O'henry — modern rural sports
MODERN RURAL SPORTS
Jeff Peters must be reminded. Whenever he is called upon, pointedly,
for a story, he will maintain that his life has been as devoid of
incident as the longest of Trollope's novels. But lured, he will
divulge. Therefore I cast many and divers flies upon the current of
his thoughts before I feel a nibble.
"I notice," said I, "that the Western farmers, in spite of their
prosperity, are running after their old populistic idols again."
"It's the running season," said Jeff, "for farmers, shad, maple trees
and the Connemaugh river. I know something about farmers. I thought I
struck one once that had got out of the rut; but Andy Tucker proved to
me I was mistaken. 'Once a farmer, always a sucker,' said Andy. 'He's
the man that's shoved into the front row among bullets, ballots and
the ballet. He's the funny-bone and gristle of the country,' said
Andy, 'and I don't know who we would do without him.'
"One morning me and Andy wakes up with sixty-eight cents between us
in a yellow pine hotel on the edge of the pre-digested hoe-cake belt
of Southern Indiana. How we got off the train there the night before
I can't tell you; for she went through the village so fast that what
looked like a saloon to us through the car window turned out to be a
composite view of a drug store and a water tank two blocks apart. Why
we got off at the first station we could, belongs to a little oroide
gold watch and Alaska diamond deal we failed to pull off the day
before, over the Kentucky line.
"When I woke up I heard roosters crowing, and smelt something like the
fumes of nitro-muriatic acid, and heard something heavy fall on the
floor below us, and a man swearing.
"'Cheer up, Andy,' says I. 'We're in a rural community. Somebody has
just tested a gold brick downstairs. We'll go out and get what's
coming to us from a farmer; and then yoicks! and away.'
"Farmers was always a kind of reserve fund to me. Whenever I was
in hard luck I'd go to the crossroads, hook a finger in a farmer's
suspender, recite the prospectus of my swindle in a mechanical kind of
a way, look over what he had, give him back his keys, whetstone and
papers that was of no value except to owner, and stroll away without
asking any questions. Farmers are not fair game to me as high up in
our business as me and Andy was; but there was times when we found 'em
useful, just as Wall Street does the Secretary of the Treasury now and
"When we went down stairs we saw we was in the midst of the finest
farming section we ever see. About two miles away on a hill was a
big white house in a grove surrounded by a wide-spread agricultural
agglomeration of fields and barns and pastures and out-houses.
"'Whose house is that?' we asked the landlord.
"'That,' says he, 'is the domicile and the arboreal, terrestrial
and horticultural accessories of Farmer Ezra Plunkett, one of our
county's most progressive citizens.'
"After breakfast me and Andy, with eight cents capital left, casts the
horoscope of the rural potentate.
"'Let me go alone,' says I. 'Two of us against one farmer would look
as one-sided as Roosevelt using both hands to kill a grizzly.'
"'All right,' says Andy. 'I like to be a true sport even when I'm only
collecting rebates from the rutabag raisers. What bait are you going
to use for this Ezra thing?' Andy asks me.
"'Oh,' I says, 'the first thing that come to hand in the suit case. I
reckon I'll take along some of the new income tax receipts, and the