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By Emerson Hough
Author of "John Rawn," "The Mississippi Bubble," Etc.

Raccoons don't belong on the cow range, but Curly tells how a very sociable one drifted into the corral and made himself so much at home that he became formally adopted and learned to play as good a hand of poker as any of the boys. "The humanest coon ever was," Curly declares

YOU oughtn't to kick, Sir Algernon," said Curly one day in camp, as we were cleaning a meager half dozen whitefish instead of the trout we had intended to take in that day's fishing. "It ain't no real difference what folks eat, when you stop to think of it. Now, you take them eight-play dinners some city folks gets up—everything in it from vinegar to prunes, an' sardines to ice cream. Put all them things together in one pan, an' stir before usin', an' what livin' man could go against it? I'd ruther look a plain case o' beefsteak an' onions in the face. Yet folks survives even that kind o' eatin'. It's all a matter o' habit, er imagination; an' the real facts is that almost anything is all right to eat ef you want it, an' can git it, an' can swaller it.

"I don't never like to see a man kick about his vittals. When a feller begins to select his food right careful you'd better begin to select another man. It's right fashionable these days to go on a diet; but when yore friend begins to diet, best thing you kin do is to go git a cold chisel an' a piece o' rock, an' figger out what nice things you kin put over him after he's dead. Eating is made fer folks that intends to keep right on livin', like you an' me, Sir Algernon, same as a grizzly bear or a cow horse.

"It's the same way with the soft part o' eating too, which some folks calls drinkin', speakin' of it scornful, as ef it was wrong to git thirsty. It ain't wrong. Cow hands gits thirsty, an' look at them! Now, you take a man from back East that will only drink out o' a bottle with four colors in the laybill—he's marked fer a early tally in the new angel class. Not so with them like you an' me, Sir Algernon, who know that everything is all right ef you want it an' kin git it. All the animiles know that. Ain't no doctor tells a cow horse when to eat grass, or hay, or sagebrush, or cottonwood bark—he jest takes 'em as they come, same as fresher alkali water. Ef you jest examine the animile kingdom you'll know how foolish this whole doctor business is."

"Curly," said I, "your story doesn't hang together. Animals know what's good for them, and they never give way to intemperance, like cow-punchers and other depraved classes."

"Huh!" said Curly. "Is that so? Heap you know about it, ain't it?"

"Well, of course, animals drink water——"

"What else kin they git to drink?" demanded Curly. "S'pose you was deprived o' the power o' speech, as well as the price o' the drinks, an' was dressed up in a hide worth anywhere from six bits to fifty dollars, an' had feet to run away with—would you be saunterin' down to the Lone Star fer a drink, er would you be pullin' fer the tall woods? An' what is they to drink in the tall woods but water? Look at us right now, an' you git the answer to that. Only reason animiles don't drink coffee er something else is that they can't git it. Now, I can prove that."

"I hadn't thought of it in that way, Curly," I admitted.

"That's the trouble with a heap o' people," said Curly, sitting back in the shade and sticking his knife in the sand to clean the blade. "Folks don't stop to think things out right close. Now, me—I'm plumb thoughtful. I have in my mind right now the case of Ebenezer. You maybe never heerd o' him?"

I had again to admit my ignorance, so Curly, picking up a stick, began to whittle as he enlightened me.

"This here story about Ebenezer," said he, "it proves everything I been tellin' you 'bout eatin' an' drinkin' things, an' it shows how animiles is jest like folks.

"Who was Ebenezer? Well, he was the fattest, sassiest, ring-tailedest coon that ever was raised. I reckon maybe he come from Arkansas er Missouri originally, an' was follerin' ol' Pap Price's trail out to Oregon after the war. He'd only got as far 'long as Wyoming when we found him—an' you know coons don't belong here in the cow country—not none at all. It was right odd how we found him, an' nobody knows to this day how come him to be there in ol' man Wright's cow camp on Birch Creek.

