Monday, October 22, 2012

Old West glossary, no. 46

Here’s another set of terms 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, and The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary.

These are from Edgar Beecher Bronson’s frontier memoir, Reminiscences of a Ranchman, and Nancy Mann Waddell Woodrow’s The New Missioner, about domestic affairs in a Colorado mining camp. Once again, I struck out on a few. If anyone has a definition for “red-sasher,” “loose-tail,” “pea-warmer,” “gun bluff,” or “saucer pie,” leave a comment below.


Mexican peso, 1869
adobe dollar = an object of little value; the Mexican peso. “Hits ’dobe dollars t’ tlacos we’ll either stampoodle that bunch ’thout throwin’ lead or else get t’ dance on their graves.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, Reminiscences of a Ranchman.

brush splitter = a cowboy skilled at rounding up cattle in brush country. “For an outfit of thoroughbred Texas brush-splitters a tenderfoot owner was bad enough, always the object of ill-concealed distrust and contempt.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, Reminiscences of a Ranchman.

maguey with carajo stem
carajo pole = a goad or walking stick made from the tall, upright stem of the maguey, a type of agave. “Th’ boss music-maker on a perch in th’ middle of th’ bunch, shakin’ a little carajo pole to beat hell at any of th’ outfit that wa’n’t workin’ to suit him.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, Reminiscences of a Ranchman.

Cocky-Locky = one of the fowl who join Chicken Little in raising the alarm that the sky is falling. “The four, in a somewhat cocky-locky, goosey-poosey procession, set out for the home of Silas Evans.” Nancy Mann Waddell Woodrow’s The New Missioner.

cold blazer = a bluff. “There was nothing for it but a cold blazer, so I remarked, with a struggle for a grin that made the muscles of my face ache: ‘Well, Mac, you are a flour-flusher!’” Edgar Beecher Bronson, Reminiscences of a Ranchman.

d. f. = damned fool. “Air you a-jumpin’ on us ’cause Marthy Thomas is a d.f.?” Nancy Mann Waddell Woodrow’s The New Missioner.

dilberry = a stupid, dull, or obnoxious person. “Fine bunch o’ dilberries, we-uns, a lettin’ him fetch us out ’n’ set us afoot th’ first ten days!” Edgar Beecher Bronson, Reminiscences of a Ranchman.

dope = grease, lubricant. “I’ll make that d—d or’nery Con Humphreys kill the biggest maverick in the bunch ’n’ write yu on th’ inside o’ hit’s hide, wi’ wagon dope fo’ ink ’n’ his pinted ole nose fo’ a pen.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, Reminiscences of a Ranchman.

funk = to shirk, fight shy of. “On a less heroic horse than ‘Stocking’ I day say I should have funked running squarely in the lead of the bloody, heaving, hideous mass hard upon our heels.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, Reminiscences of a Ranchman.

galley west = askew, crooked, scattered in all directions. “Young bucks lit all over each offered horse like flies, only to be kicked or tossed galley west.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, Reminiscences of a Ranchman.

Chicken Little characters, 1915
Goosey-Poosey = one of the fowl who join Chicken Little in raising the alarm that the sky is falling. “The four, in a somewhat cocky-locky, goosey-poosey procession, set out for the home of Silas Evans.” Nancy Mann Waddell Woodrow’s The New Missioner.

gum = a long rubber boot. “Let me help you off with your gums, Missioner.” Nancy Mann Waddell Woodrow’s The New Missioner.

hell-a-ta-tilt = at full speed. “Here came the Brulés, hell-a-ta-tilt, quirts pounding on straining shoulders, moccasined heels drumming on heaving flanks.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, Reminiscences of a Ranchman.

june around = to become restless. “Ef that bunch gets t’ junin’ ’round when yu jumps ’em, ’n’ yu caint eat ’em up fast ’nough by y’ur lonesome, Cress ’n’ me’ll jest nachally lie in ’n’ he’p yu chew up th’ hull passle.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, Reminiscences of a Ranchman.

lally/lolly cooler = someone or something successful or admirable. “An’ she was a shore lally-cooler all right! More prittys about th’ fixin’ up o’ that house than I’d allowed anything but a woman could pack.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, Reminiscences of a Ranchman.

light-o’-love = a woman inconstant in love. “‘His palace,’ came the arresting, accusing, stern tones of Campbell, ‘the palace that he built for his light-o’love.’” Nancy Mann Waddell Woodrow’s The New Missioner.

listeners = ears. “His listeners ’peared t’ be workin’ all right, fo’ sometimes he’d loosen up t’ th’ extent o’ a ‘yes’ o’ ‘nop,’ but that was all.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, Reminiscences of a Ranchman.

