|Montana cowboys, c1910|
These are from Caroline Lockhart’s novel Me—Smith. Once again I struck out a few times. If anybody knows the meaning of “long-geared,” “Mormon lilies,” or “medicine shark,” leave a comment.
Battle Axe = a brand of plug tobacco. “Alkali nothin’. That’s gum-boot, or else a plug of Battle Ax fell in.” Caroline Lockhart, Me—Smith.
booze clerk = bartender. “He congratulated himself that he had filled his pocket from the booze-clerk’s sugar-bowl before the mix came.” Caroline Lockhart, Me—Smith.
buck ague = nervousness while taking aim at deer or other game. “Would you get buck-ague in a pinch and quit me if it came to a show-down? Are you a stayer?” Caroline Lockhart, Me—Smith.
bug-hunter = any stranger engaged in scientific pursuits. “He decided to ride over to the MacDonald ranch that evening and have a look at the bad hombre who masqueraded as a bug-hunter.” Caroline Lockhart, Me—Smith.
buzzard head = a useless or mean horse. “Don’t that look like a reg’lar Injun outfit? One old white horse and a spotted buzzard-head.” Caroline Lockhart, Me—Smith.
dead game = never daunted. “You work along with me, kid, and I’ll make a dead-game one out of you!” Caroline Lockhart, Me—Smith.
digger = a crippled horse. “Ralston’s rope, cutting the air, dropped about the neck of the insignificant, white ‘digger’ that had caused it all.” Caroline Lockhart, Me—Smith.
glanders = an infectious bacterial disease usually found in horses. “‘It’s dum nigh as bad as glanders. Catchin’, too, and I holds that anybody that’s got it bad ought to be dipped and quarantined.” Caroline Lockhart, Me—Smith.
hand running = in a row, successively. “I’ve seen myself in my coffin four times hand-runnin’, when I was wide awake.” Caroline Lockhart, Me—Smith.
hunks = even (as in “to get even”). “Smith’ll never rest till he’s ‘hunks’.” Caroline Lockhart, Me—Smith.
lump-jaw = a fungus infection in forage-eating animals, causing swelling of the jaw. “‘Love is a terrible disease,’ Tubbs spoke with the emphasis of conviction. ‘It’s worse’n lump-jaw er blackleg'.” Caroline Lockhart, Me—Smith.
make a mash = to seduce someone. “‘He’s makin’ a mash,’ said Ling laconically, as he jerked his thumb toward the open door of the living-room.” Caroline Lockhart, Me—Smith.
make medicine = to hold a conference, plan some action. “I’m goin’ down the road to make medicine with the Schoolmarm.” Caroline Lockhart, Me—Smith.
on the peck = fighting mad. “I’m more er less a dang’rous character when I’m on the peck.” Caroline Lockhart, Me—Smith.
Oregon grape root = a tonic and blood purifier. “Why don’t you bile up some Oregon grape-root. That’ll take most anything out of your blood.” Caroline Lockhart, Me—Smith.
plant = a hiding place for stolen goods. “I’ll go with her. It’s no use for me to get to the plant before afternoon.” Caroline Lockhart, Me—Smith.
|Oregon grape, 1917|
queer = spoil the reputation or chances of a person. “‘Look at that dude,’ said Smith contemptuously, viewing the incident through the living-room window. ‘Queerin’ hisself right along. No more sabe than a cotton-tail rabbit.” Caroline Lockhart, Me—Smith.
quit the flat = leave the country. “I got a lickin’ that wasn’t comin’ to me, and I quit the flat when I was thirteen.” Caroline Lockhart, Me—Smith.
rave and cave = quarrel, complain, object. “I don’t row often, but when I does—oh, lordy! lordy! I just raves and caves.” Caroline Lockhart, Me—Smith.
rip up the sod = have a good time; go on a tear. “When we make a stake, we’ll go to Billings and rip up the sod!” Caroline Lockhart, Me—Smith.
roached mane = a horse’s mane, clipped short. “Have you seen a brown horse, with a star in its forehead, roached mane—” Caroline Lockhart, Me—Smith.
scissor-bill = a foolish, incompetent, gossipy, or objectionable person. “He must be some Scissor-Bill from Missouri. They all act like that when they first come out.” Caroline Lockhart, Me—Smith.
side-kicker = partner, accomplice (cf. sidekick). “‘You’re a sassy side-kicker,’ he observed good-humoredly.” Caroline Lockhart, Me—Smith.
snake = drag or pull forcibly. “Here, ketch to my pommel, and I’ll snake you out.” Caroline Lockhart, Me—Smith.
soap hole = a water-saturated pocket of sand, silt, and clay. “‘Bogged down, pardner?’ she inquired in a friendly voice, as she rode up behind and drew rein. ‘I’ve been in that soap-hole myself.’” Caroline Lockhart, Me—Smith.
son-of-a-gun-in-a-sack = a cowboy delicacy made of dried fruit rolled in dough, sewed in a sack, and steamed (aka son-of-a-bitch-in-a-sack). “Once I crawled in a winder and et up a batch of ‘son-of-a-gun-in-a-sack’ that the feller who lived there had jest made.” Caroline Lockhart, Me—Smith.
squeak = to inform against, betray. “‘Looks like somebody squeaked,’ Smith said meaningly to Susie.” Caroline Lockhart, Me—Smith.
sword swallower = one who eats from his knife. “‘Anyway,’ she declared encouragingly. ‘You don’t eat with your knife.’ Smith beamed. ‘Did you notice that?’ ‘Naturally, in a land of sword-swallowers, I would.’” Caroline Lockhart, Me—Smith.
|.22 short cartridge|
22-short = reference to ammunition developed in 1857 for the first Smith & Wesson revolver, so named after the introduction of the .22 long cartridge in 1871. “Tubbs’s mental caliber was 22-short; but Smith needed help, and Tubbs seemed the most pliable material at hand.” Caroline Lockhart, Me—Smith. [Western writer Stan Lynde notes that “.22 short is a weak load, less power and shorter case than a .22 long or long rifle; ‘mental cailbre of .22 short’ would be inferior indeed.”]
yap = a contemptible person. “That yap up there at the top of the hill could have done this for you long ago.” Caroline Lockhart, Me—Smith.
yellow-back = a cheap, novel of derring-do. “‘A Yellow-back,’ Susie explained with gusto in response to McArthur’s puzzled look, ‘is one of these ducks that reads books with buckskin-colored covers, until he gets to thinkin’ that he’s a Bad Man himself.” Caroline Lockhart, Me—Smith.
Image credits: Wikimedia Commons
Coming up: Meek’s Cutoff