While we were rounding up a bunch of the Triangle-O cattle in the Frio
bottoms a projecting branch of a dead mesquite caught my wooden
stirrup and gave my ankle a wrench that laid me up in camp for a week.
On the third day of my compulsory idleness I crawled out near the grub
wagon, and reclined helpless under the conversational fire of Judson
Odom, the camp cook. Jud was a monologist by nature, whom Destiny,
with customary blundering, had set in a profession wherein he was
bereaved, for the greater portion of his time, of an audience.
Therefore, I was manna in the desert of Jud's obmutescence.
Betimes I was stirred by invalid longings for something to eat that
did not come under the caption of "grub." I had visions of the
maternal pantry "deep as first love, and wild with all regret," and
then I asked:
"Jud, can you make pancakes?"
Jud laid down his six-shooter, with which he was preparing to pound an
antelope steak, and stood over me in what I felt to be a menacing
attitude. He further endorsed my impression that his pose was
resentful by fixing upon me with his light blue eyes a look of cold
"Say, you," he said, with candid, though not excessive, choler, "did
you mean that straight, or was you trying to throw the gaff into me?
Some of the boys been telling you about me and that pancake racket?"
"No, Jud," I said, sincerely, "I meant it. It seems to me I'd swap my
pony and saddle for a stack of buttered brown pancakes with some first
crop, open kettle, New Orleans sweetening. Was there a story about
Jud was mollified at once when he saw that I had not been dealing in
allusions. He brought some mysterious bags and tin boxes from the grub
wagon and set them in the shade of the hackberry where I lay reclined.
I watched him as he began to arrange them leisurely and untie their
"No, not a story," said Jud, as he worked, "but just the logical
disclosures in the case of me and that pink-eyed snoozer from Mired
Mule Canada and Miss Willella Learight. I don't mind telling you.
"I was punching then for old Bill Toomey, on the San Miguel. One day I
gets all ensnared up in aspirations for to eat some canned grub that
hasn't ever mooed or baaed or grunted or been in peck measures. So, I
gets on my bronc and pushes the wind for Uncle Emsley Telfair's store
at the Pimienta Crossing on the Nueces.
"About three in the afternoon I throwed my bridle rein over a mesquite
limb and walked the last twenty yards into Uncle Emsley's store. I got
up on the counter and told Uncle Emsley that the signs pointed to the
devastation of the fruit crop of the world. In a minute I had a bag of
crackers and a long-handled spoon, with an open can each of apricots
and pineapples and cherries and greengages beside of me with Uncle
Emsley busy chopping away with the hatchet at the yellow clings. I was
feeling like Adam before the apple stampede, and was digging my spurs
into the side of the counter and working with my twenty-four-inch
spoon when I happened to look out of the window into the yard of Uncle
Emsley's house, which was next to the store.
"There was a girl standing there--an imported girl with fixings on--
philandering with a croquet maul and amusing herself by watching my
style of encouraging the fruit canning industry.
"I slid off the counter and delivered up my shovel to Uncle Emsley.
"'That's my niece,' says he; 'Miss Willella Learight, down from
Palestine on a visit. Do you want that I should make you acquainted?'
"'The Holy Land,' I says to myself, my thoughts milling some as I
tried to run 'em into the corral. 'Why not? There was sure angels in
Pales--Why, yes, Uncle Emsley,' I says out loud, 'I'd be awful edified
to meet Miss Learight.'
"So Uncle Emsley took me out in the yard and gave us each other's
"I never was shy about women. I never could understand why some men
who can break a mustang before breakfast and shave in the dark, get
all left-handed and full of perspiration and excuses when they see a
bold of calico draped around what belongs to it. Inside of eight
minutes me and Miss Willella was aggravating the croquet balls around
as amiable as second cousins. She gave me a dig about the quantity of
canned fruit I had eaten, and I got back at her, flat-footed, about
how a certain lady named Eve started the fruit trouble in the first
free-grass pasture--'Over in Palestine, wasn't it?' says I, as easy
and pat as roping a one-year-old.
"That was how I acquired cordiality for the proximities of Miss
Willella Learight; and the disposition grew larger as time passed. She
was stopping at Pimienta Crossing for her health, which was very good,
and for the climate, which was forty per cent. hotter than Palestine.
I rode over to see her once every week for a while; and then I figured
it out that if I doubled the number of trips I would see her twice as
"One week I slipped in a third trip; and that's where the pancakes and
the pink-eyed snoozer busted into the game.
"That evening, while I set on the counter with a peach and two damsons
in my mouth, I asked Uncle Emsley how Miss Willella was.
"'Why,' says Uncle Emsley, 'she's gone riding with Jackson Bird, the
sheep man from over at Mired Mule Canada.'
