AS long as the December rain hammered steadily on the corrugated-iron roof all was well within; when it disintegrated into occasional showers we turned fidgety, but bore up under the strain of uncertainty until the showers also failed us and only fitful plunks could be heard. A youth from New Hampshire, his face so crowded with vacancy that it might have done duty as a composite photograph of the assemblage, spoke for us all when he remarked to nobody in particular that life was nothing but a ‘ durn’ gamble. Having our thinking done by a New Englander, and a minor at that, made the situation unbearable. The crowd around the stove broke up and the men dozing on the cots began to stir. A meagre barefooted man, dressed in isabelline-hued underwear of the coverall pattern, cut so generously that it resembled a flowing cape, slid across the slivery plank floor and flung the bunkhouse door open with a desperate nervous wrench as if he were determined to have his sentence read immediately, even though it should be a sentence of death.

‘No jestice,’ he whined in the small cowed voice of the born pessimist; and he shivered spasmodically, if from the cold draft that struck him or from the impending necessity of having to go to work on that first afternoon in the relief camp was not evident. Both causes seemed equally plausible, and we joined him, full of sympathy and understanding, in the doorway.

It was clearing. The immense checkered valley was spread out before us, the squares as likely to be vineyards as almond orchards. The level country was now black, now green; the lowest foothills were still burnt umber after the long dry summer; farther up, where they became distinctly swollen, they were flecked with white which gradually turned more and more speckless until it ended in sheer glistening ice on the peaks of the Sierra Nevada. This was scenery at its best and we loathed it; not because it was scenery and grand (we enjoyed the rotogravure section as much as anybody else), but because, unless it began raining again within fifteen minutes, we should find ourselves ankle-deep in the very centre of this scenery, wrestling with it, in fact, in the act of cleaning irrigation ditches—a four months’ bout for a purse amounting to five dollars and keep, the grandeur thrown in recklessly as a consolation prize to whosoever could appreciate it.

The darker clouds were soon jostled out of position and retreated toward Yosemite; when the sun broke through we went inside to sulk. ‘All right, all right! Everybody outside. Git a move on, men. All right, shake it up!’ chanted the ranger in charge a few minutes later, emphasizing the hateful dirge by shaking occupied cots and tickling upturned soles with a pick handle.

We trickled out, a rag fair of dirty dungarees, unmatched secondhand pants and coats, hobnailed boots and salvaged patent-leather pumps, twisted caps and slick ‘beanies,’ greasy unblocked Fedoras and Homburgs, a pair of light mauve spats, several plus-fours. Those who had abandoned all sartorial pretensions and were going to seed, either by easy stages with unconscious charm or with gusto sprung from inclination, possessed traces of that captivating dowdiness which we are wont to associate with brigands and certain upper-class Britons; those who still clung grimly to an erstwhile outer respectability only heightened their appalling shabbiness by wearing yellowed collars and frayed, misshapen ties; and they could count on the undisputed right to a centre-aisle nail at any representative depression vernissage.

When all had been herded outside and accounted for, the ranger discarded his brusque manner. He flung aside the pick handle as a sign that brute force belonged to the past. Then he mounted an empty box and we crowded around, surmising that a speech was brewing. We were right. The wiry man, magnificently done up in forest green and high boots, kept us spellbound from his first words, which briefly wished us, as fine a body of men as he had ever met, welcome to the camp. He was aware of the makeshift appointments of the camp, he assured us, an unfortunate condition which must be laid to the makeshiftness of the times — times which were not wholly bereft of redeeming features, however, because they had enabled him to turn from the conservation of field and stream to the noblest conservation of all, that of the body and soul of man.

His speech went over tremendously, as it should among men who could recognize and make use of æsthetic bargains when they happened to stumble across them. Hunched shoulders were squared, the imminent conservation of the irrigation ditches was forgotten, and everybody looked down with dewy eyes upon bodies and into souls which at last were going to be tended. Those most touched cried, ‘Atta boy, keep it up! Let her rip! Come again, mister!’ while they crowded still closer.

And the ranger kept it up. After slightly dampening our ardor by accenting the necessity of coöperative efforts in order to promote the common weal, he reached a new popular high by announcing that three positions wore going to be filled immediately, the lucky ones to be culled from the most worthy and accomplished among those present. Therefore, please, would all craftsmen, artisans, professional men, and men of high integrity, trust, and ambition step to the right; the fly-by-nights, drones, and unskilled to stand fast.