"There was several of us boys in that camp, ridin' sign an' mendin' the dash-blamed fences, an' sometimes we didn't have nothin' to do much but playin' cards, 'long in the early spring, before the calf round-up. Sometimes I have knew one of our games to last all night, an' have knew me er Billy Wilson, er Sandy, er some one else, to win as much as forty cents in real money, beside several guns an' handkerchiefs an' best wishes.

"Well, one mornin' we'd been havin' a little game all night, an' come good daylight we starts out to the horse pen. You know, they was a tall post each side o' the gate o' the round pen, an' all at once Billy Wilson—who was jest in from town, where he'd been after the mail—he looks up, an' lets out a shriek, him bein' still sort o' jerky, fresh from town.

"'Tell me, boys,' says he, 'is they anything there?'

"Well, we all looked up, an' when we seen a large, dark objeck up on top o' the post, lookin' down, ca'm, with his p'inted face, an' a nice, long blackan'-white tail hangin' down the post, we all of us felt like makin' our last will an' testerment, because they didn't no such thing belong on the cow range, let alone on top of our corral. Sandy an' Billy, they hadn't never saw a coon, an' they was too bad scairt to shoot. Ebenezer—fer it was none less than him—he set up there, ca!m, an' looked down at us thoughtful. I reckon our surprise was mucherl, fer maybe he had never saw anything like us.

"'Ef it was anywhere but right here,' says I to Billy after a while, 'I'd say that was a coon, an' a blamed big one. But it can't be a coon, an' it can't be here, which leaves me in some doubt," says I.

"It might as well be a elephant,' says Barney Oldham. 'But it shore ain't a elephant, fer elephants don't have rings on their tails.'

"'No,' says Sandy, 'ner they can't climb a post.'

"Well, we all went an' stood around the foot o' the post, an' looked up, an' Ebenezer he looked down. I seen him wink one eye at me plain.

"'Say,' says Sandy, 'ain't he a awful human-lookin' thing? An' look at his tracks there in the dust—he's got real feet!'

"'Well, he's scairt me awful,' says Billy, 'whatever he is, an' I got a notion to shoot him.'

"'No,' says Barney; 'he give me a awful jolt, too, an' I'm some grieved about it; but let's take him prisoner an' ast him where he come from way out here. Curly,' says he, 'it's moved an' seconded that you skin up the pole an' welcome this here little stranger to our midst.'

"Seein' they was no two ways about it, I clim' up on the fence an' begun to reach up the pole. Ebenezer, he fluffs up his fur an' meets me halfway.

"'You'd better rope him, I reckon,' says I.

"'So then Sandy goes an* gits his rope, an' makes a throw which ketches Ebenezer round the waist. He hits the ground with a soft chug like coons does when they fall often a tree. It don't hurt 'em none—they need a jolt like that to start up their carbureter.

"You ought to of seen Ebenezer spark up! He didn't run. I reckon he was peeved, anyhow. He stood his hair up on end like a little bear, an' before we had time to git away from him he had bit every one of us from eight to nineteen times. Then he laid down on his back, put up his feet, an' begun to growl, cheerful, like he was askin' fer us to come on an' tackle him in his own style o' fightin'. It was a mercy to him that somebody hadn't of shot him, er else shot somebody else, but things was too mixed fer a while to make shootin' anyways safe.

"We all lined up a little ways an' taken a look at Ebenezer, layin' there on his back, lookin' fer more trouble.

"'Now, I never seen a coon before,' says Sandy, 'but he shorely is a game little cuss, ain't he?'

"'He's got the makin' o' a good cowpuncher in him,' says I. 'Besides, coons makes fine pets. I move an' second we adopt him. Sandy, you take your rope offen him.'

"'I don't see how I kin,' says Sandy, thoughtful. 'I ain't used to brandin' things quite as active as this party. But we shore orto brand him, too, ef his hair wasn't so long, fer he's a shore maverick on our range, an* there ain't nobody else never branded him none, fer's I kin see.'

