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Title: The Pike Bearfield Stories
Author: Robert E. Howard
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Language: English
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The Pike Bearfield Stories


Robert E. Howard

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First published in this form by
Project Gutenberg Australia and Roy Glashan's Library



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Written as a Pike Bearfield story in 1928.
Published as a Breckinridge Elkins story
in Double-Action Western, December 1956

"The War of 1812 might have had a very different ending if Sir Wilmot Pembroke had succeeded in his efforts to organize the Western Indians into one vast confederacy to hurl against the American frontier; just why he did fail is as great a mystery as is the nature of the accident which forced his companions to carry him back to Canada on a stretcher."
—Wilkinson's History of the Northwest

March 10, 1879
Mister WN. Wilkinson. Chicago, Illinoy.

Dear Sir:

The schoolmarm down to Coon Creek was reading the above passage to me out of yore history book which you writ. It ain't no mystery. It's all explained in this here letter which I'm sending you which has been sticking in the family Bible along with the birth records for years. It was writ by my grandpap. Please send it back when you've read it, and oblige.

Yores respeckfully.
Pike Bearfield, Esquire.

* * * * *

On the Missoury.
September, 1814.
Mister Peter Bearfield. Nashville, Tennessee.
Dear Sir:

Well, pap, I hope you air satisfied, perswading me to stay out here on the Missoury and skin bufflers and fight musketeers, whilst everybody else in the family is having big doings and enjoying theirselves. When I think about Bill and John and Joel marching around with Gen'ral Hickory Jackson, and wearing them gorgeous unerforms, and fighting in all them fine battles yore having back there I could dang near bawl. I ain't going to be put on no more jest because I'm the youngest. Soon's I git back to Saint Louis I'm going to throw up my job and head for Tennessee, and the Missoury Fur Company can go to hell. I ain't going to spend all my life working for a living whilst my wuthless brothers has all the fun, by golly, I ain't. And if you tries to oppress me any more, I'll go and enlist up North and git to be a Yankee; you can see from this how desprut I be, so you better consider.

Anyway, I jest been through a experience up beyond Owl River which has soured me on the whole dern fur trade. I reckon you'll say what the hell has he been doing up the river this time of year, there ain't no furs up there in the summer. Well, it was all on account of Big Nose, the Minnetaree chief, and I git sick at my stummick right now every time I see a Minnetaree.

You know the way the guvment takes Injun chiefs East and shows 'em the cities and forts and armies and things. The idea being that the chief will git so scairt when he sees how strong the white man is, that when he gits home he won't never go on the war-path no more. So he comes home and tells the tribe about what he seen, and they accuse him of being a liar and say he's been bought off by the white folks; so he gits mad and goes out and sculps the first white man he meets jest to demonstrate his independence. But it's a good theery, anyway.

So they taken Big Nose to Memphis and would of took him all the way to Washington, only they was scairt they'd run into a battle somewheres on the way and the cannon would scare Big Nose into a decline. So they brung him back to Saint Charles and left him for the company to git him back to his village on Knife River. So Joshua Humphrey, one of the clerks, he put a crew of twenty men and four hunters onto the Pirut Queen, and loaded Big Nose on, and we started. The other three hunters was all American too, and the boatmen was Frenchies from down the Mississippi.

I wisht you could of saw Big Nose. He had on a plug hat they give him, and a blue swaller-tailed coat with brass buttons, and a big red sash and broadcloth britches—only he'd cut the seat out of 'em like a Injun always does; and the boots they give him hurt his flat feet, so he wore 'em tied around his neck. He was the most pecooliar-looking critter I ever laid eyes onto, and I shuddered to think what'd happen when the Sioux first ketched sight of him. Big Nose shuddered too, and more'n I did, because the Sioux hated him anyhow, and the Tetons had swore to kiver a drum with his hide.

But all the way up the Lower River he was like a hawg in clover, because the Omahas and Osages and Iowas would come down to the bank and look at him, clap their hands over their open mouths to show how astonished and admireful they was. He strutted and swelled all over the boat. But the further away from the Platte we got the more his feathers drooped; and one day a Injun rode up on the bluffs and looked at us as we went past, and he was a Sioux. Big Nose had a chill and we had to revive him with about a quart of company rum, and it plumb broke my heart to see all that good licker going to waste down a Injun's gullet. When Big Nose come to, he shed his white man's duds and got into his regular outfit—which was mostly a big red blanket that looked like a prairie fire by sunset. I told Joshua he better throw the blanket overboard, because it was knowed all up and down the river, and any Sioux would recognize it at a glance. But Joshua said if we threw it overboard we'd have to throw Big Nose overboard too, because he thought it was big medicine. Anyway, he said, they warn't no use trying to keep the Sioux from knowing we was taking Big Nose home. They knowed it already and would take him away from us if they could. Joshua said he aimed to use diplomacy to save Big Nose's sculp. I didn't like the sound of that, because I notice when somebody I'm working for uses diplomacy it generally means I got to risk my neck and he gits the credit. Jest like you, pap, when you git to working and figgering, like you say, the way it always comes around you do the figgering and I do the working.

The further north we got, the closter Big Nose stayed in the cabin which ain't big enough to swing a cat in; but Big Nose didn't want to swing no cat, and every time he come on deck he seen swarms of Sioux all over the bluffs jest fixing for to descent on him. Joshua said it was hallucernations, but I said it would be delirium trimmings purty soon if that jug warn't took away from him.

We made purty good time, ten to twenty miles a day, except when we had winds agen us, or had to haul the boat along on the cordelle—which is a big line that the Frenchies gits out and pulls on, in case you don't know. Towing a twenty-ton keelboat in water up to yore neck ain't no joke.

Every day we expected trouble with the Sioux, but we got past the mouth of the Owl River all right, and Joshua said he guessed the Sioux knowed better'n to try any monkey business with him. And that very day a Yankton on a piebald hoss hailed us from the bluffs, and told us they was a hundred Tetons laying in ambush for us amongst the willers along the next p'int of land. We'd have to go around it on the cordelle; and whilst the boatmen was tugging and hauling in water up to their waists, the Sioux aimed to jump us. The Yankton said the Tetons didn't have nothing personal agen us white men, and warn't aiming to do us no harm—outside of maybe cutting our throats for a joke—but you oughta herd what he said they was going to do to Big Nose. It war plumb scandalous.

Big Nose ducked down into the cabin and started having another chill; and the Frenchies got scairt and would of turnt the boat around and headed for Saint Charles if we'd let 'em. Us hunters wanted Joshua to put us ashore and let us circle the p'int from inland and come onto the Sioux from behind. We could do a sight of damage to 'em before they knowed we was onto 'em. But Joshua said not even four American hunters could lick a hundred Sioux, and he furthermore said shet up and let him think. So he sot down on a kag and thunk for a spell, and then he says to me: "Ain't Fat Bear's village out acrost yonder about five mile?"

I said yes, and he said: "Well, look, you put on Big Nose's blanket and git on the Yankton's hoss and head for the village. The Sioux'll think we've throwed Big Nose out to root for hisself; and whilst they're chasin' you the boat can git away up the river with Big Nose."

"I don't suppose it matters what happens to me!" I says bitterly.

"Oh," says he, "Fat Bear is yore friend and wunst you git in his village he won't let the Sioux git you. You'll have a good start before they can see you, on account of the bluffs there, and you ought to be able to beat 'em into the village."

"I suppose it ain't occurred to you at all that they'll shott arrers at me all the way," I says.

"You know a Sioux cain't shoot as good from a runnin' hoss as a Comanche can," he reassured me. "You jest keep three or four hundred yards ahead of 'em, and I bet they won't hit you hardly any at all."

"Well, why don't you do it, then?" I demanded.

At this Joshua bust into tears. "To think that you should turn agen me after all I've did for you!" he wept—though what he ever done for me outside of trying to skin me out of my wages I dunno. "After I taken you off'n a Natchez raft and persuaded the company to give you a job at a princely salary, you does this to me! A body'd think you didn't give a dern about my personal safety! My pore old grandpap used to say: 'Bewar' of a Southerner like you would a hawk! He'll eat yore vittles and drink yore licker and then stick you with a butcher knife jest to see you kick!' When I thinks—"

"Aw, hesh up," I says in disgust. "I'll play Injun for you. I'll put on the blanket and stick feathers in my hair, but I'll be derned if I'll cut the seat out a my britches."

"It'd make it look realer," he argued, wiping his eyes on the fringe of my hunting shirt.

"Shet up!" I yelled with passion. "They is a limit to everything!"

"Oh, well, all right," says he, "if you got to be temperamental. You'll have the blanket on over yore pants, anyway."

So we went into the cabin to git the blanket, and would you believe me, that derned Injun didn't want to lemme have it, even when his fool life was at stake. He thought it was a medicine blanket, and the average Injun would ruther lose his life than his medicine. In fack, he give us a tussle for it, and they is no telling how long it would of went on if he hadn't accidentally banged his head agen a empty rum bottle I happened to have in my hand at the time. It war plumb disgusting. He also bit me severely in the hind laig, whilst I was setting on him and pulling the feathers out of his hair—which jest goes to show how much gratitude a Injun has got. But Joshua said the company had contracted to deliver him to Hidatsa, and we was going to do it if we had to kill him.

Joshua give the Yankton a hatchet and a blanket, and three shoots of powder for his hoss—which was a awful price—but the Yankton knowed we had to have it and gouged us for all it was wuth. So I put on the red blanket, and stuck the feathers in my hair, and got on the hoss, and started up a gully for the top of the bluffs. Joshua yelled: "If you git to the village, stay there till we come back down the river. We'll pick you up then. I'd be doin' this myself, but it wouldn't be right for me to leave the boat. T'wouldn't be fair to the company money to replace it, and—"

"Aw, go to hell!" I begged, and kicked the piebald in the ribs and headed for Fat Bear's village.

When I got up on the bluffs, I could see the p'int; and the Sioux seen me and was fooled jest like Joshua said, because they come b'iling out of the willers and piled onto their ponies and lit out after me. Their hosses was better'n mine, jest as I suspected, but I had a good start; and I was still ahead of 'em when we topped a low ridge and got within sight of Fat Bear's village—which was, so far as I know, the only Arikara village south of Grand River. I kept expectin' a arrer in my back because they was within range now, and their howls was enough to freeze a mortal's blood; but purty soon I realized that they aimed to take me alive. They thought I was Big Nose, and they detested him so thorough a arrer through the back was too good for him. So I believed I had a good chance of making it after all, because I seen the piebald was going to last longer'n the Tetons thought he would.

I warn't far from the village now, and I seen that the tops of the lodges was kivered with Injuns watching the race. Then a trade-musket cracked, and the ball whistled so clost it stang my ear, and all to wunst I remembered that Fat Bear didn't like Big Nose no better'n the Sioux did. I could see him up on his lodge taking aim at me again, and the Sioux was right behind me. I was in a hell of a pickle. If I taken the blanket off and let him see who I was, the Sioux would see I warn't Big Nose, too, and fill me full of arrers; and if I kept the blanket on he'd keep on shooting at me with his cussed gun.

Well, I'd ruther be shot at by one Arikara than a hundred Sioux, so all I could do was hope he'd miss. And he did, too; that is he missed me, but his slug taken a notch out of the piebald's ear, and the critter r'ared up and throwed me over his head; he didn't have no saddle nor bridle, jest a hackamore. The Sioux howled with glee and their chief, old Bitin' Hoss, he was ahead of the others; and he rode in and grabbed me by the neck as I riz.

I'd lost my rifle in the fall, but I hit Bitin' Hoss betwixt the eyes with my fist so hard I knocked him off'n his hoss and I bet he rolled fifteen foot before he stopped. I grabbed for his hoss, but the critter bolted, so I shucked that blanket and pulled for the village on foot. The Sioux was so surprized to see Big Nose turn into a white man they forgot to shoot at me till I had run more'n a hundred yards; and then when they did let drive, all the arrers missed but one. It hit me right where you kicked Old Man Montgomery last winter and I will have their heart's blood for it if it's the last thing I do. You jest wait; the Sioux nation will regret shooting a Bearfield behind his back. They come for me lickety-split but I had too good a start; they warn't a hoss in Dakota could of ketched me under a quarter of a mile.

The Arikaras was surprized too, and some of 'em fell off their tipis and nearly broke their necks. They was too stunned to open the gate to the stockade, so I opened it myself—hit it with my shoulder and knocked it clean off'n the rawhide hinges and fell inside on top of it. The Sioux was almost on top of me, with their arrers drawed back, but now they sot their hosses back onto their haunches and held their fire. If they'd come in after me it would of meant a fight with the Arikaras. I half expected 'em to come in anyway, because the Sioux ain't no ways scairt of the Arikaras, but in a minute I seen why they didn't.

Fat Bear had come down off of his lodge, and I riz up and says: "Hao!"

"Hao!" says he, but he didn't say it very enthusiastic. He's a fat- bellied Injun with a broad, good-natured face; and outside of being the biggest thief on the Missoury, he's a good friend of the white men—especially me, because I wunst taken him away from the Cheyennes when they was going to burn him alive.

Then I seen about a hundred strange braves in the crowd, and they was Crows. I recognized their chief, old Spotted Hawk, and I knowed why the Sioux didn't come in after me in spite of the Arikaras. That was why Fat Bear was a chief, too. A long time ago he made friends with Spotted Hawk, and when the Sioux or anybody crowded him too clost, the Crows would come in and help him. Them Crows air scrappers and no mistake.

"This is plumb gaudy!" I says. "Git yore braves together and us and the Crows will go out and run them fool Tetons clean into the Missoury, by golly."

"No, no, no!" says he. He's hung around the trading posts till he can talk English nigh as good as me. "There's a truce between us! Big powwow tonight!"

Well, the Sioux knowed by now how they'd been fooled; but they also knowed the Pirut Queen would be past the p'int and outa their reach before they could git back to the river; so they camped outside, and Bitin' Hoss hollered over the stockade: "There is bad flesh in my brother's village! Send it forth that we may cleanse it with fire!"

Fat Bear bust into a sweat and says: "That means they want to bum you! Why did you have to come here, jest at this time?"

"Well," I says in a huff, "air you goin' to hand me over to 'em?"

"Never!" says he, wiping his brow with a bandanner he stole from the guvment trading post below the Kansas. "But I'd rather a devil had come through that gate than a Big Knife!" That's what them critters calls a American. "We and the Crows and Sioux have a big council on tonight, and—"

Jest then a man in a gilded cock hat and a red coat come through the crowd, with a couple of French Canadian trappers, and a pack of Soc Injuns from the Upper Mississippi. He had a sword on him and he stepped as proud as a turkey gobbler in the fall.

"What is this bloody American doing here?" says he, and I says: "Who the hell air you?" And he says: "Sir Wilmot Pembroke, agent of Indian affairs in North America for his Royal Majesty King George, that's who!"

"Well, step out from the crowd, you lobster-backed varmint," says I, stropping my knife on my leggin', "and I'll decorate a sculp-pole with yore innards—and that goes for them two Hudson Bay skunks, too!"

"No!" says Fat Bear, grabbing my arm. "There is a truce! No blood must be spilled in my village! Come into my lodge."

"The truce doesn't extend beyond the stockade," says Sir Wilmot. "Would you care to step outside with me?"

"So yore Teton friends could fill me with arrers?" I sneered. "I ain't as big a fool as I looks."