"I swallowed the peach seed and the two damson seeds. I guess somebody
held the counter by the bridle while I got off; and then I walked out
straight ahead till I butted against the mesquite where my roan was
"'She's gone riding,' I whisper in my bronc's ear, 'with Birdstone
Jack, the hired mule from Sheep Man's Canada. Did you get that, old
"That bronc of mine wept, in his way. He'd been raised a cow pony and
he didn't care for snoozers.
"I went back and said to Uncle Emsley: 'Did you say a sheep man?'
"'I said a sheep man,' says Uncle Emsley again. 'You must have heard
tell of Jackson Bird. He's got eight sections of grazing and four
thousand head of the finest Merinos south of the Arctic Circle.'
"I went out and sat on the ground in the shade of the store and leaned
against a prickly pear. I sifted sand into my boots with unthinking
hands while I soliloquised a quantity about this bird with the Jackson
plumage to his name.
"I never had believed in harming sheep men. I see one, one day,
reading a Latin grammar on hossback, and I never touched him! They
never irritated me like they do most cowmen. You wouldn't go to work
now, and impair and disfigure snoozers, would you, that eat on tables
and wear little shoes and speak to you on subjects? I had always let
'em pass, just as you would a jack-rabbit; with a polite word and a
guess about the weather, but no stopping to swap canteens. I never
thought it was worth while to be hostile with a snoozer. And because
I'd been lenient, and let 'em live, here was one going around riding
with Miss Willella Learight!
"An hour by sun they come loping back, and stopped at Uncle Emsley's
gate. The sheep person helped her off; and they stood throwing each
other sentences all sprightful and sagacious for a while. And then
this feathered Jackson flies up in his saddle and raises his little
stewpot of a hat, and trots off in the direction of his mutton ranch.
By this time I had turned the sand out of my boots and unpinned myself
from the prickly pear; and by the time he gets half a mile out of
Pimienta, I singlefoots up beside him on my bronc.
"I said that snoozer was pink-eyed, but he wasn't. His seeing
arrangement was grey enough, but his eye-lashes was pink and his hair
was sandy, and that gave you the idea. Sheep man?--he wasn't more than
a lamb man, anyhow--a little thing with his neck involved in a yellow
silk handkerchief, and shoes tied up in bowknots.
"'Afternoon!' says I to him. 'You now ride with a equestrian who is
commonly called Dead-Moral-Certainty Judson, on account of the way I
shoot. When I want a stranger to know me I always introduce myself
before the draw, for I never did like to shake hands with ghosts.'
"'Ah,' says he, just like that--'Ah, I'm glad to know you, Mr. Judson.
I'm Jackson Bird, from over at Mired Mule Ranch.'
"Just then one of my eyes saw a roadrunner skipping down the hill with
a young tarantula in his bill, and the other eye noticed a rabbit-hawk
sitting on a dead limb in a water-elm. I popped over one after the
other with my forty-five, just to show him. 'Two out of three,' says
I. 'Birds just naturally seem to draw my fire wherever I go.'
"'Nice shooting,' says the sheep man, without a flutter. 'But don't
you sometimes ever miss the third shot? Elegant fine rain that was
last week for the young grass, Mr. Judson?' says he.
"'Willie,' says I, riding over close to his palfrey, 'your infatuated
parents may have denounced you by the name of Jackson, but you sure
moulted into a twittering Willie--let us slough off this here analysis
of rain and the elements, and get down to talk that is outside the
vocabulary of parrots. That is a bad habit you have got of riding with
young ladies over at Pimienta. I've known birds,' says I, 'to be
served on toast for less than that. Miss Willella,' says I, 'don't
ever want any nest made out of sheep's wool by a tomtit of the
Jacksonian branch of ornithology. Now, are you going to quit, or do
you wish for to gallop up against this Dead-Moral-Certainty attachment
to my name, which is good for two hyphens and at least one set of
"Jackson Bird flushed up some, and then he laughed.
"'Why, Mr. Judson,' says he, 'you've got the wrong idea. I've called
on Miss Learight a few times; but not for the purpose you imagine. My
object is purely a gastronomical one.'
"I reached for my gun.
"'Any coyote,' says I, 'that would boast of dishonourable--'
"'Wait a minute,' says this Bird, 'till I explain. What would I do
with a wife? If you ever saw that ranch of mine! I do my own cooking
and mending. Eating--that's all the pleasure I get out of sheep
raising. Mr. Judson, did you ever taste the pancakes that Miss
"'Me? No,' I told him. 'I never was advised that she was up to any
"'They're golden sunshine,' says he, 'honey-browned by the ambrosial
fires of Epicurus. I'd give two years of my life to get the recipe for
making them pancakes. That's what I went to see Miss Learight for,'
says Jackson Bird, 'but I haven't been able to get it from her. It's
an old recipe that's been in the family for seventy-five years. They
hand it down from one generation to another, but they don't give it
away to outsiders. If I could get that recipe, so I could make them
pancakes for myself on my ranch, I'd be a happy man,' says Bird.
