|Montana cowboys, c1910|
Most of these are from Peter B. Kyne’s The Three Godfathers (1913), W. C. Tuttle’s Thicker Than Water (1927), and A. M. Chisholm’s Desert Conquest (1913). Once again I struck out on a term or two. If anybody knows the Old West meaning of “soul-trapper” or “case cards,” leave a comment. From context, I’m guessing the word “bluffers” was used for baby bottle nipples, but try as I might, I couldn’t run that one down either.
|Bannock, photo by Lou Sander|
bannock = a round, flat, thick griddle-cake, made from oatmeal, barley, or flour; a wedge of it is called a scone. “A white man that can cook hates to stay sober long enough to build a bannock.” A. M. Chisholm, Desert Conquest.
buckbrush = common name for several species of North American shrubs that deer feed on. “The country was very rough, and the buck-brush grew thick.” W. C. Tuttle, Thicker Than Water.
cat claw = a tree native to the Southwest with hooked thorns the shape and size of a cat's claw that tend to hook onto passers-by. “They were picking their way carefully through clusters of murderous catclaw.” Peter B. Kyne, The Three Godfathers.
chuckwalla = a stocky, wide-bodied lizard with a flattened midsection, a prominent belly, and a thick tail, tapering to a blunt tip. “Once he thought a chuckwalla addressed him, saying: ‘Hello, Bob Sangster, what are you runnin’ away from?’” Peter B. Kyne, The Three Godfathers.
|Buckbrush, photo by Walter Siegmund|
crawl = to assault. “I jus’ had a battle with Angel. He says he’s goin’ to crawl Slim Caldwell.” W. C. Tuttle, Thicker Than Water.
dinger = something outstanding of its kind (cf. humdinger). “It would shore make a dinger of a hide-out.” W. C. Tuttle, Thicker Than Water.
dog tent = a small tent shaped like a kennel. “He led a nomadic existence, moved continually from one piece of work to another, his temporary habitations ranging from modern hotels to dog tents and shacks.” A. M. Chisholm, Desert Conquest.
dottle = the plug of half-smoked tobacco in the bottom of a pipe after smoking. “Old Rance knocked the dottle out of his pipe, shoved the pipe in his pocket, and leaned forward on the table, facing the sheriff.” W. C. Tuttle, Thicker Than Water.
dulce domum = home sweet home (literally, “Sweetly at Home,” a holiday song associated with St. Mary’s College, Winchester, originating in the 17th century). “Theoretically – heretofore always strictly theoretically – he possessed a strong dulce domum impulse.” A. M. Chisholm, Desert Conquest. Full story here.
fog = to go fast. “He ain’t hidin’; he’s foggin’. Betcha ten to one he never comes back.” W. C. Tuttle, Thicker Than Water.
gallinipper = a stinging or biting insect. “‘You long-legged gallinipper!’ he roared.” W. C. Tuttle, Thicker Than Water.
goose gun = a long-barreled shot gun, so designed for shooting geese in flight. “Yust wait, you faller. Ay gat my goose gun, and Ay blow you all to hal!” A. M. Chisholm, Desert Conquest.
|Chuckwalla (Sauromalus obesus)|
hematite = a very common mineral, iron oxide, occurring in steel-gray to black crystals and in red earthy masses; the principal ore of iron. “The sun was just coming up over the low red hummocks of hematite.” Peter B. Kyne, The Three Godfathers.
hummock = a knoll or hillock. “The sun was just coming up over the low red hummocks of hematite.” Peter B. Kyne, The Three Godfathers.
Injun sign = a magic spell, a curse, a jinx. “You may be able to hang the Injun-sign on old Rance McCoy, but to us, you’re just another dirty shirt that needs doin’ up.” W. C. Tuttle, Thicker Than Water.
|Greasewood, photo by Cory Maylett|
jinny = female donkey. “D’ye remember, Bill, that yarn that Bob read us outen that Bible last night – about Christ ridin’ into Jerusalem an’ Him sendin’ two men over to the nearest camp for a jinny with a colt?” Peter B. Kyne, The Three Godfathers.
miner’s inch = a unit of measure of water flow, equaling 1.5 cu. ft. (0.04 cu. meter ) per minute. “In vain he showed them the big canal and beautiful system of ditches, and pointed with much enthusiasm to the armour-belted, doubled-riveted clause in the sale contracts guaranteeing to the lucky buyer the delivery of so many miner’s inches or cubic feet of water every day in the year.” A. M. Chisholm, Desert Conquest.
ocotillo = (oh-ko-tee-yo) a tall desert plant of the Southwest and northern Mexico, whose branches resemble spiny dead sticks that sprout many small green leaves after rain and bloom with crimson flowers at the tips. “Up dark, lonely arroyos they went; down long alleys between outstretched arms of the ocatillas [sic] with their pendulous, blood-red blossoms.” Peter B. Kyne, The Three Godfathers.
picket = small detachment of troops positioned towards the enemy to give early warning of attack. “And the riders, front and rear, were in the nature of pickets; for, though it was unlikely that any one would be met at that time of night, it was just as well to take no chances.” A. M. Chisholm, Desert Conquest.
|Joshuna Tree, Wing-Chi Poon|
rodman = one who carries a leveling rod for a surveyor (level = a device with a telescope used in surveying; leveling rod = a graduated pole or stick with a movable marker, used to measure differences in elevation). “Now they’re down and out – lucky to get a job with a level and one rodman to boss.” A. M. Chisholm, Desert Conquest.
rub knees = ride side-by-side. “Head for Arizona, cowboy; and I’ll rub knees with yuh.” W. C. Tuttle, Thicker Than Water.
run a blazer = to deceive, trick. “I ain’t hostile, special. Only I don’t want him to run no blazers on me.” A. M. Chisholm, Desert Conquest.
Salt Trust = an effort in the late 19th century to control the market price of salt. “Evidently the strange habitation had been the abode of some desert visionary, who planned to file on the salt lake and sell his concession to the Salt Trust.” Peter B. Kyne, The Three Godfathers.
|Ocotillo, photo by Stan Shebs|
slap-up = first-rate, excellent. “This Farwell is a slap-up man, and they’d never waste him on this little job without some good reason.” A. M. Chisholm, Desert Conquest.
tear a shirt = bestir oneself. “That ain’t nothin’ to tear a shirt over.” W. C. Tuttle, Thicker Than Water.
tick = a case or cover containing feathers, etc., forming a mattress or pillow. “On a straw tick, covered with blankets, lay a woman.” Peter B. Kyne, The Three Godfathers.
toe calk = a device added to a horse shoe to enhance or increase traction. “Put a toe-calk on that foot and he’ll stumble badly.” W. C. Tuttle, Thicker Than Water.
|Tyrone Power, white tie|
yeggman = safe cracker, burglar, thug. “Observe, the gentleman still keeps his sawed-off yeggman’s delight in his pocket.” A. M. Chisholm, Desert Conquest.
Image credits: wikimedia.org
Coming up: Henry Herbert Knibbs, Overland Red (1914)