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The Charming Dr. Horsehair

By Bob Flesher 

Old Doc and I and some of the boys were sittin’ around the wood stove the other night.  I was playin’ a few tunes on my banjer.  After I played one little tune Doc says, “Hey Sandy Bob, whats the name of that there tune?”  He always calls me Sandy Bob because the first time I ever met him I was stuck up to my armpits in quick sand down on the Texas side of the Red River.  I was astride of my horse when old Doc pulled me out but we left my horse buried right there six feet under the sand.  My horse never had a name.  I just called him “Horse”  but after Doc pulled me out of that there quick sand, I named my horse “Anvil” cause he sunk so fast.  Well I told him the name of the tune was  “The Buffalo Road”. About that time old Doc got a sparkle in his eye and said, “Did I ever tell you boys about the time I was a buffalo hunter with Buffalo Bill?”  Old Doc had told us this story about a dozen times but I knew there wasn’t no stopping him now.   

He said, “I met old Buffalo Bill back in the days when he was a fetchin’ buffalo meat for the railroad crews building that trans-contintal railroad.  He had a horse that was trained to ride up beside a buffalo so’s he could use both hands to shoot him.  My horse was a might ‘fraid of them critters and I wasn’t a very good shot so I devised a plan to take my share of them buffalo without a shot being fired.”

 Then Old Doc started a smiling with a twinkle in his eye and said, “Some years back I had learned to charm bees from an old lady in Arkansas by grinnin’ them away.  Then I could confiscate with all their honey.  She taught me to start grinnin’ real big with all my teeth a showin’ as we approached the hive.  I think they thought I was possum eating bumble bees and they would run and hide before I ate them too.  You had to keep working new bees though because after a few times they would catch on to your tricks and give you old Billy Heck.  So being the athletic type I decided to try another trick on them.  About the time they was a catchin’ on that I wasn’t a real possum eatin’bumble bees and they were coming at me like a pack of wild dogs, I would stand on my head while all the time a still grinnin’  Do you know when them dern bees saw me a standin’ on my head a grinnin’ they thought they was upside down instead of me and they would roll over upside down themselves and crash into the ground and break their fool necks.  Worked like a charm!”

 Doc went on to say, “I figured if I could charm bees, maybe I could charm buffalo.  I was kind a skiert the first time I tried it.  A big bull buffalo is a fearsome creature you know.  Well, I ventured up slowly on my horse to an old bull whist Bill looked on.  Got off my horse and started walking toward him just a grinnin’ like a full moon..  He took notice alright and started a-pawin' the ground and a snortin’ like a steam train.   About the time he was a fixin’ to charge, I stood on my head and he got so mixed up he fell on the ground.  Do you know after struggling all over the ground for a while, that old feller finally stood up, upside down on his head a balancing on the tips of his horns and his nose.  Then he decided it was time to charge me but when he started running, he lost his balance and fell backward on his back.  His horns stuck in the ground and he broke his fool neck deader than a rock.  Old Bill said that was the derndest thing he ever saw.  Yeah, I killed many a-buffalo that way.  Saved on powder too and no bullet holes in the skin tither.” 

 Doc continued on, “Old Bill and myself was a fetchin’ back some buffalo beefs in a wagon one day that we had shot and carved up for the railroad fellers when we was a jumped by a passel of wild Injuns.  Whilst they was still a fur piece off Bill says, ‘Lets off load these here buffalo shoulders, shove them under the wagon and we’ll fortify ourselves.  Looks like we’re in for a fight.’  By the time them redskins arrived we was a ready fur em’.  There were about eight or ten of them.  Well, we traded shots with them for a while and I could see we were a getting’ no where and I was a getting’ mighty hungry.  So, I dug my way out of the buffalo shoulders and started walking toward them just a grinnin’ like a skelaton.  I figured if I could charm bees and buffalo, maybe I could charm the wild Indian.  They all came to a stop with a startled look on their face and started slowly riding toward me.  Pretty soon they started a grinnin too.  The old chief had no teeth and his face sure did look like the south end of a north bound mule.  When they got close on their horses and gathered around me all a grinnin’ I flipped over and stood on my head.  Sure enough, all their heads went down to an upside down position and they all fell off their horses.  Pretty soon they are all rolling around on the ground trying to stand on their heads but couldn’t.  They all started laughing because as soon as they would stand up they would fall down again as long as I was still a grinnin’.    Finally I stood upright  and they all patted me on the back, just a laughing away.  We told them we was Buffalo Bill and Doc Horsehair.  The old chief with no teeth said his name was “Red Sky in the Morning, White man take Warning” We just called him “Red Sky” for short.  They said we was welcome to come to their camp but we had to fetch them buffalo beefs back for supper.  We gave them a Buffalo shoulder and they gave us a plug of “tabackie” and away they rode, just a hoopin’ and a hollerin’ and as happy as a lark.  Bill said he’d never seen the like in all his life.”

