Monday, November 5, 2012

Old West glossary, no. 48


Cowboys, Montana, c1910
Here’s another set of terms and forgotten people gleaned from early western fiction. Definitions were discovered in various online dictionaries, as well as searches in Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang, Dictionary of the American West, The New Encyclopedia of the American West, The Cowboy Dictionary, The Cowboy Encyclopedia, Vocabulario Vaquero, I Hear America Talking, and The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary.

These are from Frederick Niven’s The Lost Cabin Mine, about a tenderfoot’s friendship with a robber, and Edgar Beecher Bronson’s The Red-Blooded, about brave men of the frontier. Once again, I struck out on a few. If anyone has a definition for “give one a grew,” “sumracadog,” “fir feathers,” “huldy,” “throw the bud,” or “mosquito clearing,” leave a comment below.


beer jerker = a drunkard. “You-all kin gamble yer alce all bets would be off with them painted dancehall beer jerkers.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, The Red-Blooded.

buck = a priest. “You find these bucks’ trails all over the country. They were made by the priests who came up from old Mexico to evangelise and convert the red heathen of the land.” Frederick Niven, The Lost Cabin Mine.

buster = something exceptional, a dandy. “What a buster of a town ’Frisco must be!” Edgar Beecher Bronson, The Red-Blooded.

Carreta, 1900
carreta = oxcart. “After nine days’ forced march, made chiefly by night, the Mexicans brought their crazy old carreta safely into the post.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, The Red-Blooded.

check rein = a short rein that extends from a horse’s bit to the saddle, to prevent a horse from lowering its head. “Donoghue pulled his hat down on his head, caught the check-rein with his left and clapped his right hand to the high, round pommel.” Frederick Niven, The Lost Cabin Mine.

convasman = carnival employee. “Stalwart convasmen rushed to their chief’s call till Circuit’s bunch were outnumbered three to one by tough trained battlers on many a tented field, armed with hand weapons of all sorts.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, The Red-Blooded.

dewlap = a mark of ownership made on the underside of the neck or brisket of an animal by pinching up a quantity of skin and cutting it loose but not off, leaving a hanging flap of skin. “He’s plumb shore to dewlap and wattle his fool self till you could spot him in airy herd o’ humans as fer as you could see him.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, The Red-Blooded.

dope and roll = to fool, cheat. “Change was right; you can’t dope and roll me; gwan!” Edgar Beecher Bronson, The Red-Blooded.

"Satan," Paul Gustave Doré
Doré, Paul Gustave = French artist, engraver, illustrator, and sculptor (1832-1883). “Again I saw the summit over which we passed, the Doréesque ravines and piled rocks, the forest trail, the valley where Mr. Pinkerton lay, on the cliff of which I had faced the terrors of the snake.” Frederick Niven, The Lost Cabin Mine.

facer = an unexpected problem or obstacle. “A facer lay ahead of them beside which the mere receipt of the five letters was nothing.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, The Red-Blooded.

four-flusher = a cheat, scrounger, one who fails to pay debts. “All ‘pikers’ and ‘four-flushers’ were omitted; none but the élite of the gun-twirling, blackjack swinging toughs was included.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, The Red-Blooded.

freebooter = a person, such as a pirate, who lives off of plunder. “Bred and raised a merry freebooter on the unbranded spoils of the cattle range, it was no long step from stealing a maverick to holding up a train.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, The Red-Blooded.

gammon = chatter. “No gammon now, fellers; everybody sings that knows her.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, The Red-Blooded.

"The Song of Roland"
give a Roland for someone’s Oliver = to give equal in return for something received; from the fight to a draw between the fictional knights Roland and Oliver. “‘I do,’ said I; but I thought to give this quiet man a Roland for his Oliver, seeing he was so much of a sphinx, and I said no more save that.” Frederick Niven, The Lost Cabin Mine.

gotch ear = in animals, a drooping ear, caused by an infestation of ticks that have undermined the supporting cartilages. “I jest nachally hope never to cock another gun if that thar little ol’ Circuit hain’t got a gal that’s stuck to him tighter’n a tick makin’ a gotch ear.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, The Red-Blooded.

Guajillo chili, dried
guajillo = a chili pepper widely used in Mexican cuisine. “Where the sweet scent of the juajilla loads the air, and the sun ever shines down out of a bright and cloudless sky.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, The Red-Blooded.

humanyville = settlement, town. “He’s goin’ to ask Tom for his time, fork a cayuse, an’ hit a lope for a railroad that’ll take him to whatever little ol’ humanyville his gal lives at.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, The Red-Blooded.

make down = fold down a bed’s covers to make it ready for use. “While the rest were washing for supper, disposing of war sacks, or ‘making down’ blankets, Mat squatted in the chimney corner to read his letters.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, The Red-Blooded.

