who's educated enough for the
job?"

"I am!" says Jerry Brennon and Bill Garrison simultaneous. They
then showed their teeth at each other. They warn't friends nohow.

"Cain't but one git the job," asserted Gooseneck. "I tests yore
ability. Can either one of you spell Constantinople?"

"K-o-n--" begun Garrison, and Brennon burst into a loud and
mocking guffaw, and said something pointed about ignoramuses.

"You $%#&*!" says Garrison blood-thirstily.

"Gentlemen!" squawked Gooseneck--and then ducked as they both went
for their guns.

 * * * *

THEY CLEARED LEATHER about the same time. When the smoke oozed
away Gooseneck crawled out from under the roulette table and cussed
fervently.

"Two more reliable voters gone to glory!" he raged. "Breckinridge,
whyn't you stop 'em?"

"'T'warn't none of my business," says I, reaching for another
drink, because a stray bullet had knocked my glass out a my hand.
"Hey!" I addressed the barkeep sternly. "I see you fixin' to chalk up
that there spilt drink agen me. Charge it to Jerry Brennon. He spilt
it."

"Dead men pays no bills," complained the bartender.

"Cease them petty squabbles!" snarled Gooseneck. "You argys over a
glass of licker when I've jest lost two good votes! Drag 'em out,
boys," he ordered the other members of the organization which was
emerging from behind the bar and the whiskey barrels where they'd took
refuge when the shooting started. "Damn!" says Gooseneck with
bitterness. "This here is a deadly lick to my campaign! I not only
loses two more votes, but them was the best educated men in camp,
outside of me. Now who we goin' to git to conduck the spellin' match?"

"Anybody which can read can do it," says Lobo Harrison a hoss-
thief with a mean face and a ingrown disposition. He'd go a mile out
of his way jest to kick a dog. "Even Elkins there could do it."

"Yeah, if they was anything to read from," snorted Gooseneck. "But
they ain't a line of writin' in camp except on whiskey bottles. We got
to have a man with a lot of long words in his head. Breckinridge,
dammit, jest because I told the barkeep to charge yore drinks onto
campaign expenses ain't no reason for you to freeze onto that bar
permanent. Ride over to Alderville and git us a educated man."

"How'll he know whether he's educated or not?" sneered Lobo, which
seemed to dislike me passionately for some reason or another.

"Make him spell Constantinople," says Gooseneck.

"He cain't go over there," says Soapy Jackson. "The folks has
threatened to lynch him for cripplin' their sheriff."

"I didn't cripple their fool sheriff," I says indignantly. "He
crippled hisself fallin' through a wagon wheel when I give him a kind
of a push with a rock. How you spell that there Constance Hopple
word?"

Well, he spelt it thirty or forty times till I had it memorized,
so I rode over to Alderville. When I rode into town the folks looked
at me coldly and bunched up and whispered amongst theirselves, but I
paid no attention to 'em. I never seen the deputy sheriff, unless that
was him I seen climbing a white oak tree as I hove in sight. I went
into the White Eagle saloon and drunk me a dram, and says to the
barkeep: "Who's the best educated man in Alderville?"

Says he: "Snake River Murgatroyd, which deals monte over to the
Elite Amusement Palace." So I went over there and jest as I went
through the door I happened to remember that Snake River had swore he
was going to shoot me on sight next time he seen me, account of some
trouble we'd had over a card game. But sech things is too trivial to
bother about. I went up to where he was setting dealing monte, and I
says: "Hey!"

"Place your bet," says he. Then he looked up and said: "You!
$#/0&*@!" and reched for his gun, but I got mine out first and shoved
the muzzle under his nose.

"Spell Constantinople!" I tells him.

He turnt pale and said: "Are you crazy?"

"Spell it!" I roared, and he says: "C-o-n-s-t-a-n-t-i-n-o-p-l-e!
What the hell?"

"Good," I said, throwing his gun over in the corner out of
temptation's way. "We wants you to come over to Yeller Dog and give
out words at a spellin' match."

EVERYBODY IN THE PLACE was holding their breath. Snake River moved
his hands nervous-like and knocked a jack of diamonds off onto the
floor. He stooped like he was going to pick it up, but instead he
jerked a bowie out of his boot and tried to stab me in the belly.
Well, much as I would of enjoyed shooting him, I knowed it would spile
the spelling match, so merely taken the knife away from him, and held
him upside down to shake out whatever other weppins he might have hid,
and he begun to holler: "Help! Murder! Elkins is killin' me!"