"'Are you sure,' I says to him, 'that it ain't the hand that mixes the
pancakes that you're after?'
"'Sure,' says Jackson. 'Miss Learight is a mighty nice girl, but I can
assure you my intentions go no further than the gastro--' but he seen
my hand going down to my holster and he changed his similitude--'than
the desire to procure a copy of the pancake recipe,' he finishes.
"'You ain't such a bad little man,' says I, trying to be fair. 'I was
thinking some of making orphans of your sheep, but I'll let you fly
away this time. But you stick to pancakes,' says I, 'as close as the
middle one of a stack; and don't go and mistake sentiments for syrup,
or there'll be singing at your ranch, and you won't hear it.'
"'To convince you that I am sincere,' says the sheep man, 'I'll ask
you to help me. Miss Learight and you being closer friends, maybe she
would do for you what she wouldn't for me. If you will get me a copy
of that pancake recipe, I give you my word that I'll never call upon
"'That's fair,' I says, and I shook hands with Jackson Bird. 'I'll get
it for you if I can, and glad to oblige.' And he turned off down the
big pear flat on the Piedra, in the direction of Mired Mule; and I
steered northwest for old Bill Toomey's ranch.
"It was five days afterward when I got another chance to ride over to
Pimienta. Miss Willella and me passed a gratifying evening at Uncle
Emsley's. She sang some, and exasperated the piano quite a lot with
quotations from the operas. I gave imitations of a rattlesnake, and
told her about Snaky McFee's new way of skinning cows, and described
the trip I made to Saint Louis once. We was getting along in one
another's estimations fine. Thinks I, if Jackson Bird can now be
persuaded to migrate, I win. I recollect his promise about the pancake
receipt, and I thinks I will persuade it from Miss Willella and give
it to him; and then if I catches Birdie off of Mired Mule again, I'll
make him hop the twig.
"So, along about ten o'clock, I put on a wheedling smile and says to
Miss Willella: 'Now, if there's anything I do like better than the
sight of a red steer on green grass it's the taste of a nice hot
pancake smothered in sugar-house molasses.'
"Miss Willella gives a little jump on the piano stool, and looked at
"'Yes,' says she, 'they're real nice. What did you say was the name of
that street in Saint Louis, Mr. Odom, where you lost your hat?'
"'Pancake Avenue,' says I, with a wink, to show her that I was on
about the family receipt, and couldn't be side-corralled off of the
subject. 'Come, now, Miss Willella,' I says; 'let's hear how you make
'em. Pancakes is just whirling in my head like wagon wheels. Start her
off, now--pound of flour, eight dozen eggs, and so on. How does the
catalogue of constituents run?'
"'Excuse me for a moment, please,' says Miss Willella, and she gives
me a quick kind of sideways look, and slides off the stool. She ambled
out into the other room, and directly Uncle Emsley comes in in his
shirt sleeves, with a pitcher of water. He turns around to get a glass
on the table, and I see a forty-five in his hip pocket. 'Great post-
holes!' thinks I, 'but here's a family thinks a heap of cooking
receipts, protecting it with firearms. I've known outfits that
wouldn't do that much by a family feud.'
"'Drink this here down,' says Uncle Emsley, handing me the glass of
water. 'You've rid too far to-day, Jud, and got yourself over-excited.
Try to think about something else now.'
"'Do you know how to make them pancakes, Uncle Emsley?' I asked.
"'Well, I'm not as apprised in the anatomy of them as some,' says
Uncle Emsley, 'but I reckon you take a sifter of plaster of Paris and
a little dough and saleratus and corn meal, and mix 'em with eggs and
buttermilk as usual. Is old Bill going to ship beeves to Kansas City
again this spring, Jud?'
"That was all the pancake specifications I could get that night. I
didn't wonder that Jackson Bird found it uphill work. So I dropped the
subject and talked with Uncle Emsley for a while about hollow-horn and
cyclones. And then Miss Willella came and said 'Good-night,' and I hit
the breeze for the ranch.
"About a week afterward I met Jackson Bird riding out of Pimienta as I
rode in, and we stopped on the road for a few frivolous remarks.
"'Got the bill of particulars for them flapjacks yet?' I asked him.
"'Well, no,' says Jackson. 'I don't seem to have any success in
getting hold of it. Did you try?'
"'I did,' says I, 'and 'twas like trying to dig a prairie dog out of
his hole with a peanut hull. That pancake receipt must be a
jookalorum, the way they hold on to it.'
