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Deadwood From Mt. Moriah, 1888



PECULIARLY DEXTEROUS WITH THE KNIFE.


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A RELIC OF OLDEN TIMES

A TYPE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION -- A MAN WHO IS NEVER CROWDED AND WHOSE WISH IS A DEMAND.

Newspaper Account / May 29, 1886

ST. LOUIS, May 29. -- To an Eastern man this city is full of surprises. If he hail from New-York they are accepted in a nothing-new-under-the-sun manner. If, on the other hand, he claims Boston as his starting point in life, he is less successful in concealing his astonishment. But in either case the surprises are none the less genuine. Before a New-Yorker becomes domiciled he finds as he walks the streets that he attracts some attention. He is in doubt for a while whether to attribute it to his beauty or style, but discovers, in time, that it is simply his walk. St. Louis people saunter; they do not rush. A fire is quite as much of an attraction here as in other places, but people do not run to fires, they walk or wait for a street car. Even reporters do not run to fires here, and if the street cars have retired for the night the reporter calmly hires a cab and methodically charges it to the office. A great deal of business is transacted here, but it is done in an easy-going way. There is no hurry, and a customer is not raced from floor to floor at record-breaking speed and forced to accomplish a week's work in a day and sent home feeling badly in need of a vacation. Business men do not merely exist here, they live.

It may be the atmosphere and it may be the beer or whisky, but even a short residence here has a wonderful moderating effect on the wildest and most exuberant spirits. A man from the plains drops into the city to-day attired in the most approved cowboy fashion, with the butts of two silver mounted revolvers appearing above the band of his trousers. Here it might be proper to state that few gentlemen west of the Mississippi carry a revolver in the hip pocket. The fashion is obsolete. Necessity renders it so. It is considered unwise to carry anything in the hip pocket in this section, for a motion in that direction is apt to be considered poor taste, and to result in the insertion in the person who makes it of a piece of lead. The lead will range in calibre from No. 32 to No. 45, generally No. 45, because people who carry "guns" have an apparent weakness for large bores. After a week's residence the cowboy will cut several inches off the rim of his slouch hat and in various other ways will demonstrate that he feels the influence of civilization. In a month's time he will pass in a crowd for a native, though if he be a celebrated character in his own country his reputation may stick to him and the stranger may be regaled with the choicest incidents in his earlier career. Men who have killed their man are not scarce here, but they cannot be distinguished at a glance. They are generally mild-mannered, when not in liquor, and their language, if tinged with a wild Western flavor, is free from profanity except on rare occasions; on these they dissipate any doubt that might be entertained of their ability in this direction to discount any man who has been reared in the effete East.


Three men sat in the magnificent rotunda of the Southern Hotel last evening. One of them did all the talking. He was telling his companions of old times on the Mississippi. He ought to have felt highly complimented at the close attention paid to him by his companions. He may have been, but he did not show it. He spoke in a deliberate manner, and his talk was full of queer similes. The trio sat near the centre of the rotunda and facing the bar, but some distance from it. Every one who passed looked at the trio, particularly at the man who talked of old times on the Mississippi, and the numbers nodded to him and said, "How are you, General?" "Good evening, Sir," with considerable emphasis on the "Sir" was the "General's" invariable reply. At a distance he looked like a well-preserved man of 50, of medium height, and rather stocky build. His hair was long, black, and shining; it was also wavy and turned in in a roll at the bottom. His mustache was jet black; so black, indeed, that against the red of his skin its hue was strongly suggestive of dye. His complexion was that of a drinker; of a man who began his day with a cocktail, and was careful to absorb a certain quantity of whisky in every hour he spent out of bed. Finally the three rose from their chairs and approached the bar. As they did so it was noticeable that they were allowed plenty of room. Even those who were polite to the "General" seemed to shrink from him, and when he reached the bar there was nobody in front of it within reaching distance. The "General's" companions ordered whisky. He simply said, "Gimme liquor."

The barkeeper, an athletic young man, wonderfully suave in his normal condition, but dangerous when roused, backed away from his three customers until he brought up against the rear of the handsome bar. When he received their orders he walked some distance from them and dextrously slid bottles and glasses along the polished counter. It became necessary to supply them with glasses of water; not that they needed water, or would under any circumstances drink it, but the usage of polite society demanded that they should be furnished with it. The barkeeper filled three glasses, still keeping his distance. Then he carried them to a point exactly opposite the "General," and holding them out at arms' length, placed them on the counter. The "General," of course, notices the peculiar tactics of the "barkeep," but made no comments, and soon returned with his companions to his former position.

"It looks like a bad night for me," was the remark of the barkeeper to a guest who called for a little whisky and lemon.

"Why?" inquired the guest.

"See that man who just left here?" queried the barkeeper. "The man with the shiny black hair and good clothes. You did. Worst man in town when he's full. That's Gen. Bill Rider. Carries a knife. Getting old, but quick as a cat and tricky as a mule."

The startling information was given in sections as the barkeeper put his house in order and made things ready for the next rush.

"Ever draw it on you?" inquired the guest.

"See that," replied the barkeeper, exhibiting a full grown "billy," "and that," pulling out a drawer and giving the guest a sight of a "bulldog" revolver. "Always keep those handy," he added, "when the General stands against the bar. He asked me to come outside one night, but I preferred to kill him from my own side of the counter. He went off and has been pleasant ever since, but he gets all the room he wants when I meet him. He's got a plan that has always worked beautifully. He won't cut a man in the usual way; too sharp for that. Cut a man in strips in Arkansaw and was honorably acquitted. How? Well the General had a fuss with a driver. He worked his plan. He made the driver so mad that he struck the General. Then they closed. The crowd saw the General was in the wrong, and when the two men closed and the General began to yell, 'Take him off,' the crowd thought the driver was getting in his work. The crowd was mistaken. It didn't know the General, and it let him yell 'Take him off' until it thought the General was pretty well done up. Then somebody cried out, 'Time,' and the crowd stopped the fight. They took the driver off. It wasn't hard work, for as soon as the General let go the driver fell down. The Coroner found 16 cuts on him. You see while the General was yelling 'Take him off' he was sticking his knife into him in his best style and hugging him close at the same time. Oh, yes, the General was arrested and he was tried, but everybody who saw the fight was compelled to testify that the General yelled 'Take him off' from the first round to the wind-up, and he was acquitted."

The General is always well dressed. Like the lily he does not work - and as he is not known to possess any rich relatives wonder is occasionally expressed that he is always seemingly in funds. It is said that to his dexterity with the knife may be ascribed the good fortune which renders work in his case unnecessary. Everybody knows the General and his strong point, and an insinuation from him is considered quite equal to the demand, with cash, of anybody else. Should he cast a longing eye at any particularly fine piece of wearing apparel it becomes his as a gift, so the story goes, so that altogether the General has a comparatively easy row to hoe, though his peculiar accomplishments may shut him out from polite society.


 

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