“And so you think the trouble lies with the man and not with the whiskey?” I said.
The Old Cattleman and I were discussing “temperance.”
“Right you be. This yere whiskey-drinkin’,” continued the old gentleman as he toyed with his empty glass, “is a mighty cur’ous play. I knows gents as can tamper with their little old forty drops frequent an’ reg’lar. As far as hurtin’ of ‘em is concerned, it don’t come to throwin’ water on a drowned rat. Then, ag’in, I’ve cut gents’s trails as drinkin’ whiskey is like playin’ a harp with a hammer. Which we-alls ain’t all upholstered alike; that’s whatever. We don’t all show the same brands an’ y’earmarks nohow: What’s med’cine for one is p’isen for t’other; an’ thar you be.
“Bein’ a reg’lar, reliable drunkard that a-way comes mighty near bein’ a disease. It ain’t no question of nerve, neither. Some dead- game gents I knows–an’ who’s that obstinate they wouldn’t move camp for a prairie-fire–couldn’t pester a little bit with whiskey.
“Thar’s my friend, Mace Bowman. Mace is clean strain cl’ar through, an’ yet I don’t reckon he ever gets to a show-down with whiskey once which he ain’t outheld. But for grim nerve as’ll never shiver, this yere Bowman is at par every time.
“Bowman dies a prey to his ambition. He starts in once to drink all the whiskey in Wolfville. By his partic’lar request most of the white male people of the camp stands in on the deal, a-backin’ his play for to make Wolfville a dry camp. At the close of them two lurid weeks Mace lasts, good jedges, like Enright an’ Doc Peets, allows he’s shorely made it scarce some.
“But Wolfville’s too big for him. Any other gent but Mace would have roped at a smaller outfit, but that wouldn’t be Mace nohow. If thar’s a bigger camp than Wolfville anywhere about, that’s where he’d been. He’s mighty high-hearted an’ ambitious that a-way, an’ it’s kill a bull or nothin’ when he lines out for buffalo.
“But the thirteenth day, he strikes in on the big trail, where you never meets no outfits comin’ back, an’ that settles it. The boys, not havin’ no leader, with Mace petered, gives up the game, an’ the big raid on nose-paint in Wolfville is only hist’ry now.
“When I knows Bowman first he’s sheriff over in northeast New Mexico. A good sheriff Mace is, too. Thar ain’t nothin’ gets run off while he’s sheriff, you bet. When he allows anythin’s his dooty, he lays for it permiscus. He’s a plumb sincere offishul that a-way.
“One time I recalls as how a wagon-train with households of folks into it camps two or three days where Mace is sheriff. These yere people’s headin’ for some’ers down on the Rio Grande, aimin’ to settle a whole lot. Mebby it’s the third mornin’ along of sun-up when they strings out on the trail, an’ we-alls thinks no more of ‘em. It’s gettin’ about third-drink time when back rides a gent, sorter fretful like, an’ allows he’s done shy a boy.
“‘When do you-all see this yere infant last?’ says Mace.
“‘Why,’ says the gent, ‘I shorely has him yesterday, ’cause my old woman done rounds ‘em up an’ counts.’
“‘What time is that yesterday?’
“‘Bout first-drink time,’ says the bereaved party.
“‘How many of these yere offsprings, corral count, do you-all lay claim to anyway?’ asks Mace.
“‘Which I’ve got my brand onto ‘leven of ‘em,’ says the pore parent, beginnin’ to sob a whole lot. ‘Of course this yere young-one gettin’ strayed this a-way leaves me short one. It makes it a mighty rough crossin’, stranger, after bringin’ that boy so far. The old woman, she bogs right down when she knows, an’ I don’t reckon she’ll be the same he’pmeet to me onless I finds him ag’in.’
“‘Oh, well,’ says Mace, tryin’ to cheer this bereft person up, ‘we lose kyards in the shuffle which the same turns up all right in the deal; an’ I reckons we-alls walks down this yearlin’ of yours ag’in, too. What for brands or y’earmarks, does he show, so I’ll know him.’