Excerpt from “Little Big Man” by Thomas Berger ~~Earp~~

picture-LittleBigMan-BergerThe skinner shoves him away and tips the barrel over and a half-dozen objects slide out along with the trickle of the remaining whiskey, and alongside the campfire their identity was not long in doubt.
“You are a mother ———,” says the skinner. “Them is rattlesnake heads!”
Bill makes a toothless grin. “Well, all right,” he says.
Now the fellows all begin to get riled and threaten to break into the rest of his stock, so he admits there ain’t a barrel of whiskey on board that don’t have six snake heads inside it. That news causes some of them who been drinking to go off into the bushes and heave, and the remainder get out their lariats and look for convenient limb on which to elevate my brother, but a tall, skinny young hombre pushes his way among the crowd and says to Bill: “You hitch up and get out of here and don’t come back.”
“They don’t hurt none,” says Bill in whining indignation. “They just put the old be-Jesus into the stuff. The boys like the bite of my goods.”
“Get out,” says the skinny fellow. “And you men step aside and let him do it.” And by God, if they didn’t; I don’t know why, for he didn’t look special to me, but he had some of the assurance of Custer and Hickock, if not the long hair.
The skinner rejoined me and says: “Did you ever see the like of that?” Meaning my brother, and being under some strain, I just belched. The sight of them snake heads had got to me, though I never touched a drop of the rotgut.
The skinny fellow walked quickly to me and staring coldly from under his straight black eyebrows, says: “You have an objection?”
I allowed I did not, but I also requested he state a reason why in the goddam hell he thought I might.
“You just spoke my name,” he says.
“I don’t know your name,” says I.
“It,” he says, “is Earp.”
“Oh,” I says, laughing, “what I done was belch.”
He knocked me down.
Well sir, I arose directly with gun in hand, but Earp strode away, giving me the choice of ventilating his back or agreeing with him that the incident was closed. But damn if I was going to let him set the terms, so I throws some spectacular abuse at him in front of them other hunters, and he turns and comes back.
“Draw, you goddam Belch you,” says I, for in that measured stride he had come within ten feet of me and his weapon was still holstered, his hands swinging freely as he walked. But onward he come, and I found it impossible to raise my gun and shoot him down until he went for his, but he never. Finally, having reached a range of one foot, he detained my right wrist with the wiry fingers of his left hand, drew his pistol, and struck me over the head with its heavy barrel. I was cold-cocked for fair.
This was the technique called “buffaloing,” and it was Wyatt Earp’s favorite when he became a marshal later on. In all his violent life, he only killed two or three men, but he buffaloed several thousand. I guess he was the meanest man I ever run across. In a similar circumstance, Wild Bill would have killed his opponent. Not Earp, he was too mean. To draw on you meant he considered you a worthy antagonist; but he didn’t; he thought most other people was too inferior to kill, so he would just crack their skulls. I don’t know how it worked, but when he looked at you as if you was garbage, you might not have agreed with him, but you had sufficient doubt to stay your gun hand a minute, and by then he had cold-cocked you.

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1 Comment

Filed under Fiction, Literature

One response to “Excerpt from “Little Big Man” by Thomas Berger ~~Earp~~

  1. Thomas Berger was born in Cincinnati, Ohio USA on 20 July 1924, and died on 13 July 2014, aged 89 years.
    ‘Little Big Man’ was published in 1964.
    Wyatt Earp features in this fictional novel. He is famed as a marshal and known for the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Earp was born in Illinois, USA on 19 March 1848 and died on 13 January 1929, aged 80 years.
    Berger has this meeting set around the year 1872, when Earp really was engaged in buffalo hunting.

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