“It’s Going to Be an Uphill Climb!”
Ford was no moral weakling except, perhaps, when whisky and he came to hand-grips. He had made up his mind that Mason must be told of his backsliding, and protected from the risk of leaving a drunkard in charge of his ranch. And when he saw that the opportunity for opening the subject easily did not show any sign of presenting itself, he grimly interrupted Mason in the middle of a funny story about Josephine and Buddy and Kate, involving themselves in a three-cornered argument to the complete discomfiture of the women.
“I tell you, Ford, that kid’s a corker! Kate’s got all kinds of book theories about raising children, but they don’t none of ’em work, with Bud. He gets the best of her right along when she starts to reason with him. Gosh! You can’t reason with a kid like Bud; you’ve got to take him on an equal footing, and when he goes too far, just set down on him and no argument about it. Kate’s going to have her hands full while I’m gone, if—”
“She sure will, Ches, unless you get somebody here you can depend on,” was the way in which Ford made his opportunity. “You’ve got the idea, somehow, that cutting out whisky is like getting rid of a mean horse. It’s something you don’t—”
“Oh, don’t go worrying over that, no more,” Mason expostulated hastily. “Forget it. That’s the quickest cure; try Christian Science dope on it. The more you worry about it, the more—”
“But wait till I tell you! That day I went to town, and you came on home, I got drunk as a fool, Ches. I don’t know what all I did, but I know—”
“Well, I know—more about it than you do, I reckon,” Mason cut in dryly. “I was told five different times, by one stranger and four of these here trouble-peddlin’ friends that clutter the country. That’s all right, Ford. A little slip like that—” He held out his hand for Ford’s sack of tobacco.
“I ain’t the least bit uneasy over that, old man. I’m just as sure as I stand here that you’re going to pull up, all right.”
“I know you are, Ches.” Ford’s voice was humble. “That’s the hell of it. You’re more sure than sensible—but—But look at it like I was a stranger, Ches. Just forget you ever knew me when I was kinda half-way decent. You ain’t a fool, even if you do act like one. You know what I’m up against. I’m going to put up the damnedest fight I’ve got in me, but I don’t want you to take any gamble on it. Maybe I’ll win, and then again maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll go down and out. I don’t know—I don’t feel half as sure of myself as I did before I made that bobble in town. Before that, I did kinda have an idea that all there was to it was to quit. I thought, once I made up my mind, that would settle it. But that’s just the commencement; you’ve got to fight something inside of you that’s as husky a fighter as you are. You’ve got to—”