“This town whiskey,” Clem said, “why don’t ya pack it along? A little warmin’ sip on the trail seems a right pleasant thing to have.”
Smitty emitted a snort for a laugh. “Ain’t mine. It belonged to Davis, the segundo back there in the dirt next to your friend.” He tucked his pipe in a shirt pocket. “But I know where he hid it.”
New Words of the West
C.J. once had a teacher tell him there was no such thing as a stupid question. The teacher was wrong. There were plenty of stupid “whys” and “how comes,” and he hated exposing his ignorance even as he asked.
“What’s a segundo?”
Smitty lifted his shoulders and dropped them. “It’s a … uh … he’s kind of a ramrod, see? The real straw boss is back at the ranch house and makes rounds, but the rest of us call our drivers that, too.”
“Why? What’s it mean?”
Smitty shot a glance at C.J. “You a greenhorn?”
Waiting For an Answer
Clem spoke up. “He’s an Indian fighter. Something of a loner. You gonna answer his question?”
Smitty retrieved his pipe and tapped it against his teeth. As they came to a clearing, he pointed with the stem. “Prairie dogs.”
C.J. didn’t see anything until a movement caught his eye. A golden flash that stopped running and stood on its hind legs. Once he spotted the foot-high rodent, he saw them everywhere. Most of them were standing, some watching the riders.
Bare spots in the meadow exposed dens like giant anthills. Occasionally, a sentinel standing near the hole would drop and disappear into the safety of the burrow.
“You were gonna answer Indian Fighter’s question,” Clem reminded their new pardner.
“I’m giving some advice here, OK?” Smitty leaned to one side and twisted in the saddle to look at C.J. “You gotta be on the lookout for them dogs. A horse’ll break a leg steppin’ into one of those holes.”
Heckling or Questioning
C.J. appreciated the information, but he picked up on Clem’s insistence of badgering Smitty for an answer. Enjoying the orneriness of pinning Smitty down and wanting to join in, he asked, “So, what’s segundo mean?”
C.J. wasn’t the only one who hated displaying a lack of knowledge. Evidently, Smitty had a strong aversion to confessing his. The range rider gave a grand wave of his hand and said, “It’s a Mexican word, and like so many of that particular language, it has no real meanin’, see? It’s just a word come from them ‘cause they don’t know how to speak good.”
“Oh,” C.J. said. “Like saying something’s a doodad, huh?”
Smitty nodded emphatically. “Yeah, like that.”
“So, your boss was Doodad Davis?”
The edge of Smitty’s ear poking through his scraggly hair showed a tinge of red. “Real funny, boy.”
“We’d best get let it go,” Clem said. “Don’t want no stirred up feelings before we take to drinkin’. The Devil’s Brew has a way of puttin’ cantankerous men on the fight.”
“Right,” Smitty said. “Ain’t no use frettin’ over a word that don’t have no meanin’ anyhow.”
Clem licked his lips. “Segundo means ‘second.’ How much farther?”
C.J. grinned. He couldn’t help it. Such beautiful country, enjoyable pards, the promise of shelter—the perfect setup.
What do you think can go wrong for C.J.? Leave your comment now.
Here is a short video which includes prairie dogs encountering a rattlesnake.
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