The Luck of Roaring Camp and Other Stories
A Yellow Dog
I never knew why in the Western States of America a yellow dog should be proverbially
considered the acme of canine degradation and incompetency, nor why the possession of
one should seriously affect the social standing of its possessor. But the fact being
established, I think we accepted it at Rattlers Ridge without question. The matter of
ownership was more difficult to settle; and although the dog I have in my mind at the
present writing attached himself impartially and equally to everyone in camp, no one
ventured to exclusively claim him; while, after the perpetration of any canine atrocity,
everybody repudiated him with indecent haste.
"Well, I can swear he hasn't been near our shanty for weeks," or the retort, "He was last
seen comin' out of YOUR cabin," expressed the eagerness with which Rattlers Ridge
washed its hands of any responsibility. Yet he was by no means a common dog, nor even
an unhandsome dog; and it was a singular fact that his severest critics vied with each
other in narrating instances of his sagacity, insight, and agility which they themselves had
He had been seen crossing the "flume" that spanned Grizzly Canyon at a height of nine
hundred feet, on a plank six inches wide. He had tumbled down the "shoot" to the South
Fork, a thousand feet below, and was found sitting on the riverbank "without a scratch,
'cept that he was lazily givin' himself with his off hind paw." He had been forgotten in a
snowdrift on a Sierran shelf, and had come home in the early spring with the conceited
complacency of an Alpine traveler and a plumpness alleged to have been the result of an
exclusive diet of buried mail bags and their contents. He was generally believed to read
the advance election posters, and disappear a day or two before the candidates and the
brass band-- which he hated--came to the Ridge. He was suspected of having overlooked
Colonel Johnson's hand at poker, and of having conveyed to the Colonel's adversary, by a
succession of barks, the danger of betting against four kings.
While these statements were supplied by wholly unsupported witnesses, it was a very
human weakness of Rattlers Ridge that the responsibility of corroboration was passed to
the dog himself, and HE was looked upon as a consummate liar.
"Snoopin' round yere, and CALLIN' yourself a poker sharp, are ye! Scoot, you yaller
pizin!" was a common adjuration whenever the unfortunate animal intruded upon a card
party. "Ef thar was a spark, an ATOM of truth in THAT DOG, I'd believe my own eyes
that I saw him sittin' up and trying to magnetize a jay bird off a tree. But wot are ye goin'
to do with a yaller equivocator like that?"
I have said that he was yellow--or, to use the ordinary expression, "yaller." Indeed, I am
inclined to believe that much of the ignominy attached to the epithet lay in this favorite
pronunciation. Men who habitually spoke of a "YELLOW bird," a "YELLOW-hammer,"
a "YELLOW leaf," always alluded to him as a "YALLER dog."