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Saturday Night On The Farm: Boys And Harvest Hands
by [?]

In mystery of town and play
The splendid lady lives alway,
Inwrought with starlight, winds and streams.


A group of men were gathered in Farmer Graham’s barn one rainy day in September; the rain had stopped the stacking, and the men were amusing themselves with feats of skill and strength. Steve Nagle was the champion, no matter what came up; whether shouldering a sack of wheat, or raising weights or suspending himself with one hand, he left the others out of the race.

“Aw! it’s no good foolun’ with such puny little men as you,” he swaggered at last, throwing himself down upon a pile of sacks.

“If our hired man was here I bet he’d beat you all holler,” piped a boy’s voice from the doorway.

Steve raised himself up and glared.

“What’s that thing talkun’?”

The boy held his ground. “You can brag when he ain’t around, but I bet he can lick you with one hand tied behind him; don’t you, Frank?”

Frank was doubtful, and kept a little out of sight. He was afraid of Steve, as were, indeed, all the other men, for he had terrorized the saloons of the county for years. Johnny went on about his hero:

“Why, he can take a sack of wheat by the corners and snap every kernel of it clean out; he can lift a separator just as easy! You’d better brag when he’s around.”

Steve’s anger rose, for he saw the rest laughing; he glared around at them all like a hyena. “Bring on this whelp, let’s see how he looks. I ain’t seen him yit.”

“Pa says if Lime went to a saloon where you’d meet him once, you wouldn’t clean out that saloon,” Johnny went on in a calm voice, with a sort of undercurrent of glee in it. He saw Steve’s anger, and was delighted.

“Bring on this feller; I’ll knock the everlasting spots offen ‘im f’r two cents.”

“I’ll tell ‘im that.”

“Tell him and be damned,” roared Steve, with a wolfish gleam in his eyes that drove the boys away whooping with mingled terror and delight.

Steve saw that the men about him held Johnny’s opinion of Lime, and it made him furious. For several years he had held undisputed sovereignty over the saloons of Rock County, and when, with both sleeves rolled up and eyes flaming with madness, he had leaped into the center of a bar-room floor with a wild shout, everybody got out, by doors, windows or any other way, sometimes taking sash and all, and left him roaring with maniacal delight.

No one used a revolver in those days. Shooting was almost unknown. Fights were tests of physical strength and savagery.

Harvest brought into Iowa at that time a flood of rough and hardy men who drifted north with the moving line of ripening wheat, and on Saturday nights the saloons of the county were filled with them, and Steve found many chances to show his power. Among these strangers, as they gathered in some saloon to make a night of it, he loved to burst with his assertion of individual sovereignty.

* * * * *

Lime was out mending fence when Johnny came home to tell him what Steve had said. Johnny was anxious to see his faith in his hero justified, and watched Lime carefully as he pounded away without looking up. His dress always had an easy slouch about his vast limbs, and his pantaloons, usually of some dark stuff, he wore invariably tucked into his boot-tops, his vest swinging unbuttoned, his hat carelessly awry.

Being a quiet, sober man, he had never been in a saloon when Steve entered to swing his hat to the floor and yell: