Copyright
Kate Milner Rabb.

The wit and humor of America (Volume 2) online

. (page 17 of 24)
Online LibraryKate Milner RabbThe wit and humor of America (Volume 2) → online text (page 17 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


arched piece of tin over the hind sight to shade it, took
his place, got a friend to hold his hat over the foresight
to shade it, took a very long sight, fired, and didn't even
eat the paper.

"My piece was badly loadned," said Simon, when he
learned the place of his ball.

676



A. B. LONGSTREET

**Oh, you didn't take time," said Mealy. "No man can
shoot that's in such a hurry as you is. I'd hardly got to
sleep 'fore I heard the crack o' the gun."

The next was Moses Firmby. He was a tall, slim man,
of rather sallow complexion ; and it is a singular fact, that
though probably no part of the world is more healthy than
the mountainous parts of Georgia, the mountaineers have
not generally robust frames or fine conplexions : they are,
however, almost inexliaustible by toil.

Moses kept us not long in suspense. His rifle was al-
ready charged, and he fixed it upon the target with a
steadiness of nerve and aim that was astonishing to me
and alarming to all the rest. A few seconds, and the re-
port of his rifle broke the deathlike silence which pre-
vailed.

"No great harm done yet," said Spivey, manifestly re-
lieved from anxiety by an event which seemed to me bet-
ter calculated to produce despair. Firmby's ball had cut
out the lower angle of the diamond, directly on a right
line with the cross.

Three or four followed him without bettering his shot ;
all of whom, however, with one exception, "eat the paper."

It now came to Spivey's turn. There was nothing re-
markable in his person or manner. He took his place,
lowered his rifle slowly from a perpendicular until it came
on a line with the mark, held it there like a vice for a mo-
ment and fired.

"Pretty sevigrous, but nothing killing yet," said Billy
Curlew, as he learned the place of Spivey's ball.

Spivey's ball had just broken the upper angle of the
diamond ; beating Firmby about half its width.

A few more shots, in which there was nothing remark-
able, brought us to Billy Curlew. Billy stepped out with
much confidence, and brought the Soap-stick to an order,

677



THE SHOOTING-MATCH

while he deliberately rolled up his shirt sleeves. Had I
judged Billy's chance of success from the looks of his gun,
I should have said it was hopeless. The stock of Soap-
stick seemed to have been made with a case-knife; and
had it been, the tool would have been but a poor apology
for its clumsy appearance. An auger-hole in the breech
served for a grease-box ; a cotton string assisted a single
screw in holding on the lock ; and the thimbles were made,
one of brass, one of iron, and one of tin.

"Where's Lark Spivey's bullet?" called out Billy to the
judges, as he finished rolling up his sleeves.

"About three-quarters of an inch from the cross," was
the reply.

"Well, clear the way! the Soap-stick's coming, and
she'll be along in there among 'em presently."

Billy now planted himself astraddle, like an inverted V ;
shot forward his left hip, drew his body back to an angle
of about forty-five degrees with the plane of the horizon,
brought his cheek down close to the breech of old Soap-
stick, and fixed her upon the mark with untrembling hand.
His sight was long, and the swelling muscles of his left
arm led me to believe that he was lessening his chance of
success with every half second that he kept it burdened
with his ponderous rifle; but it neither flagged nor wa-
vered until Soapy-stick made her report.

"Where am I?" said Billy, as the smoke rose from be-
fore his eye.

"You've jist touched the cross on the lower side," was
the reply of one of the judges.

"I was afraid I was drawing my bead a leetle too fine,"
said Billy. "Now, Lyman, you see what the Soap-stick
can do. Take her, and show the boys how you used to do
when you was a baby."

