Ah, those good old Cape May days… by Jackson D’Catur
OH, I do love a cowboy. In the old days, Cape May was the end point (on land) for the little-known Wyoming-Paris cattle drives (those Frenchies love their beef). We would herd tens of thousands of head of steer to Cape May, where they would await transportation to Europe. We used the ships that had just arrived with hopeful settlers, lured by our city’s newspaper ads suggesting that every visitor would receive a plot of land, a new cabin and an assortment of animals to farm. (In truth, the ads were not lies per se, just slightly positive: newcomers, once they paid their city tax, which amounted to whatever gold, silver or gem ornaments they had on their person, were given a hatchet and were free to wander off and cut down some trees for a house, and to raise whatever wild pigs/buffalo/squirrels/Wildwooders they could catch.) The ships were then filled with protesting cattle.
Ah, a walk through the city of Cape May in those days was an adventure: the wooden sidewalks were 10 deep with strutting cowboys, drunk natives and ladies of questionable virtue.
The noise of spurs striking wood was equaled only by that of leather chaps rustling and creaking as we walked. I say “we” as I of course was the most cowboyish of those cowboys. My stetson was a full four feet across, I had no fewer than six pearly-handled revolvers holstered around my slim hips, and my chaps were each made from a whole cow, and could on a windy day carry me along at speeds equaling a fast horse.
We used to drink neat whiskey, chew baccy and call each other out at the slightest provocation. I remember one Saturday afternoon it took me three hours to walk the promenade, as I had to duel the Thomson Twins on account of their looking at me funny (I later found out they both had a squinty eye), Big Bob McCallister (he spat some baccy on my boot), The James Gang and a score of others.
By the time I got to Uncle Bill’s Pancake House, I was reeking of gunpowder, my trigger fingers were blistered and I had been shot 32 times, none seriously, because I carried a total of 58 lucky silver cigarillo cases about my person, to deflect bullets. And there was more action to come – I had to shoot the waiter for being too stingy with the maple syrup and the hat check guy for creasing my brim, too.
Ah, happy days: I am off to polish my six-shooter in memory of those carefree times.