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Dad Simms Strikes Pay

by Frank Richardson Pierce
Author of "The Come-back Race," etc.

THE tables had been cleared from the dining room of the New Deal Café at Cold Deck, the chairs had been placed close to the walls. In one corner three men were playing a lively tune of another day. One played a fiddle, keeping time while he banged his heels against the floor, the second did wonderful things with a banjo, while the third played an accordion. The room was filled with dancers.

"Grand right and left!" shouted the fiddler. As one, the dancers executed the movement. Seconds passed, then, "Swing your pardner!"

"Flapjack" Meehan, his moccasined feet lightly touching the floor, swung his partner off her feet.

"Lady on the left!" yelled the perspiring fiddler. Flapjack gave a young squaw a dizzy swing then returned to his place.

It was a typical sourdough dance and there was more enthusiasm than one could possibly find Outside. When a man wanted to yell from sheer joy, he yelled. There wasn't a drop of hooch in the place and only one man's breath carried the suggestion of white mule. Of course there were not enough women and girls to go around, even including the young squaws drafted for the occasion. Here and there men danced together.

The music stopped at last and the dancers dropped weakly into the nearest chair, saying something about not being so young as they used to be. "Tubby" Willows jerked a thumb toward the door leading to their private office; Flapjack entered the room and Tubby followed.

"Flapjack, have you noticed 'Dad' Simms lately? He's going down fast. He's lost interest in life. Tonight is the first time he's ever failed to notice the girls. Dad always said he liked 'em pretty, with lots of pretty clothes of different colors; said it was sort of restful to the eyes to see 'em dancing about forgetting the troubles this old world has. Tonight he just sat close to the stove and dreamed," said Tubby.

"I noticed it, also," Flapjack admitted; "and after that I didn't enjoy my dance. I hate to see the old boy go down the grade. He has always been generous with his dust and that's why he's broke today. It was only a year or so ago that he made a little strike. He spent every darned ounce of it helping out old friends who were down and out. He should have saved five hundred or a thousand dollars' worth of his dust for a trip Outside. You'll recall two years ago he went Outside. He didn't stay long, but the trip pepped him up a lot."

"We might give him the money," Tubby suggested.

"No, he won't take it. He says it's all right to take food and shelter as a gift, but not a good timeā€”at least not on other people's money. He's kinda proud that way."

"What are we going to do about it?"

"I don't know, but we should do something." They looked out. Dad had not moved from his position near the stove. When people spoke to him he glanced up and smiled the kindly smile of an old man whom age has not embittered; then his eyes closed again.

Flapjack walked over t...

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