"It's a Yeller Dog plot!" somebody howled, and the next instant
the air was full of beer mugs and cuspidors. Some of them spittoons
was quite heavy, and when one missed me and went bong on Snake River's
head, he curled up like a angleworm which has been tromped on.

"Lookit there!" they hollered, like it was my fault. "He's tryin'
to kill Snake River! Git him, boys!"

They then fell on me with billiard sticks and chair laigs in a way
which has made me suspicious of Alderville's hospitality ever since.

Argyment being useless, I tucked Snake River under my left arm and
started knocking them fool critters right and left with my right fist,
and I reckon that was how the bar got wrecked. I never seen a bar a
man's head would go through easier'n that'n. So purty soon the
survivors abandoned the fray and run out of the door hollering: "Help!
Murder! Rise up, citizens! Yeller Dog is at our throats! Rise and
defend yore homes and loved ones!"

You would of thought the Apaches was burning the town, the way
folks was hollering and running for their guns and shooting at me, as
I clumb aboard Cap'n Kidd and headed for Yeller Dog. I left the main
road and headed through the bresh for a old trail I knowed about,
because I seen a whole army of men getting on their hosses to lick out
after me, and while I knowed they couldn't catch Cap'n Kidd, I was a
feared they might hit Snake River with a stray bullet if they got
within range. The bresh was purty thick and I reckon it was the
branches slapping him in the face which brung him to, because all to
onst he begun hollering blue murder.

"You ain't takin' me to Yeller Dog!" he yelled. "You're takin' me
out in the hills to murder me! Help! Help!"

"Aw, shet up," I snorted. "This here's a short cut."

"You can't get across Apache River unless you follow the road to
the bridge," says he.

"I can, too," I says. "We'll go acrost on the foot-bridge."

With that he give a scream of horror and a convulsive wrench which
tore hisself clean out of his shirt which I was holding onto. The next
thing I knowed all I had in my hand was a empty shirt and he was on
the ground and scuttling through the bushes. I taken in after him, but
he was purty tricky dodging around stumps and trees, and I begun to
believe I was going to have to shoot him in the hind laig to catch
him, when he made the mistake to trying to climb a tree. I rode up
onto him before he could get out of rech, and reched up and got him by
the laig and pulled him down, and his langwidge was painful to hear.

It was his own fault he slipped outa my hand, he kicked so
vi'lent. I didn't go to drop him on his head.

But jest as I was reching down for him, I heard hosses running,
and looked up and here come that derned Alderville posse busting
through the bresh right on me. I'd lost so much time chasing Snake
River they'd catched up with me. So I scooped him up and hung him over
my saddle horn, because he was out cold, and headed for Apache River.
Cap'n Kidd drawed away from them hosses like they was hobbled, so they
warn't scarcely in pistol-range of us when we busted out on the east
bank. The river was up, jest a-foaming and a-b'ling, and the
footbridge warn't nothing only jest a log.

But Cap'n Kidd's sure-footed as a billy goat. We started acrost
it, and everything went all right till we got about the middle of it,
and then Snake River come to and seen the water booming along under
us. He lost his head and begun to struggle and kick and holler, and
his spurs scratched Cap'n Kidd's hide. That made Cap'n Kidd mad, and
he turnt his head and tried to bite my laig, because he always blames
me for everything that happens, and lost his balance and fell off.

That would of been all right, too, because as we hit the water I
got hold of Cap'n Kidd's tail with one hand, and Snake River's
undershirt with the other'n, and Cap'n Kidd hit out for the west bank.
They is very few streams he cain't swim, flood or not. But jest as we
was nearly acrost the posse appeared on the hind bank and started
shooting at me, and they was apparently in some doubt as to which head
in the water was me, because some of 'em shot at Snake River, too,
jest to make sure. He opened his mouth to holler at 'em, and got it
full of water and dern near strangled.

Then all to onst somebody in the bresh on the west shore opened up
with a Winchester, and one of the posse hollered: "Look out, boys!
It's a trap! Elkins has led us into a ambush!"

They turnt around and high-tailed it for Alderville.