"No, that wouldn't be possible," agreed he, and I was so overcame with rage all I could do was gasp. Another instant and I would of had my knife in his guts, truce or no truce, but Fat Bear grabbed me and got me into his tipi. He had me set on a pile of buffler hides and one of his squaws brung me a pot of meat; but I was too mad to be hungry, so I only et four or five pounds of buffler liver.

Fat Bear sot down his trade musket, which he had stole from a Hudson Bay Company trapper, and said: "The council tonight is to decide whether or not the Arikaras shall take the warpath against the Big Knives. This Red-Coat, Sir Wilmot, says the Big White Chief over the water is whipping the Big White Father of the Big Knives, in the village called Washington."

I was so stunned by this news I couldn't say nothing. We hadn't had no chance to git news about the war since we started up the river.

"Sir Wilmot wants the Sioux, Crows and Arikaras to join him in striking the American settlements down the river," says Fat Bear. "The Crows believe the Big Knives are losing the war, and they're wavering. If they go with the Sioux, I must go too; otherwise the Sioux will burn my village. I cannot exist without the aid of the Crows. The Red-Coat has a Soc medicine man, who will go into a medicine lodge tonight and talk with the Great Spirit. It is big medicine, such was never seen before on any village on the Missouri. The medicine man will tell the Crows and the Arikaras to go with the Sioux."

"You mean this Englishman aims to lead a war-party down the river?" I says, plumb horrified.

"Clear to Saint Louis!" says Fat Bear. "He will wipe out all the Americans on the river!"

"He won't neither," says I with great passion, rising and drawing my knife. "I'll go over to his lodge right now and cut his gizzard out!"

But Fat Bear grabbed me and hollered: "If you spill blood, no one will ever dare recognize a truce again! I cannot let you kill the Red-Coat!"

"But he's plannin' to kill everybody on the river, dern it!" I yelled. "What'm I goin' to do?"

"You must get up in council and persuade the warriors not to go on the war-path," says he.

"Good gosh," I says, "I can't make no speech."

"The Red-Coat has a serpent's tongue," says Fat Bear, shaking his head. "If he had presents to give the chiefs, his cause would be as good as won. But his boat upset as he came along the river, and all his goods were lost. If you had presents to give to Spotted Hawk and Biting Horse—"

"You know I ain't got no presents!" I roared, nigh out of my head. "What the hell am I goin' to do?"

"I dunno," says he, despairful. "Some white men pray when they're in a pickle."

"I'll do it!" I says. "Git outa my way!" So I kneeled down on a stack of buffler robes, and I'd got as far as: "Now I lay me down to sleep—" when my knee nudged something under the hides that felt familiar. I reched down and yanked it out—and sure enough, it was a keg!

"Where'd you git this?" I yelped.

"I stole it out of the company's storehouse the last time I was in Saint Louis," he confessed, "but—"

"But nothin'!" exulted I. "I dunno how come you ain't drunk it all up before now, but it's my wampum! I ain't goin' to try to out-talk that lobster-back tonight. Soon's the council's open, I'll git up kind of casual and say that the Red-Coat has got a empty bag of talk for 'em, with nothin' to go with it, but the Big White Father at Washington has sent 'em a present. Then I'll drag out the keg. T'aint much to divide up amongst so many, but the chiefs is what counts, and they's enough licker to git them too drunk to know what Sir Wilmot and the medicine man says."

"They know you didn't bring anything into the village with you," he says.

"So much the better," I says. "I'll tell 'em it's wakan and I can perjuice whiskey out of the air."

"They'll want you to perjuice some more," says he.

"I'll tell 'em a evil spirit, in the shape of a skunk with a red coat on, is interferin' with my magic powers," I says, gitting brainier every minute. "That'll make 'em mad at Sir Wilmot. Anyway, they won't care where the licker come from. A few snorts and the Sioux will probably remember all the gredges they got agen the Socs and run 'em outa camp."

"You'll get us all killed," says Fat Bear, mopping his brow. "But about that keg, I want to tell you—"

"You shet up about that keg," I says sternly. "It warn't yore keg in the first place. The fate of a nation is at stake, and you tries to quibble about a keg of licker! Git some stiffenin' into yore laigs; what we does tonight may decide who owns this continent. If we puts it over it'll be a big gain for the Americans."

"And what'll the Indians get out of it?" he ast.

"Don't change the subjeck," I says. "I see they've stacked buffler hides out at the council circle for the chiefs and guests to get on—and by the way, you be dern sure you gives me a higher stack to get on than Sir Wilmot gits. When nobody ain't lookin', you hide this keg clost to where I'm to set. If I had to send to yore lodge to git it, it'd take time and look fishy, too."

"Well," he begun reluctantly, but I flourished a fist under his nose and said with passion: "Dang it, do like I says! One more blat outa you and I busts the truce and yore snoot simultaneous!"

So he spread his hands kinda helpless, and said something about all white men being crazy, and anyway he reckoned he'd lived as long as the Great Spirit aimed for him to. But I give no heed, because I have not got no patience with them Injun superstitions. I started out of his lodge and dang near fell over one of them French trappers which they called Ondrey; t'other'n was named Franswaw.

"What the hell you doin' here?" I demanded, but he merely give me a nasty look and snuck off. I started for the lodge where the Crows was, and the next man I met was old Shingis. I dunno what his real name is, we always call him old Shingis; I think he's a Iowa or something. He's so old he's done forgot where he was born, and so ornery he jest lives around with first one tribe and then another till they git tired of him and kick him out.

He ast for some tobaccer and I give him a pipe-full, and then he squinted his eye at me and said: "The Red-Coat did not have to bring a man from the Mississippi to talk with Waukontonka. They say Shingis is heyoka. They say he is a friend of the Unktehi, the Evil Spirits."

Well, nobody never said that but him, but that's the way Injuns brag on theirselves; so I told him everybody knowed he was wakan, and went on to the lodge where the Crows was. Spotted Hawk ast me if it was the Red-Coats had burnt Washington and I told him not to believe everything a Red-Coat told him. Then I said: "Where's this Red-Coat's presents?"

Spotted Hawk made a wry face because that was a p'int which stuck in his mind, too, but he said: "The boat upset and the river took the gifts meant for the chiefs."

"Then that means that the Unktehi air mad at him," I says. "His medicine's weak. Will you foller a man which his medicine is weak?"

"We will listen to what he has to say in council," says Spotted Hawk, kind of uncertain, because a Injun is scairt of having anything to do with a man whose medicine is weak.

It was gitting dark by this time, and when I come out of the lodge I met Sir Wilmot, and he says: "Trying to traduce the Crows, eh? I'll have the pleasure of watching my Sioux friends roast you yet! Wait till Striped Thunder talks to them from the medicine lodge tonight."

"He who laughs last is a stitch in time," I replied with dignerty, so tickled inside about the way I was going to put it over him I was reconciled to not cutting his throat. I then went on, ignoring his loud, rude laughter. Jest wait! thunk I, jest wait! Brains always wins in the end.

I passed by the place where the buffler hides had been piled in a circle, in front of a small tipi made out of white buffler skins. Nobody come nigh that place till the powwow opened, because it was wakan, as the Sioux say, meaning magic. But all of a sudden I seen old Shingis scooting through the tipis clostest to the circle, making a arful face. He grabbed a water bucket made out of a buffler's stummick, and drunk about a gallon, then he shook his fists and talked to hisself energetic. I said: "Is my red brother's heart pained?"

"#%&*@!" says old Shingis. "There is a man of black heart in this village! Let him beware! Shingis is the friend of the Unktehi!"

Then he lit out like a man with a purpose, and I went on to Fat Bear's lodge. He was squatting on his robes looking at hisself in a mirrer he stole from the Northwest Fur Company three seasons ago.

"What you doin'?" I ast, reching into the meat pot.

"Trying to imagine how I'll look after I'm scalped," says he. "For the last time, that keg—"

"Air you tryin' to bring that subjeck up agen?" I says, rising in wrath; and jest then a brave come to the door to say that everybody was ready to go set in council.

"See?" whispers Fat Bear to me. "I'm not even boss in my own village when Spotted Hawk and Biting Horse are here! They give the orders!"

We went to the powwow circle, which they had to hold outside because they warn't a lodge big enough to hold all of 'em. The Arikaras sot on one side, the Crows on the other and the Sioux on the other. I sot beside Fat Bear, and Sir Wilmot and his Socs and Frenchmen sot opposite us. The medicine man sot cross- legged, with a heavy wolf-robe over his shoulders—though it was hot enough to fry a aig, even after the sun had went down. But that's the way a heyoka man does. If it'd been snowing, likely he'd of went naked. The women and chillern got up on top of the lodges to watch us, and I whispered and ast Fat Bear where the keg was. He said under the robes right behind me. He then started humming his death-song under his breath.

I begun feeling for it, but before I found it, Sir Wilmot riz and said: "I will not worry my red brothers with empty words! Let the Big Knives sing like mosquitos in the ears of the people! The Master of Life shall speak through the lips of Striped Thunder. As for me, I bring no words, but a present to make your hearts glad!"

And I'm a Choctaw if he didn't rech down under a pile of robes and drag out Fat Bear's keg! I like to keeled over and I hear Fat Bear grunt like he'd been kicked in the belly. I seen Ondrey leering at me, and I instantly knowed he'd overheard us talking and had stole it out from amongst the hides after Fat Bear put it there for me. The way the braves' eyes glistened I knowed the Red- Coats had won, and I was licked.

Well, I war so knocked all of a heap, all I could think of was to out with my knife and git as many as I could before they got me. I aimed to git Sir Wilmot, anyway; they warn't enough men in the world to keep me from gutting him before I died. A Bearfield on his last rampage is wuss'n a cornered painter. You remember great-uncle Esau Bearfield. When the Creeks finally downed him, they warn't enough of 'em left alive in that war party to sculp him, and he was eighty-seven.

I reched for my knife, but jest then Sir Wilmot says: "Presently the milk of the Red-Coats will make the hearts of the warriors sing. But now is the time for the manifestations of the Great Spirit, whom the Sioux call Waukontonka, and other tribes other names, but he is the Master of Life for all. Let him speak through the lips of Striped Thunder."

So I thought I'd wait till everybody was watching the medicine lodge before I made my break. Striped Thunder went into the lodge and closed the flap, and the Socs lit fires in front of it and started dancing back and forth in front of 'em singing:

"Oh, Master of Life, enter the white skin lodge!
Possess him who sits within!
Speak through his mouth!"

I ain't going to mention what they throwed on the fires, but they smoked something fierce so you couldn't even see the lodge, and the Socs dancing back and forth looked like black ghosts. Then all to wunst they sounded a yell inside the lodge and a commotion like men fighting. The Injuns looked like they was about ready to rise up and go yonder in a hurry, but Sir Wilmot said: "Do not fear! The messenger of the Master of Life contends with the Unktehi for possession of the medicine man's body! Soon the good spirit will prevail and we will open the lodge and hear the words of Waukontonka!"

Well, hell, I knowed Striped Thunder wouldn't say nothing but jest what Sir Wilmot had told him to say; but them fool Injuns would believe they was gitting the straight goods from the Great Spirit hisself.

Things got quiet in the lodge and the smoke died down, and Sir Wilmot says: "Thy children await, O Waukontonka." He opened the door, and I'm a Dutchman if they was anything in that lodge but a striped polecat!

He waltzed out with his tail h'isted over his back and them Injuns let out one arful yell and fell over backwards; and then they riz up and stampeded —Crows, Arikaras, Sioux, Socs and all, howling: "The Unktehi have prevailed! They have turned Striped Thunder into an evil beast!"

They didn't stop to open the gate. The Sioux clumb the stockade and the Crows busted right through it. I seen old Biting Hoss and Spotted Hawk leading the stampede, and I knowed the great Western Injun Confederation was busted all to hell. The women and chillern was right behind the braves, and in sight of fifteen seconds the only Injun in sight was Fat Bear.

Sir Wilmot jest stood there like he'd been putrified into rock, but Franswaw he run around behind the lodge and let out a squall. "Somebody's slit the back wall!" he howled. "Here's Striped Thunder lying behind the lodge with a knot on his head the size of a egg! Somebody crawled in and knocked him senseless and dragged him out while the smoke rolled!"

"The same man left the skunk!" frothed Sir Wilmot. "You Yankee dog, you're responsible for this!"

"Who you callin' a Yankee?" I roared, whipping out my knife.

"Remember the truce!" squalled Fat Bear, but Sir Wilmot was too crazy mad to remember anything. I parried his sword with my knife as he lunged, and grabbed his arm, and I reckon that was when he got his elber dislocated. Anyway he give a maddened yell and tried to draw a pistol with his good hand; so I hit him in the mouth with my fist, and that's when he lost them seven teeth he's so bitter about. Whilst he was still addled, I taken his pistol away from him and throwed him over the stockade. I got a idee his fractured skull was caused by him hitting his head on a stump outside. Meanwhile Ondrey and Franswaw was hacking at me with their knives, so I taken 'em by their necks and beat their fool heads together till they was limp, and then I throwed 'em over the stockade after Sir Wilmot.

"And I reckon that settles that!" I panted. "I dunno how this all come about, but you can call up yore women and chillern and tell 'em they're now citizens of the United States of America, by golly!"

I then picked up the keg, because I was hot and thirsty, but Fat Bear says: "Wait! Don't drink that! I—"

"Shet up!" I roared. "After all I've did for the nation tonight, I deserves a dram! Shame on you to begredge a old friend—"

I taken a big gulp—and then I give a maddened beller and throwed that keg as far as I could heave it, and run for water. I drunk about three gallons, and when I could breathe again I got a club and started after Fat Bear, who clumb up on top of a lodge.

"Come down!" I requested with passion. "Come down whilst I beats yore brains out! Whyn't you tell me what was in that keg?"

"I tried to," says he, "but you wouldn't listen. I thought it was whiskey when I stole it, or I wouldn't have taken it. I talked to Shingis while you were hunting the water bucket, jest now. It was him that put the skunk in the medicine lodge. He saw Ondrey hide the keg on Sir Wilmot's side of the council circle; he sneaked a drink out of it, and that's why he did what he did. It was for revenge. The onreasonable old buzzard thought Sir Wilmot was tryin' to pizen him."

So that's the way it was. Anyway, I'm quitting my job as soon as I git back to Saint Louis. It's bad enuff when folks gits too hifaluting to use candles, and has got to have oil lamps in a trading post. But I'll be derned if I'll work for a outfit which puts the whale-oil for their lamps in the same kind of kegs they puts their whiskey.

Your respeckful son.

Boone Bearfield.


Cover Image

First published in Argosy, Oct 3, 1936

I WAS in the Buckhorn Saloon in San Antonio, jest h’isting a schooner of Pearl XXX, when my brother Kirby come staggering in all caked with dust and sweat, and stuck out a letter at me.

