‘Very descriptive,’ he said when I pressed him for his notion of it. ‘Rod Baker’s sister Susan made thet cow. Gits tew dollars an’ fifty cents every fair time — wish I was dewin ‘s well.’
‘That’s one of the most profitable cows in this country,’ I said.
‘Looks a good deal like a new breed.’
‘Yes,’ he answered soberly, then he set his lips, threw a sweeping glance into the gallery, and passed on.
Susan Baker’s cow was one of the permanent features of the county fair, and was indeed a curiosity not less remarkable than the sacred ox of Mr Barnum.
Here also I met a group of the pretty girls who had been my schoolmates. They surrounded me, chattering like magpies.
‘There’s going to be a dance at our house tonight,’ said one of them, ‘and you must come.’
‘I cannot, I must go home,’ I said.
‘Of course!’ said a red-cheeked saucy miss. ’The stuck-up thing! He wouldn’t go anywhere unless he could have his sister with him.’
Then they went away laughing.
I found Ab Thomas at the rifle range. He was whittling as he considered a challenge from Tip Taylor to shoot a match. He turned and ‘hefted’ the rifle, silently, and then he squinted over the barrel two or three times.
‘Dunno but what I’ll try ye once,’ he said presently, ‘jes t’ see.’
Once started they grew red in their faces and shot themselves weary in a reckless contest of skill and endurance. A great hulking fellow, half drunk and a bit quarrelsome, came up, presently, and endeavoured to help Ab hold his rifle. The latter brushed him away and said nothing for a moment. But every time he tried to take aim the man jostled him.
An looked up slowly and calmly, his eyebrows tilted for his aim, and said, ‘Go off I tell ye.’ Then he set himself and took aim again.
‘Le’me hold it,’ said the man, reaching for the barrel. ’Shoot better if I do the aimin’.’ A laugh greeted this remark. Ab looked up again. There was a quick start in his great slouching figure.
‘Take yer hand off o’ thet,’ he said a little louder than before.
The man, aching for more applause, grew more impertinent Ab quietly handed the rifle to its owner. Then something happened suddenly. It was so quickly over I am not quite sure of the order of business, but anyhow he seized the intruder by the shoulders flinging him down so heavily it knocked the dust out of the grass.
‘A fight!’ somebody shouted and men and boys came runing from all sides. We were locked in a pushing crowd before I could turn. The intruder lay stunned a moment. Then he rose, bare headed, his back covered with dust, pushed his way out and ran.
Ab turned quietly to the range.
‘Hedn’t orter t’ come an’ try t’ dew my aimin’,’ he said mildly, by way of protest, ‘I won’t hev it.’
Then he enquired about the score and calmly took aim again. The stallion show came on that afternoon.