When the scuffle had abated to the extent that the burliest of the fittest had obtained, and were holding against terrific onslaught, the front rank of the right flank, it was found that three men only stood fast. One of them, a New Mexican Indian who understood little English, scrutinized the ground carefully, thinking that, notwithstanding the lateness of the season, a rattlesnake or a tarantula might have started the stampede. Finding no visible reason why he should exert himself by moving, he succumbed again to the pleasant inertia of his race and stood fast irrevocably.

Personally I was too bewildered to move. The suddenness and the brutal frankness of the ultimatum took me by surprise. To make up my mind at a moment’s notice whether I was a man of integrity or a drone was more than I could manage. I had aimed all my life to be an honest man and I hoped, a trifle wistfully, that I wasn’t a drone, but that seemed to be the limit of my capability as a surveyor of my moral self. Nor did I care if the question was ever answered; candidly, I preferred to keep the case pending indefinitely, because a true verdict would be hard to reach, and if reached would establish a precedent which, should it by any chance be in my favor, would force me to live up to it and thus make a hitherto checkered career seem pointless.

As to my manual qualifications I was equally vague. I had done so many things and worked tolerably hard at them; yet, when inventory time arrived, the stockroom was empty. For the moment I could recollect the mending of rabbit fences in New South Wales and a short term brimful with disillusions as cardroom attendant in the Union League Club in San Francisco, both occupations the acme of futility and neither filling the bill of a craftsman, an artisan, or even a professional man. I felt distinctly low-caste and without a proper niche in life until I began to mull over an epithet the ranger had used — namely, that of a fly-by-night. It seemed such an elusive, almost Elysian vocation that I decided to go in for it, especially as I could make a good start by merely standing still. The decision not to put my foot out was strengthened by something familiar pervading the saccharine flow of the ranger’s speech as well as certain less sweet lines in his face, which reminded me hazily of a top sergeant I had once known, one of those true appraisers of men who as a prelude to latrine digging always asked all Bachelors of Art to take one step forward. Be that as it might, I had already made my bed and could lose nothing by sleeping in it.

The third outcast was a tall, slightly bent man dressed in black jeans, hickory shirt open at the throat, and an old sombrero void of any distinction except that of rakery. I noticed with pleasure his full-bodied gray moustaches, fistfuls of them, cultivated to twirl vigorously and to strain things through, not to fondle superciliously or to nibble when distracted. Among other good points I remember the meerschaum he smoked, a stinking, lovely relic patched a dozen times with silver plates and brackets; his freshly laundered square-knots belt with a real old-fashioned Turk’s head; and the tattooings on his arms — no maudlin nonsense on those arms, like bleeding hearts pierced with daggers or pouting Red Cross nurses clasping hands across tombstones, but glimpses of a crowded manly past revealed by terse notations (Therese, 1880, Mazatlan; Betsy, Sitka; etc., etc.) underneath faded nymphs au naturel. He was more seasoned than aged (though later I learned that he was past seventy), yet he appeared younger, more carefree, and certainly happier than any of the youths battling for a position in the front rank.

But the most remarkable thing about him was that he was the only one usefully occupied. He was carving a cribbage board out of a piece of redwood. Slowly and methodically he was whittling away, turning the piece of wood this way and that to obtain the right slant while enjoying the sharpness of the knife and the aroma of the wood. There was no hurry about him. He took time off to watch the racing clouds and the cranes heading for near-by marshes. He had obviously solved the problem of how to while away the time and still get the most out of every fleeting moment; he lived in a world of his own, where what counted most was to stand in the sun while he created a bagatelle; and you could not help liking him and envying him, too, for that matter.

In the meantime the ranger was beaming affably at the applicants, all of whom sought to catch his attention at once. None of them knew what kind of ‘ positions ‘ were going to be filled, a fact of no importance because everybody could do everything, was ready to do it, and didn’t hesitate to say so. Common laborers bandied highly technical terms, boys in their teens matured visibly, members of a cirrhotic clique spoke quite apropos with masterly diffidence of long years consecrated to the joy of abstinence, war veterans insisted upon preference, two low-degree Masons stood aloof sure of being chosen, a Moose and an Odd Fellow got into a fight.

If the talents present were matched too overwhelmingly for an impartial and conscientious employer to choose from, or if they were overqualified, I cannot say. All that I know is that the ranger turned abruptly and faced us, the unskilled.