WELL, WHAT WITH THE shooting and a gullet full of water, Snake
River was having a regular fit and he kicked and thrashed so he kicked
hisself clean out of his undershirt, and jest as my feet hit bottom,
he slipped out of my grip and went whirling off downstream.

I jumped out on land, ignoring the hearty kick Cap'n Kidd planted
in my midriff, and grabbed my lariat off my saddle. Gooseneck
Wilkerson come prancing outa the bresh, waving a Winchester and
yelling: "Don't let him drownd, dang you! My whole campaign depends on
that spellin' bee! Do somethin'!"

I run along the bank and made a throw and looped Snake River
around the ears. It warn't a very good catch, but the best I could do
under the circumstances, and skin will always grow back onto a man's
ears.

I hauled him out of the river, and it was plumb ungrateful for him
to accuse me later of dragging him over them sharp rocks on purpose. I
like to know how he figgered I could rope him outa Apache River
without skinning him up a little. He'd swallered so much water he was
nigh at his last gasp. Gooseneck rolled him onto his belly and jumped
up and down on his back with both feet to git the water out; Gooseneck
said that was artifishul respiration, but from the way Snake River
hollered I don't believe it done him much good.

Anyway, he choked up several gallons of water. When he was able to
threaten our lives betwixt cuss-words, Gooseneck says: "Git him on
yore hoss and le's git started. Mine run off when the shootin'
started. I jest suspected you'd be pursued by them dumb-wits and would
take the short-cut. That's why I come to meet you. Come on. We got to
git Snake River some medical attention. In his present state he ain't
in no shape to conduck no spellin' match."

Snake River was too groggy to set in the saddle, so we hung him
acrost it like a cow-hide over a fence, and started out, me leading
Cap'n Kidd. It makes Cap'n Kidd very mad to have anybody but me on his
back, so we hadn't went more'n a mile when he reched around and sot
his teeth in the seat of Snake River's pants. Snake River had been
groaning very weak and dismal and commanding us to stop and let him
down so's he could utter his last words, but when Cap'n Kidd bit him
he let out a remarkable strong yell and bust into langwidge unfit for
a dying man.

"$%/#&!" quoth he passionately. "Why have _I_ got to be butchered
for a Yeller Dog holiday?"

We was reasoning with him, when Old Man Jake Hanson hove out of
the bushes. Old Jake had a cabin a hundred yards back from the trail.
He was about the width of a barn door, and his whiskers was marvelous
to behold. "What's this ungodly noise about?" he demanded. "Who's
gittin' murdered?"

"I am!" says Snake River fiercely. "I'm bein' sacrificed to the
passions of the brutal mob!"

"You shet up," said Gooseneck severely. "Jake, this is the gent
we've consented to let conduck the spellin' match."

"Well, well!" says Jake, interested. "A educated man, hey? Why, he
don't look no different from us folks, if the blood war wiped offa
him. Say, lissen, boys, bring him over to my cabin! I'll dress his
wounds and feed him and take keer of him and git him to the city hall
tomorrer night in time for the spellin' match. In the meantime he can
teach my datter Salomey her letters."

"I refuse to tutor a dirty-faced cub--" began Snake River w hen he
seen a face peeking eagerly at us from the trees. "Who's that?" he
demanded.

"My datter Salomey," says Old Jake. "Nineteen her last birthday
and cain't neither read nor write. None of my folks ever could, far
back as family history goes, but I wants her to git some education."

"It's a human obligation," says Snake River. "I'll do it!"

So we left him at Jake's cabin, propped up on a bunk, with Salomey
feeding him spoon-vittles and whiskey, and me and Gooseneck headed for
Yeller Dog, which warn't hardly a mile from there.

Gooseneck says to me: "We won't say nothin' about Snake River
bein' at Jake's shack. Bull Hawkins is sweet on Salomey and he's so
dern jealous-minded it makes him mad for another man to even stop
there to say hello to the folks. We don't want nothin' to interfere
with our show."

"You ack like you got a lot of confidence in it," I says.

"I banks on it heavy," says he. "It's a symbol of civilization."

