The Cow-Boy by Bill Nye
Story type: Essay
So much amusing talk is being made recently anent the blood-bedraggled cow-boy of the wild West, that I rise as one man to say a few things, not in a dictatorial style, but regarding this so-called or so esteemed dry land pirate who, mounted on a little cow-pony and under the black flag, sails out across the green surge of the plains to scatter the rocky shores of Time with the bones of his fellow-man.
A great many people wonder where the cow-boy, with his abnormal thirst for blood, originated. Where did this young Jesse James, with his gory record and his dauntless eye, come from? Was he born in a buffalo wallow at the foot of some rock-ribbed mountain, or did he first breathe the thin air along the brink of an alkali pond, where the horned toad and the centipede sang him to sleep, and the tarantula tickled him under the chin with its hairy legs?
Careful research and cold, hard statistics show that the cow-boy, as a general thing, was born in an unostentatious manner on the farm. I hate to sit down on a beautiful romance and squash the breath out of a romantic dream; but the cow-boy who gets too much moist damnation in his system, and rides on a gallop up and down Main street shooting out the lights of the beautiful billiard palaces, would be just as unhappy if a mouse ran up his pantaloon-leg as you would, gentle reader. He is generally a youth who thinks he will not earn his twenty-five dollars per month if he does not yell, and whoop, and shoot, and scare little girls into St. Vitus’s dance. I’ve known more cow-boys to injure themselves with their own revolvers than to injure anyone else. This is evidently because they are more familiar with the hoe than they are with the Smith & Wesson.
One night while I had rooms in the business part of a Territorial city in the Rocky Mountain cattle country, I was awakened at about one o’clock A. M. by the most blood-curdling cry of “Murder” I ever heard. It was murder with a big “M.” Across the street, in the bright light of a restaurant, a dozen cow-boys with broad sombreros and flashing silver braid, huge leather chaperajas,
Mexican spurs and orange silk neckties, and with flashing revolvers, were standing. It seemed that a big, red-faced Captain Kidd of the band, with his skin full of valley tan, had marched into an ice-cream resort with a self-cocker in his hand, and ordered the vanilla coolness for the gang. There being a dozen young folks at the place, mostly male and female, from a neighboring hop, indulging in cream, the proprietor, a meek Norwegian with thin white hair, deemed it rude and outre to do so. He said something to that effect, whereat the other eleven men of alcoholic courage let off a yell that froze the cream into a solid glacier, and shook two kerosene lamps out of their sockets in the chandeliers.
Thereupon, the little Y.M.C.A. Norwegian said:
“Gentlemans, I kain’t neffer like dot squealinks and dot kaind of a tings, and you fellers mit dot ledder pantses on and dot funny glose and such a tings like dot, better keep kaind of quiet, or I shall call up the policemen mit my delephone.”
Then they laughed at him, and cried yet again with a loud voice.
This annoyed the ice-cream agriculturist, and he took the old axe-handle that he used to jam the ice down around the freezer with, and peeled a large area of scalp off the leader’s dome of thought, and it hung down over his eyes, so that he could not see to shoot with any degree of accuracy.
After he had yelled “Murder!” three or four times, he fell under an ice-cream table, and the mild-eyed Scandinavian broke a silver-plated castor over the organ of self-esteem, and poured red pepper, and salt, and vinegar, and Halford sauce and other relishes, on the place where the scalp was loose.
This revived the brave but murderous cow-gentleman, and he begged that he might be allowed to go away.
The gentle Y.M.C.A. superintendent of the ten-stamp ice-cream freezers then took the revolvers away from the bold buccaneer, and kicked him out through a show-case, and saluted him with a bouquet of July oysters that suffered severely from malaria.
All cow-boys are not sanguinary; but out of twenty you will generally find one who is brave when he has his revolvers with him; but when he forgot and left his shooters at home on the piano, the most tropical violet-eyed dude can climb him with the butt-end of a sunflower, and beat his brains out and spatter them all over that school district.
In the wild, unfettered West, beware of the man who never carries arms, never gets drunk and always minds his own business. He don’t go around shooting out the gas, or intimidating a kindergarten school; but when a brave frontiersman, with a revolver in each boot and a bowie down the back of his neck, insults a modest young lady, and needs to be thrown through a plate-glass window and then walked over by the populace, call on the silent man who dares to wear a clean shirt and human clothes.