“Pap sent it,” he gasped. “I’ve rode day and night to find you!” He then collapsed onto the floor where he lay till I picked him up and laid him on the bar and started the barkeep to pouring licker down his throat. It’s a long way from our cabin to Santone, and he must of had a hard ride. I figgered the letter he brung must be arful important, so after I’d drunk my beer and et me a sandwich offa the free lunch counter, I onfolded it and read it. It was from Aunt Navasota Hawkins, over in East Texas, and it was addressed to Mister Judson Bearfield, Wolf Mountain, Texas, which is Pap, and it said:

Dear Jud:

We air in awful trouble. Somethin happened none of us never drempt could happen. Uncle Joab Hudkins has took to stealin hawgs! You won’t believe this I know Judson because none of the family never stole nothin in their life before but it’s the truth. The Watsons ketched him in their pigpen tother night and filled his britches with bird-shot and I will not repeat his langwidge whilst we was picking them shot out of his hide Judson. The whole clan gathered around and argyed with him Judson but we wouldn’t move him all he said was he wisht we would mind our own dadburned business. He was very cantankerus Judson and you ought to of heard what he called Uncle Saul Hawkins when Uncle Saul told him he had disgraced the family.We could not do nothin with him so we left Cousin Esau Harrison to see he didn’t git out of the house till we could decide what to do. But he hit Cousin Esau over the head with the axe handle I use to stir hominy with and has run off into the woods Judson it is tarrible we don’t know what he’s up to but we suspects the wust. We have apolergized to the Watsons and offered to pay them for any damage he done but you know how them Watsons is Judson they say nothin will wipe out the insult but blood. It looks like they air goin to force a feud onto us we have got enough feuds as it is Judson. And so will you please send Pikeston over here to help find Uncle Joab and settle them Watsonses’ hash.

Yore lovin Ant Navasota Hawkins

On the bottom of her letter Pap had writ, “Pike, pull for Choctaw Bayou as fast as you can peel it and don’t take no sass from them cussed Watsons.”

Well, I was so overcame for a few minutes all I could do was lean on the bar and drink a pint of tequila. To think as a relative of mine would stoop to pig stealing! Why, us Bearfields was that proud we wouldn’t even steal a hoss. I dunno when I ever felt so low and wolfish in my spirits. I felt like the whole world knowed our shame and was p’inting the finger of scorn at us.

When Kirby come to he said he felt the same, and he said he aimed to shoot the first illegitimate which even said “hawg” at him. But I cautioned him to guard our arful secret with his life, and I told him to go around to the wagon yard where my hoss Satanta was, and arrange for his board whilst I was gone.

I then bought me a ticket for Houston and clumb aboard the train without telling my friends good-by; I was too ashamed to look ’em in the face with a pig thief in the family.

That was a irksome journey. All I could think of was pigs and when I dozed in my seat I dreampt about pigs. It was a dark hour for the Bearfield pride, and I got tetchier every minute.

When I got to Houston I imejitly went to a livery stable to rent me a hoss, and there I run into the same difficulty I always run into whenever I gits east of the Trinity. They warn’t a hoss in town which was big enough and strong enough to tote my weight any distance. I dunno why them folks raises sech spindly critters. They claims their hosses is all right, and I’m jest bigger’n a human being ought to be. Well, I ain’t considered onusually gigantic on Wolf Mountain, but I have already noticed that men on Wolf Mountain grows bigger’n they does in most places. So I reckon I do look kind of prominent to strangers, being as I stand six foot nine in my socks and weigh two hundred and ninety-five pounds, all bone and muscle. In addition to which modesty forces me to remark that I’m jest about the best man in a free-for-all on Wolf Mountain or anywheres else that I ever been, either.

Anyway, I finally pitched on a squint-eyed mule named Sinclair’s Defeat, which was big enough even for me, and I forked him and headed for the home-range of my erring relative. I was in the piney-woods by now, and I felt plumb smothered with all them trees and sloughs and swamps, and no hills nor prickly pears nor prairies.

Them woods was full of razorback hawgs and every time I seen one it reminded me of the family shame, so I was in a regular welter of nervous irritation time I got to Sabineville, where my kinfolks does their trading. It was about noon, so I put Sinclair’s Defeat in the wagon yard and seen he was fed and watered, and then I went to the restaurant. I hadn’t been to Sabineville since I was a kid, and didn’t know nobody there, but everybody I met stopped and gaped like they never seen a man my size before. They all had their guns on under their shirts and so did I, because I hid mine when we pulled into Houston.

I sot down in the restaurant and the waiter ast me what I’d have. I ast him what he had, and he says, “We got some nice roast pork!”

“Listen here, you!” I says, rising in wrath. “Maybe you think you can mock me with impunity because I’m a stranger in yore midst. But the man don’t live which can throw the family scandal in my face and survive!”

“What air you talkin’ about?” gasped he, recoiling.

“Don’t try to ack innercent,” I says bitterly. “I don’t know you, and I don’t know how come you to recognize me, but the best thing you can do is to pertend not to know me. Bring me a beefsteak smothered with onions and nine or ten bottles of beer, and lemme hear no more about pork if you values yore wuthless life!”

He done so in fear and trembling, and I heard him whisper to the cook that they was a homicidal maneyack outside; but I didn’t see none.

I’d jest started on my steak when three big, rough-looking men come in. They give me a suspicious glance, but I paid ’em no heed and went on eating. So they sot down at the counter and ordered beans and coffee, and one of ’em said, “Have you swore out that warrant for old Joab Hudkins yet, Jabez?”

They all looked around at me on account of me strangling on my beer, and the oldest and meanest-looking one says, “I’m goin’ over to the sheriff ’s office soon’s we’ve et, Bill. This is the chance I been lookin’ fur.”

“Suits me,” says Bill with a oath. “Hey, Joe?”

“Shore,” says the third ’un. “But we better be keerful. Them Hudkinses and their kinfolks around here is bad enough, but the Bearfields, which lives out beyond the Pecos somewheres, is wuss yet.”

“I ain’t scairt of ’em,” says Jabez. “Ain’t us Watsons won all our feuds up to now? I don’t keer nothin’ about the hawgs, neither. But this here’s my chance to git even with old Esau Hawkins for that whuppin’ he give me over to the county seat fifteen year ago. I jest want to see his face when one of his kin goes to the pen for stealin’ hawgs! . . . What was that?”

It was me, tying a knot in my steak fork in my struggle to control myself, but by a supreme effort I helt my peace.

“Well,” says Bill, “I hopes for Hudkins gore! I jest wisht one of them tough Bearfields was here. I’d show him a thing or two, I betcha!”

“Well, git the exhibition started!” I said, heaving up so sudden I upsot my table and Joe fell off his stool. “I’ve stood all I can from you illegitimates.”

“Who the devil air you?” gasped Jabez, jumping up, and I says, “I’m a Bearfield from the Pecos, and Joab Hudkins is my kin! I’m askin’ you like a gent to refrain from swearin’ out that warrant you all was talkin’ about I’m here to see that he don’t molest nobody else’s hawgs, but I ain’t goin’ to see him tromped on, neither!”

“Oh, ain’t you?” sneered Bill, fingering his pistol, whilst I seen Joe sneaking a bowie outa his boot. “Well, lemme tell you somethin’, you dern mountain grizzly, we aims to put that there pig snatchin’ uncle of yore’n behind the bars! How you like that, hey?”

“This is how much, you blasted swamp rat!” I roared, shattering my steak plate over his head.

He fell offa his stool howling bloody murder, and Joe made a stab at me but missed and stuck his knife in the table and whilst he was trying to pull it out I busted the catsup bottle over his head and he j’ined Bill on the floor. I then seen Jabez crouching at the end of the counter fixing to shoot me with his pistol, so I grabbed a case of canned tomaters and throwed it at him, and what happened to the waiter was his own fault. He oughta stayed outa the fight in the first place. If he hadn’t been trying to git a shotgun he had behind the counter he wouldn’t of run between me and Jabez jest as I heaved that case of vegetables. T’warn’t my fault he got hit in the head, no more’n it was my fault he ketched old Jabez’s bullet in his hind laig, neither. I kicked Jabez’s pistol out of his hand before he could shoot again, and he run around behind the counter on his all-fours, jest as the cook come out of the kitchen with a iron skillet.

It always did make me mad to git hit over the head with a hot skillet; the grease always gits down the back of yore neck. So I grabbed the cook and went to the floor with him jest in time to duck the charge of buckshot old Jabez blazed at me with the waiter’s shotgun from behind the counter. I then riz up and throwed the cook at him and they both crashed into the wall so hard they brung down all the shelves on it and the cans of beans and milk and corn and stuff fell down on top of Jabez till all I could see was his boots sticking out and his howls was arful to hear.

I was jest on the p’int of throwing the kitchen stove on top of the pile, because I was gitting mad by this time, when a feller hit the porch outside on the run, and stuck his head and a shotgun into the door and hollered, “Halt, in the name of the law!”

“Who the devil air you?” I demanded, rising up amidst a rooin of busted chairs, tables, canned goods and unconscious Watsons.

“I’m the sheriff,” says he. “For the Lord’s sake what’s goin’ on here? You must be one of John McCoy’s men!”

“I’m Pike Bearfield of Wolf Mountain,” I says, and he says, “Well, anyway, yo’re under arrest!”

“If you was a fair-minded officer,” I says, grinding my teeth slightly, “I wouldn’t think of resistin’ arrest. But I can see right off that yo’re in league with the Watsons! This here’s a plot to keep me from aidin’ my pore misguided uncle. I see now why these scoundrels come in here and picked a fight with me. But I’ll foil you, by gum! A Bearfield couldn’t git jestice in yore jailhouse, and I ain’t goin’!”

“You air, too!” he hollered, swinging up his shotgun. But I clapped my hand over the lock between the nipples and the hammers before he could pull the triggers, and I then taken hold of the barrels with my other hand and bent ’em at right angles.

“Now lemme see you try to shoot me with that gun,” I says. “It’ll explode and blow yore fool head off!”

He wept with rage.

“I’ll git even with you, you cussed outlaw!” he promised. “Yore derned uncle has run off and j’ined John McCoy’s bandits, and yo’re one of his spies, I bet! You’ve defied the law and rooint my new shotgun, and I’ll have revenge if I have to sue you in the county court!”

“Gah!” I retorted in disgust, and stalked out in gloomy grandeur, emerging onto the street so sudden-like that the crowd which had gathered outside stampeded in all directions howling bloody murder. I never seen sech skittish folks. You’d of thunk I was a tribe of Comanches.

I headed for the wagon yard, and it was a good thing I got there when I did, because Sinclair’s Defeat had got to fighting with Tom Hanson the yard owner’s saddle pony, and when Tom come out with a pitchfork he bit a chunk outa him and run him into a stall where they was a yoke of oxen. The oxes hooked Tom and every time he crawled out Sinclair’s Defeat kicked him back in again and the oxes taken another swipe at him. You oughta heard him holler.

Well, Sinclair’s Defeat was feeling so brash he thought he could lick me, too, so I give him a good punch on the nose and ontangled Tom from amongst the oxes. He bellyached plumb disgusting about gitting mulebit, so to shet him up I give him my last ten dollar bill. He also wanted me to pay for his britches which the oxes had hooked the seat out of, but I refused profanely and as soon as Sinclair’s Defeat come to, I clumb onto him and headed out along the Choctaw Bayou road.

I hadn’t more’n got outa town when I met a old coot legging it up the road on foot, with his whiskers flying in the wind. As soon as he seen me he hollered, “Whar’s the sheriff ? I got work for him!”

“What kind of work?” I ast, hit by a sudden suspicion.

“Larceny, kidnapin’ and a salt and batter,” says he, stopping to git his breath whilst he fanned hisself with his old broad-brimmed straw hat. “Golly, I’m winded! My farm’s three mile back in the piney woods and I’ve run every step of the way! You know what? While ago I heered a arful racket out to my pigpen and I run out and who should I see but old Joab Hudkins tryin’ to rassle my prize Chester boar, Gen’ral Braddock, over the fence! I sung out: ‘Drap that defenseless animal, you cussed outlaw!’ and I’d no more’n got the words outa my mouth when old Joab up and hit me with a wagon spoke. . . . Looka here!” he displayed a knot on his head about the size of a hen aig. “When I come to,” he says, “Joab was gone and so was Gen’ral Braddock. Sech outrages ain’t to be endured by American citerzens! I’m goin’ after the sheriff!”

“Now wait,” I says. “I dunno what’s the matter with Uncle Joab, but le’s see if we cain’t straighten this out without draggin’ in the law—”

“Don’t speak to me if yo’re kin of his’n!” squalled he, stooping for a rock. “Git outa my way! I’ll have jestice if it’s my last ack!”

“Aw, heck,” I says. “I’ve knowed men to make less fuss over losin’ a thousand head of steers than yo’re makin’ over one measly pig. I’ll see that yo’re paid for yore fool swine.”

He hesitated.

“Show me the dough!” he demanded covetously.

“Well,” I said, “I ain’t got no money right now, but—”

“T’ain’t the money, it’s the principle of the thing!” he asserted. “I ain’t to be tromped on! Stand aside! I’m goin’ for the sheriff.”

“Over my dead carcass!” I roared, losing patience. “Dang yore stubborn old hide! Yo’re comin’ with me till we find Uncle Joab and straighten this thing out—”

I leant down from my saddle and grabbed for him, and he give a squall and hit me in the head with his rock and turnt to run, but he stumped his toe and fell down, and that’s when Sinclair’s Defeat bit him in the seat of the britches. He’s a liar when he says I told Sinclair’s Defeat to bite him; it jest come natural for a mule. I reached down and grabbed him by the galluses—the old coot I mean, and not the mule—and heaved him up acrost the saddle horn in front of me, and he hollered, “Halp! Murder! The McCoy gang got me in the toils!”

Somebody echoed his howl, and I looked around and seen a barefooted kid with a fishing pole in his hand jest coming out of the footpath. His eyes was popping right out of his head.

“Run for the sheriff, boy!” squalled my captive. “Git a posse!”

So the kid scooted for town, howling, “Halp! Halp! A outlaw is kidnapin’ old Ash Buckley!”

Well, I had a suspicion things would be a mite warm around there purty soon, so I kicked Sinclair’s Defeat in the ribs and he done a smart piece of skedaddling up that road. I run for maybe four miles till Ash Buckley’s howls got onbearable. I never seen a human which was harder to please than that old buzzard.

“Set me down and lemme die easy!” he gasped. “This cussed horn has pierced my vitals in front and I have got a mortal wound behind!”

“Aw,” I said, “the mule jest bit off a little piece of hide, not any bigger’n yore hand. You ain’t hurt.”

“I’m dyin’,” he maintained fiercely. “I’ll git even, you big monkey! I’ll come back and ha’nt you, that’s what I’ll do—hey!”

I also give a startled yell, because out of the bresh ambled the most pecooliar looking critter I ever seen in my life. I reached for my pistol, but old Ash give a yowl like he’d been stabbed.

“It’s Gen’ral Braddock!” he shrieked. “They’ve shaved him!”

Then I seen that the critter was a hawg which had wunst been white, but now he was as naked as a newborn babe! They warn’t a bristle onto him; it was plumb ondecent. I was so surprised I let old Ash fall onto the ground, and he jumped up and started for Gen’ral Braddock, saying, “Sooey! Sooey! Come here, boy—”

But Gen’ral Braddock give a squeal and curled his tail and lit a shuck through the bresh.

I jest sat my mule and looked. I couldn’t move.

“He’s plumb upsot,” says old Ash, kinda stunned-like. “Whoever heard of sech doins?” Then he says, “Make room for me on that mule! I aim to find Joab if it takes the rest of my life! Shavin’ a hawg is the craziest thing I ever heard of, and I won’t rest easy till I know why he done it!”

I helped him on behind the saddle, and I says, “Where’ll we look for him? No use tryin’ to backtrack that pig. Neither hoss nor man could git through that thicket he come out of.”

“I figger he’s hidin’ out somewheres over on the Choctaw,” says Ash. “When he tried to steal the Watson hawgs I figgered he’d gone wild and j’ined the outlaws that hang out in the swamps over east of here, and was stealin’ pigs for the McCoys. But he must be jest plain crazy.”

