Yesterday was Robert E. Howard’s birthday. I usually mark the birthdays of my favorite writers with a post, or an excerpt from some of their work, which is the best way I think, to celebrate them.
With all the Star Wars stuff the past couple days, I let it slip by (sorry, Bob!).
Usually a writer of titanic bloodshed and brooding violence, Howard also had a fun streak which I discovered some years ago when I tracked down a copy of A Gent From Bear Creek and read the stories aloud to my wife at bedtime. I’m in a good mood this week, so I thought I’d post something from the lighter side of REH.
The simple set up is, Breck Elkins, an overgrown backwoods battler, wants badly to court Glory McGraw. But her dang it, her family keeps getting in the way….
“Lemme handle him,” snarled Mister Wilkinson. “Git outa the way and gimme a clean shot at him. Lissen here, you jack-eared mountain-mule, air you goin’ out of here perpendicular, or does you prefer to go horizontal?”
“Open the ball whenever you feels lucky, you stripe-bellied polecat!” I retorted courteously, and he give a snarl and went for his gun, but I got mine out first and shot it out of his hand along with one of his fingers before he could pull his trigger.
He give a howl and staggered back agen the wall, glaring wildly at me, and at the blood dripping off his hand, and I stuck my old cap-and-ball .44 back in the scabbard and said: “You may be accounted a fast gunslinger down in the low country, but yo’re tolerable slow on the draw to be foolin’ around Bear Creek. You better go on home now,
It was at this moment that Old Man McGraw hit me over the head with his poker. He swung it with both hands as hard as he could, and if I hadn’t had on my coonskin cap I bet it would have skint my head some. As it was it knocked me to my knees, me being off-guard that way, and his three boys run in and started beating me with chairs and benches and a table laig. Well, I didn’t want to hurt none of Glory’s kin, but I had bit my tongue when the old man hit me with his poker, and that always did irritate me. Anyway, I seen they warn’t no use arguing with them fool boys. They was out for blood–mine, to be exact.
So I riz up and taken Joe by the neck and crotch and throwed him through a winder as gentle as I could, but I forgot about the hickory-wood bars which was nailed acrost it to keep the bears out. He took ‘em along with him, and that was how he got skint up like he did. I heard Glory let out a scream outside, and would have hollered out to let her know I was all right and for her not to worry about me, but just as I opened my mouth to do it, John jammed the butt-end of a table laig into it.
Sech treatment would try the patience of a saint, still and all I didn’t really intend to hit John as hard as I did. How was I to know a tap like I give him would knock him through the door and dislocate his jawbone?
Old Man McGraw was dancing around trying to get another whack at me with his bent poker without hitting Bill which was hammering me over the head with a chair, but Mister Wilkinson warn’t taking no part in the fray. He was backed up agen a wall with a wild look on his face. I reckon he warn’t used to Bear Creek squabbles.
I taken the chair away from Bill and busted it over his head jest to kinda cool him off a little, and jest then Old Man McGraw made another swipe at me with his poker, but I ducked and grabbed him, and Bill stooped over to pick up a bowie knife which had fell out of somebody’s boot. His back was towards me so I planted my moccasin in the seat of his britches with considerable force and he shot head-first through the door with a despairing howl. Somebody else screamed too, that sounded like Glory. I didn’t know at the time I that she was running up to the door and was knocked down by Bill as he catapulted into the yard.
I couldn’t see what was going on outside, and Old Man McGraw was chawing my thumb and feeling for my eye, so I throwed him after John and Bill, and he’s a liar when he said I aimed him at that rain-barrel a-purpose. I didn’t even know they was one there till I heard the crash as his head went through the staves.
I turned around to have some more words with Mister Wilkinson, but he jumped through the winder I’d throwed Joe through, and when I tried to foller him, I couldn’t get my shoulders through. So I run out at the door and Glory met me just as I hit the yard and she give me a slap in the face that sounded like a beaver hitting a mud bank with
“Why, Glory!” I says, dumbfounded, because her blue eyes was blazing, and her yaller hair was nigh standing on end. She was so mad she was crying and that’s the first time I ever knowed she could cry. “What’s the matter? What’ve I did?”