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- WOLFVILLE - 1/44 -
Cattleman, "is the first real funeral Wolfville has."
The old fellow had lighted a cob pipe and tilted his chair back in a fashion which proclaimed a plan to be comfortable. He had begun to tolerate--even encourage--my society, although it was clear that as a tenderfoot he regarded me with a species of gentle disdain.
I had provoked the subject of funeral ceremonies by a recurrence to the affair of the Yellowhouse Man, and a query as to what would have been the programme of the public-spirited hamlet of Wolfville if that invalid had died instead of yielding to the nursing of Jack Moore and that tariff on draw-poker which the genius of Old Man Enright decreed.
It came in easy illustration, as answer to my question, for the Old Cattleman to recall the funeral of a former leading spirit of Southwestern society. The name of this worthy was Jack King; and with a brief exposition of his more salient traits, my grizzled raconteur led down to his burial with the remark before quoted.
"Of course," continued the Old Cattleman, "of course while thar's some like this Yallerhouse gent who survives; thar's others of the boys who is downed one time an' another, an' goes shoutin' home to heaven by various trails. But ontil the event I now recalls, the remainders has been freighted east or west every time, an' the camp gets left. It's hard luck, but at last it comes toward us; an' thar we be one day with a corpse all our'n, an' no partnership with nobody nor nothin'.
"'It's the chance of our life,' says Doc Peets, 'an' we plays it. Thar's nothin' too rich for our blood, an' these obsequies is goin' to be spread-eagle, you bet! We'll show Red Dog an' sim'lar villages they ain't sign-camps compared with Wolfville.'
"So we begins to draw in our belts an' get a big ready. Jack King, as I says before, is corpse, eemergin' outen a game of poker as sech. Which prior tharto, Jack's been peevish, an' pesterin' an' pervadin' 'round for several days. The camp stands a heap o' trouble with him an' tries to smooth it along by givin' him his whiskey an' his way about as he wants 'em, hopin' for a change. But man is only human, an' when Jack starts in one night to make a flush beat a tray full for seven hundred dollars, he asks too much.
"Thar ain't no ondertakers, so we rounds up the outfit, an' knowin' he'd take a pride in it, an' do the slam-up thing, we puts in Doc Peets to deal the game unanimous.
"'Gents,' he says, as we-alls turns into the Red Light to be refreshed, 'in assoomin' the present pressure I feels the compliments paid me in the seelection. I shall act for the credit of the camp, an' I needs your help. I desires that these rites be a howlin' vict'ry. I don't want people comin' 'round next week allowin' thar ain't been no funeral, an' I don't reckon much that they will. We've got the corpse, an' if we gets bucked off now it's our fault.'
"So he app'ints Old Monte an' Dan Boggs to go for a box for Jack, an' details a couple of niggers from the corral to dig a tomb.
"'An' mind you-alls,' says Peets, `I wants that hole at least a mile from camp. In order to make a funeral a success, you needs distance. That's where deceased gets action. It gives the procession a chance to spread an' show up. You can't make no funeral imposin' except you're plumb liberal on distances.'
"It all goes smooth right off the reel. We gets a box an' grave ready, an' Peets sticks up a notice on the stage-station door, settin' the excitement for third-drink time next day. Prompt at the drop of the hat the camp lets go all holds an' turns loose in a body to put Jack through right. He's laid out in splendid shape in the New York Store, with nothin' to complain of if he's asked to make the kick himse'f. He has a new silk necktie, blue shirt an' pearl buttons, trousers, an' boots. Some one--Benson Annie, I reckons--has pasted some co't plaster over the hole on his cheek-bone where the bullet gets in, an' all 'round Jack looks better than I ever sees him.
"'Let the congregation remove its hats,' says Peets, a-settin' down on a box up at Jack's head, 'an' as many as can will please get somethin' to camp on. Now, my friends," he continues, "thar ain't no need of my puttin' on any frills or gettin' in any scroll work. The objects of this convention is plain an' straight. Mister King, here present, is dead. Deceased is a very headstrong person, an' persists yesterday in entertainin' views touchin' a club flush, queen at the head, which results in life everlastin'. Now, gents, this is a racket full of solemnity. We wants nothin' but good words. Don't mind about the trooth; which the same ain't in play at a funeral, nohow. We all knows Jack; we knows his record. Our information is ample that a-way; how he steals a hoss at Tucson; how be robs a gent last fall at Tombstone; how he downs a party at Cruces; how that scar on his neck he gets from Wells-Fargo's people when he stands up the stage over on the Lordsburg trail. But we lays it all aside to- day. We don't copper nary bet. Yesterday mornin', accompanied by the report of a Colt's forty-five, Mister King, who lies yere so cool an' easy, leaves us to enter in behind the great white shinin' gates of pearl an' gold, which swings inward to glory eternal. It's a great set back at this time thar ain't no sky-pilot in the camp. This deeficiency in sky-pilots is a hoss onto us, but we does our best. At a time like this I hears that singin' is a good, safe break, an' I tharfore calls on that little girl from Flagstaff to give us "The Dyin' Ranger."