“We’ll head for Uncle Esau Hawkins,” I says, “and round up all the kinfolks and start combin’ the woods. By the way, who is these McCoys?”

“A gang of thieves and cutthroats which used to hang around here,” says he. “They ain’t been seen recent, and I figgers they’ve skipped over into Louisiana. They had a hang-out somewhere in the piney woods and nobody never could find it. They ambushed three or four posses which went in after ’em—What you stoppin’ for?”

We was jest passing a path which crossed the road, and I seen hawg tracks going up it, and a man’s tracks right behind, wide apart.

“Somebody chased a pig up that path right recent,” I says, and turned up it at a lope.

We hadn’t went more’n a mile till we heard a pig squealing. So I slipped off of Sinclair’s Defeat and snuck through the bresh on foot till I come to a little clearing, and there was a white hawg tied up and laying on its side, and there was Uncle Joab Hudkins honing a butcher knife on his boot. A tub of soap suds stood nigh at hand.

“Uncle Joab, air you crazy?” I demanded.

Uncle Joab give a startled yell and fell over backwards into the tub. Sech langwidge you never heard as I hauled him out with soap bubbles in his eyes and ears and mouth. Ash run up jest then.

“That’s Jake Peters’ sow!” he hollered, dancing with excitement. “I tell you, he’s as crazy as a mudhen! You better tie him up!”

“You ontie the hawg,” I says. “I’ll take keer of Uncle Joab.”

“Don’t you ontie that hawg!” howled Uncle Joab. “Gol-dern it, cain’t a man tend to his own business without a passel of idjits buttin’ in?”

“Be calm, Uncle Joab,” I soothed. “I don’t think this’ll be permanent. Yore dad was wunst took like this, they say, and voted agen Sam Houston. But he recovered his sanity before the next election, and you probably will too. Jest when was you first seized with a urge to shave pigs?”

At this Uncle Joab begun to display symptoms of vi’lence, even to the extent of trying to stab me with his butcher knife. But I ignored his rudeness, also his biting me viciously in the hind laig whilst I was setting on him and twisting the knife outa his hand. I was as gentle as I could be with him, but he didn’t have no gratitude, and his langwidge was plumb scandalous to hear.

“I’ve heered a lick on the head will often kyore insanity,” says Ash Buckley. “ ’Twon’t hurt to try, anyhow. You hold him whilst I bust him over the dome with a rock.”

“Don’t you tech me with no rock!” yelled Uncle Joab. “I ain’t crazy, gosh-hang you! I got a good reason for shavin’ them hawgs!”

“Well, why?” I demanded.

“None of yore business,” he sulked.

“All right,” I says with a sigh. “All I see to do is to tie you up and take you over to Uncle Esau Hawkins. He can git a doctor for you, or maybe send you to Austin for observation.”

At that he give a convulsive heave and nearly got loose, but I sot on him and told Ash to go git my lariat off of my saddle.

“Hold on!” says Uncle Joab. “I know when I’m licked. I wanted all the loot for myself, but if you’ll git off of me, I’ll tell you everything.”

“What loot?” I ast.

“The loot Cullen Baker’s gang hid in Choctaw Bayou,” says he.

Old Ash pricked up his ears at that.

“You mean to say yo’re on the trail of that?” he demanded.

“I am!” asserted Uncle Joab. “Listen! We all know that a few months before Baker was kilt, he robbed a train jest over the Louisiana line. He then come over here and hid the gold—a hundred thousand dollars’ wuth!—somewhar on Choctaw. Nobody knows whar, because right after that him and all the men which was with him when he hid it, got kilt over night. Jefferson, in 1869. They paid ten thousand dollars for his head in Little Rock.

“Well, I been lookin’ for that plunder off and on for years, like everybody else around here, especially old Jeppard Wilkinson, which used to hold a grudge agen me account of me skinnin’ him in a mule swap. But I got a letter from him the other day, from New Orleans, and he said he’d had a change of heart. He said before he left here he found where Baker’s treasure was hid! But he was afeared to take it out, account of the McCoy gang which was huntin’ it too, and always follerin’ him around and spyin’ on him, so he drawed a map of the place and was waitin’ a chance to go back and git the loot, when he got run out of the country—you know, Ash, on account of the trouble he had with the Clantons—and now he says he wasn’t never comin’ back, so if I could find the map the loot would be mine. And he said he tattooed the map on a white hawg! He said he reckon it run off into the woods after he left the country.”

“Well, whyn’t you tell us all this in the first place?” yelled old Ash. “What air we waitin’ on? Pike, you hold this critter whilst me and Joab scrapes the bristles off. This may be the very hawg.”

Well, I felt plumb silly helping shave a pig, but them old coots was serious. They like to have fit right in the middle of the job when they got to argying how they’d divide the plunder. I told ’em they better wait till they found it before they divided it.

Well, they shaved that critter from stem to stern, but not one mark did they find that looked like a map. But they warn’t discouraged.

“I’ve shaved six already,” says Uncle Joab. “I aim to find that map if I have to shave every white hawg in the county. They ain’t none been butchered since old Jeppard tattooed that’n, so it’s bound to be somewheres in these woods. Listen: I been livin’ in the old Sorley cabin over on the Choctaw. You all go over there with me, and we’ll take up our camp there and work out from it. They ain’t no settlements within a long ways of it, and all the pigs in the county comes over there to that oak grove about a mile from it to eat acorns. Won’t be nobody to interfere with us, and we’ll stay there and comb the woods till we finds the right hawg.”

So we pulled out, taking turns riding and walking.

We went through mighty wild, tangled, uninhabited country to git to that there cabin, which stood a few hundred yards from the bank of the Choctaw. Mostly we follered pig trails through the thickets. On the way Uncle Joab told us the McCoys used to hang out in them parts, and he bet they’d show up again sometime when Louisiana got too hot for ’em, and start burning cabins and stealing and shooting folks from the bresh again. And Ash Buckley said he bet the sheriff of Sabineville wouldn’t never catch ’em, and they got to talking about all the crimes them McCoys had committed, and I was plumb surprised to hear white men could ack like that. They was wuss’n Apaches. They shore wouldn’t of lasted long on Wolf Mountain.

Well, we slept at the cabin that night and early next morning we scattered through the pine flats and cypress swamps looking for white hawgs. Uncle Joab told me not to git lost nor et up by a alligator. Shucks, you could lose a timber wolf as easy as a Bearfield, even in the piney woods, and the muskeeters worrit me more’n the alligators.

I didn’t have no luck looking for white pigs. All I found was plain razorbacks. I finally got disgusted pulling through them swamps and thickets on foot, so about noontime I headed back for the cabin. And when I come out in the clearing I seen a man in the rail pen behind the cabin trying to rope Sinclair’s Defeat. I hollered at him and he ducked and pulled a pistol out of his boot and taken a shot at me, and then ran off into the bresh.

Well, I instantly knowed it was one of them dern Watsons trying to run off our stock and set us afoot so they could snipe us off at their leisure, so I taken in after him. They must of tracked us from Sabineville.

He knowed the country better’n I did, and he stayed ahead of me for three miles, heading south, but he couldn’t shake me off, because us Bearfields learnt tracking from the Yaquis. I gained on him and warn’t but a few yards behind him when he come into a clearing in the middle of the dangedest thicket I ever seen. A path had been cut through it with axes, but if I hadn’t been follering his tracks I probably wouldn’t never have found it, the mouth was so well hid, and not even a razorback could git through anywheres else.

I taken a shot at him as he broke cover and legged it for a cabin in the clearing, and then I started after him; but three or four men opened up on me from the door with Winchesters, so I jumped back into the bresh. He ducked inside and they slammed the door.

It was a hundred yards from the bresh to the cabin, and no cover for a man to crawl up clost. They’d riddle him if he tried it. There warn’t no winders, jest loopholes to shoot through, and the door looked arful thick. Leastways when I tried to shoot through it with my pistol the men inside hollered jeeringly and shot at me through the loopholes. The cabin was built up agen a big rock, the first of its size I’d saw in that country, so they warn’t no chance of storming ’em from the rear. It looked like they jest warn’t no way of coming to grips with them devils.

Then I seen smoke coming out of the top of the rock, and I knowed they had a fireplace built into the rock which formed the back wall of the cabin, and had tunneled out a chimney in the rock. I thought by golly, I bet if I was to climb up onto that rock from behind and drop a polecat down that chimney I could shoot all them Watsons as they run out.

So I fired a few shots at the door, and then ducked low and snuck off. I figgered they’d stay denned up till dark at least, thinking I was still laying for ’em outside, and by that time I could find me a skunk and git back with it. I was depending a lot on it. I notice the average man would rather run the risk of gitting shot than to stay denned up in a winderless cabin with a irritated polecat.

But I looked and looked, and didn’t find none, and it begun to git late, and all at once I thought by golly, I bet a alligator would have the same effect. The nearest way to the bayou was back by our cabin, so I headed that way.

The cabin was empty when I went past it. Uncle Joab and Ash Buckley was still out looking for the tattooed hawg. I went on to the Bayou where I’d heard a big bull beller the night before, and waded out in the water to find him, which I presently did by him grabbing me by the hind laig. So I waded to shore with him, him being too stubborn to let go, and suffering from the illusion that he could pull me out into deep water.

Ain’t it funny what fools some animals is? It’s ideas like that proves their undoing.

When he realized his error we was already in the shallers, so I pried him loose and got him under my arm and started for the bank with him. He then started swinging his tail up and hitting me in the back of the head with it, and it was wuss’n being kicked by a mule. He knocked me down three times before I got out of the water, and nearly wiggled away from me each time, to say nothing of biting me severely in various places. They is nothing more stubborn than a old bull alligator.

Finally I got so disgusted with him I hauled off with my fist and busted him betwixt the eyes, and whilst he was stunned I broke some vines and tied his laigs, and then I could carry him better. I called him Jedge Peabody because he looked so much like a jedge back in my country which would of fined me for shooting Jack Rackston wunst, only I wouldn’t stand for no sech interference with my personal liberty.

Well, I couldn’t figger out no way to tie Jedge Peabody’s tail, and he come to purty soon and started beating me in the neck with it again. It was gitting arful late by now, and I was afeared the Watsons would come out of their cabin and find me gone. So I decided to stop off at our cabin and then ride back instead of going afoot. I figgered to have some trouble with Sinclair’s Defeat when I put Jedge Peabody on his back, but I ’lowed I could persuade him.

So I taken Jedge Peabody up to our cabin and laid him on my bunk to keep him safe till I saddled up. The sun was already outa sight behind the pines and the long shadders was streaming acrost the clearing. It was purty dark in the cabin and you could hardly see Jedge Peabody at all.

Well, I went to the hoss pen and grabbed my saddle, but before I could throw it on, I seen Uncle Joab cross the clearing from the east and go into the cabin. I started to call to him, but the next instant he give a arful screech and come busting out of there so fast he tripped and slid on his nose for about three yards.

“Halp! Murder! The Devil hisself ’s in that cabin!” he screamed, and bounced up and streaked for the tall timber.

“Uncle Joab, come back!” I yelled, jumping the pen fence and lighting out after him. “That ain’t nobody but Jedge Peabody!”

But he jest yelled that much louder and put on more speed. I reckon Jedge Peabody did look kind of uncanny to come onto him unexpected in that dark corner where you couldn’t see much but his big red eyes. Uncle Joab didn’t even look back, and when he heard me crashing through the bresh right behind him, he evidently thought the devil was chasing him, because he let out some more arful screams and jest went a-kiting.

It was dark under the trees, and I reckon that’s why he didn’t see that gully in front of him, anyway, he suddenly vanished from sight with a crash and a howl. Then they busted out an arful squealing and out of the gully come the biggest white hawg I ever seen in my life. And Uncle Joab was astraddle of him, having evidently fell on him.

“Stop him!” howled Uncle Joab, hanging on for his life, afeared to let go and afeared to hold on. That hawg was headed back the way we’d come, and he went past me like a bullet. I grabbed for him, but all I done was tear off Uncle Joab’s shirt. That hawg went through the bresh like a quarter hoss, and the way Uncle Joab hollered was a caution when the limbs scratched him and slapped him in the face.

Well, a Bearfield ain’t to be outdid by man nor beast, so I sot myself to run down that fool hawg on foot. And I was gaining on him, too, when we reached the cabin. But as we busted into the clearing I heard a most amazing racket in the cabin and seen Ash Buckley perched in a tree, plumb wildeyed.

I was so astonished I didn’t look where I was going and tripped over a root and nearly busted my brains out, and when I got up, Uncle Joab and the hawg was clean out of sight.

“What the devil?” I demanded profanely.

“I dunno!” hollered old Ash. “Jest as I come up awhile ago I seen a gang of men sneakin’ into the cabin, so I hid and watched. They shet the door and I heard one of ’em holler: ‘That must be him layin’ on that bunk over there. Grab him!’ Then that racket started. It’s been goin’ on for fifteen minutes. What’s that?”

It sounded like a mule kicking slats out of a shed wall, but I knowed it was Jedge Peabody hitting the Watsons in the head with his tail. Them scoundrels had evidently come to raid our cabin, and Jedge Peabody had busted loose when they grabbed him, thinking he was me.

I run over to the door jest as it was busted down from inside, and a gang of men come piling out. I hit each one on the jaw as he come out, and throwed him to one side till I had seven men laying there, out cold. The last one to come out had Jedge Peabody hanging onto the seat of his britches, and when old Ash seen Jedge Peabody he give a shriek and fell outa the tree and would probably of broke his neck if his galluses hadn’t catched on a limb.

The last Watson I knocked stiff had a scarred face and was about the meanest-looking cuss I ever seen. He was tough, too. I had to hit him twice. I was expecting a tussle with Jedge Peabody, too, but as soon as he seen me he let go of his victim’s pants and scuttled for the creek as fast as he could go. I never seen a ’gator run like him.

Ash was yelling for me to help him down, but they was more important work to do, so I run and got my lariat and tied them Watsons up before they could come to and rolled ’em into the cabin. Then I started towards the tree to git Ash loose, when somebody says, “Hands up!” and whirled around and faced the sheriff and fifty men, all of which was aiming shotguns at me.

“Don’t move!” says the sheriff, which was weighted down with hand-cuffs and laig-irons and chains till he couldn’t hardly walk. “We got you kivered, Bearfield! Them guns is all loaded with buckshot and railroad spikes! We got you cold! Where’s Ash Buckley?”

“Right up over yore fool heads,” says Ash fiercely, which startled the posse so bad they nigh jumped outa their skins and four or five of ’em shot at him before they seen who it was. “Stop that, you nitwits!” he screamed. “Lemme down before I has a rush of blood to the head!”

“Warn’t you kidnaped?” ast the sheriff, dumbfounded, and Ash snarled, “No, I warn’t! Me and Pike and Joab come out here on private business!”

The sheriff cussed something fierce, but the posse started helping Ash down, when we heard somebody hollering for help off to the west, and they dropped Ash on his head and grabbed their guns and says, “Who’s that?”

“It’s Uncle Joab!” I bellered, and made a break for the bresh, with Ash right behind me. Some of ’em shot at me, but they missed, and jest then I heard one of ’em yell, “Sheriff, come here quick! The cabin’s full of men tied hand and foot!”