I begged to reserve my shot to the last ; pleading, rather

678



A. B. LONGSTREET

sophistically, that it was, in point of fact, one of the
Billy's shots. My plea was rather indulged than sus-
tained, and the marksmen who had taken more than one
shot commenced the second round. This round was a
manifest improvement upon the first. The cross was
driven three times : once by Spivey, once by Firmby, and
once by no less a personage than Mealy Whitecotton,
whom chance seemed to favor for this time, merely that
he might retaliate upon Hiram Baugh ; and the bull's-eye
was disfigured out of all shape.

The third and fourth rounds were shot. Billy dis-
charged his last shot, which left the rights of parties thus :
Billy Curlew first and fourth choice, Spivey second. Firm-
by third and Whitecotton fifth. Some of my readers may
perhaps be curious to learn how a distinction comes to
be made between several, all of whom drive the cross.
The distinction is perfectly natural and equitable.
Threads are stretched from the uneffaced parts of the once
intersecting lines, by means of which the original position
of the cross is precisely ascertained. Each bullet-hole be-
ing nicely pegged up as it is made, it is easy to ascertain
its circumference. To this I believe they usually, if not
invariably, measure, where none of the balls touch the
cross ; but if the cross be driven, they measure from it to
the center of the bullet-hole. To make a draw shot, there-
fore, between two who drive the cross, it is necessary that
the center of both balls should pass directly through the
cross ; a thing that very rarely happens.

The Bite alone remained to shoot. Billy wiped out his
rifle carefully, loaded her to the top of his skill, and
handed her to me. "Now," said he, "Lyman, draw a fine
bead, but not too fine; for Soap-stick bears up her ball
well. Take care and don't touch the trigger until you've
got your bead ; for she's spring-trigger'd and goes mighty

679



THE SHOOTING-MATCH

easy : but you hold her to the place you want her, and if
she don't go there, dang old Roper."

I took hold of Soap-stick, and lapsed immediately into
the most hopeless despair. I am sure I never handled as
heavy a gun in all my life. "Why, Billy," said I, "you
little mortal, you I what do you use such a gun as this
for?"

"Look at the bull's-eye yonder !" said he.

"True," said I, "but / can't shoot her ; it is impossible."

"Go 'long, you old coon !" said Billy ; "I see what you're
at ;" intimating that all this was merely to make the com-
ing shot the more remarkable. "Daddy's little boy don't
shoot anything but the old Soap-stick here to-day, I
know."

The judges, I knew, were becoming Impatient, and,
withal, my situation was growing more embarrassing
every second ; so I e'en resolved to try the Soap-stick with-
out further parley.

I stepped out, and the most intense interest was excited
all around me, and it flashed like electricity around the
target, as I judged from the anxious gaze of all in that
direction.

Policy dictated that I should fire with a falling rifle,
and I adopted this mode; determining to fire as soon as
the sights came on a line with the diamond, bead or no
bead. Accordingly, I commenced lowering old Soap-
stick; but, in spite of all my muscular powers, she was
strictly obedient to the laws of gravitation, and came
down with a uniformly accelerated velocity. Before I
could arrest her downward flight, she had not only passed
the target, but was making rapid encroachments on my
own toes.

"Why, he's the weakest man in the arms I ever seed,"
said one, in a half whisper.

680



A. B. LONGSTREET

"It's only his fun," said Billy; "I know him."

"It may be fun," said the other, "but it looks mightily
like yearnest to a man up a tree."

I now, of course, determined to reverse the mode of fir-
ing, and put forth all my physical energies to raise Soap-
stick to the mark. The effort silenced Billy, and gave
tongue to all his companions. I had just strength enough
to master Soap-stick's obstinate proclivity, and, conse-
quently, my nerves began to exhibit palpable signs of dis-
tress with her first imperceptible movement upward. A
trembling commenced in my arms; increased, and ex-
tended rapidly to my body and lower extremities ; so that,
by the time that I had brought Soap-stick up to the mark,
I was shaking from head to foot, exactly like a man under
the continued action of a strong galvanic battery. In the
meantime my friends gave vent to their feelings freely.

