|Montana cowboys, c1910|
These are from Frances McElrath’s The Rustler, about a ranch foreman who goes rogue in Wyoming; Paul Leicester Ford’s The Great K&A Train Robbery, about the theft of some letters from a railway mail car; and Frank Lewis Nason’s To the End of the Trail about gold fever in Colorado. Once again, I struck out on a few. If anyone has a definition for “bad quarter,” “fancy humps,” or “clean bite,” leave a comment below.
Bain wagon = a high-wheeled utility wagon produced from 1840 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. “A number of saddle-horses and Bain wagons and lighter vehicles were hitched to the rail fence in front of the house.” Frances McElrath, The Rustler.
bangtailed = a horse or other animal with its tail cropped square. “He rode upon a diminutive flat saddle on a bangtailed roan.” Frances McElrath, The Rustler.
bird = a first-rate person, animal, thing. “Say! she’s a bird. Little minin’ fever over at Moab. Lot of Eastern men come in there, an’ she picked ’em. Picked ’em clean.” Frank Lewis Nason, To the End of the Trail.
bluecoat = soldier. “I did my best to be good company to the bluecoats, and had a first-class dinner for them on my car.” Paul Leicester Ford, The Great K&A Train Robbery.
Brussels carpet = a kind of carpet with a woolen pile and a stout linen back. “A Brussels-carpet saddle-blanket bound with leather rested on the horse’s back.” Frances McElrath, The Rustler.
bucket shop = an unauthorized office for speculating in stocks or currency using the funds of unwitting investors. “That keeps more men broke than a Wall Street bucket-shop.” Frank Lewis Nason, To the End of the Trail.
button = a fused metal globule, e.g. gold. “I saw the assayer himself. He says it’s straight. Showed me the button.” Frank Lewis Nason, To the End of the Trail.
cave canem = beware the dog. “From behind their barrier of thorns, every plant and shrub bristling a cave canem to the tactless marauders who should seek to prey upon them.” Frank Lewis Nason, To the End of the Trail.
coony = sly, cunning. “‘Ketched Jim, hev’ you,’ said the sheriff; ‘well, you must hev’ been pretty cooney to hev’ done that.’” Frances McElrath, The Rustler.
country rock = a geological term meaning the rock native to an area. “I’m all right now. I’m on country rock.” Frank Lewis Nason, To the End of the Trail.
crash = coarse, thick linen. “It made me open my eyes, thinking that anything so pretty could be used for the same purposes for which I use my crash bath-gown.” Paul Leicester Ford, The Great K&A Train Robbery.
divvy = a share, portion. “I’m onto a lay now that promises to pan big. If it does, I’ll divvy square.” Frank Lewis Nason, To the End of the Trail.
double express = a double-barreled hunting rifle. “My brother and I each have a double express with us, and do you think we’d sit still in our seats?” Paul Leicester Ford, The Great K&A Train Robbery.
draw it easy = an expression of disbelief or derision. “Tough! Say, that’s drawin’ it aisy. LaSals’s good enough for me.” Frank Lewis Nason, To the End of the Trail.
float = gold that is washed or otherwise separated from its source. “Chunks of float that had become detached from the main vein and were mingled with the broken rocks of the slide.” Frank Lewis Nason, To the End of the Trail.
forced draft = proceeding at full speed or intensity. “Lord Ralles by this time was making almost as much noise as an engine pulling a heavy freight up grade under forced draft.” Paul Leicester Ford, The Great K&A Train Robbery.
fox = to ornament with a strip of leather. “He wore . . . dark cassimere trousers ‘foxed’ with buckskin around the waistband and the bottom of the legs, and with diamonds of buckskin on each knee.” Frances McElrath, The Rustler.
harp = harmonica, mouth organ. “The men laughed loudly at his jokes, and one of them accompanied the singing with a ‘harp.’” Frances McElrath, The Rustler.