Every second I expected to hear ’em pursuing us, but we didn’t hear ’em, and purty soon we almost fell over Uncle Joab in the dusk. He was trying to rassle the white hawg over on its side, whilst squalling, “It’s the one! I can see the tattoo marks through the bristles!”

Well, so could we, in spite of the dusk, and old Ash like to collapsed with excitement.

“Grab that hawg, Pike!” he screamed, lugging out a handful of matches. “Cullen Baker’s loot is right in our meat hooks!”

So I helt the hawg and Uncle Joab made a swipe with his butcher knife, and panted, “Strike a match quick, Ash! ’Tain’t a map—it’s writin’, but I cain’t read it by this light! Strike a light!”

Ash struck a match and helt it clost whilst we jammed our three heads together to read what was tattooed on that hawg’s hide. And then Ash and Uncle Joab give a howl that jolted the cones outa the pines. The words tattooed on that hawg was, “April fule! The joaks on you, you old jackass. jeppard wilkinson.”

I let go of the hawg and it went kiting and squealing off into the bresh, and we sot there in bitter silence for a long time.

This silence was busted by the sheriff suddenly sticking his head through the bushes, and saying, “What the devil air you all doin’?”

“Well, I ain’t bein’ arrested,” I says vengefully, gitting to my feet and drawing my pistol. “I’ll pay you for yore shotgun, but—”

“Then I got no charge,” says he. “Bein’ as you didn’t kidnap Ash there, and as for the Watsons—”

“That reminds me,” I interrupted. “I got seven of them skunks tied up back at the cabin. They tried to steal my mule and murder me in my sleep, but I won’t make no charges agen ’em if they’ll drop that pig stealin’ case.”

“Why, heck!” says he. “They’ve already dropped that charge! When old Jabez come to he ’lowed all he wanted with yore clan was peace, and plenty of it! He says they can lick the Hudkinses any day, but when they rings in a Bearfield on ’em, they got more’n enough! Them fellers you got tied up back there—and which the boys is now loadin’ with the irons I brung for you—they ain’t Watsons!”

“Well, who is they, then?”

“Oh,” says he, taking a chaw of plug tobaccer, “nobody but John McCoy and his gang which recent come back from Louisiana! Son, you can have anything in this county! Hey, where you goin’?”

“Home,” I says in disgust, “where a man can depend on a feud bein’ fought to a finish, and one side don’t back out jest because a few of ’em gits their heads busted!”


Cover Image

First published in Argosy, Oct 17, 1936

Blue Lizard, Colorado,
September 1, 1879.

Mister Washington Bearfield, Antioch, Colorado.

Dear Brother Wash:

Well, Wash, I reckon you think you air smart persuading me to quit my job with the Seven Prong Pitchfork outfit and come way up here in the mountains to hunt gold. I knowed from the start I warn’t no prospector, but you talked so much you got me addled and believing what you said, and the first thing I knowed I had quit my job and withdrawed from the race for sheriff of Antioch and was on my way. Now I think about it, it is a dern funny thing you got so anxious for me to go prospecting jest as elections was coming up. You never before showed no anxiety for me to git rich finding gold or no other way. I am going to hunt me a quiet spot and set down and study this over for a few hours, and if I decide you had some personal reason for wanting me out of Antioch, I aim to make you hard to ketch.

All my humiliating experiences in Blue Lizard is yore fault, and the more I think about it, the madder I git. And yet it all come from my generous nature which cain’t endure to see a feller critter in distress onless I got him that way myself.

Well, about four days after I left Antioch I hove into the Blue Lizard country one forenoon, riding Satanta and leading my pack mule, and I was passing through a canyon about three mile from the camp when I heard dawgs baying. The next minute I seen three of them setting around a big oak tree barking fit to bust yore ear-drums. I rode up to see what they’d treed and I’m a Injun if it warn’t a human being! It was a tall man without no hat nor gun in his scabbard, and he was cussing them dawgs so vigorous he didn’t hear me till I rode up and says: “Hey, what you doin’ up there?”

He like to fell out of the crotch he was setting in, and then he looked down at me very sharp for a instant, and said: “I taken refuge from them vicious beasts. I was goin’ along mindin’ my own business when they taken in after me. I think they got hyderphoby. I’ll give you five bucks if you’ll shoot ’em. I lost my gun.”

“I don’t want no five bucks,” I says. “But I ain’t goin’ to shoot ’em. They’re pecooliar lookin’ critters, and they may be valurebul. I notice the funnier-lookin’ a animal is, the more money they’re generally wuth. I’ll shoo ’em off.”

So I got down and says: “Git!” and they immejitly laid holt of my laigs, which was very irritating because I didn’t have no other boots but them. So I fotched each one of them fool critters a hearty kick in the rear, and they give a yowl and scooted for the tall timber.

“You can come down now,” I says. “Dern it, them varmints has rooint my boots.”

“Take mine!” says he, sliding down and yanking off his boots.

“Aw, I don’t want to do that,” I says, but he says: “I insists! It’s all I can do for you. Witherington T. Jones always pays his debts, even in adversity! You behold in me a lone critter buffeted on the winds of chance, penniless and friendless, but grateful! Take my boots, kind stranger, do!”

Well, I was embarrassed and sorry for him, so I said all right, and taken his boots and give him mine. They was too big for him, but he seemed mighty pleased when he hauled ’em on. His’n was very handsome, all fancy stitching. He shaken my hand and said I’d made him very happy, but all to once he bust into tears and sobbed: “Pore Joe!”

“Pore who?” I ast.

“Joe!” says he, wiping his eyes on my bandanner. “My partner, up on our claim in the hills. I warned him agen drinkin’ a gallon of corn juice to inoculate hisself agen snake- bite—before the snake bit him—but he wouldn’t listen, so now he’s writhin’ in the throes of delirium tremens. It would bust yore heart to hear the way he shrieks for me to shoot the polka-dotted rhinocerhosses which he thinks is gnawin’ his toes. I left him tied hand and foot and howlin’ that a striped elephant was squattin’ on his bosom, and I went to Blue Lizard for medicine. I got it, but them cussed dawgs scairt my hoss and he got away from me, and it’ll take me till midnight to git back to our claim afoot. Pore Joe’ll be a ravin’ corpse by then.”

Well, I never heard of a corpse raving, but I couldn’t stand the idee of a man dying from the d.t.’s, so I shucked my pack offa my mule, and said: “Here, take this mule and skeet for yore claim. He’ll be better’n walkin’. I’d lend you Satanta only he won’t let nobody but me ride him.”

Mister Witherington T. Jones was plumb overcome by emotion. He shaken my hand again and said: “My noble friend, I’ll never forgit this!” And then he jumped on the mule and lit out, and from the way he was kicking the critter’s ribs I reckoned he’d pull into his claim before noon, if it was anywheres within a hundred miles of there. He sure warn’t wasting no time. I could see that.

I hung his boots onto my saddle horn and I had started gathering up my plunder when I heard men yelling and then a whole gang with Winchesters come busting through the trees, and they seen me and hollered: “Where is he?”

“We heard the dawgs bayin’ over here,” says a little short one. “I don’t hear ’em now. But they must of had him treed somewheres clost by.”

“Oh, Mr. Jones,” I said. “Well, don’t worry about him. He’s all right. I druv the dawgs off and and lent him my mule to git back to his claim.”

At this they let forth loud frenzied yells. It was plumb amazing. Here I’d jest rescued a feller human from a pack of ferocious animals, and these hombres acted like I’d did a crime or something.

“He helped him git awayl” they hollered. “Le’s lynch him, the derned outlaw!”

“Who you callin’ a outlaw?” I demanded. “I’m a stranger in these parts. I’m headin’ for Blue Lizard to work me a claim.”

“You jest helped a criminal to escape!” gnashed they, notably a big black-bearded galoot with a sawed-off shotgun. “This feller Jones as you call him tried to rob a stage coach over on Cochise Mountain less’n a hour ago. The guard shot his pistol out of his hand, and his hoss got hit too, so he broke away on foot. We sot the dawgs on his trail, and we’d of had him by now, if you hadn’t butted in! Now the dawgs cain’t track him no more.”

“Call ’em back and set ’em on the mule’s trail,” sejests a squint-eyed cuss. “As for you, you cussed Texas hill-billy, you keep on travelin’. We don’t want no man like you in Blue Lizard.”

“Go to the devil, you flat-nosed buzzard,” I retort with typical Southern courtesy. “This here’s a free country. I come up here to hunt gold and I aim to hunt it if I have to lick every prospector in Lizard Cañon! You cain’t ride me jest because I made a honest mistake that anybody could of made. Anyway, I’m the loser, ’cause he got off with my mule.”

“Aw, come on and le’s find the dawgs,” says a bow-legged gun-toter with warts. So they went off up the cañon, breathing threats and vengeance, and I taken my plunder on my shoulder and went on down the cañon, leading Satanta. I put on Mister Jones’s boots first, and they was too small for me, of course, but I could wear ’em in a pinch. (That there is a joke, Wash, but I don’t suppose you got sense enough to see the p’int.)

I soon come to the aidge of the camp, which was spread all over the place where the canyon widened out and shallowed, and the first man I seen was old Polk Williams. You remember him, Wash, we knowed him over to Trinidad when we first come to Colorado with the Seven Prong Pitchfork outfit. I hailed him and ast him where I could find a good claim, and he said all the good ones had been took. So I said, well, I’d strike out up in the hills and hunt me one, and he says: “What you know about prospectin’? I advises you to git a job of workin’ some other man’s claim at day wages till they’s a new strike up in the hills somewheres. They’s bound to be one any day, because the mountains is full of prospectors which got here too late to git in on this’n. Plenty of jobs here at big wages, because nobody wants to work. They all wants to wade creeks till they stub their fool toe on a pocket of nuggets.”

“All right,” I said. “I’ll pitch my camp down on the creek.”

“You better not,” says he. “These mountains is full of hyderphoby skunks. They crawls in yore blankets at night and bites you, and you foam at the mouth and go bite yore best friends. Now, it jest happens I got a spare cabin which I ain’t usin’. The feller who had it rented ain’t with us this mornin’ account of a extry ace in a poker game last night. I’ll rent it to you dirt cheap—ten dollars a day. You’ll be safe from them cussed skunks there.”

So I said: “All right. I don’t want to git hyderphoby.”

So I give him ten dollars in advance and put my plunder in the cabin which was on a slope west of the camp, and hobbled Satanta to graze. He said I better look out or somebody would steal Satanta. He said Mustang Stirling and his outlaws was hiding in the hills clost by and terrorizing the camp which didn’t even have a sheriff yet, because folks hadn’t had time to elect one, but they was gittin so sick of being robbed all the time they probably would soon, and maybe organize a Vigilante Committee, too. But I warn’t scairt of anybody stealing Satanta. A stranger had better take a cougar by the whiskers than to monkey with Satanta. That hoss has got a disposition like a sore-tailed rattlesnake.

Well, while we was talking I seen a gal come out from amongst the cluster of stores and saloons and things, and head up the canyon with a bucket in her hand. She was so purty my heart skipped a beat and my corns begun to throb. That’s a sure sign of love at first sight.

“Who’s that gal?” I ast.

“Hannah Sprague,” says Polk. “The belle of Blue Lizard. But you needn’t start castin’ sheep’s eyes at her. They’s a dozen young bucks sparkin’ her already. I think Blaze Wellington’s the favorite to put his brand onto her, though. She wouldn’t look twicet at a hill-billy like you.”

“I might remove the compertition,” I sejested.

“You better not try no Wolf Mountain rough stuff in Blue Lizard,” warned he. “The folks is so worked up over all these robberies and killin’s they’re jest in a mood to lynch somebody, especially a stranger.”

But I give no heed. Folks is always wanting to lynch me, and quite a few has tried, as numerous tombstones on the boundless prairies testifies.

“Where’s she goin’ with that bucket?” I ast him, and he said: “She’s takin’ beer to her old man which is workin’ a claim up the creek.”

“Well, listen,” I says. “You git over there behind that thicket and when she comes past you make a noise like a Injun.”

“What kind of damfoolishness is this?” he demanded. “You want to stampede the hull camp?”

“Don’t make a loud whoop,” I says. “Jest make it loud enough for her to hear it.”

“Air you crazy?” says he.

“No, dern it!” I said fiercely, because she was tripping along purty fast. “Git in there and do like I say. I’ll rush up from the other side and pertend to rescue her from the Injuns, and that’ll make her like me.”

“I mistrusts you’re a blasted fool,” he grumbled. “But I’ll do it jest this oncet.”

He snuck into the thicket which she’d have to pass on the other side, and I circled around so she couldn’t see me till I was ready to rush out and save her from being sculped. Well, I warn’t hardly in place when I heard a kind of mild war-whoop and it sounded jest like a Blackfoot, only not so loud. But immejitly there come the crack of a pistol and another yell which warn’t subdued like the first. It was lusty and energetic.

I run towards the thicket, but before I could git into the open trail old Polk come b’ilin’ out of the back side of the clump with his hands to the seat of his britches.

“You planned this a-purpose, you snake in the grass!” he squalled. “Git outa my way!”

“Why, Polk!” I says. “What happened?”

“I bet you knowed she had a derringer in her stocking,” he howled as he run past me with his pants smoking. “It’s all yore fault! When I whooped she pulled it and shot into the bresh! Don’t speak to me! I’m lucky that I warn’t hit in a vital spot. I’ll git even with you for this if it takes a hundred years!”

He headed on into the deep bresh, and I run around the thicket and seen Hannah Sprague peering into it with her gun smoking in her hand. She looked up as I come onto the trail, and I taken off my hat and said perlite: “Howdy, Miss. Can I be of no assistance to you?”

“I jest shot a Injun,” says she. “I heard him holler. You might go in there and git the sculp, if you don’t mind. I’d like to have it for a soovenear.”

“I’ll be glad to, Miss,” I says gallantly. “I’ll likewise kyore and tan it for you myself.”

“Oh, thank you, sir!” she says, dimpling. “It’s a pleasure to meet a real gent like you!”

“The pleasure’s all mine,” I assured her, and went into the bresh and stomped around a little, and then come out and says: “I’m arful sorry, Miss, but the varmint ain’t nowheres to be found. You must of jest winged him. If you want me to, I’ll take his trail and run him down.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t think of puttin’ you to sech trouble,” she says, much to my relief, because I was jest thinking that if she did demand a sculp, the only thing I could do would be to ketch old Polk and sculp him, and I’d hate to have to do that. I bet it would of made him arful mad.

But she looked me over admiringly and says: “I’m Hannah Sprague. Who’re you?

“I knowed you the minute I seen you,” I says. “The fame of yore beauty has reached clean to Wolf Mountain, Texas. I’m Pike Bearfield.”

“Glad to meetcha, Mister Bearfield,” says she. “They must grow big men in Texas. Well, I got to go now. Pap gits arful tetchy if he don’t git his beer along with his dinner.”

“I’d admire powerful to call on you this evenin’,” I says, and she says, “Well, I dunno. Mister Blaze Wellington was goin’ to call—”

“He cain’t come,” I says.

“Why, how do you know?” she ast surprised. “He said—”

“A unforeseen circumstance,” I says gently. “It ain’t happened to him yet, but it’s goin’ to right away.”

“Well,” she says, kind of confused, “I reckon in that case you can come on, if you want. We live in that cabin down yonder by that big fir. But when you git within hearin’ holler and tell us who you be, if it’s after dark. Pap is arful nervous account of all these outlaws which is robbin’ people.”