"I swear poin' blank," said one, "that man can't shoot."

"He used to shoot well," said another ; "but can't now,
nor never could."

"You better git away from 'bout that mark !" bawled a
third, "for I'll be dod darned if Broadcloth don't give
some of you the dry gripes if you stand too close thare."

"The stranger's got the peedoddles," said a fourth, with
humorous gravity.

"If he had bullets enough in his gun, he'd shoot a ring
round the bull's-eye big as a spinning wheel," said a fifth.

As soon as I found that Soap-stick was high enough
(for I made no farther use of the sights than to ascertain
this fact), I pulled trigger, and off she went. I have al-
ways found that the most creditable way of relieving my-
self of derision was to heighten it myself as much as pos-
sible. It is a good plan in all circles, but by far the best
which can be adopted among the plain, rough farmers of
the country. Accordingly, I brought old Soap-stick to an

68 1



THE SHOOTING-MATCH

order with an air of triumph ; tipped Billy a wink, and ob-
served, "Now, Billy, 's your time to make your fortune.
Bet 'em two to one that I've knocked put the cross."

"No, I'll be dod blamed if I do," said Billy; "but I'll
bet you two to one that you hain't hit the plank."

"Ah, Billy," said I, "I was joking about betting, for I
never bet ; nor would I have you to bet : indeed, I do not
feel exactly right in shooting for beef ; for it is a species
of gaming at last : but I'll say this much : if that cross
isn't knocked out, I'll never shoot for beef again as long
as I live."

"By dod," said Mealy Whitecotton, "you'll lose no
great things at that."

"Well," said I, "I reckon I know a little about wab-
bling. Is it possible, Billy, a man who shoots as well as
you do, never practiced shooting with the double wabble ?
It's the greatest take in the world when you learn to drive
the cross with it. Another sort for getting bets upon, to
the drop-sight, with a single wabble ! And the Soap-stick's
the very yarn for it."

"Tell you what, stranger," said one, "you're too hard
for us all here. We never hearn o' that sort o' shoot'n' in
these parts."

"Well," returned I, "you've seen it now, and I'm the
boy that can do it."

The judges were now approaching with the target, and
a singular combination of circumstances had kept all my
party in utter ignorance of the result of my shot. Those
about the target had been prepared by Billy Curlew for a
great shot from me ; their expectations had received as-
surance from the courtesy which had been extended to
me; and nothing had happened to disappoint them but
the single caution to them against the "dry gripes," which
was as likely to have been given in irony as in earnest;

682



A. B. LONGSTREET

for my agonies under the weight of the Soap-stick were
either imperceptible to them at the distance of sixty yards,
or, being visible, were taken as the flourishes of an expert
who wished to "astonish the natives." The other party
did not think the direction of my ball worth the trouble
of a question ; or if they did, my airs and harangue had
put the thought to flight before it was delivered. Conse-
quently, they were all transfixed with astonishment when
the judges presented the target to them, and gravely ob-
served, "It's only second best, after all the fuss."

"Second best!" exclaimed I, with uncontrollable trans-
ports.

The whole of my party rushed to the target to have the
evidence of their senses before they would believe the re-
port; but most marvelous fortune decreed that it should
be true. Their incredulity and astonishment were most
fortunate for me; for they blinded my hearers to the
real feelings with which the exclamation was uttered, and
allowed me sufficient time to prepare myself for making
the best use of what I had said before with a very differ-
ent object.

"Second best!" reiterated I, with an air of despond-
ency, as the company turned from the target to me. "Sec-
ond best, only ? Here, Billy, my son, take the old Soap-
stick ; she's a good piece, but I'm getting too old and dim-
sighted to shoot a rifle, especially with the drop-sight and
double wabbles."

"Why, good Lord a'mighty!" said Billy, with a look
that baffles all description, "an't you driv the cross?"