Walt Whitman, c1887
long brown path = reference to Walt Whitman’s “the long brown path that leads wherever I choose” from Song of the Open Road. “She was one of those restless, variable beings to whom the ‘long, brown path,’ with its thousand possibilities and surprises, makes an irresistible appeal.” Nancy Mann Waddell Woodrow’s The New Missioner.

mint and anise and cumin = reference to Jesus’ warning to the scribes and Pharisees: “Ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith.” “Mrs. Landvetter sighed with relief. She had paid her mint and anise and cumin to Mrs. Grundy.” Nancy Mann Waddell Woodrow’s The New Missioner.

mossback = a longhorn whose horns have wrinkled with age; an old wrinkled cowman. “Here’s two mighty slick ol’ long-horn mossbacks you wants to be po’ful shy of.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, Reminiscences of a Ranchman.

peacock = a mineral consisting of sulfides of copper and iron that is found in copper deposits. “‘Fine,’ said Mrs. Landvetter, leisurely examining the specimens. ‘Great. Dere’s a streak of peacock.’” Nancy Mann Waddell Woodrow’s The New Missioner.

pin pool = a variety of the game of billiards in which small wooden pins are set up to be knocked down by the balls. “Gusts of hurricane force that blew open the north door of the dining-room, picked up a great pin-pool board standing across a biscuit-shooting opening in the partition.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, Reminiscences of a Ranchman.

plum duff = a heavy pudding of flour, water, suet, and raisins or currants, boiled in a cloth or bag. “Marthy remembered your taste, Jack; und a half dozen of Mis’ Effens’s saucer pies, all kinds; und six of mein meat turn-ofers, und plumy duff, und a loaf of salt risin’, und a loaf of plain bread.” Nancy Mann Waddell Woodrow’s The New Missioner.

put on side = to exhibit self-importance. “I expect soon to see many men turning the soil with ploughshares who to-day are making a devil of a racket and putting on a tremendous lot of side over their cattle shares!” Edgar Beecher Bronson, Reminiscences of a Ranchman.

quarter = to move in a slanting direction. “A nor’easter was blowin’ we’d a had to go quarterin’ agin t’ git home.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, Reminiscences of a Ranchman.

rawhide = a Texas cowboy. “I doubt if I ever should have succeeded in persuading an outfit of real rawhides to ride out under my leadership but for dear old Tex.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, Reminiscences of a Ranchman.

run a blazer = to try to deceive someone. “The disfigurement was so plainly obvious that it seemed evident the rustlers planned to run a blazer on us.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, Reminiscences of a Ranchman.

snakeroot = an herb growing in rich, shady woods; taken as a stimulant and tonic and believed to be an antidote for bites of snakes and mad dogs. “Myrtle Swanstrom was askin’ me the other day what I thought of marriage. ‘It’s a quick jump,’ I says, ‘ from molasses to snake-root.” Nancy Mann Waddell Woodrow’s The New Missioner.

(CC) Helmutbrenner
“Sobre las Olas” = a popular waltz by Mexican composer Juventino Rosas (1868-1894). “The fiddles stopped their cruel liberties with the beautiful measures of Sobre las Olas, and Buck led his panting partner up to our group and courteously introduced us.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, Reminiscences of a Ranchman. Listen here.

sooner = a person who jumps the gun; someone who settled homestead land before it was officially made available; someone branding cattle before the date set by the roundup association. “Didn’t I tell yu that ef our Ol’ Man wa’n’t nothin’ but a little ol’ tende’foot kid, he’d make a sooner, poco tiempo?” Edgar Beecher Bronson, Reminiscences of a Ranchman.

strikes, the = hysteria. “I’ve seen a man sit with his feet up on the kitchen stove readin’ a newspaper an’ never turnin’ a hair, while his wife was screamin’ herself black in the face with the strikes in the next room.” Nancy Mann Waddell Woodrow’s The New Missioner.

thews = muscle, strength, vigor. “Somehow his mighty strength of will and thews got into mine, and lead them all we did.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, Reminiscences of a Ranchman.

thorough braces = strips of leather cured to the toughness of steel and strung in pairs to support the body of a coach and enable it to swing back and forth. “In rolled the old thorough-brace coach and its puffing, steaming team of six.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, Reminiscences of a Ranchman.

trammer = a mineworker who operates a tram, a box-like wagon on rails. “I could be making two hundred dollars, three hundred dollars, five hundred dollars a month, if the trammers wasn’t kept busy in another part of the mine.” Nancy Mann Waddell Woodrow’s The New Missioner.

walk-down = a method of catching wild horses by following them until they are exhausted. “They were so worn and tired they marched up to and through the corral gate like a bunch of wild horses after a ‘nine-day walk-down.’” Edgar Beecher Bronson, Reminiscences of a Ranchman.

zacaton = forage grass, native to dry regions of the U.S. and Mexico. “A short-horn, stall-fed Yankee like yu-all, that don’t know mesquite from zacaton.” Edgar Beecher Bronson, Reminiscences of a Ranchman.

Image credits:
Wikimedia Commons
Portrait of Walt Whitman by Thomas Eakins (1844-1916)

Coming up: James Arness, Gun the Man Down, 1956

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