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1 occurrence of roughing it
[Clear Hits]


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1 occurrence of roughing it
[Clear Hits]




I RESOLVED to have a horse to ride. I had never seen such
wild, free, magnificent horsemanship outside of a circus
as these picturesquely-clad Mexicans, Californians and Mexicanized
Americans displayed in Carson streets every day.
How they rode! Leaning just gently forward out of the perpendicular,
easy and nonchalant, with broad slouch-hat brim
blown square up in front, and long riata swinging above the
head, they swept through the town like the wind! The next
minute they were only a sailing puff of dust on the far desert.
If they trotted, they sat up gallantly and gracefully, and
seemed part of the horse; did not go jiggering up and down
after the silly Miss-Nancy fashion of the riding-schools. I had
quickly learned to tell a horse from a cow, and was full of
anxiety to learn more. I was resolved to buy a horse.

While the thought was rankling in my mind, the auctioneer
came skurrying through the plaza on a black beast that had as
many humps and corners on him as a dromedary, and was
necessarily uncomely; but he was “going, going, at twenty-two!—horse,
saddle and bridle at twenty-two dollars, gentlemen!”
and I could hardly resist.

A man whom I did not know (he turned out to be the
auctioneer's brother) noticed the wistful look in my eye, and
observed that that was a very remarkable horse to be going at
such a price; and added that the saddle alone was worth the
money. It was a Spanish saddle, with ponderous tapidaros,
and furnished with the ungainly sole-leather covering with


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[Description: 504EAF. Page 179. In-line image of a group of men. One of the men is on a horse and is trying to sell the horse. ]
the unspellable name. I said I had half a notion to bid.
Then this keen-eyed person appeared to me to be “taking my
measure”; but I dismissed the suspicion when he spoke, for his
manner was full of guileless candor and truthfulness. Said he:

“I know that horse—know him well. You are a stranger,
I take it, and so you might think he was an American horse,
maybe, but I assure you he is not. He is nothing of the kind;
but—excuse my speaking in a low voice, other people being
near—he is, without the shadow of a doubt, a Genuine Mexican

I did not know what a Genuine Mexican Plug was, but
there was something about this man's way of saying it, that
made me swear inwardly that I would own a Genuine Mexican
Plug, or die.

“Has he any other—er—advantages?” I inquired, suppressing
what eagerness I could.


Page 180



[Description: 504EAF. Page 180. In-line image of a man being bucked off of a horse's back with a look of surprise.]

He hooked his forefinger in the pocket of my army-shirt,
led me to one side, and breathed in my ear impressively these

“He can out-buck anything in America!”

“Going, going, going—at twent-ty-four dollars and a half,

“Twenty-seven!” I shouted, in a frenzy.

“And sold!” said the auctioneer, and passed over the
Genuine Mexican Plug to me.

I could scarcely contain my exultation. I paid the money,
and put the animal in a neighboring livery-stable to dine and
rest himself.

In the afternoon I brought the creature into the plaza,
and certain citizens held him by the head, and others by
the tail, while I mounted
him. As soon as they let
go, he placed all his feet
in a bunch together, lowered
his back, and then
suddenly arched it upward,
and shot me straight into
the air a matter of three
or four feet! I came as
straight down again, lit in
the saddle, went instantly
up again, came down almost
on the high pommel,
shot up again, and came
down on the horse's neck—
all in the space of three or
four seconds. Then he rose
and stood almost straight
up on his hind feet, and I,
clasping his lean neck desperately,
slid back into the saddle, and held on. He came
down, and immediately hoisted his heels into the air, delivering
a vicious kick at the sky, and stood on his forefeet.


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[Description: 504EAF. Page 181. In-line image of four men gathered around a rock. One man is sitting on the rock with his head in his hand.]
And then down he came once more, and began the original
exercise of shooting me straight up again. The third time I
went up I heard a stranger say:

“Oh, don't he buck, though!”

While I was up, somebody struck the horse a sounding
thwack with a leathern strap, and when I arrived again the
Genuine Mexican Plug was not there. A Californian youth
chased him up and caught him, and asked if he might have a
ride. I granted him that luxury. He mounted the Genuine,
got lifted into the air once,
but sent his spurs home as
he descended, and the horse
darted away like a telegram.
He soared over
three fences like a bird,
and disappeared down the
road toward the Washoe

I sat down on a stone,
with a sigh, and by a natural
impulse one of my
hands sought my forehead,
and the other the base of
my stomach. I believe I
never appreciated, till then, the poverty of the human machinery—for
I still needed a hand or two to place elsewhere.
Pen cannot describe how I was jolted up. Imagination cannot
conceive how disjointed I was—how internally, externally
and universally I was unsettled, mixed up and ruptured.
There was a sympathetic crowd around me, though.

