My Adventures in the West
by Joseph Wegley 1867 - 1946
Some big cattle men from the east came out and stopped at the section house to see their outfit which was camped, not far away. They stepped out in the morning just in time to hear the cook holler, “Grub pile, come and get it you blankety blanks etc. before I throw it out.” One of the men said, “Do you suppose he means us?”
Well, it was a wild west, almost continually. It is a wonder we weren’t all killed accidentally, as the drunks were shooting almost all the time. I was standing in front of a saloon talking to the boss when a bullet came through between the logs and went between us. Another time, I was sitting on a beer box in front of the saloon when a bullet went through the box and broke some bottles in it.
Hadn’t it been for the unwritten law among westerners, no doubt there would have been more serious happenings, but as long as one kept his place, all sober thinking boys were with him which naturally made one think before he acted. There was only one fatality and everybody thought it was justifiable under the circumstances.
There was a crap table in our saloon. A cowboy and a colored cook were gambling when they began to quarrel. The dusky fellow said, “Damn you, I’ll fix you.” He went out. The cowboy said he had gone for a gun and that a short time, the colored gentleman stepped in with a gun and attempted to draw it. Then the cowboy shot him. He fell dead across the doorway just outside. He lay there until morning. The boys dragged him around behind the saloon, dug a hole, and buried him. After he was shot, some of the southern boys started looking for a colored horse wrangler, but if they found him, it was never known.
When business slowed up, the Frenchman stopped my board and pay. So I quit, however, we were friendly. I just loafed around spending my time.
We were all eating dinner in the section house one day when Frenchy said he was going to run for county assessor. I said jokingly, “What’s the use, Frenchy, you couldn’t be elected anyway.” He snapped back, “I’ll take you up on that. I’ll bet you ten dollars I’ll be the next assessor.” I said, “I’ll take ten dollars worth, Frenchy.” I was still taking it for a joke, but Frenchy handed the section foreman ten dollars so I did the same. He said, “Let’s make it fifty dollars.” I said, “No, Frenchy, it’s too much like taking candy from a baby.”
That afternoon he told how he had bluffed “that kid.” I went in with $800 and told him I would bet him the roll. Another man offered to bet him. Frenchy said he had some money coming down from Miles City that night, and that he would bet us both in the morning. I forgot the affair, and thought possibly he was excited. I did not want to take advantage of him.
The next morning as usual, I went into his place. I sat down in a chair in the corner of the room. Frenchy had been drinking. He said, “The next time you come around bluffing, you would be killed, you blankey blank, etc.” Not taking him seriously, I said, “Say, Frenchy, who is going to do the killing?” He said, “I will, and I’ll do it right now.” He ran behind the bar and got a forty-five caliber and stuck it in my face. Then I realized he meant business, and I didn’t dare let him know I was scared, neither did I dare start anything.
He was far enough away so I couldn’t strike his gun. I said, “Frenchy, turn that gun the other way, it might go off.” I knew that if a man shoots, he does it when he first draws his gun; I thought if I could get into a conversation with him I stood a chance. He said, “I don’t give a damn if it does go off.” I said, “I do, I am in front of it.”
A man who happened to be in the back room heard the noise and came out calling for a drink. I got up and walked out unarmed. When a man that has already killed someone, is drunk, and has a gun, he is dangerous. Actually, that gun looked like a water barrel when I looked into it. It looked as it if went off, it would take the whole top off my head.
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