I HAD TRIED MY HAND at many a thang by
time I settled myself out on the Nebraska
prairie. I growed up in the South. Just
where, it ain't safe to say. I planted
cotton for a time, 'til cotton went down.
I farmed turkeys, 'til I cudn hardly stand
the sight of 'em. I trained a jumpin' mule
for the carnival, 'til the dang thang up and
died on me. I even tried my hand at riverboat
gambling, but I never was much for cheatin'
a feller. I been up and I been down in my
life. I supped at the elbow of King Midas
hisself, and I been pritner ruint to the price
of yestiddy's biskit. But it wadn't 'til I
turned my hand to adventurin' that I found
my true callin'. People say I opened up
the West. I say, "Tosh!" Warn't only me.
Thar's a couple other fellers what helped.
This's back when I was a young spud,
in the days when I first got the wild hair to
be a wagon master. One day I saddled my paint
and rode out 'long the Platte, jist to spy
out the trail some, see iffen I could lead
folks west without turnin' them all into
buzzard's breakfast. I rode and I rode.
I rode so far I lost track of time. The
Plains stretched out like very perdition.
The days hitched up each to each in one
long train of misery. I was feelin' plenty
sorry and low-down 'bout thangs, thinkin'
I was happier livin' off twelve-cent cotton
than ever I'd be in the adventurin' business,
when suddenly, shots rang out.
I jumped off my paint and skootched
us both down in a patch of prairie grass,
thar being no better cover to be had. The
shots were comin' from a few lonesome
boulders up ahead, which was a mighty trick
for somebody to find, that part of Nebraska
being mostly flatter than the bottom of a
clean skillet. Then, of course, the injun
would 'a knowed the best bushwackin' spots
for catchin' unwary travelers. Thet's what
I 'member thinkin', anyway how some dad-blamed
idjit must 'a traded his Winchester to some
savage, and now here I was payin' the price.
I emptied my Colt in the direction of those
boulders, but it warn't no good. That old
redskin was out of range, and he knowed it.
His bullets flew by me like angry bees, and
I jist lay thar behind my horse gittin' madder'n
a mean dog. So mad that, when I run out of
ammonishun, I jist up and flung that Colt
toward the rocks. One of them bees bit me
then, jist drilled right into my shoulder
and out t'other side, and I dropped like a
sack o' soggy flour.
The red man fired a few more shots.
When I didn't fire back, he must of figured me
for dog meat, so he come out from behind the
rocks and headed toward me, eager to finish the job.
By time he reached me, I was lyin'
on my back, arms akimbo, the life jist oozin'
out my shoulder wound. I's right 'bout one
thang and wrong 'bout t'other. It was a
Winchester, but it warn't no red man. No,
come to find, he's white as old Mr. Moon.
Folks talk and talk 'bout blood-thirsty injuns
an' sech, but I'll tell you what I never had
one-tenth the trouble from them as what I had
from the so-called fine, upstandin' Christian
types. And that's the God's truth of it.
Feller was next to me now, wondrin' did
he need to waste 'nother bullet on me, when I
come up all sudden like with a little derringer
and plugged him two times in the chest. It warn't
enough to kill 'im, but it set 'im down some.
I got to my feet, kicked the Winchester out his
hand, and then boy howdy I commenced to lecturin'
on him like thar was no tomorrow.
"See this purty thang?" I said, holdin'
out the derringer whar he could see it. "It's a
holdover from my gamblin' days. I kept it
thinkin' I might need it sometime 'gainst a
no-count like you."
That old boy just sat there in the
dirt lookin' down at the two red holes in
his dirty shirtfront. His pie hole was workin'
but no words was comin' out.
Lord knows, I's so mad I'd a-kilt him,
'cept I's out of bullets. And it ain't
respectable to shoot a man with his own gun.
from Trail Trouble by Rainey Polk
WD Peterson and Sons, Publishers, 1883