WELL, JEST AS WE COME into town we met Mule McGrath with fire in
his eye and corn-juice on his breath. "Gooseneck, lissen!" says he. "I
jest got wind of a plot of Hawkins and Jack Clanton to git a lot of
our voters so drunk election day that they won't be able to git to the
polls. Le's call off the spellin' match and go over to the Red
Tomahawk and clean out that rat-nest!"

"Naw," says Gooseneck, "we promised the mob a show, and we keeps
our word. Don't worry; I'll think of a way to circumvent the heathen."

Mule headed back for the Silver Saddle, shaking his head, and
Gooseneck sot down on the aidge of a hoss-trough and thunk deeply. I'd
begun to think he'd drapped off to sleep, when he riz up and said:
"Breck, git hold of Soapy Jackson and tell him to sneak out of camp
and stay hid till the mornin' of the eleventh. Then he's to ride in
jest before the polls open and spread the news that they has been a
big gold strike over in Wild Ross Gulch. A lot of fellers will
stampede for there without waitin' to vote. Meanwhile you will have
circulated amongst the men you know air goin' to vote for me, and let
'em know we air goin' to work this campaign strategy. With all my men
in camp, and most of Bull's headin' for Wild Ross Gulch, right and
justice triumphs and I wins."

So I went and found Soapy and told him what Gooseneck said, and on
the strength of it he imejitly headed for the Silver Saddle, and begun
guzzling on campaign credit. I felt it was my duty to go along with
him and see that he didn't get so full he forgot what he was supposed
to do, and we was putting down the sixth dram apiece when in come Jack
McDonald, Jim Leary, and Tarantula Allison, all Hawkins men. Soapy
focused his wandering eyes on 'em, and says: "W-who's this here
clutterin' up the scenery? Whyn't you mavericks stay over to the Red
Tomahawk whar you belong?"

"It's a free country," asserted Jack McDonald. "What about this
here derned spellin' match Gooseneck's braggin' about all over town?"

"Well, what about it?" I demanded, hitching my harness for'ard.
The political foe don't live which can beard a Elkins in his lair.

"We demands to know who conducks it," stated Leary. "At least half
the men in camp eligible to compete is in our crowd. We demands fair
play!"

"We're bringin' in a cultured gent from another town," I says
coldly.

"Who?" demanded Allison.

"None of yore dang business!" trumpeted Soapy, which gets
delusions of valor when he's full of licker. "As a champion of
progress and civic pride I challenges the skunk-odored forces of
corrupt politics, and--"

Bam! McDonald swung with a billiard ball and Soapy kissed the
sawdust.

"Now look what you done," I says peevishly. "If you coyotes cain't
ack like gents, you'll oblige me by gittin' to hell outa here."

"If you don't like our company suppose you tries to put us out!"
they challenged.

So when I'd finished my drink I taken their weppins away from 'em
and throwed 'em headfirst out the side door. How was I to know
somebody had jest put up a new cast-iron hitching-rack out there?
Their friends carried 'em over to the Red Tomahawk to sew up their
sculps, and I went back into the Silver Saddle to see if Soapy had
come to yet. Jest as I reched the door he come weaving out, muttering
in his whiskers and waving his six-shooter.

"Do you remember what all I told you?" I demanded.

"S-some of it!" he goggled, with his glassy eyes wobbling in all
directions.

"Well, git goin' then," I urged, and helped him up onto his hoss.
He left town at full speed, with both feet outa the stirrups and both
arms around the hoss' neck.

"Drink is a curse and a delusion," I told the barkeep in disgust.
"Look at that sickenin' example and take warnin'! Gimme me a bottle of
rye."

WELL, GOOSENECK DONE a good job of advertising the show. By the
middle of the next afternoon men was pouring into town from claims all
up and down the creek. Half an hour before the match was sot to begin
the hall was full. The benches was moved back from the front part,
leaving a space clear all the way acrost the hall. They had been a lot
of argyment about who was to compete, and who was to choose sides, but
when it was finally settled, as satisfactory as anything ever was
settled in Yeller Dog, they was twenty men to compete, and Lobo
Harrison and Jack Clanton was to choose up.

By a peculiar coincidence, half of that twenty men was
Gooseneck's, and half was Bull's. So naturally Lobo choosed his pals,
and Clanton chosed his'n.

"I don't like this," Gooseneck whispered to me. "I'd ruther they'd
been mixed up. This is beginnin' to look like a contest between my
gang and Bull's. If they win, it'll make me look cheap. Where the hell
is Snake River?"

