Out Where Men are Men
By Dick Perue
The Jan. 1, 1939 Big Horn Mountains edition of The Sheridan Press offers this sage advice.
Editor’s Note – One of the colorful boosters for this land of the Big Horns is Mortimer Milehouse, a loquacious old-timer from Powder River who has long been featured in The Sheridan Press. We introduce him in the Big Horn Mountains edition with the hope his reputation for veracity will not be tarnished.
HOWDY, PARDNER! Dad burn it, I’m shore glad to hear thet you’ve got way out here without bein’ bitten by no rattlesnakes, or being scalped, burned at the stake or branded.
You’ll never live to regret it. Now, don’t go gittin’ panicky, ‘cause I’ve killed my quota of men fer today and put away my shootin’ irons. Shore, I know thet they say thet life is cheap an’ spuds is high out here, but let me tell you, young feller, since we stopped stringin’ up hoss thieves an’ dry gulchin’ Democrats, the undertakin’ business has shore gone to pot.
I reckon you’ve heard tell thet people never dies with their boots off in this diggings. Fact is, this is the healthiest place to grubstake in the hull world. You don’t even git none of thet damp Californy air into your lungs. Yes, sir! We have 365 days of sunshine every year, an’ thet’s a mighty conservative estimate, too.
I allows as how I should know. I’ve lived under them awe-inspirin’ mountains ever since they was built. Cookin’ my own grub an’ livin’ on sun-of-a-gun-in-a-sack, it was a mite lonesome at first in them days when men was men an’ women was scarce. But I wrote fer one of them mail order brides, an’ danged if I didn’t have to shave every day fer a week waiting to greet her, all on account of the stage coach service was so unreliable in them days.
We got everything from cows to cactus, an’ from glaciers to gumbo, an’ you can go around enjoyin’ it without battlin’ yer way into a street car or one of them straight jacket tuxedos.
But out here you got elbow room. A grizzled ol’ cow hand I knowed pulled up the fences around his place, went back east an’ stretched part of the barbed wire around the State of Rhode Island, and then says to the Missus, “There, Sarah, thet ought to be room enough fer you to start a garden.”
I reckon as how you’re doubtin’ my word, but it ain’t no idle gossip thet a neighbor of mine rode out to the other end of his place, and danged if his missus didn’t sue him fer divorce on the grounds of desertion. Thet’s a fact. Humph! One of them dirt farmers from Nebrasky come out here an’ tried to buy a northeast 80, an’ the boys sent him down to the greenhouse, ‘cause they thought he was tryin’ to buy a potted plant.
What’s thet? Waal, Pardner, I ain’t what you’d exactly call a teetotaler. I reckon you heard tell of the danged mean winter of ’87. Waal, I was punchin’ cows fer the Axe Handle spread, an’ we’d lived on nothin’ but hard tack for months. When the spring thaws set in, I was sent to town to git somethin’ fresh, an’ I bought nine quarts of whisky an’ a loaf of bread. When I gits back to camp, the foreman he glares at me an’ says, “What in Hell are we goin’ to do with all thet bread?”
Now, young feller, don’t you go orderin’ no ginger ale fer me. I reckon I better tell you it you want to git along in this country, jest step up an’ say, “Three fingers in a washtub,” or,“One foot in the river bottom,” an’ then you can wander out an’ see some of them beautiful mirages we’ve got out here.