Below is a list of mostly forgotten terms, people, and the occasional song, drawn from a reading of frontier fiction, 1880–1915. Each week a new list, progressing through the alphabet, “from A to Izzard.”
shorthorn = tenderfoot, newcomer. “Let the shorthorn go sleep onder a mesquite-bush; it’ll do him good a whole lot.” Alfred Henry Lewis, Wolfville.
shot in the locker = ammunition and powder. “Ez soon as he got inter trouble he knowed whar ter find a fren’ whut’ll stan’ by him ez long ez there’s a shot in ther locker—savvy?” G. Frank Lydston, Poker Jim, Gentleman.
shot tower = a building formerly used in the production of shot, in which molten lead was dropped from a great height into water, thus cooling it and forming the shot. “Hills twenty, thirty miles away rose like apparitions, astonishingly magnified. Willows became elms, a settler’s shanty rose like a shot-tower.” Hamlin Garland, The Moccasin Ranch.
shotgun messenger = a guard on a stagecoach or train, to oversee a valuable private shipment, such as a strongbox or safe; typically rode next to the stagecoach driver and carried a short (or sawed-off) 12- or 10-gauge double-barreled shotgun, loaded with buckshot. “Only the driver and a friend were on it, and both of them knew the shot-gun messenger and the sheriff, and they asked in some astonishment what the trouble was.” Owen Wister, Red Men and White.
show-me = skeptical; believing nothing until is it demonstrated. “He belonged to the show-me club, an’ had all his facical muscles spiked fast for fear they’d come loose an’ grin before he saw the point himself.” Robert Alexander Wason, Happy Hawkins.