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BIG MEDICINE

by Edgar Young

Author of "The No-Good Guy," "The Streak of Lean," etc.

TOM FLOOD was the windiest man in Gatun. He hadn't hit town but a few days when some one allowed that he "sure was 'big medicine' to hear him tell it." "Alabam" Goodloe, who hailed from Kentucky and talked like a coon, bet a five-dollar gold piece on Flood's "come-out" that night in a crap game down in House 68 on the New Gatun road.

Flood threw the double six, the double ace and the ace deuce the first three shots, which, in the natural consequence of things, cost Alabam thirty-five dollars, for he was doubling his bet each time. He then bet forty and Flood threw the double deuce, little Joe, for a point. The crowd laughed at this mess of "slow craps," for there are more sevens on a pair of bones than there are fours, O my brothers.

Goodloe passed the dice back to Flood with anything but hope written in his face, and, as Flood shook them and pounded them against his head for luck, Alabam, in that pleading tone peculiar to a "nachel bohn" crap-shooter, had called on him as follows:

"Looky hyeah, Big Medicine, you bettah had make that ah-uh joah! Shake, rattle and roll 'em way out!" Sundry other remarks followed in crap-shooter jargon.

The faders shouted with laughter. Some looked quickly for signs of anger in Flood's face at the nickname Goodloe had called him, for men sometimes do not take kindly to construction-camp appellations, which are usually epithetic in character and have to do with outstanding personal and physical traits. At that time, we had in Gatun a "Step-and-a-half," a "Three Fingers," big and little "Baldy," "Gimpy," "Slim," "Shorty," and many a "Tex" and "Red," with a descriptive adjective preceding, and a "Cowboy Lawyer" from Tucson.

Flood, however, caught the joke and laughed louder than the others, and in a few days every man in camp knew him as Big Medicine. Many people on the Zone never knew what his real name was.

If a name ever fitted a man this name fitted Flood. He was big in every way —six foot three inches of awkwarkness, big hands, big feet, and the double joints on his knees and wrists stuck out like knobs. His face was a brick red and his thin hair and eyebrows were white as cotton, not from old age but from being born that way, for he was nearer thirty-five than forty. His mouth was wide and filled with short, heavy teeth. His eyes were a china blue and stared as frankly as those of a doll's in a "Kentucky Derby" flimflam stand at Coney Island.

He looked outlandish in commissary khakis. Zone fashions for men ran to stiff brimmed Stetsons of the same type worn by the Zone police, and pigskin puttees. Flood retained his big, round-topped, west Texas hat with flopping brim, and a pair of Mexican leggings that snapped on the side with a steel spring and fastened underneath the instep with a buckle and strap; they extended above his knees in the shape of a semicircle. When he carried his jacket on his arm his heavy suspenders caught and held the eye, for men wore belts on the Zone.

And talk? This was the biggest part about him. His voice was loud and his, lau...

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