Daddy Long-legs and Fly, E. Lear, 1871
mosquito hawk = the crane fly, “daddy longlegs.” “We sat in silence (while the ponies browsed the tufts of grass) watching the clouds of mosquitos hanging in their phalanxes along the trickle of the stream and the bright, gauzy, blue wings of two mosquito-hawks flashing through the midst.” Frederick Niven, The Lost Cabin Mine.

Prickly pear
nopal = prickly pear cactus. “They frequented trails he was known to travel, and lay sometimes for hours and days awaiting him, making themselves as comfortable as possible in the meantime behind some convenient boulder or tall nopal.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, The Red-Blooded.

not for Joe = by no means, not by any account. “We ain’t goin’ to sleep in here to-night, anyways, not for Jo, wi’ them mountain rats comin’ in on us.” Frederick Niven, The Lost Cabin Mine.

“Old Hundred” = the Doxology, “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow. “At length six or eight rather sheepishly owned to knowing ‘Old Hundred,’ and it was sung.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, The Red-Blooded. Listen here.

Old Master = God. “Pears like ole Mahster’s got a durned fool idee we’uns is web-footed.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, The Red-Blooded.

on the scout = on the lam from the law. “Otherwise good men who had slain in the heat of private quarrel and either ‘gone on the scout’ or ‘jumped the country’ rather than submit to arrest.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, The Red-Blooded.

open the ball = to start a fight. “A mob of two hundred toughs lined up before the thirty-odd of the committee and dared them to open the ball.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, The Red-Blooded.

oroide/oreide = an alloy of zinc, tin, and copper, used in imitation gold jewelry. “Ef airy o’ th’ Blue Mountain outfit tries to string him ’bout not runnin’ with them oreide propositions, I’ll hand ’em lead till my belt’s empty.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, The Red-Blooded.

piker = a vagrant, tramp, small-time gambler. “A few pikers followed and ‘stood up’ a coach occasionally, but the strong organized bands were extinct.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, The Red-Blooded.

shelling up = shooting firearms. “He was a reckless dare-devil, always foremost in the little amenities cowboys loved to indulge in when they came to town, such as shooting out the lights in saloons and generally ‘shelling up the settlement.’” Edgar Beecher Bronson, The Red-Blooded.

Sotol
sotol = a plant native to northern Mexico and the Southwest, commonly known as Desert Spoon; a distilled spirit made from the same plant. “We cut the old trail Tomas was heading us toward, and shortly thereafter entered the mouth of a frightfully rough cañon, its bottom and slopes thickly covered with nopal, sotol, and mesquite.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, The Red-Blooded.

“Spanish Cavalier, The” = a popular song composed by William D. Hendrickson, 1871. “It was ‘The Spanish Cavalier’ he sang, with a very fine feeling, too, softly and richly.” Frederick Niven, The Lost Cabin Mine. Listen here

stringing = playing tricks on a tenderfoot. “That kid’s got it harder an’ worse than airy feller I ever heerd tell of, too hard for us to lite in stringin’ him ’bout it.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, The Red-Blooded.

suttingly = certainly. “What between men and beasts, we suttingly have been followed up some this trip, and I’m getting’ tired of it.” Frederick Niven, The Lost Cabin Mine.

Sydney Carton = a central character in Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. “She begged me to change my ways, and I promised that for her sake I would. Quite romantic, eh? A touch of Sydney Carton—eh?” Frederick Niven, The Lost Cabin Mine.

time about = alternately. “‘One of your side, then,’ said he, ‘can take the next guard—share and share—time about, I guess.” Frederick Niven, The Lost Cabin Mine.

tornillo = a shrub or small tree native to the Southwest and northern Mexico, having twisted pods used as fodder; the screw bean. “Then the drive up the wide, level valley of the Pecos was begun, through thickets of tornilla and mesquite.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, The Red-Blooded.

unchancy = unlucky, dangerous. “My unfortunate horse put his foot in that unchancy burrow and sent me flying.” Frederick Niven, The Lost Cabin Mine.

wattle = a mark of ownership made on the neck or the jaw of an animal by pinching up a quantity of skin and cutting it down but not entirely off, leaving a hanging flap of skin. “He’s plumb shore to dewlap and wattle his fool self till you could spot him in airy herd o’ humans as fer as you could see him.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, The Red-Blooded.


Image credits: Wikimedia Commons

Coming up: Homicide: Life on the Street

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