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The Honk-Honk Breed
by [?]

It was Sunday at the ranch. For a wonder the weather had been favourable; the windmills were all working, the bogs had dried up, the beef had lasted over, the remuda had not strayed–in short, there was nothing to do. Sang had given us a baked bread-pudding with raisins in it. We filled it–in a wash basin full of it–on top of a few incidental pounds of chile con, baked beans, soda biscuits, “air tights,” and other delicacies. Then we adjourned with our pipes to the shady side of the blacksmith’s shop where we could watch the ravens on top the adobe wall of the corral. Somebody told a story about ravens. This led to road-runners. This suggested rattlesnakes. They started Windy Bill.

“Speakin’ of snakes,” said Windy, “I mind when they catched the great-granddaddy of all the bullsnakes up at Lead in the Black Hills. I was only a kid then. This wasn’t no such tur’ble long a snake, but he was more’n a foot thick. Looked just like a sahuaro stalk. Man name of Terwilliger Smith catched it. He named this yere bullsnake Clarence, and got it so plumb gentle it followed him everywhere. One day old P. T. Barnum come along and wanted to buy this Clarence snake–offered Terwilliger a thousand cold–but Smith wouldn’t part with the snake nohow. So finally they fixed up a deal so Smith could go along with the show. They shoved Clarence in a box in the baggage car, but after a while Mr. Snake gets so lonesome he gnaws out and starts to crawl back to find his master. Just as he is half-way between the baggage car and the smoker, the couplin’ give way–right on that heavy grade between Custer and Rocky Point. Well, sir, Clarence wound his head ’round one brake wheel and his tail around the other, and held that train together to the bottom of the grade. But it stretched him twenty-eight feet and they had to advertise him as a boa-constrictor.”

Windy Bill’s story of the faithful bullsnake aroused to reminiscence the grizzled stranger, who thereupon held forth as follows:

Wall, I’ve see things and I’ve heerd things, some of them ornery, and some you’d love to believe, they was that gorgeous and improbable. Nat’ral history was always my hobby and sportin’ events my special pleasure and this yarn of Windy’s reminds me of the only chanst I ever had to ring in business and pleasure and hobby all in one grand merry-go-round of joy. It come about like this:

One day, a few year back, I was sittin’ on the beach at Santa Barbara watchin’ the sky stay up, and wonderin’ what to do with my year’s wages, when a little squinch-eye round-face with big bow spectacles came and plumped down beside me.

“Did you ever stop to think,” says he, shovin’ back his hat, “that if the horsepower delivered by them waves on this beach in one single hour could be concentrated behind washin’ machines, it would be enough to wash all the shirts for a city of four hundred and fifty-one thousand one hundred and thirty-six people?”

“Can’t say I ever did,” says I, squintin’ at him sideways.

“Fact,” says he, “and did it ever occur to you that if all the food a man eats in the course of a natural life could be gathered together at one time, it would fill a wagon-train twelve miles long?”

“You make me hungry,” says I.

“And ain’t it interestin’ to reflect,” he goes on, “that if all the finger-nail parin’s of the human race for one year was to be collected and subjected to hydraulic pressure it would equal in size the pyramid of Cheops?”

“Look yere,” says I, sittin’ up, “did YOU ever pause to excogitate that if all the hot air you is dispensin’ was to be collected together it would fill a balloon big enough to waft you and me over that Bullyvard of Palms to yonder gin mill on the corner?”