So I said I would, and she went on, and I headed for the camp. People give me some suspicious looks, and I heard a lot of folks talking about this here Mustang Stirling and his gang. Seems like them critters hid in the hills and robbed somebody nearly every day and night, and nobody could hardly git their gold out of camp without gittin’ stuck up. But I didn’t have no gold yet, and wouldn’t of been scairt of Mustang Stirling if I had, so I went on to the biggest saloon, which they called the Belle of New York. I taken a dram and ast the bartender if he knowed Blaze Wellington. He said sure he did, and I ast him where Blaze Wellington was, and he p’inted out a young buck which was setting at a table with his head down on his hands like he was trying to study out something. So I went over and sot down opposite him, and he looked up and seen me, and fell out of his chair backwards hollering: “Don’t shoot!”

“Why, how did you know?” I ast, surprised.

“By yore evil face,” he gibbered. “Go ahead! Do yore wust!”

“They ain’t no use to git highsterical,” I says. “If you’ll be reasonable nobody won’t git hurt.”

“I won’t tell you whar it’s hid!” he defied, gitting onto his feet and looking like a cornered wharf-rat.

“Where what’s hid?” I ast in amazement.

At this he looked kind of dumfounded.

“Say,” says he cautiously, “ain’t you one of Mustang Stirling’s spies, after the gold?”

“Naw, I ain’t,” I says angrily. “I jest come here to ast you like a gent not to call on Hannah Sprague tonight.”

“What the devil?” says he, looking kind of perplexed and relieved and mad all at the same time. “What you mean, not call on Hannah?”

“Because I am,” I says, hitching my guns for’ard.

“Who the devil air you?” he demanded, convulsively picking up a beer mug like he aimed to throw it at me.

“Pike Bearfield of Wolf Mountain,” I says, and he says: “Oh!” and after a minute he puts the beer mug down and stood there studying a while.

Then he says: “Why, Bearfield, they warn’t no use in you threatenin’ me. I bet you think I’m in love with Hannah Sprague! Well, I ain’t. I’m a friend of her old man, that’s all. I been keepin’ his gold over to my shack, guardin’ it for him, so Mustang Stirling’s outlaws wouldn’t git it, and the old man is so grateful he wants me to marry the gal. But I don’t keer nothin’ about her.

“To tell you the truth, if it warn’t that I like the old man, I’d throw up the job, it’s so dangerous. Mustang Stirling has got spies in the camp, and they dogs me night and day. I thought you was one of ’em when I seen yore arful face. . . . Well, I’m glad the old man’s goin’ to send it out on the stage tomorrer. It’s been an arful strain on me and my partner, which is over at the shack now. Somebody’s got to stay there on guard all the time, or them cussed outlaws would come right in and tear the shack apart and find where I got it hid. Tonight’ll be the wust. They’ll make a desprut effort to git it before mornin’.”

“You mean old man Sprague wants you to marry Hannah because yo’re guardin’ his gold?” I ast, and he says yes, but the responsibility was aging him prematurely. I says: “Looky here! Lemme take this job off ’n yore hands! Lemme guard the gold tonight! I hates to see a promisin’ young man like you wore down to a nubbin by care and worry.”

“I hate to do that,” he demurred, but I said: “Come on, be a good feller! I’ll do as much for you, some time.”

He thought it over a while, shaking his head, whilst I was on needles and pins, and then he stuck out his hand and said: “I’ll do it! Shake! But don’t tell nobody. I wouldn’t do it for nobody but you. . . . What’s that noise?”

Because we heard a lot of men running up the street and yelling: “Git yore guns ready, boys! We’re right on his trail!”

Somebody hollered “Who?” And somebody else yelled: “Jones! The hounds picked up his foot-tracks whilst we was tryin’ to git ’em after the mule’s! He musta jumped offa the mule and doubled back afoot! We’ve trailed him right down Main Street!”

Then somebody else whooped: “They’re goin’ into the Belle of New York! We got him cornered! Don’t let him git away!”

The next minute here come them three fool bloodhounds b’ilin’ in at the front door and grabbed me by the hind laig again. It was most ann’ying. I dunno when I was ever so sick of a pack of hounds in my life. But I controlled my temper and merely jerked ’em loose from my laig and throwed ’em out the winder, and they run off. Then a crowd of faces jammed in the door and looked at me wildly and said: “You again!”

I recognized Black-Beard and Squint-Eye and Shorty and Warts and the rest of the men which was in the posse chasing Mister Jones, and I said fretfully: “Gol-dern it, whyn’t you all lemme alone?”

But they ignored my remark, and Squint-Eye said: “I thought we told you not to stop in Blue Lizard!”

Before I could think of anything insulting enough to say in response, Warts give a yelp and p’inted at my laigs.

“Look there!” he howled. “He’s got on Jones’s boots! I was on the stage coach when Jones tried to hold it up, and he had on a mask, but I remember them boots! Don’t you remember—this hill-billy didn’t have on no boots when we seen him before! He traded boots with Jones to fool the dawgs! No wonder they wouldn’t foller the mule! He’s a derned outlaw! He knowed what Jones’s name was! He’s one of Stirling’s spies! Git him!”

I started to tell Blaze to tell ’em I was all right, but at this moment Shorty was so overcome by excitement that he throwed a cuspidor at me. I ducked and it hit Blaze betwixt the eyes and he curled up under the table with a holler gasp.

“Now look what you done!” I says wrathfully, but all Shorty says is to holler: “Grab him, boys! Here’s where we starts cleaning up this camp right now! Let the hangin’s commence!”

If he hadn’t made that last remark, I probably wouldn’t of broke his arm when he tried to stab me with his bowie, but I’m kind of sensitive about being hung. I would of avoided vi’lence if I could of, but sech remarks convinced me that them idjits was liable to do me bodily harm, especially when some of ’em grabbed me around the laigs and five or six more tried to twist my arms around behind my back. So I give a heave and slung them loose from me which was hanging onto my arms, and then I ast the others ca’mly and with dignity to let go of me before I injured ’em fatally, but they replied profanely that I was a dadgasted outlaw and they was going to hang me if it was the last thing any of ’em done. They also tried to rassle me off my feet and Black-Beard hit me over the head with a beer bottle.

This made me mad, so I walked over to the bar with nine or ten of ’em hanging onto me and bracing their feet in a futile effort to stop me, and I stooped and tore up a ten-foot section of brass rail, and at the first swipe I laid out Black-Beard and Squint-Eye and Warts, and at the second I laid out four more gents which was perfect strangers to me, and when I heaved her up for the third swipe they warn’t nobody in the saloon but me and them on the floor. It is remarkable the number of men you can fotch at one lick with a ten-foot section of brass railing. The way the survivors stampeded out the front door yelling blue murder you’d of thought it was the first time anybody had ever used a brass rail on ’em.

Blaze was beginning to come to, so I hauled him out from under the table, and lugged him out onto the street with me. Some fellers on the other side of the street immejitly started shooting at me, so I drawed my pistols and shot back at ’em, and they broke and run every which a way. So I got Blaze onto my back and started up the street with him, and after I’d went a few hundred yards he could walk hisself, though he weaved considerable, and he taken the lead and led me to his cabin which was back of some stores and clost to the bank of the creek. They warn’t nobody in sight but a loafer setting under a tree on the bank fishing, with his slouch hat pulled down to shade his eyes. The door was shet, so Blaze hollered, still kind of dizzy: “It’s me, Branner; open up!”

So another young feller opened the door and looked out cautious with a double-barreled shotgun, and Blaze says to me: “Wait here whilst I go in and git the gold.”

So I did and after a while he come out lugging a good- sized buckskin poke which I jedged from the weight they must be several thousand dollars worth of nuggets in there.

“I’ll never forget this,” I said warmly. “You go tell Hannah I cain’t come to see her tonight because I’m guardin’ her old man’s gold. I’ll see her tomorrer after the stage coach has left with it.”

“I’ll tell her, pal,” says he with emotion, shaking my hand, so I headed for my cabin, feeling I had easily won the first battle in the campaign for Hannah Sprague’s hand. Imagine that pore sap Blaze throwing away a chance like that! I felt plumb sorry for him for being so addle-headed.

The sun was down by the time I got back to my cabin, and oncet I thought somebody was follering me, and I looked around, but it warn’t nobody but the feller I’d seen fishing, trudging along about a hundred yards behind me with his pole onto his shoulder.

Well, when I arriv’ at my cabin, I seen a furtive figger duck out the back way. It looked like old Polk, so I called to him, but he scooted off amongst the trees. I decided I must of been mistook, because likely old Polk was still off somewheres sulking on account of gitting shot in the britches. He was a onreasonable old cuss.

I went in and throwed the buckskin poke on the table and lit a candle, and jest then I heard a noise at the winder and wheeled quick jest in time to see somebody jerk his face away from the winder. I run to the door, and seen somebody sprinting off through the trees, and was jest fixing to take a shot at him when I recognized that old slouch hat. I wondered what that fool fisherman had follered me and looked in at my winder for, and I wondered why he run off so fast, but I’d already found out that Blue Lizard was full of idjits, so I give the matter no more thought. I ain’t one of these here fellers which wastes their time trying to figger out why things is like they is, and why people does things like they does. I got better employment for my spare time, sech as sleeping.

Satanta come up to the door and nickered, and I give him some oats, and then I built a fire in the fireplace and cooked some bacon and made some coffee, and I’d jest got through eating and cleaned up the pot and skillet when somebody hailed me outside.

I quick blowed out the candle and stepped to the door with a gun in each hand. I could see a tall figger standing in the starlight, so I ast who the devil he was and what he wanted.

“A friend of Old Man Sprague’s,” says he. “Huddleston is the name, my enormous young friend, Carius Z. Huddleston. Mister Sprague sent me over to help you guard his gold tonight.”

That didn’t set well with me, because it looked like Old Man Sprague didn’t think I was capable of taking care of it by myself, and I said so right out.

“Not at all,” says Mister Huddleston. “He’s so grateful to you for assumin’ the responsibility that he said he couldn’t endure it if you come to any harm on account of it, so he sent me to help you.”

Well, that was all right. It looked like Old Man Sprague had took a fancy to me already, even before he’d saw me, and I felt that I was nigh as good as married to Hannah already. So I told Mr. Huddleston to come in, and I lit the candle and shet the door. He was a tall man with the biggest black mustache I ever seen, and he had on a frock tail coat and a broad- brim hat. I seen two ivory-handled six-shooters under his coattails. His eyes kind of bulged in the candlelight when he seen the big poke on the table and he ast me was that the gold and I said yes. So he hauled out a bottle of whiskey and said: “Well, my gigantic young friend, le’s drink to Old Man Sprague’s gold, may it arrive at its proper destination.”

So we had a drink and I sot down on the bench and he sot on a rawhide bottomed chair, and he got to telling me stories, and he knowed more things about more people than I ever seen. He told me about a feller named Paul Revere which thrived during the Revolution when we licked the Britishers, and I got all het up hearing about him. He said the Britishers was going to sneak out of a town named Boston which I jedge must of been a right sizable cowtown or mining camp or something, and was going to fall on the people unawares and confiscate their stills and weppins and steers and things, but one of Paul’s friends signaled him what was going on by swinging a lantern, and Paul forked his cayuse and fogged it down the trail to warn the folks.

When he was telling about Paul’s friend signaling him Mister Huddleston got so excited he grabbed the candle and went over to the west winder and waved the candle back and forth three times to show me how it was done. It was a grand story, Wash, and I got goose bumps on me jest listening to it.

Well, it was gitting late by now, and Mister Huddleston ast me if I warn’t sleepy. I said no, and he said: “Go ahead and lay down and sleep. I’ll stand guard the rest of the night.”

“Shucks,” I said. “I ain’t sleepy. You git some rest.”

“We’ll throw dice to see who sleeps first,” says he, hauling out a pair, but I says: “No, sir! It’s my job. I’m settin’ up with the gold. You go on and lay down on that bunk over there if you wanta.”

Well, for a minute Mister Huddleston got a most pecooliar expression onto his face, or it might of been the way the candlelight shined on it, because for a minute he looked jest like I’ve seen men look who was ready to pull out their pistol on me. Then he says: “All right. I believe I will take a snooze. You might as well kill the rest of that whisky. I got all I want.”

So he went over to the bunk which was in a corner where the light didn’t shine into very good, and he sot down on it to take off his boots. But he’d no sooner sot than he give a arful yell and bounded convulsively out into the middle of the room, clutching at his rear, and I seen a b’ar trap hanging onto the seat of his britches! I instantly knowed old Polk had sot it in the bunk for me, the revengeful old polecat.

From the way Mr. Huddleston was hollering I knowed it warn’t only pants which was nipped betwixt the jaws; they was quite a chunk of Mister Huddleston betwixt ’em too. He went prancing around the cabin like one of them whirling derfishes and his langwidge was plumb terrible.

“Git it off, blast you!” he howled, but he was circling the room at sech speed I couldn’t ketch him, so I grabbed the chain which dangled from the trap and give a heave and tore it loose from him by main strength. The seat of his pants and several freckles come with it, and the howls he’d let out previous warn’t a circumstance to the one which he emitted now, also bounding about seven foot in the air besides.

“You—!” screamed he, and I likewise give a beller of amazement because his mustash had come off and revealed a familiar face!

“Witherington T. Jones!” I roared, dumfounded. “What the devil you doin’ here in disguise?”

“Now!” says he, pulling a gun. “Hands up, curse you, or—”

I knocked the gun out of his hand before he could pull the trigger, and I was so overcome with resentment that I taken him by the neck and shaken him till his spurs flew off.

“Is this any way to treat a man as risked his repertation to rescue you from bloodhounds?” I inquired with passion. “Where’s my mule, you ornery polecat?”

I had forgot about his other gun, but he hadn’t. But I was shaking him so energetic that somehow he missed me even when he had the muzzle almost agen my belly. The bullet tore the hide over my ribs and the powder burnt me so severe that I lost my temper.

“So you tries to murder me after obtainin’ my mule under false pretenses!” I bellered, taking the gun away from him and impulsively slinging him acrost the cabin. “You ain’t no friend of Old Man Sprague’s.”

At this moment he got hold of a butcher knife I used to slice bacon with and come at me, yelling: “Slim! Mike! Arizona! Jackson! Where’n hell air you?”

I taken the blade in my arm-muscles and then grabbed him and we was rassling all over the place when six men come storming through the door with guns in their hands. One of them yelled: “I thought you said you’d wait till he was asleep or drunk before you signaled us!”

“He wouldn’t go to sleep!” howled Mister Jones, spitting out a piece of my ear he’d bit off. “Dammit, do somethin’! Don’t you see he’s klllin’ me?”

But we was so tangled up they couldn’t shoot me without hitting him, so they clubbed their pistols and come for me, so I swung Mister Jones off his feet and throwed him at ’em. They was all in a bunch and he hit ’em broadside and knocked ’em all over and they crashed into the table and upsot it and the candle went out. The next minute they was a arful commotion going on as they started fighting each other in the dark, each one thinking it was me he had holt of.

I was feeling for ’em when the back door busted open and I had a brief glimpse of a tall figger darting out, and it was carrying something on its shoulder. Then I remembered that the poke had been on that table. Mister Jones had got holt of the gold and was skedaddling with it!

I run out of the back door after him jest as a mob of men come whooping and yelling up to the front door with torches and guns and ropes. I heard one of ’em yell: “Somebody’s fightin’ in there! Listen at ’em!”

