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On Tenderfeet
by [?]

The tenderfoot is a queer beast. He makes more trouble than ants at a picnic, more work than a trespassing goat; he never sees anything, knows where anything is, remembers accurately your instructions, follows them if remembered, or is able to handle without awkwardness his large and pathetic hands and feet; he is always lost, always falling off or into things, always in difficulties; his articles of necessity are constantly being burned up or washed away or mislaid; he looks at you beamingly through great innocent eyes in the most chuckle-headed of manners; he exasperates you to within an inch of explosion,–and yet you love him.

I am referring now to the real tenderfoot, the fellow who cannot learn, who is incapable ever of adjusting himself to the demands of the wild life. Sometimes a man is merely green, inexperienced. But give him a chance and he soon picks up the game. That is your greenhorn, not your tenderfoot. Down near Monache meadows we came across an individual leading an old pack-mare up the trail. The first thing, he asked us to tell him where he was. We did so. Then we noticed that he carried his gun muzzle-up in his hip-pocket, which seemed to be a nice way to shoot a hole in your hand, but a poor way to make your weapon accessible. He unpacked near us, and promptly turned the mare into a bog-hole because it looked green. Then he stood around the rest of the evening and talked deprecating talk of a garrulous nature.

“Which way did you come?” asked Wes.

The stranger gave us a hazy account of misnamed canons, by which we gathered that he had come directly over the rough divide below us.

“But if you wanted to get to Monache, why didn’t you go around to the eastward through that pass, there, and save yourself all the climb? It must have been pretty rough through there.”

“Yes, perhaps so,” he hesitated. “Still–I got lots of time–I can take all summer, if I want to–and I’d rather stick to a straight line–then you know where you ARE–if you get off the straight line, you’re likely to get lost, you know.”

We knew well enough what ailed him, of course. He was a tenderfoot, of the sort that always, to its dying day, unhobbles its horses before putting their halters on. Yet that man for thirty-two years had lived almost constantly in the wild countries. He had traveled more miles with a pack-train than we shall ever dream of traveling, and hardly could we mention a famous camp of the last quarter century that he had not blundered into. Moreover he proved by the indirections of his misinformation that he had really been there and was not making ghost stories in order to impress us. Yet if the Lord spares him thirty-two years more, at the end of that time he will probably still be carrying his gun upside down, turning his horse into a bog-hole, and blundering through the country by main strength and awkwardness. He was a beautiful type of the tenderfoot.

The redeeming point of the tenderfoot is his humbleness of spirit and his extreme good nature. He exasperates you with his fool performances to the point of dancing cursing wild crying rage, and then accepts your–well, reproofs–so meekly that you come off the boil as though some one had removed you from the fire, and you feel like a low-browed thug.

Suppose your particular tenderfoot to be named Algernon. Suppose him to have packed his horse loosely–they always do–so that the pack has slipped, the horse has bucked over three square miles of assorted mountains, and the rest of the train is scattered over identically that area. You have run your saddle-horse to a lather heading the outfit. You have sworn and dodged and scrambled and yelled, even fired your six-shooter, to turn them and bunch them. In the mean time Algernon has either sat his horse like a park policeman in his leisure hours, or has ambled directly into your path of pursuit on an average of five times a minute. Then the trouble dies from the landscape and the baby bewilderment from his eyes. You slip from your winded horse and address Algernon with elaborate courtesy.