"Well, sir, some folks thinks that animiles don't understand human talk, but they do. We hadn't only 'bout got this fur along when Ebenezer he turns over on his feet, kicks the rope offen him with a hind foot, an', not payin' no more 'tention to us, he walks straight to the open door o' the shack like he had bin invited to make hisself at home.

"We seen then he classified hisself as folks, an' not critter.

"When we come in after him, we seen that he had clim' up on the bench an' was drinkin' outen the water pail like one o' the hands. Then he wiped his face on the towel, walked over to the bench by the table, an' says he: 'Please to pass the beans'—er words to that effect.

"Anyhow, we did pass him the beans, an' Ebenezer he set in to make hisself a square meal. Then he goes over to the water pail, takes another drink, an' casts a eye over the bunks at the side o' the room. How'd he know which blankets was mine? Nobody hadn't told him, but he hears this talk I'd been makin' 'bout adoptin' him, an' he adopts me, too. Without hesitatin' beyond that first look, he clim's up into my bunk, lays his head on my goose-ha'r piller, an' goes to sleep like a gentleman that has been out late."

'Speakin' o' adoptin' things!' says Billy, who was still kind o' jerky an' not right shore about what he was seein'.

"'Ef it's a coon er a human I dunno,' says Sandy, 'but, anyhow, it looks like he's moved in.'

"'Yes,' says I, 'an' it looks like I couldn't go to bed none until Ebenezer gits his rest out.' We called him Ebenezer.

"'You-all think I'm right ignerant,' says Sandy, 'because I've never saw no coons; but I've done read about them. Besides, I got a heap o' respeck fer this party. When he gits normal again he'll clim' down an' give you a chanct, Curly. Coons sleeps nateral in daytime, an' a feller don't need his blankets then.'

"'Anyhow, he's got his nerve along,' says Billy. 'I've a notion to paste him one now he's asleep.'

"'No, don't paste him,' says Sandy. 'He's just ridin' the grub line same's you an' me has many a time. An' it ain't right to ask him no questions 'bout his past life. Maybe when he comes to he'll tell us his story ef he wants to.'

"'That's right, boys,'_ says I. 'Any traveler has his right to eat an' sleep without no questions asked. I can't even guess how this gentleman come 'way out here, but 'long as he ain't charged with stealin' no horses we got to respeck his privacy. Let him alone; it's my blankets.'

"Well, we all let him alone, an' we moved round kind o' quiet like, so's not to disturb him. At exactly half past four he woke up like he'd been wound up fer jest that long. Then he clim' down outen the bunk, went to the water pail fer a drink, an' strolled around the place to sort o' git acquainted a little better, not payin' much attention to us, an' not makin' any kind o' break to run away.

"'This here thing kind o' makes me feel like sweatin',' says Billy at last. 'He ain't a bear, an' he ain't a dog, an' he ain't a human; but, whatever he is, he's a perfeck gentleman, an' I kin see right now he means to tote fair. Ef he's as good a performer outside as he is in, we kin work the force in two shifts after this, him standin' guard at night, an' givin' us more time fer poker.'

"Well, Sir Algernon, that was how Ebenezer moved in on Birch Creek Camp. He dropped in like a old cow hand, never askin' no questions, never kickin' on the grub, ner even askin' what the pay was. I reckon he'd looked up ol' man Wright before he'd moved in, an' knowed he'd do the right thing.

"Now, he hadn't been in our camp more'n a month before they wasn't one o' the boys would o' took less'n a thousand dollars fer Ebenezer. I got rather the best o' the break, owin' to bein' Ebenezer's first friend, an' owin' also to his bein' 'a nateral-born retriever. He carried up into my bunk 'most everything they was loose, from socks to latigos, all the time solemn as a judge, an' performin' open an' aboveboard, like he knowed he was doin' only what was right.

"Just to show you like I told you, he et an' drunk everything there was. He liked coffee, an' he et everything, without no regard to diet whatever. He come to weigh about sixty pound, I reckon, an' his tail was big around as a piller, an' the rings on it was enough to dazzle your eyes, he got that shiny all over. Even his whiskers got longer. You know, coons has to feel with their whiskers in the dark, like a cat, an' this made it necessary fer them side hairs to stick out about eighteen inches on each side, so's to tell how narrer a place he could git through.

