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0100_005E A Mountain Woman Elia W. Peattie

The Three Johns

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"That's so," the other admitted. "I'm just down from Montana. Came to take up a quarter section. Where I come from we give men a show, an' I thought perhaps yeh did th' same here."

"Why, yes," admitted Gillispie, "we do. But I don't want folks to laugh too much -- not when I'm around -- unless they tell me what the joke is. I was just mentioning it to the gentleman," he added, dryly.

"So I saw," said the other; "you're kind a emphatic in yer remarks. Yeh ought to give the gentleman a chance to git used to the ways of th' country. He'll be as tough as th' rest of us if you'll give him a chance. I kin see it in him."

"Thank you," said Henderson. "I'm glad you do me justice. I wish you wouldn't let daylight through me till I've had a chance to get my quarter section. I'm going to be one of you, either as a live man or a corpse. But I prefer a hundred and sixty acres of land to six feet of it."

"There, now!" triumphantly cried the squat man. "Didn't I tell yeh? Give him a show! 'Tain't no fault of his that he's a tenderfoot. He'll get over that."

Gillispie shook hands with first one and then the other of the men. "It's a square deal from this on," he said. "Come and have a drink."

That's how they met -- John Henderson, John Gillispie, and John Waite. And a week later they were putting up a shanty together for common use, which overlapped each of their reservations, and satisfied the law with its sociable subterfuge.

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The life wasn't bad, Henderson decided; and he adopted all the ways of the country in an astonishingly short space of time. There was a freedom about it all which was certainly complete. The three alternated in the night watch. Once a week one of them went to town for provisions. They were not good at the making of bread, so they contented themselves with hot cakes. Then there was salt pork for a staple, and prunes. They slept in straw-lined bunks, with warm blankets for a covering. They made a point of bringing reading-matter back from town every week, and there were always cards to fall back on, and Waite sang songs for them with natural dramatic talent.

Nevertheless, in spite of their contentment, none of them was sorry when the opportunity offered for going to town. There was always a bit of stirring gossip to be picked up, and now and then there was a "show" at the "opera-house," in which, it is almost unnecessary to say, no opera had ever been sung. Then there was the hotel, at which one not only got good fare, but a chat with the three daughters of Jim O'Neal, the proprietor -- girls with the accident of two Irish parents, who were, notwithstanding, as typically American as they well could be. A half-hour's talk with these cheerful young women was all the more to be desired for the reason that within riding distance of the three Johns' ranch there were only two other women. One was Minerva Fitch, who had gone out from Michigan accompanied by an oil-stove and a knowledge of the English grammar, with the intention of teaching school, but who had been unable to carry these good intentions into execution for the reason that there were no children to teach, -- at least, none but Bow-legged Joe. He was a sad little fellow, who looked like a prairie-dog, and who had very much the same sort of an outlook on life. The other woman was the brisk and efficient wife of Mr. Bill Deems, of "Missourah." Mr. Deems had never in his life done anything, not even so much as bring in a basket of buffalo chips to supply the scanty fire. That is to say, he had done nothing strictly utilitarian. Yet he filled his place. He was the most accomplished story-teller in the whole valley, and this accomplishment of his was held in as high esteem as the improvisations of a Welsh minstrel were among his reverencing people. His wife alone deprecated his skill, and interrupted his spirited narratives with sarcastic allusions concerning the empty cupboard, and the "state of her back," to which, as she confided to any who would listen, "there was not a rag fit to wear."

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A Mountain Woman
Elia W. Peattie

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