Things To Do On Page 82 Reviews

Things To Do On Page 82 Reviews!
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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Page 82 of A Gent From Bear Creek and Other Tales

All I wanted was to get in amongst them Barlows--I does my best fighting at close quarters. But at the moment I couldn't think of no way that wouldn't get me shot up. Of course I could jest rush the cabin, but the thought of seventeen Winchesters blazing away at me from close range was a little stiff even for me, though I was game to try it, if they warn't no other way.

Whilst I was studying over the matter, all to onst the hosses tied out in front of the cabin snorted, and back up in the hills something went Oooaaaw-w-w! And a idee hit me.

"Git back in the woods and wait for me," I told Bill, as I headed for the thicket where we'd left the hosses.

I rode up in the hills towards where the howl had come from, and purty soon I lit and throwed Cap'n Kidd's reins over his head, and walked on into the deep bresh, from time to time giving a long squall like a cougar. They ain't a catamount in the world can tell the difference when a Bear Creek man imitates one. After awhile one answered, from a ledge jest a few hundred feet away.

I went to the ledge and clumb up on it, and there was a small cave behind it, and a big mountain lion in there. He give a grunt of surprise when he seen I was a human, and made a swipe at me, but I give him a bat on the head with my fist, and whilst he was still dizzy I grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and hauled him out of the cave and lugged him down to where I left my hoss.

Cap'n Kidd snorted when he seen the cougar and wanted to kick his brains out, but I give him a good kick in the stummick hisself, which is the only kind of reasoning Cap'n Kidd understands, and got on him and headed for the Barlow hangout.

I can think of a lot more pleasant jobs than totin' a full-growed mountain lion down a thick-timbered mountainside on the back of a iron-jawed outlaw at midnight. I had the cat by the back of the neck with one hand, so hard he couldn't squall, and I held him out at arm's length as far from me and the hoss as I could, but every now and then he'd twist around so he could claw Cap'n Kidd with his hind laigs, and when this would happen Cap'n Kidd would squall with rage and start bucking all over the place. Sometimes he would buck the derned cougar onto me, and pulling him loose from my hide was wuss'll pulling cockle-burrs out of a cow's tail.

But presently I arriv close behind the cabin. I whistled like a whippoorwhil for Bill, but he didn't answer and warn't nowheres to be seen, so I decided he'd got scairt and pulled out for home. But that was all right

(From a somewhat expensive hardcover edition with kind of a goofy cover ... I felt obliged to scrounge up the Jeff Jones illustration from the version I read as a kid)

My Review

Who are the Barlows? Who's Bill? Who in the world is this out-for-blood narrator who can bludgeon a "full-growed mountain lion" into submission with one fist and then carry it by the scruff of the neck on horseback to his enemies' lair? More to the point, does any of that matter, or do you just want to see what riot of carnage results when he tosses that cougar into the cabin?

Visceral titillation aside, there are many cues on this page that the writer has a cunning feel for what he's doing. Even a cursory analysis of the language reveals that the author has taken care to inject enough backwoods dialect to lend his prose a breezy, yokely vigor, but not so much as to render it deadening or difficult to read. Not every "there" becomes "they," and surprisingly few of the gerunds have their final "g" apostrophized. As much of the feel comes from word choice as from a hillbilly mangling of the language: "blazing," "lugged," "snorted," "squall," and "whilst" are all perfectly grammatical but sing of the rural wilds regardless. And there's an economy of narrative that moves us between disparate settings quickly and vividly. We don't learn the narrator's name on this page, but we do learn his horse's, and that the horse apparently has as much personality as the rider.

If a rip-snorting tall tale of the old west is your idea of fun, this page can't help but tell you that you ought to read the rest of the book -- even if you didn't know (or perhaps particularly if you didn't know) that it's by the same guy who invented Conan the Barbarian.

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