"He never had been afraid o' none o' us from the start, an' seein' him git so sizable they wasn't none o' us cared to plague him beyond a certain point. He slep' in my bunk daytimes, always goin' to bed right after breakfast, an' gittin' up at half past four in the afternoon. In the night he'd saunter around outdoors to suit hisself, goin' fishin' er diggin' herbs. It wasn't long before I got used to findin' crawfish an' frogs an' pieces o' garter snake hid in my blankets, though the crick was more'n two miles away, an' we all didn't know they was a frog on the range.

"I got right fond o' Ebenezer—he was so faithful to me, an' so useful. He could play as good a hand o' poker as any one o' the boys. He'd set on my shoulder an' look at my hand when I'd made my draw, an' ef I happened to need a extra king er ace—why, Ebenezer'd go an' git it without no trainin' at all. He'd hand me a card with one hand while he was attractin' the attention o' the next feller by puttin' his foot down the back o' his neck. His front feet was always right cold, so this was hard to git used to, although it was one o' his favorite amusements.

"You needn't tell me that coons can't think. Ef luck'd be runnin' against me, so's I'd seem to be shy a few chips, this little friend o' mine would pass around the table an' take up a collection fer me—Curly. He had a nateral eye fer color, an' he always would pick the blue chips first, an' red ones next. He'd bring 'em all around to me an' pile 'em up nice, an' sometimes cover 'em up with the corner o' the tablecloth. Sometimes he'd vary the performance by goin' around an' takin' up a collection o' watches, keys, penknives, an' loose change—all o' which he brung to me, his poppa.

"'Ef I wasn't shore he'd take a pair of scissors an' cut 'em open again,' says Billy Wilson, complainin', 'I shore would git me a needle an' thread an' sew my pockets tight shut. Thataway I might manage to keep some o' my tobakker.'

"He was right clean, like all coons, an' he never et nothin' without washin' it first. As he didn't know no better'n to wash everything in the water pail, we give him a little pan' o' water fer his own, right by his plate, an' he'd wash everything he et, an' sometimes pile things up beside him in a little pile—pieces o' corned beef, an' onions, an' dried apples, an' beans—'most anything we happened to have. Thataway, piecin' out his diet with things he'd caught, like I told you, fer a side line, he come through fatter'n any beef critter you ever seen.

"Could he of talked? Shore he could ef he had wanted to—but he didn't. I reckon the only reason Ebenezer didn't talk was that he was afraid we'd put him to work night herdin', like he heard Billy Wilson threaten. Every other way he was just like a human.

"Well, sir, spring come along, an' the grass got green, an' 'long around spring round-up time we begun to expeck old man Wright'd come up an' pay us a visit. One day when we come in we see a buckboard standin' in the yard an' a parasol against the side o' the door, so we knowed old man Wright an' his daughter, Miss Evie, had come up together, like they sometimes done. When Sandy seen this he wanted to run away. Sandy, he was plumb gone on Miss Evie, an' he knowed it wasn't no use spite of all the nice stories he'd read in the magazines 'bout cow-punchers marryin' the boss' daughter. We was all standin' laughin' at Sandy when all at onct we heard from the inside o' the shack somebody a-sayin' in a large, deep voice, sort o' giggling, too: 'George, now you stop! You tickle!'

"Well, when we heard them words we all wanted to run away. Now, wasn't that a strange thing fer to happen in a law-abidin' cow camp like ours? Here we are standin' in the sunshine, boss' buckboard in the yard, Miss Evie's parasol against the door, an' a voice that ain't Miss Evie's sayin' them words! We all begun to think maybe the camp was ha'nted, after all.

"Billy Wilson he walks over toward the winder, an' he looks in; then a grin comes on his face, an' he puts his hand on his mouth to keep from hollerin'. We all looked in then. There, settin' on the only chair we had, was a large, strong, female lady, with a bonnet an' a linen duster. Evident ol' man Wright an' Miss Evie had gone somewhere an' left this lady here, an' she had set down, bein' tired, an' went to sleep.