‘What’s your name, Old-timer?’ he asked impatiently.

The man carving the cribbage board tested the edge of his knife against a thumb. Finding that it might be improved, he produced a pocket hone from the innards of his jeans and, showing that he had manners and that he could handle two things at once, spat on the whetstone — and, incidentally, also between the ranger’s boots — and said: ‘I’ll be with you in no time, mister.’

‘Come, come! What’s your name?’ asked the ranger once again.

‘Oh, me name, was it? Name’s Chris.’

‘Chris what?’

‘Chris any damn thing!’ came the retort in a voice that more than hinted that accidentally being boss gave no one license to engage in familiarities.

‘No offense meant,’ said the ranger. ‘I just want to find out what you can do and what you know.’

‘I never did know nothin’,’ mumbled Chris uninterestedly, while he honed his knife like an expert.

‘All right, Chris; you’ll do. I’ll make you the keeper of the tool shed. How about you, Chief? ‘ continued the ranger, now turning to the New Mexican. No response in any form whatsoever — a sufficing answer, because the ranger dubbed him night watchman on the spot. After an examination which went deep into the multiplication table and disregarded any other curriculum, I became the timekeeper.

Booh-ooh! Booh-ooh-oooh! ‘ The reaction of the masses was impressive and might have turned into violence if the ranger hadn’t known the antidote and applied it quickly.

‘Give half of them shovels, the rest mattocks and picks. Let’s go!’ he cried, throwing Chris a key, grabbing the pick handle, and advancing.


The camp had opened that morning. One hundred and fifty men (or what in time of stress might be classified under that description) had been admitted after a medical examination conducted on the line that any disease or physical handicap not so far advanced that its victim was liable to become an item on a mortuary bill presented to the Commonwealth within the next four months was no disease or physical handicap. It was a formidable test, a test sounding the very roots (or bottom, rather) of the state, for among those found not wanting were men from the bread lines of San Francisco, Sacramento, and Los Angeles; men from the Hoovervilles or ‘villes’ with prefixes denoting happier origins; men with the leanings of first-nighters who, having heard the news in freight yards and river bottoms, changed their itinerary in order not to miss a première; men held on ‘mopery and dopery’ charges in near-by village jails, turned loose on ‘probation’ by sheriffs whose ideas of advanced penology were to let some other agency do the keeping and reforming while they still carried the offenders on the ration sheet; ‘bindle stiffs’ and ‘highway weeds’ stumbling along, seemingly without goal, yet obstinately joining any line in spite of the fact that nobody had had more opportunities than they of testing the truth of the axiom that long on demand means short on supply.

The bunkhouse was a covered loading platform through which ran the track of a jerkwater railroad. On the surface this may smack of too great zeal for carrying transportation into the home, if not a downright hazardous practice, but actually there was little danger of being run down and maimed while going to bed. The rails skirted discreetly one of the walls, the shed was good-sized, and furthermore the railroad company, which dabbled in passenger service and made a point of the views which were to be enjoyed from the observation car, had evidently come to the conclusion that enough is enough and had erected a screen dividing their trackage from our bedroom. However, it paid us to stop, look, and listen before retiring because, conforming to an age-old rural American tradition, the less seemly facilities were located ‘’cross the tracks.’

Other parts of the shed were screened off to house kitchen, mess hall, and office. This arrangement added a great deal of charm to the place. Even a third-rate dreamer had little difficulty in turning the ramshackle bunkhouse into a Grand Hôtel Babylon situated opposite the Gare de Lyon or Kölnischer Bahnhof. The arguments between the pearl divers on duty in the kitchen while they rattled the pie plates that were used as crockery resolved themselves into an urbane murmur that blended perfectly with the pleasant tinkle of silver tureens holding Consommé Italien and giant dishes of Caviare Volga. If you felt like going in for high finance, the clatter of the lame Underwood mistreated hesitantly in the office cubicle spoke of a hectic day on the Bourse and the infernal machinations of international banking. From the gang on the floor around the stove, shooting craps for lima beans and matches, led by the fellow whose store glass eye always went out of focus when he got excited, came the icy, impersonal admonition of a monocled croupier: ‘ Messieurs et mesdames, faites vos jeux '

In the middle of the night it was not the vibrations of a mixed fruit and livestock freight that awoke you but the smooth chain of wagon-lits making up the Balkan express. When the engineer, whose conception of a good joke was to start the bell and give three piercing blasts on the whistle to cheer the bums while driving through their domicile, warned you that it was time to pull the blanket over your head so as to keep cinders out of your eyes, you could hear the muffled sounds and sense the stagnant aroma of the Simplon tunnel. As you shed the blanket and came up for air again your bunkie’s brogans and his box of Copenhagen snuff left open for a midnight snack pinch-hitted for edelweiss strewn on an Alpine meadow through which the express thundered on its way to Constantinople.

