The Gentle Grafter
A Tempered Wind
The first time my optical nerves was disturbed by the sight of Buckingham Skinner was
in Kansas City. I was standing on a corner when I see Buck stick his straw-colored head
out of a third-story window of a business block and holler, "Whoa, there! Whoa!" like
you would in endeavoring to assuage a team of runaway mules.
I looked around; but all the animals I see in sight is a policeman, having his shoes shined,
and a couple of delivery wagons hitched to posts. Then in a minute downstairs tumbles
this Buckingham Skinner, and runs to the corner, and stands and gazes down the other
street at the imaginary dust kicked up by the fabulous hoofs of the fictitious team of
chimerical quadrupeds. And then B. Skinner goes back up to the third-story room again,
and I see that the lettering on the window is "The Farmers' Friend Loan Company."
By and by Straw-top comes down again, and I crossed the street to meet him, for I had
my ideas. Yes, sir, when I got close I could see where he overdone it. He was Reub all
right as far as his blue jeans and cowhide boots went, but he had a matinee actor's hands,
and the rye straw stuck over his ear looked like it belonged to the property man of the Old
Homestead Co. Curiosity to know what his graft was got the best of me.
"Was that your team broke away and run just now?" I asks him, polite. "I tried to stop
'em," says I, "but I couldn't. I guess they're half way back to the farm by now."
"Gosh blame them darned mules," says Straw-top, in a voice so good that I nearly
apologized; "they're a'lus bustin' loose." And then he looks at me close, and then he takes
off his hayseed hat, and says, in a different voice: "I'd like to shake hands with Parleyvoo
Pickens, the greatest street man in the West, barring only Montague Silver, which you
can no more than allow."
I let him shake hands with me.
"I learned under Silver," I said; "I don't begrudge him the lead. But what's your graft,
son? I admit that the phantom flight of the non-existing animals at which you remarked
'Whoa!' has puzzled me somewhat. How do you win out on the trick?"
Buckingham Skinner blushed.
"Pocket money," says he; "that's all. I am temporarily unfinanced. This little coup de rye
straw is good for forty dollars in a town of this size. How do I work it? Why, I involve
myself, as you perceive, in the loathsome apparel of the rural dub. Thus embalmed I am
Jonas Stubblefield—a name impossible to improve upon. I repair noisily to the office of
some loan company conveniently located in the third-floor, front. There I lay my hat and
yarn gloves on the floor and ask to mortgage my farm for $2,000 to pay for my sister's
musical education in Europe. Loans like that always suit the loan companies. It's ten to