Monday, November 12, 2012

Old West glossary, no. 49

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, Cowboy Lingo, and The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary.

These are from Edgar Beecher Bronson’s The Red-Blooded, about brave men of the frontier, Pauline Wilson Worth’s mining camp stories, Death Valley Slim and Other Stories, and Martin Allerdale Grainger’s Woodsmen of the West, about loggers in British Columbia. Once again, I struck out on a few. If anyone has a definition for “bay steer,” “Fanny Brook,” or “on the bust,” leave a comment below.


Log boom, Idaho, 1973
bald-headed = acting suddenly or without careful consideration. “He went at every problem by the light of nature—‘bald-headed,’ as the saying is—in furious attack.” Martin Allerdale Grainger, Woodsmen of the West.

boom stick = one of the logs fastened together to make a boom to hold floating logs. “Oh, the back-breaking job of boring boom-sticks when your auger keeps biting into stubborn knots!” Martin Allerdale Grainger, Woodsmen of the West.

Bucker and spruce log, 1918
bucker = a logging worker who saws logs into lengths. “The ‘buckers’ had then wormed their way among that giant heap of trunks and limbs and matted boughs, and sawn the good timber into lengths.” Martin Allerdale Grainger, Woodsmen of the West.

chunk = to hit with a missile. “He got so hungry for meat he up ’n’ chunks ’n’ kills ’n’ cooks ’n’ eats a porcupine.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, The Red-Blooded.

Coal trimmers, 1908
coal trimmer = a position in the engineering department of a coal-fired ship which involves all coal handling tasks, from loading coal into the ship to delivery of coal to the stoker. “The oarsman was my old acquaintance Jim; Jim the ‘engineer’; Jim, ex-coal-trimmer from the White Star Line.” Martin Allerdale Grainger, Woodsmen of the West.

Marie Corelli, 1909
Corelli, Marie = a British novelist (1855-1924), whose melodramatic novels were widely read. “It’s kind of tiresome sometimes in winter; lying on your bunk reading magazines or them dime novels by the Duchess and Mary Corelli.” Martin Allerdale Grainger, Woodsmen of the West.

devil club = a large shrub native to the cool, moist forests of western North America, noted for its large palmate leaves and erect, woody stems covered in brittle spines. “The woods, for walking in, are ‘something fierce,’ as persons say—underbrush and fallen logs, rocks and crevices, to hinder one; and needles of the devil-clubs to fray one’s temper.” Martin Allerdale Grainger, Woodsmen of the West.

dog = a short, heavy piece of steel, bent and pointed at one end to form a hook and with an eye or ring at the other, used for many purposes in logging. “A sharp, heavy logging ‘dog,’ had lost grip of a moving log under the strain of hauling, and flicking round had ripped a great wound down Fitz’s leg.” Martin Allerdale Grainger, Woodsmen of the West.

The Duchess, 1906
Duchess, The = Margaret Wolfe Hungerford (1855-1897), an Irish novelist whose light romantic fiction was popular throughout the English-speaking world in the 19th century. “It’s kind of tiresome sometimes in winter; lying on your bunk reading magazines or them dime novels by the Duchess and Mary Corelli.” Martin Allerdale Grainger, Woodsmen of the West.

Duke’s Mixture = a brand of smoking tobacco originated by Washington Duke in the 1860s, believed to be made of tobacco odds and ends; thus “duke’s mixture” came to refer to any hodge-podge of things. “Now a few yar ago nothin’ but Duke’s Mixture would do for me, but now I won’t smoke nothin’ but Bull Durham.” Pauline Wilson Worth, Death Valley Slim and Other Stories.

Fallers
faller = a logging worker who fells the trees. “The ‘fallers’ had worked along the slope, slope that was almost cliff; and all the trees of value had been felled criss-cross, upon each other and upon the mass of smaller trees their fall had shattered.” Martin Allerdale Grainger, Woodsmen of the West.

frieze = a heavy durable coarse woolen with a rough surface. “Then there are oilskins and blankets and rough suits of frieze for winter wear, and woolen mitts.” Martin Allerdale Grainger, Woodsmen of the West.

go the pace = to proceed with reckless vigor; to indulge in dissipation. “Often they are men with less power of grasping matters of simple finance and arithmetic than the reckless undergraduate, absorbed in ‘going the pace’.” Martin Allerdale Grainger, Woodsmen of the West.

habitaw = a backwoods dweller, e.g. trapper, hunter (French, habitant). “Why, she’s hotter now ’n Billy Buell got last October when that loony haibtaw cook o’ ourn made up all our marmalade and currant jelly into pies.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, The Red-Blooded.

hand logger = a logger felling and moving timber by hand. “And the idea came to me suddenly to go and visit Kendall—that solitary hand-logger who never came near Carter’s camp.” Martin Allerdale Grainger, Woodsmen of the West.

hang out a boom = extend a chain of logs across a bay to hold felled timber. “They saw a boom or two hung out in little bays that opened from the channels.” Martin Allerdale Grainger, Woodsmen of the West.

jawbone = credit. “Jawbone is the western word for credit. I lack the art of using mine persuasively.” Martin Allerdale Grainger, Woodsmen of the West.