Perhaps I was the only one of the inmates who went on Continental sprees, but, judging from the stillness that sometimes settled over the bunkhouse and the faraway look in the eyes of my friends, I think they too went roving even if only entraining from the Third and Townsend depot for an extended tour covering all the eating houses of the line, the expenses probably having been obtained by taking a flyer on a Grant Avenue Chink lottery.

Chris’s new job meant more than handing out tools in the morning and receiving them again at night. The toolkeeper had to be a fair blacksmith so that he could sharpen picks and bits and make stoves out of empty oil barrels; soldering, saw filing, rough carpentry, and painting also came within his sphere of usefulness, and Chris could do all these things and many others. He could lance boils, dye hair, let blood, set broken thumbs, affix leeches and Spanish flies, straighten ingrown toenails, read your future in tobacco juice, and eradicate corns, warts, and hangovers, although he wisely confined his practices to work upon others, leaving his own welfare to nature and chance, those two indispensable factotums in his life. He was a sure-fire weather forecaster and horseshoe pitcher; able with divining rod and frying pan; he knew how to stuff birds, skin animals, and tan hides; and he mended clocks, wormed dogs, and gelded anything in need of restraint with a brio that was uncanny. In his spare time he was an inventor and had solved theoretically the problem of how to extract teeth painlessly by means of hydraulic pressure. The apparatus worked fine on paper and on serpents’ fangs, and it was only the difficulty of finding a partner with a faultless set of decayed teeth, and a willingness to endure for the sake of science and half of the ultimate profits, that kept Chris from being able to perfect the invention, commercialize it, and retire for good.

Chris wasn’t all handiness, though. He couldn’t drive a car and he refused to tinker with anything connected with electricity. These were serious handicaps in a mechanized era, but that wasn’t all. He was independent to a fault. Ordinarily he went out of his way and worked overtime in order to please you if he approved of your manners; if he thought that you spread your authority too thick he was wont to look you over thoughtfully and inquire ‘how come you be doubling for the Lord Almighty today,’ and then to lose all interest in uncouth requests and their bearer. After the ranger had been asked this disconcerting question a couple of times he left Chris to his own devices, with the result that the latter became the most useful member of the camp.

Chris didn’t sleep in the bunkhouse. He had managed to squeeze a cot into the tool shed, and there he made his home. I used to visit him during the long winter evenings to play cards or to watch him work at something or other. He was not exactly a solitary man, but he was finical regarding company, and he used to say that the presence of a rakehell was easier to put up with than that of a saint. Occasionally he might spend an hour around the stove in the bunkhouse listening to endless arguments: whether the Spaniards or Bill Hearst blew up the U. S. S. Maine; whether perpetual motion was feasible (illustrated with charcoal drawings on the floor); how old Mae West might be; whom did Cain marry; whether living in a loading shed on railroad property made you a ward of the I. C. C.; and many other topics likely to arise where deep thinkers gather. He refused to be drawn into the arguments, however, reserving his opinions for the sanctum of the tool shed, where he liked to discuss the higher things with Tim, the camp cobbler, another old-timer, a solifidian when sober and a hedonist when ‘under the influence,’ as that refined raconteur wished to have his sterno jags designated. Chris himself didn’t ‘indulge’ any more, but he was extremely tolerant, and he held that any deviltry was permissible as long as it didn’t incommode anyone but the perpetrator and was not introduced to an innocent.

As a matter of fact, Chris’s open mind and his courage to face disagreeable facts were his long suits. He liked to take his ego apart and rummage among its contents. The findings confirmed his suspicions that he was badly out of step with today. Nothing could be done about it; he was too old to change his pace, and furthermore there was a great deal to be said in favor of yesterday’s pace. It took you to the grave just as surely and it gave a fellow a chance to look around while traveling. The cobbler acquiesced. According to him, automobiles and airplanes had no right to existence unless it might be as a means for ‘getting to hell by express.’