"Oh, driv the cross!" rejoined I, carelessly. "What's
that! Just look where my ball is! I do believe in my
soul its center is a full quarter of an inch from the cross.
I wanted to lay the center of the bullet upon the cross,
just as if you'd put it there with your fingers."

683



THE SHOOTING-MATCH

Several received this palaver with a contemptuous but
very appropriate curl of the nose ; and Mealy Whitecotton
offered to bet a half pint "that I couldn't do the like again
with no sort o' wabbles, he didn't care what." But I had
already fortified myself on this quarter of my morality. A
decided majority, however, were clearly of opinion that
I was serious; and they regarded me as one of the
wonders pf the world. Billy increased the majority by
now coming out fully with my history, as he had received
it from his father ; to which I listened with quite as much
astonishment as any other one of his hearers. He begged
me to go home with him for the night, or, as he expressed
it, "to go home with him and swap lies that night, and it
shouldn't cost me a cent;" the true reading of which is,
that if I would go home with him, and give him the pleas-
ure of an evening's chat about old times, his house should
be as free to me as my own. But I could not accept his
hospitality without retracing five or six miles of the road
which I had already passed, and therefore I declined it.

"Well, if you won't go, what must I tell the old woman
for you, for she'll be mighty glad to hear from the boy
that won the silk handkerchief for her, and I expect she'll
lick me for not bringing you home with me."

"Tell her," said I, "that I send her a quarter of beef
which I won, as I did the handkerchief, by nothing in the
world but mere good luck."

"Hold your jaw, Lyman!" said Billy; "I an't a gwine
to tell the old woman any such lies; for she's a reg'lar
built Meth'dist."

As I turned to depart, "Stop a minute, stranger !" said
one: then lowering his voice to a confidential but dis-
tinctly audible tone, "What you offering for?" continued
he. I assured him I was not a candidate for anything;
that I had accidentally fallen in with Billy Curlew, who

684



A. B. LONGSTREET

begged me to come with him to the shooting-match, and,
as it lay right on my road, I had stopped. "Oh," said he,
with a conciHatory nod, "if you're up for anything, you
needn't be mealy-mouthed about it 'fore us boys; for we'll
all go in for you here up to the handle."

"Yes," said Billy, "dang old Roper if we don't go our
death for you, no matter who offers. If ever you come out
for anything, Lyman, jist let the boys of Upper Hogthief
know it, and they'll go for you to the hilt, against crea-
tion, tit or no tit, that's the tatur."

I thanked them kindly, but repeated my assurances.
The reader will not suppose that the district took its name
from the character of the inhabitants. In almost every
county in the state there is some spot or district which
bears a contemptuous appellation, usually derived from
local rivalships, or frpm a single accidental circumstance.



68s



DESOLATION*

BY TOM MASSON"

Somewhat back from the village street
Stands the old-fashioned country seat.
Across its antique portico
Tall poplar trees their shadows throw.
And there throughout the livelong day,
Jemima plays the pi-a-na.

Do, re, mi,

Mi, re, do.

In the front parlor, there it stands,
And there Jemima plies her hands.
While her papa beneath his cloak,
Mutters and groans: "This is no joke!"
And swears to himself and sighs, alas !
With sorrowful voice to all who pass.

Do, re, mi,

Mi, re, do.

Through days of death and days of birth
She plays as if she owned the earth.
Through every swift vicissitude
She drums as if it did her good,
And still she sits from morn till night
And plunks away with main and might.

Do, re, mi,

Mi, re, do.

* By permission of Life Publishing Company.

686



TOM MASSON

In that mansion used to be
Free-hearted hospitahty ;
But that was many years before
Jemima monkeyed with the score.
When she began her daily plunk,
Into their graves the neighbors sunk.

Do, re, mi,

Mi, re, do.

To other worlds they've long since fled,
All thankful that they're safely dead.
They stood the racket while alive
Until Jemima rose at five.
And then they laid their burdens down,
And one and all they skipped the town.