Somebody else yelled: “Maybe the whole gang’s in there with the hill-billy! Git ’em!” So they went smashing into the cabin jest as I run in amongst the trees after Mister Jones.

And there I was stumped. I couldn’t see where he went and it was too dark to find his trail. Then all to oncet I heard Satanta squeal and a man yelled for help, and they come a crash like a man makes when a hoss bucks him off into a blackjack thicket. I run in the direction of the noise and by the starlight I seen Satanta grazing and a pair of human laigs sticking out of the bresh. Mister Jones had tried to git away on Satanta.

“I told you he wouldn’t let nobody but me ride him,” I says as I hauled him out, but his langwidge ain’t fit to be repeated. The poke was lying clost by, busted open. When I picked it up, it didn’t look right. I struck a match and looked.

That there poke was full of nothing but scrap iron!

I was so stunned I didn’t hardly know what I was doing when I taken the poke in one hand and Mister Jones’ neck in the other’n, and lugged ’em back to the cabin. The mob had Mister Jones’s six men outside tied up, and was wiping the blood off ’em, and I seen Shorty and Black-Beard and Squint-Eye and the others, and about a hundred more.

“They’re Stirling’s men all right,” says Warts. “But where’s Mustang, and that hill- billy? Anyway, le’s string these up right here.”

“You ain’t,” says Black-Beard. “You all elected me sheriff before we come up here, and I aims to uphold the law. . . . Who’s that?”

“It’s Old Man Sprague,” says somebody, as a bald-headed old coot come prancing through the crowd waving a shotgun.

“What you want?” says Black-Beard. “Don’t you see we’re busy?”

“I demands jestice!” howled Old Man Sprague. “I been abused!”

At this moment I shouldered through the crowd with a heavy heart, and slang the poke of scrap iron down in front of him.

“There it is,” I says, “and I’ll swear it ain’t been monkeyed with since Blaze Wellington gave it to me!”

“Who’s that?’ howled Sprague.

“The hill-billy!” howled the mob. “Grab him!”

“No, you don’t!” I roared, drawing a gun. “I’ve took enough offa you Blue Lizard jackasses! I’m a honest man, and I’ve brung back Mister Jones to prove it.”

I then flang him down in front of them, and Warts give a howl and pounced on him. “Jones, nothing!” he yelled. “That’s Mustang Stirling!”

“I confesses,” says Mustang groggily. “Lock me up where I can be safe from that hill-billy! The critter ain’t human.”

“Somebody listen to me!” howled Old Man Sprague, jumping up and down. “I demands to be heard!”

“I done the best I could!” I roared, plumb out of patience. “When Blaze Wellington give me yore gold to guard—”

“What the devil air you talkin’ about?” he squalled. “That wuthless scoundrel never had no gold of mine.”

What!” I hollered, going slightly crazy. Jest then I seen a feller in the crowd I recognized. I made a jump and grabbed him.

“Branner!” I roared. “You was at Wellington’s shack when he give me that poke! You tell me quick what this is all about, or—”

“Leggo!” he gasped. “It warn’t Sprague’s gold we hid. It was our’n. We couldn’t git it outa camp because we knowed Stirling’s spies was watchin’ us all the time. When you jumped Blaze in the Belle of New York, he seen a chance to git ’em off our necks. He filled that poke with scrap iron and give it to you where the spy could see it and hear what was said. The spy didn’t know whether it was our gold or Sprague’s, but we knowed if he thought you had it, Stirling would go after you and let us alone. He did, too, and that give Blaze a chance to sneak out early tonight with it.”

“And that ain’t all!” bellered Old Man Sprague. “He taken Hannah with him! They’ve eloped!

My yell of mortal agony drownded out his demands for the sheriff to pursue ’em. Hannah! Eloped! It was too much for a critter to endure!

“Aw, don’t you keer, partner,” says Shorty, slapping me on the back with the arm I hadn’t busted. “You been vindicated as a honest citizen! You’re the hero of the hour!”

“Spare yore praise,” I says bitterly. “I’m the victim of female perfidy. I have lost my faith in my feller man and my honest heart is busted all to perdition! Leave me to my sorrer!”

So they gathered up their prisoners and went away in awed silence. I am a rooint man. All I want to do is to become a hermit and forgit my aching heart in the untrodden wilderness.

Your pore brother,

P.S.—The Next Morning. I have jest learnt that after I withdrawed from the campaign and left Antioch, you come out for sheriff and got elected. So that’s why you persuaded me to come up here. I am heading for Antioch and when I git there I am going to whup you within a inch of yore wuthless life, I don’t care if you air sheriff of Antioch. I am going to kick the seat of yore britches up around yore neck and sweep the streets with you till you don’t know whether yo’re setting or standing. Hoping this finds you in good health and spirits, I am,

Yore affectionate brother,
P. Bearfield Esquire


Cover Image

First published in Argosy, Oct 31, 1936

April 6, 1885


It has lately been brought to our notice by some of the less fastidious of our citizens who, presumably, have been amusing themselves by a slumming tour which naturally included a visit to our neighboring city of Bucksnort, that a campaign for sheriff is now raging in that aforesaid Hellhole of Iniquity. The candidates, as they were informed by such of Bucksnort’s citizens as were out of jail and sober enough to talk lucidly, are the present Sheriff of Papago County, John Donaldson, and the City Marshal of Bucksnort, Cheyenne Campbell, whose term of office evidently expires about election time. Not, however, that the undemocratic spectacle of a man holding one office and simultaneously running for another would create any impression on the stunted sensibilities of the denizens of that Miners’ Bedlam, that Blot on the Desert, that reeking Cesspool of Infamy, Bucksnort!

Each of the candidates seems to be straining nerve and sinew (we had almost said brain!) to distinguish himself in some spectacular manner which will catch the alcohol-soaked fancy of the citizenry. While we would no more descend to mingle into Bucksnort’s politics than we would dip our hands in any other mud puddle, we humbly suggest to whichever candidate may be elected, that he devote less time to persecuting innocent citizens of San Simeon, whom misfortune catches in Bucksnort, and more to the pursuit of that notorious scourge of the Border, Raphael Garcia, or El Lobo, the bandit, whose depredations are a thorn in the flesh of all honest men, and who, incidentally, seems to be reaping the larger proceeds of the mines of which Bucksnort is so proud. Within the last few months his robberies of stagecoaches, ore-trains, and company offices have cost the mine owners several hundred thousand dollars. This is of no consequence to San Simeon, the fair queen-city of the cow country, but doubtless is to the muckgrubbers of Bucksnort.

We close this column with the remark that if anyone in the alleged town of Bucksnort wishes to physically resent any of the just statements here above made, that the editor of The Branding Iron is at his desk every day, hot or cold, rain or shine, drunk or sober, that the editor’s benchlegged English bulldog is always on the job, and that the editorial shotgun is loaded with turkey shot and ten-penny nails. Liberty, Law, Order and Democracy!

* * * * *

April 9, 1885


We notice that our esteemed contemporary, the editor of that filthy rag, The San Simeon Branding Iron, has emerged from his habitual state of drunken stupor long enough to direct at our beautiful city an unprovoked blast which sounds much like the well-known braying of that individual’s not- too-distant ancestor. We scorn to bend to his level by replying. The accompanying notice is Bucksnort’s official retort to the cow-chasing scum of San Simeon and all Hualpai County! Loyal citizens please peruse.

(Personal Insertion)

There has been a lot of loose talk going on over to San Simeon about the way the campaign for Sheriff of Papago County is being ran. It is none of their blasted business and we do not want none of their company. Bucksnort is the leading mining town of the Territory and is sufficient unto herself. We have took enough off of the bat-legged cowpokes which infest San Simeon. As marshal of our thriving city I have placed a sign at the edge of town reading as per follows, “Horse thieves, cow rustlers, Injuns and other varmints, particularly including folks from San Simeon, stay out of Bucksnort!” I aim to enforce that edict. That ought to settle their hash, and when you, the citizens of this desert metropolis, go to the polls to exercise your inalienable privilege as American citizens, please remember that it is because of the zeal and patriotism of your favorite candidate that you are not now harassed with vermin from San Simeon! Yours for better government, law, order and personal liberty.

Cheyenne Campbell,
City Marshal

* * * * *

Bucksnort, Arizona,
1 p. m., April 9, 1885.

Mr. Sam Abercrombie,
c/o Hualpai County Jail,
San Simeon, Arizona

Dear Sam:

Campbell has put over a fast one by ordering San Simeonites to stay out of Bucksnort. Ever since the editor of the Branding Iron wrote that editorial about Bucksnort last week, the folks over here froth at the sight of a man from San Simeon. Campbell’s order made a big hit with them. Why the devil didn’t we think of it first? You’re a fine campaign manager. You better think up something in a hurry. You know the mine owners are sore at me anyway, because I haven’t been able to catch El Lobo. A big help you be. What you want to punch old judge Clanton’s nose for in his own court? You might of knowed he was just itching for a excuse to throw you into the calaboose for contempt of court. You just would go over into Hualpai County to defend a horse thief just when the campaign was at its hottest. It we don’t do something to match Campbell’s latest move, we’re as good as licked. But whatever you do, be careful. Jack Harrigan, one of Campbell’s campaign managers, is snooping around over in San Simeon. I hope one of them cowpunchers shoots him. Do you want some of the boys to come over and bust you out of jail?

Yours in haste,
John Donaldson, Sheriff

* * * * *

San Simeon, Arizona,
County Jail, 6 p. m., April 9, 1885.

Dear John:

Don’t send the boys. The jailer and I have been playing draw poker and I can’t leave till I win back my pants at least. Anyway, a great legal mind can work as good in jail as anywhere else. The associations are congenial, if you get what I mean. I’ve already solved your problem, my boy. A Texas man by the name of Pike Bearfield is due here tomorrow to pay a fine for one of the Triple Arrow cow punchers, who’s in jail for the minor offense of shooting the city marshal in the leg.

Bearfield’s got the reputation of being a fire-eater, and no more brains than the law allows. I’ll engage him in conversation and get him all worked up about Bucksnort ordering San Simeon people to keep away. All the cowpunchers in Hualpai County consider themselves citizens of San Simeon, and their civic pride is ardent and homicidal. I’ll prod him about San Simeon being afraid of Bucksnort, and if he’s like all the other Texans I’ve ever seen, he’ll fork his horse and come fogging over there, just to show the world that Bucksnort can’t give orders to a San Simeon warrior. From what I’ve heard of Bearfield, Campbell’s warning will be like waving a red flag at a bull. Now you be on the watch and grab him as soon as he shows up. Be smart this time and don’t let Cheyenne get ahead of you and arrest him first. Station one of your deputies at the edge of town to watch for him and give you warning as he comes into town.

I’m sending this letter by the same fellow who brought yours. You’ll get it by midnight, at the latest. That will give you plenty of time to get ready for Bearfield. He’ll probably come to the jail early tomorrow morning, and if my silver tongue has lost none of its charm, he’ll be fogging it for Bucksnort pronto thereafter.

When you get him in the calaboose, tell the editor of the Chronicle to play it up big. He will if you’ll slip him a ten- spot. Play it up as the arrest of a dangerous outlaw from Texas, come to shoot up the town! Let it look like Campbell wasn’t big enough to handle him and had to call in the county officers. Better try to get Campbell out of town on some fake call or other before Bearfield gets there. Anyway, don’t let Campbell be the one to arrest him! This is our chance to put you over big with the voters.

Yours for honest politics,
Samuel Trueheart Abercrombie,

* * * * *


san simeon arizona
9 am
april 10 1885

cheyenne campbell
bucksnort arizona

they are fixing to put one over stop a horse thief who just got out of jail told me he heard sam abercrombie priming a texas gunfighter named bearfield to come over and clean out bucksnort stop donaldson aims to arrest him stop this will make you look bad stop be on the job and grab him before donaldson does stop

jack harrigan

* * * * *


bucksnort arizona
11 15 am
april 10 1885

commanding officer
ft crook arizona

for gosh sake rush all the soldiers you got over here stop a maniac from texas named bearfield is tearing the town apart stop hustle stop

ephraim l whittaker mayor

* * * * *


Afternoon of April 10, 1885

D.V. Richards, M.D.

Treatment administered at the Golconda Gold Mining Company’s Emergency Hospital, as follows:

Bullets removed and treated for gunshot wounds: Sheriff John Donaldson, City Marshal Cheyenne Campbell, Deputies Gonzales, Keene, Wilkinson, McDonald and Jones; J. G. Smithson, County Clerk; Thomas Corbett, Tax Collector; Harrison, Jeppart, Wiltshaw and O’Toole, miners; Joe O’Brien, teamster.

Knife wounds: Ace Tremayne, gambler; nineteen stitches.

Iron beer keg hoops removed from neck of Michael Grogan, bartender, with aid of hacksaw.

The following were treated for contusions resulting from being struck with some blunt instrument such as the butt of a Sharps’ buffalo rifle: Sergeant O’Hara, fractured skull; Brogart, Olson, DeBose, Williams, Watson, Jackson, Emerson, miners. Six unidentified men now being revived.

Miscellaneous: Big Jud Pritchard, blacksmith—set broken arm and wired up fractured jaw, impossible to replace ear. Seventeen other men treated for minor lacerations and abrasions, apparently resulting from having been stepped on by a large horse.

* * * * *

Bucksnort, Arizona,
April 14, 1885.

Honorable Governor of Arizona,
Phoenix, Arizona

Honorable Sir:

I am writing to you to ast you to please see that jestice is did and stop an innercent man from being hounded by his enemies before he loses his patience and injures some of them fatally. I am referring to my pore persecuted brother, Pike Bearfield, of Wolf Mountain, Texas, now a fugitive from jestice and subsisting on prickly pears and horned toads somewheres in the Guadalupe Mountains. That ain’t no fitten diet for a white man, Yore Honor.

You have maybe saw the pack of lies which was writ about him in that dang newspaper The Bucksnort Chronicle which the only reason I ain’t shot the editor is because I am a peaceful and law-abiding man same as all us Bearfields, especially Pike. But let him beware! The editor, I mean. Truth is mighty and will prevail!

In that article about Pike, which was writ as soon as the editor sobered up on the morning of the 11th (he claims he was knocked cold by Pike the day before but it’s my opinion he was jest drunk) he claims Pike come out of his way jest to make trouble in Bucksnort. That’s a lie. Pike had been to San Simeon to pay a fine for a friend of his’n and was on his way back to the Triple Arrer ranch where we’ve both worked ever since we come out from Texas. He went by Bucksnort on his way to the ranch. Maybe you will say what the devil was he going by Bucksnort for, that is in the oppersite direction from the ranch, but Pike is very sociable and will go a long way out of his way jest to visit a town and meet folks and buy them drinks. As for that story about him storming out of San Simeon on the morning of April 10th spurring like a Comanche and waving his guns and announcing that he’d show them Bucksnort illegitimates whether they could keep San Simeon folks out of their dad-blasted town well, shucks, maybe he did holler and shoot off his pistols a little as he rode out, but that was jest high spirits. You know how us cowboys is, always full of fun and frolic.

His enemies has tried to make something out of the fack that he made the ride from San Simeon to Bucksnort in about a hour when it ordinarily takes a man about four hours to ride it. They say why was he splitting the road like that if he warn’t coming with war-like intention. But they don’t know Pike’s hoss, Satanta, which Pike ketched wild out of a Kiowa hoss herd and broke hisself, at the risk of his life. Satanta can outrun any critter in the Territory and he generally goes at a high lope. He ain’t careful about stepping around anything which happens to git in his way, neither, and probably Pike was shooting to warn them folks which he met to git out of his way, so they wouldn’t git tromped on. Pike has got a arful soft heart that way and don’t want to see nobody git hurt. They warn’t no use for them to take to the bresh and later accuse him of trying to murder them. If he’d been trying to hit them he would of, instead of jest knocking their hats off.