Chris’s view about today’s excessive pace was understandable in view of the fact that his main occupation had been that of a wagon teamster with prospecting as a hobby and side line. He hadn’t found much gold, probably hadn’t looked very diligently for it, but it had made an ideal excuse for roaming around with a jackass and sleeping underneath the stars. The West Coast had been his stamping ground and California the centre point from which he had radiated south and north, as far down as Vera Cruz and as high as upper Yukon. The rest of the United States and the world at large he knew by hearsay only, or had read about in the papers, and, as experience had taught him not to take much stock in what the papers said, he didn’t claim to know much about those parts.

Chris was one of the few Americans who really love their country; and yet he entertained no illusions about God sitting up late at night worrying about every single one of the forty-eight states. He used to say that sometimes it was a mighty trying place for a man with no ambition to live in. Of course, it wasn’t the country’s fault. It was the peculiar outlook of the people living in it that made you appear a good-for-nothing unless you shared their hurryings and worryings or went clean out of earshot. Too young in years as a nation and too eager as individuals, they hadn’t got used to their beautiful new toy yet, and in their anxiety to get the most out of it they were using it too hard, meanwhile wearing their nerves to a frazzle. Chris didn’t like to see anything mistreated, be it man or mule, mountain or meadow.

He knew of but one kind of ambition that brought happiness. His father had come from ‘some place back East’ and settled in Nevada to ‘git away from things.’ Nevada had taken care of that, and the old man had been the happiest of men ever after, whistling and singing all the time. Chris guessed that he had taken after his dad, and to prove this he used to execute something he liked to call ‘Napoleon’s March across the Alps’ on his pocket comb sheathed with toilet paper, while beating time with his boots so lustily that the picks and shovels rattled like arms and the excitable little cobbler got notions in his head and paced the floor, one hand stuck into his vest like the late Emperor himself.

Otherwise Chris was reticent about his past. Every member of the camp was supposed to sign his ‘scandal sheet’ — that is, a sort of condensed life’s history consisting of a few cold facts to be used for statistical purposes. To most of the men this was a prime opportunity to take a pot shot at an old enemy — red tape — and they availed themselves of it readily. It was part of my duty to act as questioneer and fill out the forms. I was not in the least surprised to find that the rather tepid believers had overnight turned into a wild-eyed bunch of ‘ Flagellants ‘ and ‘Confucianists ‘ and, in a few elegant cases, smirking Buchmanites. ‘To be informed in case of emergency’ they gave me a blanket warrant to choose between the White House and a certain prominent glue factory; and, it goes without saying, the ‘Occupational Diseases’ most in vogue were delirium tremens and kleptomania.

Chris was less glib. It was with difficulty that I could persuade him to give the matter even a thought, and after this stage had been reached he needed several days to make up his mind to the effect that he had no education, no occupation, no religion, no living relations, no known disease or bodily incapacity. He affixed his signature under duress to this nudum pactum with inch-high crumbling letters while cursing legalized snooping and asking what the Bill of Rights was good for, anyhow.

If Chris’s penmanship was archaic, he read with celerity and pleasure, although he was critical in a chuckling way and he refused absolutely to be imposed upon by the printed word, especially as it appeared in tracts, political pamphlets, and newspapers. He had never lived long enough in any one community to become eligible to vote; and because he abhorred machine thinking, and because, in his opinion, sitting at anybody’s feet, no matter if it was Marx’s or Morgan’s, was a lowly position, he would doubtless be classified as a political untouchable. This doesn’t mean that he was antisocial. He had views (somewhat spectacular) about contemporary American thought and institutions and, if in the mood, he didn’t hesitate to speak his mind. But he was too enlightened in a primitive style and he knew his limitations too well to sit as judge over others; these faculties, coupled with his conviction that right or wrong cannot be clearly defined, made him what he was, a truly livable man.

Naturally, he had his mild pet aversions like everybody else. The ‘Infantile Pot of Peddling’ was one of them. He never volunteered an explanation of what this mysterious vessel might be, but, as his censure of it took place while he scanned the financial pages of some newspaper, it does seem likely that he had the Junior Chamber of Commerce in mind. Like so many other idealists and transients, Chris didn’t know the value of money, and in his dealings with tradesmen he invariably had been left holding the dirty end of the stick, a stance bound to irritate a fastidious man.