"From a hasty glance at this lady, takin' in several seasons which she probably had knew, I could not have suspected her o' bein' light an' frivolous; but at the same time I could see some sort o' reason an' explanation fer happy dreams. Ebenezer was settin' on the back o' this lady's chair, laughin' to hisself, an' I reckon them long whiskers o' his was ticklin' her ear.

"'Wait a little while,' says Billy. Then we all drawed a little ways apart, an' stood there a-huggin' ourselves an' waitin'. By and by we heard a shriek, an' a sound like somethin' heavy fallin'. We knowed then that Ebenezer, after his usual fashion, had simply been passin' the time o' day by stickin' his cold front foot down this lady's neck—which was some startlin', even for us that was used to it. We didn't have no time to figger, though, fer out through the door come this large party, fifty some years old, with specs an' gray hair.

"'Save me!' hollers she, when she seen us standin' there. She didn't look like she was worth it, but we saved her. We explained to her that Ebenezer wasn't nothin' no more harmful than just a pet coon, an', takin' her back in the house, we showed her Ebenezer hisself, which now was layin' in my bunk, pretendin' he was asleep, lookin' bored. That ca'med the lady down some.

"'Did I say anything?' ast she.

"'No, ma'am,' says us.

"Right soon now ol' man Wright come in, Miss Evie with him, an' I taken him to one side an' ast him who this party was.

"'Curly,' says the ol' man to me, 'I couldn't help it, an' it ain't my fault ef I couldn't prove a alibi. That lady is the Reverend Mrs. Reginald Jones-Valentine, from Colorado,' says he, 'an' she's one o' them permanent ladies that goes in fer sufferage an' temperance, an' everything else that men don't like. I didn't ask her to come along, but she just got in the buckboard with me an' Evie, an' she talked a arm offen me all the way up from Billings—said she heard I had the most depraved lot o' punchers up here in the Birch Creek country—an' I reckon that's right, too,' says ol' man Wright to me. 'But how kin I help it? She's come out here to uplift you all,' says ol' man Wright, 'but don't blame me. I told her it was hopeless.'

"'Uh-huh!' says I. 'Fine, ain't it, colonel? As ef we didn't have to stand enough to earn our forty-five a month without this sort o' thing,' says I. But then I told ol' man Wright about Ebenezer an' Mrs. Reginald. Well, sir, he fell down on the ground an' laughed fer ten minutes straight. When he come to he seemed to have a sort o' idear in his head.

"'Curly,' says he, 'you watch your boss now. Here is where the uplift begins on Birch Creek.' Then he calls Miss Evie out to where he was at, an' tells her to go an' git the basket from outen under the buckboard seat.

"'Evie,' says he, 'it's nigh 'bout dinner time, an' I want you to mix up fer your paw an' these young men one o' your justly famous punches—the sort which makes our place so popular o' afternoons to the Billings' Ladies' Society fer savin' o' the heathen. Make it good an' strong, Evie, an' have a-plenty; ef you ain't got no punch bowl, take the dishpan.'

"Miss Evie she gits busy with the basket, an' digs out lemon an' sugar an' canned pineapple an' things, an' she uncorks a couple o' bottles an' sends me fer some water, an' before long she has a dishpanful o' something that smelled so much like peace an' joy that even ol' Ebenezer quits bluffin' about bein' asleep. He sets up in bed an' looks at the pan, same like us other punchers.

"'Now, then,' says ol' man Wright, after drinkin' a dipperful er so o' this, to see ef it was mixed all right, 'you may go call Mrs. Reginald Jones-Valentine, Curly,' says he, 'an' tell her dinner is ready.'

"Well, sir, I went over to where the lady had gone to do some thinkin' about savin' us depraved wretches, an' I told her respeckful that she'd better come an' set up an' eat.