"'I'm most ready to give it up,' says Jackson, so discouraged in his
pronunciations that I felt sorry for him; 'but I did want to know how
to make them pancakes to eat on my lonely ranch,' says he. 'I lie
awake at nights thinking how good they are.'
"'You keep on trying for it,' I tells him, 'and I'll do the same. One
of us is bound to get a rope over its horns before long. Well, so-
"You see, by this time we were on the peacefullest of terms. When I
saw that he wasn't after Miss Willella, I had more endurable
contemplations of that sandy-haired snoozer. In order to help out the
ambitions of his appetite I kept on trying to get that receipt from
Miss Willella. But every time I would say 'pancakes' she would get
sort of remote and fidgety about the eye, and try to change the
subject. If I held her to it she would slide out and round up Uncle
Emsley with his pitcher of water and hip-pocket howitzer.
"One day I galloped over to the store with a fine bunch of blue
verbenas that I cut out of a herd of wild flowers over on Poisoned Dog
Prairie. Uncle Emsley looked at 'em with one eye shut and says:
"'Haven't ye heard the news?'
"'Cattle up?' I asks.
"'Willella and Jackson Bird was married in Palestine yesterday,' says
he. 'Just got a letter this morning.'
"I dropped them flowers in a cracker-barrel, and let the news trickle
in my ears and down toward my upper left-hand shirt pocket until it
got to my feet.
"'Would you mind saying that over again once more, Uncle Emsley?' says
I. 'Maybe my hearing has got wrong, and you only said that prime
heifers was 4.80 on the hoof, or something like that.'
"'Married yesterday,' says Uncle Emsley, 'and gone to Waco and Niagara
Falls on a wedding tour. Why, didn't you see none of the signs all
along? Jackson Bird has been courting Willella ever since that day he
took her out riding.'
"'Then,' says I, in a kind of yell, 'what was all this zizzaparoola he
gives me about pancakes? Tell me /that/.'
"When I said 'pancakes' Uncle Emsley sort of dodged and stepped back.
"'Somebody's been dealing me pancakes from the bottom of the deck,' I
says, 'and I'll find out. I believe you know. Talk up,' says I, 'or
we'll mix a panful of batter right here.'
"I slid over the counter after Uncle Emsley. He grabbed at his gun,
but it was in a drawer, and he missed it two inches. I got him by the
front of his shirt and shoved him in a corner.
"'Talk pancakes,' says I, 'or be made into one. Does Miss Willella
"'She never made one in her life and I never saw one,' says Uncle
Emsley, soothing. 'Calm down now, Jud--calm down. You've got excited,
and that wound in your head is contaminating your sense of
intelligence. Try not to think about pancakes.'
"'Uncle Emsley,' says I, 'I'm not wounded in the head except so far as
my natural cognitive instincts run to runts. Jackson Bird told me he
was calling on Miss Willella for the purpose of finding out her system
of producing pancakes, and he asked me to help him get the bill of
lading of the ingredients. I done so, with the results as you see.
Have I been sodded down with Johnson grass by a pink-eyed snoozer, or
"'Slack up your grip in my dress shirt,' says Uncle Emsley, 'and I'll
tell you. Yes, it looks like Jackson Bird has gone and humbugged you
some. The day after he went riding with Willella he came back and told
me and her to watch out for you whenever you got to talking about
pancakes. He said you was in camp once where they was cooking
flapjacks, and one of the fellows cut you over the head with a frying
pan. Jackson said that whenever you got overhot or excited that wound
hurt you and made you kind of crazy, and you went raving about
pancakes. He told us to just get you worked off of the subject and
soothed down, and you wouldn't be dangerous. So, me and Willella done
the best by you we knew how. Well, well,' says Uncle Emsley, 'that
Jackson Bird is sure a seldom kind of a snoozer.'"
During the progress of Jud's story he had been slowly but deftly
combining certain portions of the contents of his sacks and cans.
Toward the close of it he set before me the finished product--a pair
of red-hot, rich-hued pancakes on a tin plate. From some secret
hoarding he also brought a lump of excellent butter and a bottle of
"How long ago did these things happen?" I asked him.
"Three years," said Jud. "They're living on the Mired Mule Ranch now.
But I haven't seen either of 'em since. They say Jackson Bird was
fixing his ranch up fine with rocking chairs and window curtains all
the time he was putting me up the pancake tree. Oh, I got over it
after a while. But the boys kept the racket up."
"Did you make these cakes by the famous recipe?" I asked.
"Didn't I tell you there wasn't no receipt?" said Jud. "The boys
hollered pancakes till they got pancake hungry, and I cut this recipe
out of a newspaper. How does the truck taste?"
"They're delicious," I answered. "Why don't you have some, too, Jud?"
I was sure I heard a sigh.
"Me?" said Jud. "I don't ever eat 'em."