"So the little Flagstaff girl cl'ars her valves with a drink, an' gives us the song; an' when the entire congregation draws kyards on the last verse it does everybody good.
"'Far away from his dear old Texas, We laid him down to rest; With his saddle for a pillow, And his gun across his breast.'
"Then Peets gets out the Scriptures. 'I'm goin' to read a chapter outen these yere Testaments,' he says. 'I ain't makin' no claim for it, except it's part of the game an' accordin' to Hoyle. If thar's a preacher yere he'd do it, but bein' thar's no sech brand on this range I makes it as a forced play myse'f.'
"So he reads us, a chapter about the sepulcher, an' Mary Magdalene, an' the resurrection; an' everybody takes it in profound as prairie- dogs, for that's the lead to make, an' we knows it.
"Then Peets allows he'd like to hear from any gent onder the head of 'good of the order.'
"'Mister Ondertaker an' Chairman,' says Jim Hamilton, 'I yields to an inward impulse to say that this yere play weighs on me plumb heavy. As keeper of the dance-hall I sees a heap of the corpse an' knows him well. Mister King is my friend, an' while his moods is variable an' oncertain; an' it's cl'arly worth while to wear your gun while he's hoverin' near, I loves him. He has his weaknesses, as do we all. A disp'sition to make new rooles as he plays along for sech games of chance as enjoys his notice is perhaps his greatest failin'. His givin' way to this habit is primar'ly the cause of his bein' garnered in. I hopes he'll get along thar, an' offers a side bet, even money, up to five hundred dollars, he will. He may alter his system an' stand way up with the angels an' seraphs, an' if words from me could fix it, I'd shorely stack 'em in. I would say further that after consultin' with Billy Burns, who keeps the Red Light, we has, in honor of the dead an' to mark the occasion of his cashin' in, agreed upon a business departure of interest to all. This departure Mister Burns will state. I mournfully gives way to him for said purpose.'
"'Mister Peets, an' ladies an' gents,' says Burns, 'like Mister Hamilton, who I'm proud to meet yere as gent, citizen, an' friend, I knows deceased. He's a good man, an' a dead-game sport from 'way back. A protracted wrastle with the remorseless drinks of the frontier had begun to tell on him, an' for a year or so he's been liable to have spells. Referrin' to the remarks of Mister Hamilton, I states that by agreement between us an' in honor to departed, the quotations on whiskey in this yere camp, from now on, will be two drinks for two bits, instead of one as previous. We don't want to onsettle trade, an' we don't believe this will. We makes it as a ray of light in the darkness an' gloom of the hour.
"After this yere utterance, which is well received, we forms the procession. Doc Peets, with two buglers from the Fort, takes the lead, with Jack an' his box in one of the stage coaches comin' next. Enright, Tutt, Boggs, Short Creek Dave, Texas Thompson, an' me, bein' the six pallbearers, is on hosses next in line; an' Jack Moore commandin' of the rest of the outfit, lines out permiscus.
"'This is a great day for Wolfville," says Peets, as he rides up an' down the line. 'Thar ain't no camp this side of St. Looey could turn this trick. Which I only wishes Jack could see it himse'f. It's more calculated to bring this outfit into fav'rable notice than a lynchin'.'
"At the grave we turns in an' gives three cheers for King, an' three for Doc Peets; an' last we gives three more an' a tiger for the camp. The buglers cuts loose everythin' they knows, from the 'water- call' to the 'retreat,' an' while the niggers is a-shovelin' in the sand we bangs away with our six-shooters for general results delightful. You can gamble thar ain't been no funeral like it before or since.
"At the last Peets hauls outen the stage we uses for Jack, a headboard. When it's set up it looks like if Jack ain't satisfied, he's shorely hard to suit. On it in big letters is:
JaCK KinG LIfE AiN'T IN HOLDiNG A GOOD HAND BUT In PLAYiNG A PORE HANd WeLL.
"'You sees, we has to work in a little sentiment,' says Doc Peets.
"Then we details the niggers to stand watch-an'-watch every night till further orders. No; we ain't afraid Jack'll get out none, but the coyotes is shore due to come an' dig for him, so the niggers has to stand gyard. We don't allow to find spec'mens of Jack spread 'round loose after all the trouble we takes."
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