The ranchers living in the neighborhood of the camp were hostile at first. They thawed out slightly when they found that we were harmless; later, when it became evident that our labor in the irrigation ditches saved them considerable sums of money, they turned glumly neutral and tolerated us as a necessary evil like the nettles and the potato bugs which He, in His unfathomable wisdom, had seen fit to disfigure the countryside with. The intelligentsia adorning the county seat (which contrived to support a Junior College) saw us in another light. Middletown, which reached interior California rather late, was just then being thumbed through. As sociology is catching, and has the potentialities of a dandy parlor game if played in a zone deloused and shorn of irritants and inhabited by a breed guaranteed not to wince when prodded in the cosmos (and not tainted with a perverse longing to analyze the analyzers), our hitherto neglected ragamuffinry became quite the rage.

The ranger trained us to put clean sand in the spittoons and drawers on our limbs at the slightest sound of a broad a, and the bull cook threatened to quit if he had to stand by in his off hours ready to clear the poker table and lay out the Gideon. Some of the men who had been roustabouts around carnivals and side shows were smooth talkers and knew to a T how to cram greedy gullets. The process was profitable, too. A Dean of Women, chaperoning her tittering flock through the bunkhouse, was good for as much as twenty-five cents if treated with the correct mixture of boyhood in the slums; youth in the reformatory; early manhood in Sing Sing; moral rehabilitation on Flanders field; relapse; and now, at long last, the only true light.

The coeds scribbled dutifully on their pads, but needed a more lurid treatment in order to reach for the handbag. Fellows with a nice divorce-and-bigamy line took charge then, and if they, for some reason, were unable to deliver, our last reserve was brought into play, a onetime copy reader who wore a tam-o’shanter and believed in Peter Pan haircuts, the only man I have known who could make an Œdipus complex pay dividends.

Our male visitors, generally men of small stature but able to expand surprisingly when addressed as ‘perfesser,’ were less inquisitive and more generous. They felt happiest when, using a carton of cigarettes as a magnet, they would induce us to cluster and partake of dull homemade movies and multicolored charts. Although they meant well, they were carriers of unhealthy influences. Men who formerly had managed to be lucid while using honestly tempered words like ‘loony,’ ‘jernt,’ and ‘noodle’ now lost themselves in an oral wilderness made hideous by ‘bizarre,’ ‘milieu,’ and ‘mental equipage,’ and the fundamentally sound discussions around the stove deteriorated from then on.

After the campus people had had their fill, our fame as an outlet for thwarted inhibitions spread to political circles, and apprentice politicians, morbidly in love with their own voices and gestures, pounced upon us. One Sunday afternoon we were ordered into the mess hall for a lecture. The speaker, a young heavy-set man with forceful delivery, did well. He eased us by making light of the depression, he made the foreignborn tingle with rosy prospects as he sketched the careers of Congressman Sol Bloom and General Lafayette, he fed the native stock Daniel Boone, Paul Revere, and Monticello, he cranked us up with Bunker Hill and then softpedaled us with tender reminiscences of Sunday school until we wondered if we were made of steel or putty. When he ended by pointing out that the nation rested on pillars made secure by the thriftiness and individual forethought of the constructors of yesterday and the caretakers of today, the applause and general reverberation were most satisfying. After a glass of water and glowing acknowledgments from friends and relations on the rostrum (the immediate vicinity of the cookstove, which hadn’t yet quite cooled off), he said that he would be charmed, indeed, to hear Vox Populi. Those sitting next to ‘Pox’ Poppone, the only member of the audience whose name, in some measure, resembled the one mentioned, tried to stir this usually very hectic speaker into action, but without success.

Chris saved the somewhat tense situation. We felt proud of Chris then. Perfectly at ease, neat, even distinguished-looking in a who-cares-a-darn manner, tall and lanky though stooped, all gristle and bone, a smile on the thin lips and a twinkle in the faded blue eyes that might indicate anything from mild derision and naughtiness to plain joy of being alive, he arose slowly and faced the speaker. On behalf of his fellow members of the camp, Chris wished to thank the honored guest for his powerful oration. He shared the sentiments put forth by the previous speaker to the utmost extent; nay, if permitted (much beaming and hearty applause from the rostrum), he might be able to elaborate, to venture further into the matter of our great, hallowed national characteristics, thriftiness and individual forethought, by way of making public gleanings reaped by him when wandering among outlandish people living in sloth and decay. In short, he wished to stress that whereas among the least civilized Mexican Indians one man’s tortilla is everybody’s tortilla (even a hapless gringo is welcome to share), and among the sadly neglected Eskimos one man’s blubber is everybody’s blubber, in our benign country one man’s ham and eggs are that man’s ham and eggs exclusively, and . . .

