|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 “Lonesome Willies” or “merling,” leave a comment.
best bib and tucker = best clothes; originally women’s garments, bib and lace worn over the bodice. “She’d got herself dusted off by then and her best bib and tucker on.” William R. Lighton, Uncle Mac’s Nebrasky.
|blue-john; photo, Natalia A. McKenzie|
catch a tartar = to lay hold of, or encounter, a person who proves too strong for the assailant. “They had not noticed me and they proceeded to hold up the agent in true western style, but that they had caught a tartar was evidenced by the rattle of the agent's artillery.” Nat Love, The Life and Adventures of Nat Love.
|Beeman's gum, 1897|
cod = to tease, hoax. “I thought he was coddin’ me, but I didn’t want to let on to him I didn’t know any better.” William R. Lighton, Uncle Mac’s Nebrasky.
corn pone = a type of bread made from a thick cornmeal dough and baked in an iron pan over an open fire. “He resumed his cooking, moving his coffee pot from the coals, turning his corn pone out on the palm of his hand, and blowing the ahses from its crust.” George W. Ogden, The Long Fight.
|Cornbread; photo, Douglas P. Perk|
dang my melt = literally, damn me; dang me (from melt = spleen). “Dang my melt if I can see how them wild-catters can keep on takin’ money from folks.” George W. Ogden, The Long Fight.
electrolier = a fixture, usually hanging from the ceiling, for holding electric lamps; analogous to chandelier, from which it was formed. “Society’s gradations, markings and distinctions, were measured by the number of electric bulbs in a merchant’s window, the size of the gaudy ‘electrolier’ on the table in his newly-plastered dining room.” George W. Ogden, The Long Fight.
furniture car = a railroad car higher and wider than an ordinary box car. “He’s up there at the house to-night, with an automobile big as a furniture car.” George W. Ogden, The Long Fight.
get up on one’s ear = run off and do something stupid. “The tribes had all been pawin’ up the dirt that summer, more-less, and it aggravated him. When he heerd this last story, he got right up on his ear.” William R. Lighton, Uncle Mac’s Nebrasky.
herring pond = the North Atlantic. “This opportunity we improved by getting acquainted and fraternizing with the cow boys of one of the oldest cattle countries this side of the herring pond – Old Mexico.” Nat Love, The Life and Adventures of Nat Love.
katy = hat (also kady, kadi). “I take off my katy, and I apologise to you.” George W. Ogden, The Long Fight.
|Hereford steer, drawing by Jomegat|
low watch = the hours after midnight for riding guard on the herd; upper watch were the hours before midnight. “So the low watch turned in to rest until midnight, when they were to relieve the upper watch, in whose hands the safety of the camp was placed till that time.” Nat Love, The Life and Adventures of Nat Love.
|Extracting pulque, Mexico, 1904|
rack = to ride. “Well, you hitch up and rack out with part of the machinery, so you’ll have an alibi.” George W. Ogden, The Long Fight.
scabs = cattle under a year old. “On other occasions the herd would consist of a certain kind, such as long yearlings, short yearlings, tail end and scabs.” Nat Love, The Life and Adventures of Nat Love.
|Well-shooters with nitroglycerine|
soup = nitroglycerine. “And to think of it being so obliging as to come in with a head like that while I was tearing around on my fruitless hunt for ‘soup’!” George W. Ogden, The Long Fight.
well-shooter = detonator of explosives in oil wells to start or renew a flow of oil. “A three-gallon can of nitro-glycerine which he let slip out of his hands one day, while giving a well-shooter a hand, had removed him at once from the worries and ambitions of his kind.” George W. Ogden, The Long Fight.
Photo credits: Wikimedia Commons
Coming up: Rancho Notorious (1952)