Do, re, mi,

Mi, re, do.



687



CRANKIDOXOLOGY*

BY WALLACE IRWIN

(Being a Mental Attitude from Bernard Pshaw)

It's wrong to be thoroughly human,

It's stupid alone to be good,
And why should the "virtuous" woman

Continue to do as she should ?

(It's stupid to do as you should!)

For I'd rather be famous than pleasant,
I'd rather be rude than polite ;
It's easy to sneer
When you're witty and queer,

And I'd rather be Clever than Right.

I'm bored by mere Shakespeare and Milton,
Though Hubbard compels me to rave;

If / should lay laurels to wilt on
That foggy Shakespearean grave.
How William would squirm in his grave !

For I'd rather be Pshaw than be Shakespeare,
I'd rather be Candid than Wise ;

And the way I amuse

Is to roundly abuse
The Public I feign to despise.

* From "At the Sign of the Dollar," by Wallace Irwin. Copyright,
1905, by Fox, Duffield & Co.

688



WALLACE IRWIN

I'm a Socialist, loving- my brother

In quite an original way,
With my maxim, "Detest One Another" —

Though, faith, I don't mean what I say.

(It's beastly to mean what you say !)

For I'm fonder of talk than of Husbands,
And I'm fonder of fads than of Wives,

So I say unto you.

If you don't as you do
You will do as you don't all your lives.

My "Candida's" ruddy as coral,

With thoughts quite too awfully plain —

If folks would just call me Immoral
I'd feel that I'd not lived in vain.
(It's nasty, this living in vain!)

For I'd rather be Martyred than Married,
I'd rather be tempted than tamed,
And if / had my way
(At least, so I say)
All Babes would be labeled, "Unclaimed."

I'm an epigrammatical Moses,
Whose humorous tablets of stone

Condemn affectations and poses —
Excepting a few of my own.
(I dote on a few of my own.)

For my method of booming the market
When Managers ask for a play
Is to say on a bluff,
"I'm so fond of my stuff
That I don't want it acted — go 'way !"
689



CRANKIDOXOLOGY

I'm the club-ladies' Topic of Topics,
Where solemn discussions are spent

In struggles as hot as the tropics,
Attempting to find what I meant.
(/ never can tell what I meant!)

For it's fun to make bosh of the Gospel,
And it's sport to make gospel of Bosh,
While divorcees hurrah
For the Sayings of Pshaw

And his sub-psychological Josh.



690



MY HONEY, MY LOVE

BY JOEL CHANDLER HARRIS

Hit's a mighty fur ways up de Far'well Lane,

My honey, my love !
You may ax Mister Crow, you may ax Mr. Crane,

My honey, my love !
Dey'll make you a bow, en dey'll tell you de same,

My honey, my love !
Hit's a mighty fur ways fer ter go in de night,

My honey, my love !
My honey, my love, my heart's delight —

My honey, my love!

Mister Mink, he creeps twel he wake up de snipe,

My honey, my love !
Mister Bull-Frog holler. Come alight my pipe !

My honey, my love !
En de Pa'tridge ax. Ain't yo' peas ripe?

My honey, my love !
Better not walk erlong dar much alter night,

My honey, my love !
My honey, my love, my heart's delight —

My honey, my love!

De Bully-Bat fly mighty close ter de groun',

My honey, my love !
Mister Fox, he coax 'er. Do come down !

My honey, my love !
691



MY HONEY, MY LOVE

Mister Coon, he rack all 'roun' en 'roun',

My honey, my love !
In de darkes' night, oh, de nigger, he's a sight 1

My honey, my love !
My honey, my love, my heart's delight —

My honey, my love!

Oh, flee, Miss Nancy, flee ter my knee.

My honey, my love !
'Lev'n big, fat coons liv' in one tree,

My honey, my love !
Oh, ladies all, won't you marry me ?

My honey, my love !
Tu'n lef, tu'n right, we'll dance all night,

My honey, my love !
My honey, my love, my heart's delight —

My honey, my love!