Here Chris’s tortilla and blubber exposure was interrupted by another speaker.

Tim, the camp cobbler, had been ‘under the influence’ for several days, but Chris had ‘worked’ on him during the forenoon, and shortly before the lecture began he had installed the little hedonist in a dark corner, convinced that he was too exhausted to start any new mischief. Nothing untoward happened until Tim heard the familiar voice of his old pal. Perhaps he thought that Chris was in trouble quarreling with the strangers grouped round the cookstove, or perhaps he butted in from sheer force of habit. Anyway, Tim straggled up to the rostrum, his old Puckish face contorted like a gargoyle’s and his pants put on backwards, chanting: ‘One man’s pulque everybody’s pulque, one man’s kava everybody’s kava!’ As he collided with the cookstove he spied a clergyman belonging to the guest speaker’s entourage. This gentleman’s well-nurtured frame and freshly shaved pinkish cheeks must have aroused the innermost hedonic cravings in Tim, because he grabbed a cleaver and began an unrestrained war dance to the accompaniment of

‘One man’s long-pig, everybody’s long-pig,
One man’s long-pig, everybody’s long-pig.’

His choreographic efforts were too rapturous to be kept up long. Suddenly he collapsed in a large dishpan of peeled potatoes, which were soaking in cold water, and wept vehemently. ‘ White fella’s booze, that fella’s booze,’ he sobbed; then the slippery potatoes slid away underneath him and he buried his tortured features in the water and spouted and snorted like an amphibian.

The would-be cannibal and his antics brought down the house. One hundred and forty-eight men with a crude and noisy sense of humor cheered and whistled, pounded the pie plates on the mess tables, howled and slapped each other on the back, and otherwise went clean out of their minds; the six guests, white in the face from rage and humiliation, collected their things and trooped out, followed by the heartbroken ranger, who tried to put balm on well-nigh mortal wounds; and Chris, his eyes twinkling brighter than ever, rescued the dripping Tim and hauled him off to the tool shed.

The incident, a fusty ritual elevated by an act of Satan into healthy comedy, ended as a farce tinged with melodrama. The recensions were not favorable. Moscow SUPPLYING UNEMPLOYED WITH FUNDS TO PURCHASE STIMULANTS; LAIR OF RABBLE ROUSERS AND AGITATORS UNCOVERED; LOCAL RELIEF CAMP HOTBED OF COMMUNISM; CAMPUS CITIZENS CITED CONVEYORS OF RED CONTAGION — thus read some of the headlines that consternated us.

A parched posse led by ‘Pox’ Poppone tried to worm out of Tim how to get access to the ‘stimulant fund,’ but the cobbler had turned solifidian again and was too busy getting his shoemaker’s tools out of the pawnshop by the application of faith to be of any help. As if this weren’t enough tribulation, a small caravan of automobiles drove up to the bunkhouse and loud-talking men with strong breaths and artificial heartiness secluded themselves with the ranger. Little Tim was brought before some sort of liquidation tribunal, found guilty of treason (the charges of alcoholism and misconduct were dismissed, a nolle prosequi being entered and granted), and deported to the Skidroad, the nearest American equivalent of the salt mines. Chris lost all interest in the camp then, and a few days later he resigned.

Chris left early in the morning. It was a warm, sunny day in March, and the men were lolling outside the bunkhouse waiting for the trucks which were going to take them to work. ‘Where you headed for, Chris?’ someone cried. Chris smiled and pointed at the mountains, which seemed so close, yet were fifty miles away; then he turned about and walked down the road leisurely. One of the many camp curs had cast its lot with him and dashed back and forth wild with expectation of the pleasures of the trail; otherwise Chris left as poor as he had arrived. If he had stayed another week he would have been eligible, like the rest of us, to draw five dollars for four months’ work.

Chris was old and destitute, doomed both as individual and as type, but he left with his tattered guidon nailed; and as we watched him disappear we knew that he carried away riches the like of which none of us possessed.