At Hand-Grips with the Demon
Mose was mad. He was flinging tinware about the kitchen with a fine disregard of the din or the dents, and whenever the blue cat ventured out from under the stove, he kicked at it viciously. He was mad at Ford; and when a man gets mad at his foreman—without knowing that the foreman has been instructed to bear with his faults and keep him on the pay-roll at any price—he must, if he be the cook, have recourse to kicking cats and banging dishes about, since he dare not kick the foreman. For in late November “jobs” are not at all plentiful in the range land, and even an angry cook must keep his job or face the world-old economic problem of food, clothing, and shelter.
But if he dared not speak his mind plainly to Ford, he was not averse to pouring his woes into the first sympathetic ear that came his way. It happened that upon this occasion the ear arrived speedily upon the head of Dick Thomas.
“Matter, Mose?” he queried, sidestepping the cat, which gave a long leap straight for the door, when it opened. “Cat been licking the butter again?”
Mose grunted and slammed three pie tins into a cupboard with such force that two of them bounced out and rolled across the floor. One came within reach of his foot, and he kicked it into the wood-box, and swore at it while it was on the way. “And I wisht it was Ford Campbell himself, the snoopin’, stingy, kitchen-grannying, booze-fightin’, son-of-a-sour-dough bannock!” he finished prayerfully.
“He surely hasn’t tried to mix in here, and meddle with you?” Dick asked, helping himself to a piece of pie. You know the tone; it had just that inflection of surprised sympathy which makes you tell your troubles without that reservation which a more neutral listener would unconsciously impel.
I am not going to give Mose’s version, because he warped the story to make it fit his own indignation, and did not do Ford justice. This, then, is the exact truth:
Ford chanced to be walking up along the edge of the gully which ran past the bunk-house, and into which empty cans and other garbage were thrown. Sometimes a can fell short, so that all the gully edge was liberally decorated with a gay assortment of canners’ labels. Just as he had come up, Mose had opened the kitchen door and thrown out a cream can, which had fallen in front of Ford and trickled a white stream upon the frozen ground. Ford had stooped and picked up the can, had shaken it, and heard the slosh which told of waste. He had investigated further, and decided that throwing out a cream can before it was quite empty was not an accident with Mose, but might be termed a habit. He had taken Exhibit A to the kitchen, but had laughed while he spoke of it. And these were his exact words:
“Lordy me, Mose! Somebody’s liable to come here and get rich off us, if we don’t look out. He’ll gather up the cream cans you throw into the discard and start a dairy on the leavings.” Then he had set the can down on the water bench beside the door and gone away.