"Well, when Mrs. Reginald come in, she begun to sniff like a pointer dog. She walks straight up to the dishpan, where Miss Evie has her bilin' o' punch, an' says she: 'Sir, what is this?'

"'Ma'am,' says ol' man Wright, gittin' on the other side o' the table, 'this is the punch that has made my sewin' circle famous. Help yourself.'

"'Sir!' says Mrs. Reginald, pointin' with one finger down into the dishpan. 'This is a insult!'

"'No, it ain't,' says Miss Evie; 'it's a pineapple. You've got to have that. It's better with oranges, too, but they don't come canned.'

"Then they was what is knowed as a tab-leau, Sir Algernon. Nobody said nothin' fer some time. At last the eye o£ Mrs. Reginald fell on old Ebenezer, which was clim'in' outen his bunk an' headin' fer the table. 'You have not even the intelligence o' that pore dumb brute,' says she. 'Men—vile men—are the only creatures knowed in nature which will put a enemy into their mouths fer to steal away their brains.'

"'Ma'am,' says Billy Wilson, who was standin' on one foot, kind o' thoughtful, 'excuse me, fer I don't want to make no kind o' breaks. Now, so fur's I know—although we have never asked him none about his past—Ebenezer has never saw a panful o' anything like this before in his whole life. But I'll bet you four dollars he'll try to clim' in the pan, fer that's just the way I feel.'

"'Depraved young man,' says she, indignant, 'what you say is both false 'an' ridic'lous! Dumb animiles, at least, they keeps their purity o' heart.'

"'Oh, well,' says old man Wright, takin' another dipperful fer luck, 'mere assertion ain't no argument, ma'am. Ast the coon hisself about it.'

"Well, sir, we all stood around the festive bowl, so to speak, an' Billy an' me we just moved a little ways apart so's Ebenezer could git by. He didn't say nothin', but he clim' first upon the bench, an' then upon the table, an' walked straight up to Miss Evie's punch pan. He looked over into it, then he turns an' gazes up at me, winks one eye, an' breaks into the happiest smile ever seen on anybody's face. I knowed then he come from Arkansaw.

"Now, a coon cain't take hold o' a tin cup with his hand, although he kin do 'most anything else. We just left Ebenezer alone to figger it out for hisself. He still kep' up to be a perfeck gentleman. He reaches over easy an' gentle like, an' fishes out two pieces o' pineapple, an' then looks round fer his washin' pan. Billy he goes an' gits the pan, puts it on the table, an' Ebenezer he washes off one piece o' pineapple. After a while he taken a bite out o' it. Then a idea seems to come acrost his head. He taken a bite out o' the other piece that hadn't been washed. Now, you could tell easy enough whether animals kin reason er not. Ebenezer he puts down the washed slice o' pineapple on the table, an' he devotes hisself exclusive to the one that ain't been washed". Havin' finished that, he strolls over to the punch pan fer some more. We all let him alone, an' he repeats this softly till they wasn't no pineapple left, after which he begun to lick his fingers.

"'Ma'am,' says old man Wright, 'I know not what these things may prove in Colorado, where you come from, but in Wyoming there's only one answer: It ain't only man is vile on Birch Creek.'

"Well, Mrs. Reginald she begins to argue that pineapples is not strong drink, an' that the coon has been deceived, thinkin' it was a article o' food, an' that oncet he knowed what he was up against his instinct would save him from makin' another mistake. It was along in there Ebenezer took a hand in the argument.

"Well, sir, I reckon ef there ever was a coon that had a bright an' contented outlook on life it was Ebenezer in about five minutes. He just clim' down offen the table an' started acrost the floor toward a chair, but seemed like he couldn't find the chair, er else saw several o' them, and didn't know which one to take. Findin' his feet wasn't any too certain, he'd sit down several times an' laugh fit to split his sides. At last he clim's up on the chair an' put his head against his hand, an' I'm right sure ef he'd o' been alone he'd o' burst into some sort o' song.

"'Oh, bury him not on a lone prairee!' says old man Wright. 'That coon's on the pay roll from this time on. I'm a-goin' to take him home with me. Curly, you ain't worth it, but I'll have to raise your wages five, account c. o. d.—coon on delivery.'