As for what actually happened at Bucksnort when he got there, they has been so many lies told about it that it plumb discourages a honest man. But this here is a plain, unvarnished account which I hope you will forgit all them yarns which Pike’s enemies has been telling, they air all prejudiced and anyway some of them air still addled in the brains and not responsible. Well, this is the way it was:

They is, or was, a very insulting sign at the aidge of Bucksnort which warned folks from San Simeon to keep out of the derned town. It now appears that it was shot all to pieces on the morning of the 10th, and folks air accusing Pike of doing it as he rode into town. Well, maybe he did kind of empty his pistol into the sagebrush, but they ain’t no use in abusing him because their derned sign happened to be where he was shooting. He didn’t put it there. Us cowboys frequently shoots into the air as we comes into town. It’s a kind of salute to the town, and a mark of respeck. As for that there deperty who got his hat shot off account of Pike seeing it sticking up in the sagebresh, why, that was jest a friendly joke. Pike was jest trying to be sociable. It hurt Pike’s feelings when the deperty ran off hollering halp murder and that’s why he shot the feller’s suspender buttons off—if the deperty didn’t bust them off hisself running through the sagebresh. He didn’t have no business hiding out there in the first place.

Pike then went on into town and tied his hoss, as quiet and peaceable as you please, and went into the Miners’ Delight Saloon. How do I know why the folks in the saloon all left by way of the back door as he come in at the front? Maybe they had to go home to dinner or something. The bartender was one of these hot-tempered, overbearing cusses which don’t deserve no sympathy. It appears they was some shots fired by somebody which cracked the mirror behind the bar and busted all the ceiling lamps, and the bartender seems to have blamed it on Pike. But he had no business making a play at Pike with a sawed-off shotgun. I reckon a man has a right to pertect hisself, which is why Pike kind of tapped him with a beer kag to shake his aim. I cain’t see as it was Pike’s fault that the bartender’s head went through the kag.

It now appears that the sheriff and the marshal was both expecting Pike, and it looks to me like they is something crooked about that. You cain’t trust these Bucksnort coyotes. Anyway, the deperty Pike met at the aidge of town was supposed to let the sheriff know the minute Pike hit town, and the marshal had bribed the deperty to tell him before he told the sheriff. Anyway, they was both depending onto that deperty to let ’em know when Pike come, but he run off into the desert when Pike shot at him, so the first thing they knowed about it was when they heard the shooting in the Miners’ Delight. The sheriff started for there on the run, and the marshal come up from the other direction.

But before they got there Pike had left. They warn’t nobody left in the Miners’ Delight but the bartender and he was unconscious, and Pike is that sociable he likes crowds of people around him. So he went acrost the street to the Bear Claw Saloon and Gambling Hall, and imejitly all them miners started picking on him. They ain’t no use in them trying to pertend that he started it. They say he was war-like and boastful, and try to prove this lie by bearing down on the fack of him announcing that he was a woolly wolf from the Hard Water Fork of Bitter Creek as he come through the door. But that warn’t no brag. It was jest a plain statement of fack, as anybody knows who is acquainted with Pike.

As for that roulette wheel, it ought to have been shot apart long ago. Pike probably knowed it was crooked, and jest couldn’t endure to see the men losing their hard-earned dough on it. He is arful soft- hearted. But that gambler, Ace Tremayne, he couldn’t take a joke, and mild-mannered as Pike is, he aint the man to endure being shot at with .41 caliber derringers at a distance of four foot. Ace somehow got cut right severe whilst him and Pike was rassling around on the floor. I reckon Pike’s bowie must of fell out of his boot and Ace rolled on it or something.

But several of them overbearing Bucksnort bullies taken the matter to heart, notably Jud Pritchard the blacksmith, and he ought to of knowed better’n to lay holt of Pike like he done. I reckon a man has got a right to defend hisself. Jud thinks he is a whole lot of man because he is six and a half foot tall and has licked most of them miners, but when you stack him up agen Pike he don’t look so big neither in size nor in fighting capacity. Pike allus fights a man like the man wants to fight, so he waded into Jud bar’-handed and Jud begun to holler halp murder the cow puncher is killing me. So several miners jumped in and taken a hand and Pike was dealing with them when the sheriff and marshal come running up.

They met on the street outside of the Bear Claw and the marshal said to the sheriff, “Where the devil do you think yo’re goin’?”

And the sheriff said to the marshal, “I’m goin’ in there to arrest a desperate criminal from Texas!”

And the marshal said, “How do you know he’s from Texas? I’m onto you, but you cain’t cut it! So git outa the way. This here’s my job! You tend to the county jobs and let city doins alone.”

“Air you tryin’ to tell me where to head in?” says the sheriff. “Pull in yore horns before I clip ’em! I’m runnin’ Papago County!”

“And I’m runnin’ Bucksnort!” says the marshal, and they slapped leather simultaneous, and both of ’em kissed the board sidewalk with lead in various parts of their carcasses.

Their deperties was jest fixing to carry on the war, when Pike come out to see what the shooting was about and a number of folks come out ahead of him. It was them which stampeded over the sheriff and the marshal as they laid in front of the Bear Claw. They later claimed Pike was making so much noise inside they didn’t hear the shooting which was going on outside, and they further claimed they was trying to escape from Pike when they stampeded out the front door. But they air sech liars I hope you won’t pay no attention to them, Yore Honor.

Anyway, it appears that the mayor had got severely trompled in the rush, and he hollered to the deperty sheriffs and deperty marshals and said, “Stop fightin’ each other, you jack-eared illegitimates and git this maneyack before he wrecks the town!”

That was a purty way for a mayor to talk about a pore, friendless stranger in their midst. They needn’t to never brag about Bucksnort hospitality no more. It’d serve them right if Pike never went there again.

Anyway, the deperties was jest as narrer-minded as the mayor, so they all started shooting at Pike, and he retreated into the French Queen Dancing Hall with a Sharps’ Buffalo rifle he’d taken away from one of the deperties, being afeared the deperty’d hurt somebody with his wild shooting. It appears the deperty’s cartridge belt come off in the scuffle, so Pike had it when he come into the Dance Hall.

By this time they was a mob milling in the street and talking about hanging Pike—that jest shows how lawless them Bucksnort devils is!—and sech deperties as warn’t unconscious and a lot of miners was shooting at him from every direction from behind signboards and hoss troughs and out of houses, so Pike begun shooting into the air to scare ’em off. But you know how bullets glance, and it appears that nine or ten men got hit. But it’s plumb unjest to blame Pike because his bullets glanced.

But the mayor lost his head and sent for soldiers, and a whole company rode out from the fort. By the time they got there somebody had sot the dance hall on fire, and Pike was about out of cartridges and his boots was burnt clean off of him account of him trying to stomp out the fire. I dunno what would of happened to him, but when Satanta, which was tied over beside the Miners’ Delight, seen the soldiers’ hosses, he bust loose and come charging over to fight them. He is the fightingest hoss you ever seen.

He galloped up to the front of the hall, right behind the soldiers which was fixing to bust down the front door, and Pike seen him. So Pike made a break and busted through the crowd, gently shoving Sergeant O’Hara out of his way, and I cain’t imagine how the sergeant got his skull fractured from a little push like that. But men is sech softies then days. Anyway, Pike got to Satanta and got onto him, meaning to ride quietly out of town, but Satanta got the bit in his teeth or something and bolted right through the crowd knocking down sixteen or seventeen, men and trompling them. Some more men tried to ketch holt of his bridle, but Pike was scairt they’d git stepped on and hurt like the others, so he kind of pushed them away with the butt of the Sharps. They ought to be grateful to him, instead of bellyaching about their noses and teeth and things.

He rode on out of town and was swinging back towards the San Simeon road, because he was beginning to get the idee that he warn’t welcome in Bucksnort, when jedge his surprise when he seen the whole company of soldiers coming lickety-split after him! Well, he didn’t have no cartridges left so he headed for the mountains south of there, and purty soon Satanta stumbled and the girth broke, account of somebody having slashed it nearly in two with a knife as they went through the crowd.

Pike was throwed over Satanta’s head and would probably of broke a laig if it hadn’t been for a big rock which he hit on headfirst and kind of cushioned his fall so’s he didn’t injure none of his limbs. The soldiers were crowding him so clost he didn’t have time to ketch Satanta, so he jumped up and taken to the hills afoot, and you may not believe it, Yore Honor, but them soldiers pursued him like he was a coyote or something, and shot at him so dern reckless it looked like they didn’t have a bit of regard for his safety. But they didn’t hit him except in a few unimportant places and he taken to country so rough they couldn’t foller on horseback, and finally he got away from them and taken refuge in the mountains. He’s hiding up there right now, barefooted, hongry, without no knife nor cartridges, and soldiers and posses is combing the country for him, and he cain’t git away in any direction except south without getting ketched. And the only thing south of him is Old Mexico. He don’t want to go there Yore Honor, it would make him look like he was a outlaw or something.

As soon as I heard about this business I come down from the Triple Arrer and as soon as I got to Bucksnort they throwed me in jail jest because I am a Bearfield, so I ain’t been able to look for Pike and help him. But he sent me a letter by a Mex sheepherder and explained how things was and told me his side of everything. So will you please make the soldiers quit persecuting him, he is as innercent as a newborn baby.

Please do something about this, he is powerful hongry and scairt to even eat with the sheepherder which slipped his letter in to me, for fear the Mex will pizen him for the reward they air offering.

Very trooly yoren,
Kirby Bearfield, Esquire

* * * * *

Gaudalupe Mountains, Arizony,
April 17, 1885.

Dear Kirby:

I am gitting purty dang tired of this business. The cactus hurts my feet and I have et jackrabbits and lizards till I feel like a Piute Injun. Tonight I am heading for Old Mexico by the way of Wolf Pass to git me some boots. It is a terrible note when a honest, respectable, law-abiding citerzen gits run out of the country by the soldiers which is supposed to perteck him, and has to take refuge in a furrin land. For three cents I’d stay in Old Mexico and leave the country flat. They is a limit to everything. The Mex will slip this note to you through the jail winder when they ain’t nobody looking.

Yore persecuted brother,

* * * * *

El Lobo:

I send this note by a swift and trusted messenger. Now is the time to make one big raid on Bucksnort. All the officers are still in the hospital and the soldiers still hunt the fool Tejano, Bearfield, through the mountains. I have contrived to send them to the northwest on a wild goose chase, by telling them he was seen in that direction. They do not guess that Esteban, the handsome monte dealer, is El Lobo’s spy! Now is the time to make a clean sweep, in force, to take all the gold on hand and burn the town, as you have long desired. Come swiftly tonight, with all your men, by way of Wolf Pass!


* * * * *

April 18, 1885

el lobo captured
raid failed by heroic texan
a misjudged hero vindicated

Last night will be long remembered in the history of this glorious if rugged, Territory, for it marked the elimination of a menace which has long hovered like a black cloud in the mountains of the South. For longer than honest men like to remember, the bloody bandit El Lobo has from time to time swooped down on isolated mining camps or on travelers, leaving death and desolation in his wake, and evading retribution by retiring across the Border. An Ishmael of the Border, with his crimson hand against all men, he further proved himself an implacable enemy of culture and progress by threatening, on more than one occasion, to forcibly detach the ears of the Chronicle’s editor, because of unfavorable comment in these columns.

Last night, taking advantage of the recent unsettled conditions, he crossed the Border with a force estimated at a hundred men, and headed toward Bucksnort intending to crown his infamous career by an exploit of blood and destruction too sweeping to be regarded with anything but horror. In short he determined to wipe out the city of Bucksnort, and he had good reason to feel confident of success, as most of the soldiers from Fort Crook were away in the northwest corner of the county, and the natural defenders of the town, the officers of the law, had not yet recovered from a vulgar brawl which reflected little credit upon any of them. But he reckoned without Pike Bearfield, himself a fugitive from a misguided justice!

Mr. Bearfield, formerly of Wolf Mountain, Texas, but now claimed by Bucksnort as an honored son, will be remembered by citizens as a visitor in Bucksnort on the tenth of this month, at which date we understand some slight confusion arose as a result of a trivial misunderstanding between him and some of the officers.

Mr. Bearfield, who had been residing temporarily in the mountains just this side of the Border, due to the unfortunate misunderstanding above mentioned, evidently heard of the proposed raid, and with a heroism rare even in this Territory, went to meet the invaders single-handed. We have not been able to interview the hero, but from the accounts of the prisoners, we are able to reconstruct the scene as follows:

Arriving at Wolf Pass, on foot, at about midnight, our hero found the raiders already filing through the narrow gorge. Being without weapons he resorted to a breath-taking strategy. Turning aside, he climbed the almost sheer wall of the left-hand cliff, and concealed himself on a jutting ledge of rock. Then when the head of the column was passing directly under him, he hurled himself, barehanded, like a thunderbolt, down on the back of El Lobo himself!

Horse and man went to the earth under that impact, and El Lobo was knocked senseless. Instantly all was confusion, for in the darkness of the pass, the raiders could not see just what had happened, and evidently thought themselves ambushed by a large force. This illusion was heightened by Mr. Bearfield’s action, for seizing the ivory-handled revolvers of the senseless bandit, he leaped back against the shadowed cliff where, invisible himself to his enemies, he poured a two-handed hail of lead at the figures on horseback etched dimly against the starlit sky.

This completed the rout. Their leader down, they themselves unnerved and panicked by the unexpected attack, they fired wildly in all directions, hitting nobody but their own companions, and then broke in ignominious flight, leaving five or six corpses behind them, and El Lobo.

A posse which, we are pained to say, was combing the canyons in search of Mr. Bearfield, a few miles to the east, heard the shooting and hurrying to the pass, found the senseless bandit chief and the bodies of his villainous followers. They also sighted Mr. Bearfield, who was just about to remove El Lobo’s boots, but the modest hero hurried away without waiting for their congratulations.

His brother Kirby, an honored guest of the city, has been delegated to find Mr. Bearfield and bring him in to receive the grateful plaudits of an admiring citizenry. We hope he will prove as generous as he is valiant, and forget—as we have forgotten—the unfortunate affair of April 10th. If we have, at any time, seemed to criticize Mr. Bearfield in the columns of this paper, we sincerely apologize.

Mr. Bearfield’s efforts in defense of Bucksnort shine more brightly than ever in contrast with the recent actions of the two candidates for the sheriff’s office, whose political greed and ambition led them into a sordid brawl which incapacitated them at a time when the city most needed them. Let the citizens of Bucksnort consider that!

* * * * *

Bucksnort, Arizona,
April 18, 1885.

Dear Pike:

Come on in. Everything is hotsy-totsy and they air fixing a banquet in yore honor. Only jest don’t let anybody know that you was tryin to git away into Old Mexico when you met El Lobo and his gang, and thought they was a posse after you, and was trying to git away by climbing the cliffs when you lost your holt and fell on El Lobo.

Yore brother,

P.S.—They have jest now held a popular meeting and elected you sheriff of Papago County. I am sending yore badge by the Mex, also a pair of boots and a fried steak. You takes office jest as soon as they can git the governor to take the price off of yore head.


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