"I ain't seen him," I said, "You ought to of made 'em take off
their guns."

"Shucks," says he. "What could possibly stir up trouble at sech a
lady-like affair as a spellin' bee. Dang it, where is Snake River? Old
Jake said he'd git him here on time."

"Hey, Gooseneck!" yelled Bull Hawkins from where he sot amongst
his coharts. "Why'n't you start the show?"

Bull was a big broad-shouldered hombre with black mustashes like a
walrus. The crowd begun to holler and cuss and stomp their feet and
this pleased Bull very much.

"Keep 'em amused," hissed Gooseneck. "I'll go look for Snake
River."

He snuck out a side door and I riz up and addressed the throng.
"Gents," I said, "be patient! They is a slight delay, but it won't be
long. Meantime I'll be glad to entertain you all to the best of my
ability. Would you like to hear me sing _Barbary Allen_?"

"No, by grab!" they answered in one beller.

"Well, yo're a-goin' to!" I roared, infuriated by this callous
lack of the finer feelings. "I will now sing," I says, drawing my .45s
"and I blows the brains out of the first coyote which tries to
interrupt me."

I then sung my song without interference, and when I was through I
bowed and waited for the applause, but all I heard was Lobo Harrison
saying: "Imagine what the pore wolves on Bear Creek has to put up
with!"

This cut me to the quick, but before I could make a suitable
reply, Gooseneck slid in, breathing heavy. "I can't find Snake River,"
he hissed. "But the bar-keep gimme a book he found somewheres. Most of
the leaves is tore out, but there's plenty left. I've marked some of
the longest words, Breck. You can read good enough to give 'em out.
You got to! If we don't start the show right away, this mob'll wreck
the place. Yo're the only man not in the match which can even read a
little, outside of me and Bull. It wouldn't look right for me to do
it, and I shore ain't goin' to let Bull run my show."

I knew I was licked.

"Aw, well, all right," I said. "I might of knew I'd be the goat.
Gimme the book."

"Here it is," he said. "'The Adventures of a French Countess.' Be
dern shore you don't give out no words except them I marked."

"Hey!" bawled Jack Clanton. "We're gittin' tired standin' up here.
Open the ball."

"All right," I says. "We commences."

"Hey!" said Bull. "Nobody told us Elkins was goin' to conduck the
ceremony. We was told a cultured gent from outa town was to do it."

"Well," I says irritably, "Bear Creek is my home range, and I
reckon I'm as cultured as any snake-hunter here. If anybody thinks
he's better qualified than me, step up whilst I stomp his ears off."

Nobody volunteered, so I says "All right. I tosses a dollar to see
who gits the first word." It fell for Harrison's gang, so I looked in
the book at the first word marked, and it was a gal's name.

"Catharine," I says.

Nobody said nothing.

"Catharine!" I roared, glaring at Lobo Harrison.

"What you lookin' at me for?" he demanded. "I don't know no gal by
that name."

"%$&*@!" I says with passion. "That's the word I give out. Spell
it, dammit!"

"Oh," says he. "All right. K-a-t-h-a-r-i-n-n."

"That's wrong," I says.

"What you mean wrong?" he roared. "That's right!"

"'Tain't accordin' to the book," I said.

"Dang the book," says he. "I knows my rights and I ain't to be
euchered by no ignorant grizzly from Bear Creek!"

"Who you callin' ignorant?" I demanded, stung, "Set down! You
spelt it wrong."

"You lie!" he howled, and went for his gun. But I fired first.

WHEN THE SMOKE CLEARED away I seen everybody was on their feet
preparing for to stampede, sech as warn't trying to crawl under the
benches, so I said: "Set down, everybody. They ain't nothin' to git
excited about. The spellin' match continues--and I'll shoot the first
scoundrel which tries to leave the hall before the entertainment's
over."

Gooseneck hissed fiercely at me: "Dammit, be careful who you
shoot, cain't'cha? That was another one of my voters!"

"Drag him out!" I commanded, wiping off some blood where a slug
had notched my ear. "The spellin' match is ready to commence again."

They was a kind of tension in the air, men shuffling their feet
and twisting their mustashes and hitching their gun-belts, but I give
no heed. I now approached the other side, with my hand on my pistol,
and says to Clanton: "Can you spell Catharine?"