"Well, o' course, the old man was boss, an' we boys couldn't say much. An' he did take Ebenezer home with him, too. Fer two months they wasn't anybody said a word at that cow camp, an' they come pretty near bein' a killin' every time anybody locked crossways at any one else. We missed old Ebenezer just that much; life didn't seem the same no more.

"O' course, old man Wright didn't start home that day, an' we had more reason fer to see that Ebenezer was shore human. The next mornin' his jag was all gone, an' he was broke an' his hair pulled. His eyes was red, an' his temper was somethin' awful. He even bit me—his warmest personal friend—when I tried to take a-holt o' him; an' he was the sourest, ugliest, meanest-dispositioned party in that whole camp. Remorse? That was him!

"Did it reform him? Not to notice sost to mention. Well, Sir Algernon, from that time on, long as Ebenezer was with us, so fur from bein' uplifted, he didn't keep his eyes nowhere 'cept on the dishpan. It was hung on a nail against the wall, an' he'd climb up on the bench an' raise one aidge o' it, an' peek under it, an' smell at the rim of it, an' then turn around an' look at us, an' go an' stand up on his hind legs in front o' Miss Evie, an' just beg her to load up the pan again fer him. Human? Why, o' course he was human!

"What become of Ebenezer? Why, he was fer a long time the delight o' the ladies' missionary society down to Billings, where he always lent a hand in the uplift. Not that Mrs. Reginald was there—she couldn't leave Wyoming too soon, an' I heerd tell later she said there was somethin' in the climate o' Birch Creek that was depravin' even to dumb beasts. Now, it wasn't the climate—it was just human nature.

"We fellers kep' on eatin' what we could git, an' drinkin' everything there was when it come along, an' you couldn't o' killed any one o' us with a ax. No more you couldn't Ebenezer, neither. He's still a member o' old man Wright's family, in good an' regular standin'. Miss Evie watches him to see that he don't git in wrong with the booze, same as any lady ought to watch a man. Onct in a while Ebenezer, ef they don't watch him, he strolls off down the street an' into the Lone Star, an' he climbs up on the bar an' orders hisself a drink like any other puncher—I told you the only reason animiles drinks water is they're mostly where they can't git nothin' else.

"O' course, too much o' this ain't good fer Ebenezer, so when he comes home too much lit up—why, Miss Evie she boxes his ears an' scolds him an' puts him to bed, an' next mornin' wraps his haid up in a wet towel. I'm tellin' you, Sir Algernon, that Miss Evie girl's goin' to make some feller a mighty fine wife.

"Die? Why, no, Ebenezer ain't ever goin' to die. He's rational, an' he plays the only safe system;—he eats anything an' everything when he kin git it, an' he drinks the same, recognizin' the guidin' hand o' the boss that don't allow him to do that last only onct in a while. That's why you can't kill coons ner cow-punchers—they don't never die. Did you ever see a dead coon that hadn't been shot full o' holes er run over by a train? Yet that is just how coons is when you come to study 'em.

"Same time, you take a lot o' your friends, Sir Algernon, that's worryin' about their diet, an' wonderin' whether there's typhoid in the water, an' weighin' how much they ought to eat fer breakfast, an' troublin' theirselves about mi-crobes—well, you just watch an' see what good friends they are of people who make a livin' engravin' things on headstones. Ebenezer he don't need none. He has his lovin' friends, an' every time we go out with the beef cut us fellers pays him a visit down to Billings, an' buys him a few drinks, when Miss Evie ain't watchin'. He's the humanest coon ever was, though he's still silent on why he came to Wyoming.

"All of which shows, Sir Algernon," concluded Curly, gathering up his whitefish, "that people oughtn't to kick on their vittals. Me—I'm believin' that these here little fish, with plenty o' creek water, will make us about the best meal ever was—unless'n it was that one Miss Evie begun with the dishpan."

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1925.

The author died in 1923, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.