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White Men

[1]925 words

Editor’s Note:

The following short story was written by Madison Grant as “The Major.” It was published in Hank: His Lies and His Yarns, privately printed (probably by the Boone and Crockett Club) in 1937. We thank Kevin Slaughter for scanning it and bringing it to our attention.

I am not really comfortable with this story, but it is offered as a historical document. I find its intent somewhat enigmatic. Perhaps it would make more sense if we had some background about “Hank,” the subject of the story and book. I hope our readers can provide some insights.

Hank met the limited at the little town of Opal with the outfit ready for an antelope hunt. This time the Major had with him an English hunter whom he had met on the train and who had shot game all over the world and now wanted to try his luck on the Plains. The English­man had a valet and a very elaborate assort­ment of guns which he called his “battery.” The Major, with some difficulty, persuaded him to leave his valet and heavy guns and salmon rods with the station master of Opal and it was arranged that the two outfits should camp together the first night out,—— a couple of miles from the railroad.

The Englishman was fascinated by Hank with his broad Stetson hat, his chaps, his Mexican saddle and his wide range of pro­fanity. He asked innumerable questions of the Major’s head guide and felt that he was revelling in local color.

When evening approached and the sun was setting in the west (“Like it most al­ways does,” remarked Hank) a flock of nine geese flew over them, and the Major threw up his rifle and took a pot shot at them. To everybody’s surprise, but most to the surprise of the Major himself, a goose came down with its stern blown off. Hank picked up the goose and gravely winked at the Major, while the Englishman was voluble in his praise of such marksmanship.

That night they sat around the campfire and listened to the coyotes sing from the hills around them. The Englishman having asked every possible question about the game and hunting grounds, finally said to Hank:

“Do you think it will rain tonight?”

Hank looked up at the clear sky, studied the stars, and gravely answered:

“I shouldn’t doubt if it didn’t.”

Hank crawled into the Major’s tent when the latter had snuggled into his blan­kets and said: “Major, I can’t stand that Englishman much longer. Is he sure to leave us tomorrow? I was going to tell him that those coyotes were a pack of wolves about to attack us, but I was afraid he would sit up all night and then shoot some of the horses.”

“Don’t worry about the Englishman,” said the Major. “Our outfits will separate after breakfast. But what did you think about my shooting the goose with a rifle?”

“Well,” said Hank, “that’s what I am waiting to hear about.”

“To tell the truth,” said the Major, “I fired at the leader at the point of the triangle and hit the third one on the left.”

“I thought so,” said Hank.

At breakfast the next morning, the Englishman was much excited over the pend­ing separation and had thought up an en­tirely new line of questions. To get square with him, Hank, who was doing the cook­ing, handed him a red hot plate of eggs and bacon. The unfortunate victim danced around, shifting the plate from one hand to another and crying, “Hank, Hank, where can I put this plate?”

That was too much. Drawing himself up, and glancing around at the illimitable plain stretching in every direction, Hank re­plied:

“My dear sir, you’ve got the whole God damned universe to put it on.”

“Hank,” said the Major later in the day, “why did you let that Englishman annoy you? He was very amusing.”

“I suppose,” said Hank, “it was because he showed he thought that he was better than me. There is a lot of fellows, too, from your part of the country that think that way, and I won’t stand for it.

“Now you are different, Major. Sure, you are too modest like. You’ve got more educa­tion than I have, but you don’t rub it in. Now, last year you told me that you wanted a gentle horse because you couldn’t ride, but I’ve watched you since, and, by God, you ride like a centipede—one of those old fellows that was half man and half horse.”

“I quite agree with you, Hank,” said the Major, “as I see you believe that all men are equal.”

“Sure I do,” said Hank. “It’s true, ain’t it?”

“How about those Greasers with the sheep yesterday?”

“Oh,” said Hank contemptuously, “them’s Greasers.”

“But how about Kootenai Kittie whom you ran out of camp last year ’cause she wanted to beg some sugar?”

“Well,” replied Hank, “she is just a Siwash.”

“And how about the man I had last year to wrangle the horses?”

“Well, he was a Cayuse Frenchman.”

“Well, this is interesting, Hank. How many different kinds of people do you con­sider there are in the world?”

“Well,” said Hank, counting on his fin­gers, “there is Greasers and Siwashes and they are pretty much the same; then there’s niggers and there’s Frenchmen and there’s Dutchmen–they ain’t so bad.”

“Quite right,” said the Major, “and do you consider that all these people are your equals?”

“Hell, no,” said Hank, “I am talking about White Men.”