"C-a-t-h-a-r-i-n-e!" says he.

"Right, by golly!" I says, consulting _The French Countess_, and
the audience cheered wildly and shot off their pistols into the roof.

"Hey!" says Bill Stark, on the other side. "That's wrong. Make him
set down! It spells with a 'K'!"

"He spelt it jest like it is in the book," I says. "Look for
yoreself."

"I don't give a damn!" he yelled, rudely knocking The French
Countess outa my hand. "It's a misprint! It spells with a 'K' or
they'll be more blood on the floor! He spelt it wrong and if he don't
set down I shoots him down!"

"I'm runnin' this show!" I bellered, beginning to get mad. "You
got to shoot me before you shoots anybody else!"

"With pleasure!" snarled he, and went for his gun.... Well, I hit
him on the jaw with my fist and he went to sleep amongst a wreckage of
busted benches. Gooseneck jumped up with a maddened shriek.

"Dang yore soul, Breckinridge!" he squalled. "Quit cancelin' my
votes! Who air you workin' for--me or Hawkins?"

"Haw! haw! haw!" bellered Hawkins. "Go on with the show! This is
the funniest thing I ever seen!"

Wham! The door crashed open and in pranced Old Jake Hanson, waving
a shotgun.

"Welcome to the festivities, Jake," I greeted him, "Where's--"

"You son of a skunk!" quoth he, and let go at me with both
barrels. The shot scattered remarkable. I didn't get more'n five or
six of 'em and the rest distributed freely amongst the crowd. You
ought to of heard 'em holler--the folks, I mean, not the buckshot.

"What in tarnation air you doin'?" shrieked Gooseneck. "Where's
Snake River?"

"Gone!" howled Old Jake. "Run off! Eloped with my datter!"

Bull Hawkins riz with a howl of anguish, convulsively clutching
his whiskers.

"Salomey?" he bellered. "Eloped?"

"With a cussed gambolier they brung over from Alderville!" bleated
Old Jake, doing a war-dance in his passion. "Elkins and Wilkerson
persuaded me to take that snake into my boozum! In spite of my pleas
and protests they forced him into my peaceful $# %* household, and he
stole the pore, mutton-headed innercent's blasted heart with his
cultured airs and his slick talk! They've run off to git married!"

"It's a political plot!" shrieked Hawkins, going for his gun,
"Wilkerson done it a-purpose!"

I shot the gun out of his hand, but Jack Clanton crashed a bench
down on Gooseneck's head and Gooseneck kissed the floor. Clanton come
down on top of him, out cold, as Mule McGrath swung with a pistol
butt, and the next instant somebody lammed Mule with a brick bat and
he flopped down acrost Clanton. And then the fight was on. Them rival
political factions jest kind of riz up and rolled together in a wave
of profanity, gun-smoke and splintering benches.

I HAVE ALWAYS NOTICED that the best thing to do in sech cases is
to keep yore temper, and that's what I did for some time, in spite of
the efforts of nine or ten wild-eyed Hawkinites. I didn't even shoot
one of 'em; I kept my head and battered their skulls with a joist I
tore outa the floor, and when I knocked 'em down I didn't stomp 'em
hardly any. But they kept coming, and Jack McDonald was obsessed with
the notion that he could ride me to the floor by jumping up astraddle
of my neck. So he done it, and having discovered his idee was a
hallucination, he got a fistful of my hair with his left, and started
beating me in the head with his pistol-barrel.

It was very annoying. Simultaneous, several other misfits got hold
of my laigs, trying to rassle me down, and some son of Baliol stomped
severely on my toe. I had bore my afflictions as patient as Job up to
that time, but this perfidy maddened me.

I give a roar which loosened the shingles on the roof, and kicked
the toe-stomper in the belly with sech fury that he curled up on the
floor with a holler groan and taken no more interest in the
proceedings. I likewise busted my timber on somebody's skull, and
reched up and pulled Jack McDonald off my neck like pulling a tick off
a bull's hide, and hev him through a convenient winder. He's a liar
when he says I aimed him deliberate at that rain barrel. I didn't even
know they was a rain barrel till I heard his head crash through the
staves. I then shaken nine or ten idjits loose from my shoulders and
shook the blood outa my eyes and preceived that Gooseneck's men was
getting the worst of it, particularly including Gooseneck hisself. So
I give another roar and prepared to wade through them fool Hawkinites
like a b'ar through a pack of hound-dogs, when I discovered that some
perfidious side-winder had got my spur tangled in his whiskers.

