|Home -> Other California History Books -> Vignettes of San Francisco -> Western Yarns|
The men around the corner store at home were forever telling stories about the big yarns that Were told in the West. One of the favorites was that ancient one of the Western town that was so healthy they had to kill a man to start a graveyard.
Having been brought up on this tradition of Western yarns, I have been surprised since living here never to have heard a single story that didn't sound perfectly reasonable. But it has dawned on me recently that the "Yarns" are true. Therefore, they are no longer yarns, but facts.
Here is an oil boom story I heard first-hand the other day. I believe it, but you couldn't get those men around the corner store to believe it - .
It was in a dusty town where everyone rushed in to make quick money and never mind about the main street even if they did have to plough through dust to their knees. Then one day a heavy rain came that made the street one slough of soft oozy clay which no one could cross.
Then enters the hero. Even while they stood dismayed, gazing at each other across the clay, he appeared with a mud sled and took them all across for 50 cents a passenger and $1 if you had a bundle.
Now, I believe it. Didn't I see the man who had been there and paid his four-bits to cross? Imagine, if you can, though, trying to make those Yankees around the corner store believe that there was a town where one had to pay 50 cents to cross a narrow country road in a mud sled.
I believed a man who told me a story down in Kern County last summer. We were riding over the desert and I asked the stage driver the name of a low yellow bush that grows down there. He was an interesting fellow, that stage driver, who had been a buccaroo all his life and apparently knew all about the sage brush country. And when he didn't know he was not lacking in an answer. I like a man like that. Answer, I say, whether you know or not.
He said with great assurance that the little, low, yellow bush was "Mexican saddle blanket" or "Tinder bush," this last because it burns like tinder in the fall of the year.
"Why, that bush is so dry," he said, "that once when I lighted it to cook my bacon for breakfast it traveled so fast that by the time my bacon was cooked I was five miles from camp."
I laughed - I couldn't help it when I imagined that six-footer traveling across the desert with a frying pan over that low bush. I laughed because it was so real to me, but he misunderstood, and said so sort of hurt, "Don't you believe me?"
And I told him I did. And I did. And I do. Five miles isn't a great distance to travel over the desert after one's bacon.