Dixie can be found in






DIXIE

By James B. Hendryx

White Horse was a hard town in those days when the frontier was new, a tough
town where sudden wealth and sudden death ran hand in hand—a fitting scene
for the passing of Ike Runyon and for Dixie's coming into her own
 

FIFTEEN two, fifteen four, fifteen six, an' three is nine, an' out." The cribbage game was over; the old cowman had won the rubber and, shoving back from the table, he stalked to the window and gazed thoughtfully at the storm.

The snow eddied and swirled about the eaves of the bunkhouse and whirled into drifts along the fence line. Tex and I lolled at the table and Milk River Joe put rawhide to soak in the wash dish preparatory to braiding a quirt.

"'Pears like some folks in these parts is pilin' on a heap o' dawg with their big marble gravestones. When I come by from town t'other day, I see they had three of them big white monymints stickin' up 'mongst the wood slabs on Dead Ridge—'stead of two." Milk River Joe spoke slightingly, as though the placing of a marble shaft over a grave were a mark of ostentation not to be condoned.

Tex paused in the rolling of a cigarette: "That might be what yo' think about it, Milk Riveh, but somehow I've always took a fancy to them two white stones, standin' up theh alone, so diffe'nt from the othe's. One day when I was ridin' by I rolled off my cayuse an' clim the fence jest to find out whose they was. One of 'em b'longs to some proffesseh fellow, I don't rec'lect his name, but the otheh—the one that stands off alone oveh dost to the back fence—it says: 'Sacred to the mem'ry of Ike Runyon. Died April the 27th, 1885.' An' undeh that, jest the fo' words: 'He was a Man.' I ain't neveh found out who the pahty was, an' I've asked some consid'ble few folks too. But it's a long time since he cashed in. I reckon them that know'd has fo'got. All the same I neveh pass Dead Ridge without I staht studyin' about who he was an' what he done that someone should loosen up fo' a thousan' dollah stone to put oveh him.

"I reckon it's that theh notice that's onto it, stuck in my craw mo'n the stone; 'He was a Man,' it says—an' the Man paht of it is cut out in big lettehs like they wasn't no two ways about it Seems like I'd rutheh have that cut oveh me than two foot of po'try tellin' how I was enjoyin' myself blowin' my hahp amongst the angels."

As Tex talked the Old Man turned from the window and stood regarding him with approval. Presently he seated himself and, tilting his chair against the wall, lighted a cigar. When the Old Man assumed this position we prepared to listen to a tale of the good old days "'fore the railroad."

"Yes, it's as Milk River says," he remarked, slowly puffing out the blue smoke, "they's three stones there now an' when the last hand is played out that was dealt that deal they'll be four.

"They ain't many left hereabouts that members the passin' of Ike Runyon, an' how he came to have a stone shipped all the way from St. Paul an' set up over him. An' when you come to think on it, Ike's takin' off was only a side play of fate in ravelin' out the tangled threads of lives. I c'n see it all now, same as if 'twas yesterday.

"You boys thinks White Horse is some lively now; you'd ought to been here long in the '80's— 'fore the railroad. Them was the times—she was a real camp then, an' they was real men—'twas the railroad brung in the mailorder catalog cowpunchers an' the tinhorns.

"Everything was wide open, work was plenty an' wages was good; everyone makin' money an' spendin' it fast as they made it. All night long chips rattled an' glasses clinked an' music floated out from the dancehall doors; all kind o' jerky like, an' mixed with singin' an' cursin' an' laughin'— always the laughin'-high-pitched it was, an' nervous, an' necessary. It was the trouble gauge. Too little an' in the mornin' men would be ridin' out into the hills, an' in a few days they would come ridin' back; an' from the cotton woods along some crick, things would be swingin' slow like in the wind with the buzzards circlin' over 'em. After that the chips would rattle an' the glasses clink, an' again the music, an' the cursin', an' the laughin'.

"Some nights they'd be too much of it; louder an' higher strung it would get an' the music would go faster, the stakes would get higher an' more glasses would clink an' smash. All to oncet a gun would crack somewhere in the thick of it, an' another, an' an' hell would be broke loose, Women runnin' screamin' out the doors, men shootin' an' fightin', with the air fogged up so thick you couldn't see. Some layin' flat to get out of range, an' some shootin' right an' left where the smoke swirled. An' the crash of glass when a bullet would rake the back-bar. Then all at oncet it would stop. The smoke would drift out the doors an' men would be raisin' offen the floor, an' some standin' with their backs to the wall lookin' foolish at their empty guns. The women would come crowdin' in, everyone askin' who started it, an' like as not no one could tell— an' damned few cared.

"The barkeeps would rake out the broken glass an' mop up the spilt licker, an' set out a row of fresh bottles an' glasses. The dealer would finger the box, the little ball would spin 'round the wheel, an' again the sound of chips, an' glasses, an' the music, an' the laughin'—always the laughin'. In the mornin' the camp would turn out an' travel slow over to Dead Ridge, packin' picks an' shovels an' some pine slabs, an' in front some things in blankets—the ones which didn't raise offen the floor.

SLIM PASQUERT an' me was pardners them days, rode the range together an' went together with the trail herds. When we'd made us a grub- stake we'd hit fer the mountains, prospectin' an' trappin'. Slim was consid'ble younger'n me but I sure did like him. He was quiet an' easy goin', which same fooled a good, many 'fore they come to know him. I've saw him gentle consid'ble of these here wolves what reckoned it was their night to howl. Him bein' so youngish an' onobstreperous lookin', he'd get picked out fer the goat frequent. The same party never done it but oncet, but the population in them days was consid'ble floatin', an' 'bout the time as Slim'd get his standin' 'stablished in camp, in would drift a fresh bunch of frolickers a-honin' fer joy, an' seemed like they jest natch'ly picked out Slim fer to exuberate on.

"Good lookin' too, barrin' a curious scar on his forehead—birthmark it was, an' I could tell how mad he'd got by the redness of it. Always made a hit with the wom...

This is only a preview of this story. The site administrator is evaluating methods to bring it to you.