I stooped to ontangle myself, jest as a charge of buckshot ripped
through the air where my head had been a instant before. Three or four
critters was rushing me with bowie knives, so I give a wrench and tore
loose by main force. How could I help it if most of the whiskers come
loose too? I grabbed me a bench to use for a club, and I mowed the
whole first rank down with one swipe, and then as I drawed back for
another lick, I heard somebody yelling above the melee.

_"Gold!"_ he shrieked.

Everybody stopped like they was froze in their tracks. Even Bull
Hawkins shook the blood outa his eyes and glared up from where he was
kneeling on Gooseneck's wishbone with one hand in Gooseneck's hair and
a bowie in the other'n. Everybody quit fighting everybody else, and
looked at the door--and there was Soapy Jackson, a-reeling and a-
weaving with a empty bottle in one hand, and hollering.

"Big gold strike in Wild Hoss Gulch," he blats. "Biggest the West
ever seen! Nuggets the size of osteridge aigs--_gulp_!"

He disappeared in a wave of frenzied humanity as Yeller Dog's
population abandoned the fray and headed for the wide open spaces.
Even Hawkins ceased his efforts to sculp Gooseneck alive and j'ined
the stampede. They tore the whole front out of the city hall in their
flight, and even them which had been knocked stiff come to at the howl
of "Gold!" and staggered wildly after the mob, shrieking pitifully for
their picks, shovels and jackasses. When the dust had settled and the
thunder of boot-heels had faded in the distance, the only human left
in the city hall was me and Gooseneck, and Soapy Jackson, which riz
unsteadily with the prints of hob-nails all over his homely face. They
shore trompled him free and generous in their rush.

Gooseneck staggered up, glared wildly about him, and went into
convulsions. At first he couldn't talk at all; he jest frothed at the
mouth. When he found speech his langwidge was shocking.

"What you spring it this time of night for?" he howled.
"Breckinridge, I said tell him to bring the news in the mornin', not
tonight!"

"I did tell him that," I says.

"Oh, so that was what I couldn't remember!" says Soapy. "That lick
McDonald gimme so plumb addled my brains I knowed they was somethin' I
forgot, but couldn't remember what it was."

"Oh sole mio!" gibbered Gooseneck, or words to that effeck.

"Well, what you kickin' about?" I demanded peevishly, having jest
discovered that somebody had stabbed me in the hind laig during the
melee. My boot was full of blood, and they was brand-new boots. "It
worked, didn't it?" I says. "They're all headin' for Wild Hoss Gulch,
includin' Hawkins hisself, and they cain't possibly git back afore day
after tomorrer."

"Yeah!" raved Gooseneck. "They're all gone, includin' my gang! The
damn camp's empty! How can I git elected with nobody here to hold the
election, and nobody to vote?"

"Oh," I says. "That's right. I hadn't thunk of that."

He fixed me with a awful eye.

"Did you," says he in a blood-curdling voice, "did you tell my
voters Soapy was goin' to enact a political strategy?"

"By golly!" I said. "You know it plumb slipped my mind! Ain't that
a joke on me?"

"Git out of my life!" says Gooseneck, drawing his gun.

That was a genteel way for him to ack, trying to shoot me after
all I'd did for him! I taken his gun away from him as gentle as I
knowed how and it was his own fault he got his arm broke. But to hear
him rave you would of thought he considered I was to blame for his
misfortunes or something. I was so derned disgusted I clumb onto Cap'n
Kidd and shaken the dust of that there camp offa my boots, because I
seen they was no gratitude in Yeller Dog.

I likewise seen I wasn't cut out for the skullduggery of politics.
I had me a notion one time that I'd make a hiyu sheriff but I learnt
my lesson. It's like my pap says, I reckon.

"All the law a man needs," says he, "is a gun tucked into his
pants. And the main l'arnin' he needs is to know which end of that gun
the bullet comes out of."

What's good enough for pap, gents, is good enough for me.



THE END



This site is full of FREE ebooks - Project Gutenberg Australia