|Montana cowboys, c1910|
These are from turn of the century novels and stories I’ve been reading. Once again I struck out on a few. If anybody knows the Old West meaning of “swatty, “thumb hand side,” “miggles,” “storm-shed,” or “light pole buggy,” leave a comment.
bone = a dollar. “‘What wages are you fellows drawing down?’ he asked, bluntly. ‘Three bones,’ the Lark told him.” Jackson Gregory, Under Handicap.
boneset = Eupatorium, a perennial daisy used historically to treat a viral infection known as “break bone fever.” “Look at you! That will be as bitter as boneset!” Henry Wallace Phillips, Red Saunders.
bust a tug = collapse from the effort to accomplish something. “He's goin' to make a town down in that sand-pile or bust a tug; I ain't sayin' which right now.” Jackson Gregory, Under Handicap.
cut the pigeon wing = a brisk, fancy dance step executed by jumping and striking the legs together. “When the figure ‘balance to your partners’ was reached many a fellow would ‘cut the pigeon-wing,’ and his partner, not to be outdone, would indulge in some fantastic steps.” The Chicago Tribune, 18 October 1882.
gallinipper = a stinging or biting insect. “That what I'm payin' you for, you blame gallinipper!” Jackson Gregory, Under Handicap.
huckleberry = the right person for a job. “If you want to go wild-catting over the hills and far away, I’m your huckleberry.” Henry Wallace Phillips, Red Saunders.
jick = one of the Jacks in a game of cards. “‘Couldn't find ’em nohow,’ says he; ‘hunted high and low, jick, Jack, and the game.’” Henry Wallace Phillips, Red Saunders.
jimjams = delirium tremens. “Rattlesnake Valley, over yonder, ain't never been good for much exceptin' the finest breed of serpents an' horn-toads a man ever see outside a circus or the jimjams.” Jackson Gregory, Under Handicap.
|Chinese Exclusion Act, 1882|
Old Dog Tray = sentimental Stephen Foster song about an old man and his dog. “He put the mill between his knees, and converted the beans to powder, to the tune of ‘Old dog Tray’ through his nose, which Miss Mattie found very amusing.” Henry Wallace Phillips, Red Saunders.
make the riffle = to succeed at something. “‘Boys,’ says I, under my breath, ‘they've made the riffle’.” Henry Wallace Phillips, Red Saunders.
Old Harry = the Devil. “The next day we worked like the Old Harry.” Henry Wallace Phillips, Red Saunders.
|Stephen Foster, 1826-1864|
penstock = a channel, trough, or tube for conveying water from a lake or dam to a waterwheel or turbine. “The crowd cheered as the imprisoned waters leapt to freedom with a hollow roar, raising in pitch as the penstock filled and the wheels began to go round.” Henry Wallace Phillips, Red Saunders.
pot cheese = a type of coarse, dry cottage cheese. “He also took some pot-cheese under a misapprehension; swallowed it, and said to himself that he had been through worse things than that.” Henry Wallace Phillips, Red Saunders.
pussy wants a corner = a parlor game for children in which one player in the middle of a room tries to take one of the positions around the walls and corners that become vacant as other players exchange places at a signal. “Another slinking shadow glided behind the vacated position. It was a ghastly presentation of ‘Pussy-wants-a-corner’ played in nightmare.” Kate and Virgil Boyles, Langford of the Three Bars.
|Snow-on-the-mountain, photo by H. Zell|
skin game = any form of gambling designed to fleece the uninitiated. “I ain't going to stand for putting up a summer breeze ag’in’ that feller’s good dough—that’s a skin game, to speak it pleasantly.” Henry Wallace Phillips, Red Saunders.
snow-on-the-mountain = Euphorbia marginata, an annual native from Minnesota to Colorado and Texas; light green leaves with broad, silver variegated edges. “Butterflies hovered over the snow-on-the-mountain.” Kate and Virgil Boyles, Langford of the Three Bars.
|Wrappers and tea gowns|
up sticks = to leave, change location. “Hotel-man said it was up-sticks now, and he meant to pay his just debts like an honest man, and that made four drinks.” Henry Wallace Phillips, Red Saunders.
wrapper = a woman's garment worn over nightwear or lingerie. “This falling off might have dated from a certain September morning when he had lost himself – for all time – to a girl with pain-pinched face and fever-brightened eyes who wore a blue wrapper.” Kate and Virgil Boyles, Langford of the Three Bars.
Photo credits: Wikimedia Commons
Coming up: Henry Wallace Phillips, Red Saunders (1901)