One elderly-looking comforter said:

“Stranger, you've been taken in. Everybody in this
camp knows that horse. Any child, any Injun, could have
told you that he'd buck; he is the very worst devil to buck on
the continent of America. You hear me. I'm Curry. Old
Curry. Old Abe Curry. And moreover, he is a simon-pure,
out-and-out, genuine d—d Mexican plug, and an uncommon


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[Description: 504EAF. Page 182. In-line image of a man on a horse jumping over a fence. In the process of making the jump his hat has fallen off.]
mean one at that, too. Why, you turnip, if you had laid low
and kept dark, there's chances to buy an American horse for
mighty little more than you paid for that bloody old foreign

I gave no sign; but I made up my mind that if the
auctioneer's brother's funeral took place while I was in the
Territory I would postpone all other recreations and attend it.

After a gallop of sixteen miles the Californian youth and
the Genuine Mexican Plug came tearing into town again,
shedding foam-flakes like the spume-spray that drives before a
typhoon, and, with one final skip over a wheelbarrow and a
Chinaman, cast anchor in front of the “ranch.”

Such panting and blowing! Such spreading and contracting
of the red equine nostrils, and glaring of the wild equine
eye! But was the imperial beast subjugated? Indeed he
was not.
His lordship
Speaker of
the House
thought he
was, and
him to go
down to the
Capitol; but
the first
dash the
made was over a pile of telegraph poles half as high as a
church; and his time to the Capitol—one mile and three
quarters—remains unbeaten to this day. But then he took an
advantage—he left out the mile, and only did the three quarters.
That is to say, he made a straight cut across lots, preferring
fences and ditches to a crooked road; and when the
Speaker got to the Capitol he said he had been in the air so
much he felt as if he had made the trip on a comet.


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[Description: 504EAF. Page 183. In-line image of a man in a hat trudging throught a patch of briars.]

In the evening the Speaker came home afoot for exercise,
and got the Genuine towed back behind a quartz wagon.
The next day I loaned the animal to the Clerk of the House
to go down to the Dana silver mine, six miles, and he walked
back for exercise, and
got the horse towed.
Everybody I loaned
him to always walked
back; they never could
get enough exercise
any other way. Still,
I continued to loan
him to anybody who
was willing to borrow
him, my idea being to
get him crippled, and
throw him on the borrower's
hands, or killed,
and make the borrower
pay for him. But somehow
nothing ever happened
to him. He took
chances that no other
horse ever took and
survived, but he always came out safe. It was his daily
habit to try experiments that had always before been considered
impossible, but he always got through. Sometimes
he miscalculated a little, and did not get his rider through intact,
but he always got through himself. Of course I had
tried to sell him; but that was a stretch of simplicity which
met with little sympathy. The auctioneer stormed up and
down the streets on him for four days, dispersing the populace,
interrupting business, and destroying children, and never got a
bid—at least never any but the eighteen-dollar one he hired
a notoriously substanceless bummer to make. The people
only smiled pleasantly, and restrained their desire to buy, if
they had any. Then the auctioneer brought in his bill, and I


Page 184
withdrew the horse from the market. We tried to trade him
off at private vendue next, offering him at a sacrifice for
second-hand tombstones, old iron, temperance tracts—any
kind of property. But holders were stiff, and we retired from
the market again. I never tried to ride the horse any more.
Walking was good enough exercise for a man like me, that
had nothing the matter with him except ruptures, internal injuries,
and such things. Finally I tried to give him away.
But it was a failure. Parties said earthquakes were handy
enough on the Pacific coast—they did not wish to own one.
As a last resort I offered him to the Governor for the use of
the “Brigade.” His face lit up eagerly at first, but toned
down again, and he said the thing would be too palpable.

Just then the livery stable man brought in his bill for six
weeks' keeping—stall-room for the horse, fifteen dollars; hay
for the horse, two hundred and fifty! The Genuine Mexican
Plug had eaten a ton of the article, and the man said he would
have eaten a hundred if he had let him.

I will remark here, in all seriousness, that the regular price
of hay during that year and a part of the next was really two
hundred and fifty dollars a ton. During a part of the previous
year it had sold at five hundred a ton, in gold, and during the
winter before that there was such scarcity of the article that
in several instances small quantities had brought eight hundred
dollars a ton in coin! The consequence might be guessed
without my telling it: peopled turned their stock loose to
starve, and before the spring arrived Carson and Eagle valleys
were almost literally carpeted with their carcases! Any old
settler there will verify these statements.

I managed to pay the livery bill, and that same day I gave
the Genuine Mexican Plug to a passing Arkansas emigrant
whom fortune delivered into my hand. If this ever meets his
eye, he will doubtless remember the donation.

Now whoever has had the luck to ride a real Mexican plug
will recognize the animal depicted in this chapter, and hardly
consider him exaggerated—but the uninitiated will feel justified
in regarding his portrait as a fancy sketch, perhaps.