Leckie = a work boot manufactured by the J. Leckie Company in Vancouver in the late 1800’s. “Leckie calls attention to his logging boot, whose bristling spikes are guaranteed to stay in.” Martin Allerdale Grainger, Woodsmen of the West.

lubber = a fool. “Thet little gal mustn’t marry thet lubber with the money.” Pauline Wilson Worth, Death Valley Slim and Other Stories.

San Francisco, 1851
mushroom town = a boomtown that springs up overnight. “He quit railroading, collected his savings, and started a hotel in one of the mushroom ‘towns’ with which the very rumour of a boom will spot a country.” Martin Allerdale Grainger, Woodsmen of the West.

Old Taylor = a bourbon whiskey produced in Frankfort, Kentucky, and named in honor of Edmund Haynes Taylor, Jr. (1830-1923). “There’s a bottle of ‘Old Taylor’ in the other room; you’d better take a drop.” Pauline Wilson Worth, Death Valley Slim and Other Stories.

rigging slinger = a logging worker who chains a log and attaches it to a towline. “Skilled artists—hook-tenders, rigging slingers, engineers—hated to work for a man who had never learned the ABC of classical methods.” Martin Allerdale Grainger, Woodsmen of the West.

shantyman = a logger. “He goes poundin’ through the bush like a bunch o’ shantymen to their choppin’.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, The Red-Blooded.

Fishing lure
spoon = a fishing lure. “Whether it’s with flies, spoons or minnows, castin’ or trollin’, or spearin’ or nettin’, Warry’s the expertest fish-catcher that ever waded the rapids.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, The Red-Blooded.

pointer = a boat developed in Canada in the 19th century for use in the logging industry. “We had to’ help them into a thirty-foot ‘pointer’ made t’ carry a crew o’ eight shanty-men ’n’ their supplies on the spring drives.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, The Red-Blooded.

Siwash logger = a beachcomber (Siwash, pejorative term for Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest, from French, sauvage). “I am a Siwash logger. Well, and what then? Answer me now!” Martin Allerdale Grainger, Woodsmen of the West.

skookum box = a place onboard ship for confining troublesome passengers. “There too is the skookum box—that is, the strong room or lock-up. To it the first mate of the Cassiar is wont to shoot too noisy drunks.” Martin Allerdale Grainger, Woodsmen of the West.

slack water = a cessation in the strong flow of a current or tide. “Just beyond Church House we lay at anchor for an hour or two, waiting for slack water in the Euclataws.” Martin Allerdale Grainger, Woodsmen of the West.

soogey-moogey = a mixture of lye, soap, and water used to clean paintwork and woodwork on a ship or boat; a never ending job. “Work such as that is a more buoyant affair than the deadly treadmill work that goes on, soogey-moogey, day in and day out, for forty-nine perfunctory weeks of the year.” Martin Allerdale Grainger, Woodsmen of the West.

stumper = a tree that will drop straight into water when felled. “For ‘stumpers’ are the most profitable trees that hand-loggers can hope to get; they need so little time and work.” Martin Allerdale Grainger, Woodsmen of the West.

swamper = a logging worker who chops limbs and brush from felled trees. “We came to where the ‘swampers’ were at work chopping limbs and brush, preparing the cut logs for hauling.” Martin Allerdale Grainger, Woodsmen of the West.

timber cruiser = a person who examines a stand of timber to determine its potential value. “Hundreds and hundreds of men—experienced loggers, inexperienced youths from town—blossomed as ‘timber-cruisers’.” Martin Allerdale Grainger, Woodsmen of the West.

Packsack with tumpline
tumpline = a sling formed by a strap slung over the forehead or chest and used for carrying or helping to support a pack on the back or in hauling loads. “I’d jest tump-line th’ whole bunch o’ youse ’t one load from th’ landin’ ’t’ th’ Bertrand farm if that feller wa’n’t settin’ with his back t’ th’ stump, facin’ up th’ runway, his rifle ’tween his knees ’n’ his fool head lopped over on one shoulder, dead asleep!” Edgar Beecher Bronson, The Red-Blooded.

up a stump = perplexed, in difficulties. “I felt considerable up the stump and so I told Death as how the young man was too proud to accept money straight out.” Pauline Wilson Worth, Death Valley Slim and Other Stories.


Image credits:
Wikimedia Commons

Coming up: Robert Mitchum, Young Billy Young (1969)

7 comments:

  1. I got a big laugh out of Boom stick, because of the way that phrase is used in one of the Bruce Campbell Evil dead films to refer to his shotgun.

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  2. I can see that occurring to a writer. Thanks for dropping by, Charles.

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  3. A couple of those terms leave me "up a stump" like "smoogey-moogey" and "skookum box." Never heard them.

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  4. I always learn something from your posts, Ron. Thank you, sir.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for coming by, David. I may be retired, but haven't given up teaching.

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