De big Owl holler en cry fer his mate.

My honey, my love !
Oh, don't stay long ! Oh, don't stay late !

My honey, my love !
Hit ain't so mighty fur ter de Good-by Gate,

My honey, my love !
Whar we all got ter go w'en we sing out de night,

My honey, my love !
My honey, my love, my heart's delight —

My honey, my love!



692



THE GRAND OPERA'



BY BILLY BAXTER



Well, I decided to get into my class, so I started for
the smoking-room. I hadn't gone three feet till some
woman held me up and began telHng me how she adored
Grand Opera. I didn't even reply. I fled madly, and re-
mained hidden in the tall grasses of the smoking-room
until it was time to go home. Jim, should any one ever
tell you that Grand Opera is all right, he is either trying
to even up or he is not a true friend. I was over in New
York with the family last winter, and they made me go
with them to Die Walkure at the Metropolitan Opera
House. When I got the tickets I asked the man's advice
as to. the best location. He said that all true lovers of
music occupied the dress-circle and balconies, and that
he had some good center dress-circle seats at three bones
per. Here's a tip, Jim. If the box man ever hands you
that true-lover game, just reach in through the little hole
and soak him in the solar for me. It's coming to him.
I'll give you my word of honor we were a quarter of a
mile from the stage. We went up in an elevator, were
shown to our seats, and who was right behind us but
my old pal, Bud Hathaway, from Chicago. Bud had his
two sisters with him, and he gave me one sad look, which
said plainer than words, "So you're up against it, too,
eh!" We introduced all hands around, and about nine
o'clock the curtain went up. After we had waited fully
ten minutes, out came a big, fat, greasy looking Dago

693



THE GRAND OPERA

with nothing on but a bear robe. He went over to the side
of the stage and sat down on a bum rock. It was plainly
to be seen, even from my true lovers' seat, that his bear-
lets was sorer than a dog about something. Presently
in came a woman, and none of the true lovers seemed to
know who she was. Some said it was Melba, others
Nordica. Bud and I decided that it was May Irwin. We
were mistaken, though, as Irwin has this woman lashed
to the mast at any time or place. As soon as Mike the
Dago espied the dame it was all off. He rushed and
drove a straight-arm jab, which had it reached would
have given him the purse. But shifty Sadie wasn't there.
She ducked, side-stepped, and landed a clever half-arm
hook, which seemed to stun the big fellow. They clinched,
and swayed back and forth, growling continually, while
the orchestra played this trembly Eliza-crossing-the-ice
music. Jim, I'm not swelling this a bit. On the level, it
happened just as I write it. All of a sudden some one
seemed to win. They broke away, and ran wildly to the
front of the stage with their arms outstretched, yelling
to beat three of a kind. The band cut loose something
fierce. The leader tore out about $9.00 worth of hair,
and acted generally as though he had bats in his belfry.
I thought sure the place would be pinched. It reminded
me of Thirsty Thornton's dance-hall out in Merrill, Wis-
consin, when the Silent Swede used to start a general sur-
vival of the fittest every time Mamie the Mink danced
twice in succession with the young fellow from Albany,
whose father owned the big mill up Rough River. Of
course, this audience was perfectly orderly, and showed
no intention whatever of cutting in, and there were no
chairs or glasses in the air, but I am forced to admit that
the opera had Thornton's faded for noise. I asked Bud
what the trouble was, and he answered that I could search

694



BILLY BAXTER

him. The audience apparently went wild. Everybody
said "Simply sublime!" "Isn't it grand?" "Perfectly
superb!" "Bravo!" etc.; not because they really enjoyed
it, but merely because they thought it was the proper
thing to do. After that for three solid hours Rough


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 17 19 20 21 22 23 24

Online LibraryKate Milner RabbThe wit and humor of America (Volume 2) → online text (page 17 of 24)