Horse Shoe = brand of plug tobacco, produced by the Drummond Tobacco Company in St. Louis. “‘Women,’ observed Tips, planting his diminutive, high-heeled boots on the table, and chipping off a bit from his square of horseshoe.” Frances McElrath, The Rustler.
|The Yellow Kid|
jay = a simpleton, novice, newcomer. “Said she wa’n’t flyin’ fur no damned jays.” Frank Lewis Nason, To the End of the Trail.
Jerusalem crickets = a mild expletive. “‘Jerusalem crickets!’ was his comment as he measured the aim.” Paul Leicester Ford, The Great K&A Train Robbery.
lay = any form of enterprise, often fraudulent, illegal, or unethical. “Ain’t one of the girls but ’ud fight ter hold yer up if yer were broke. Wisht I had that lay.” Frank Lewis Nason, To the End of the Trail.
meat = prey, potential victim. “If he’s yer meat, jest say so, and’ I’m mum.” Frank Lewis Nason, To the End of the Trail.
plunge = to spend money or bet recklessly, to run into debt. “Say! But ye’re the stuff! Always light on yer feet. Gawd! How yer used ter plunge, too.” Frank Lewis Nason, To the End of the Trail.
round up = to get or accumulate. “I’ll chip in now, and more when I round up.” Frank Lewis Nason, To the End of the Trail.
runner = engineer of a railroad train. “I described to her how sometimes the train was flagged by a danger signal, and when it had slowed down the runner found himself covered by armed men.” Paul Leicester Ford, The Great K&A Train Robbery.
sinker = a dollar. “Got ten thousand sinkers, an’ ninety thousand more coming.” Frank Lewis Nason, To the End of the Trail.
Sisera = an oppressor of the ancient Israelites, finally defeated in battle, where it is reported even the stars fought against him (Judges 5:20). “It’s always darkest before the dawn, and the stars in their courses are against Sisera.” Paul Leicester Ford, The Great K&A Train Robbery.
stuff = woolen fabric. “‘I’m tendin’ the calves,’ she added, hastily slipping her book into the pocket of her dark stuff dress.” Frances McElrath, The Rustler.
take a flyer = to take a chance or a risk. “I’ve taken fliers in prospecting; I’m out of it for keeps.” Frank Lewis Nason, To the End of the Trail.
taradiddle = a petty lie. “Considering that it was about six-thirty, I wanted to ask who was telling a taradiddle now.” Paul Leicester Ford, The Great K&A Train Robbery.
tip the wink = to warn. “By merely tipping them the wink, they’ll have you out of this.” Paul Leicester Ford, The Great K&A Train Robbery.
traveling glass = a drinking glass with carrying case; drinking cup with lid. “I screwed the cover on the traveling-glass, and put it with the sandwiches in the bottom of the stage.” Paul Leicester Ford, The Great K&A Train Robbery.
trig = neat, trim, smart, well dressed. “When the trig-looking couple galloped up to the dingy ranch she was standing in the doorway.” Frances McElrath, The Rustler.
traps = personal effects, belongings, baggage. “Mike got a few necessary traps together and started.” Frank Lewis Nason, To the End of the Trail.
trump = an admirable person. “That’s what I call a trump of a girl, worth loving for a lifetime.” Paul Leicester Ford, The Great K&A Train Robbery.
Image credits: Wikimedia Commons
Coming up: Spencer Tracy, The Sea of Grass (1947)
I still use "divvy." I remember bangtail too although I'd forgotten it until you mentioned it here.ReplyDelete
I am adopting Hully Gee from this day onward.ReplyDelete
I always love reading these lists, Ron. Thanks for putting them together.ReplyDelete
The term "taradiddle" sounds familiar but no, I don't think I've heard it before. More likely, it's just so perfect for the meaning that it seems familiar.
Where I'm from, "country rock" means home ground, where you know the lay of the land, where to find water, and what varmints to avoid.
Love all the euphemistic expletives for JC --Never heard "Jerusalem crickets" in real life, but naturally "Jiminy Crickets!" and, my great-aunt's favorite: "Jeeminy Christmas!" From there, the evolution continued as "Jeeminy" became "Jeez-Marie!" Fun stuff.ReplyDelete
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