 Old Doc was on a roll so he jut a kept on talkin’,  “Several years later when Buffalo Bill was not around, I got myself into a scrape and got captured by some real, mean looking Kickapoo Indians who was a fixin’ to take my scalp until they removed my hat and found that I was as bald as a rock.  While they was a contemplating what to do, I started grinnin’.  I caught them all by surprise and  they commenced to grinnin’ also.  All except one feller who refused to grin and continued to look mean.  He looked like he had fell out of the angry tree and hit every branch on the way down.  He had what looked like a hat made out of big bird with feathers.  So I flipped on my head and sure enough they all fell down and starter a wallerin’ all over the ground trying to stand on their head.  All except this one mean looking Indian with a bird hat on.  He just kept standing there with his arms crossed lookin’ mad.  Well, I got those Indians a laughing so much that they all forgot about my scalp.  They took me to their camp and fed me real good on some buffalo inards and parched corn.  This here old mean lookin’, bird hat feller just a kept a staring at me with an evil eye.  My grinning wasn’t working on him.  He wasn’t going to go for it. 

After supper they built a big fire and started a dancing.  About that time a passel of Indians rode in from a neighboring camp.  They begin to dance and then they spotted me.  They started yelling and hoopin’ like someone dropped a hot rock on their foot all the while pointing at me.  All of a sudden they started a grinnin’ and went to standing on their head.  I was somewhat perplexed when all of a sudden old Chief Red Sky walked up with no teeth just a grinnin’ like a can of worms.  He commensed to hugging me and chattering to all the other Indians there.  Finally, he said his boys had been prac-tizin’ grinning and standing on their heads till they got it down.  Everyone in the camp was happy and patting me on the back except that there mean looking bird hat feller.  He was still as grim as death. That night those Indians got to fooling around and grinning while standing on their heads and they invented the famous “Indian Head Dance” by bouncing around the circle on their heads..  From that dance they became know as the famous Flat Head Indians.  Now I’m tellin’ ya right!  

I asked old Red Sky why that there feller with the bird hat on was so mad.  To my suprize old Red Sky said that he was his twin brother and his name was “Red Sky At Night, Indian Take Flight”.  Well, I could have thrown my hat in the creek!  Now I had two Red Skys to deal with.  I asked old Red Sky why his brother Red Sky was so mad?  He said he loves honey and everytime he goes to rob  honey from the bees, they sting him so’s he’s all swelt up and in pain for a week.  Well, I guess that explains it.  Next day I took old Red Sky, with the bird hat out to a clutch of bees in an old rottenn tree and showed him how to charm them there bees away by grinnin’ so’s he could steel their honey.  After that he was all smiles and since he was the tribe’s chief and medicine man, he showed me how to make a magic elixer that would heel any thing but bee stings.  He was still working on that part.  It was known in the old days as “Kick-a-poo Snake Oil” since it was made by rendering all the oil out of a snake skin.  I took it and improved upon it and called it “Wizard Oil”.  I’ve sold a passel of bottles of that wonderful stuff.” 

Old Doc with a twinkle in his eye added, “Them two Red Sky boys was so grateful for showing them how to grin and stand on their head that they made me a blood brother.  Since one was named “Red Sky in the Morning”  and the tother named “Red Sky at Night”, they put me in the middle and named me “Red Sky at Noon, Indian Ski-daddle Soon.”  Well, it made sense to them and that’s all that counted.” 

Then old Doc said, “Some time later after the railroad was built and Injun fightin’ slowed down Old Buffalo Bill decided he was going to start a wild west show.  It was going pretty good but he said he needed something a little different to liven up the show and that they were gonna tour England and play for the King and Queen.  He asked me one day what I thought about joining him in his show.  I said, ‘ What am I gonna to do there?’  Bill said, ‘Demonstrate your grinnin’ powers, of course.  Let’s see if you can charm them Englishmen.’  Then he asked me who else I might know who could join his show and demonstrate something special about how the West was in the old days.  I thought a while and said, Why don’t you ask them two Red Sky boys and get some of their flat head Injuns to do the Indian Head Dance.  Bill thought that was a right tollerable idea.  I went with him to palaber with them and sure enough, them two Red Sky twins jined up and all their braves.” 

“Well, we all met the show in New York as they was a-shipping out to England.  Let me tell you, them Injuns got so sea sick, I thought they was a gonna turn wrong side out.  They all wanted to go home but it was too late.  When we got to England and did our first show it was for the King and Queen themselves and all them folks that talk funny.  The show was going great but when those Red Sky cheifs and all those flatheads started beating that big drum and singing and bouncing around on their heads in a circle, the crowd went wild.  The wilder the crowd yelled and clapped, the bigger the smile on that toothless old chief  and the harder they beat the drum.  The harder they beat the drum, the higher those Flat Head Injuns bounced off the ground on their heads.  They must have been bouncing as high as a man’s head and screaming like wild Indians everytime the hit the ground.  That was the strangest thing I ever saw in all my born days. 

It finally came my turn. Bill had me all dressed up in buckskins and of course my old top hat with an eagle feather in it that the Red Sky boys gave me when I jined the tribe and became their blood brother.  There was a feller a-shoutin through a horn announcing who I was and all about my grinnin’ powers.  I was a might skiert but someone gave me a boot in the rear and out of the tent I flew before I was really prepared.  I was suppose to grin a buffalo into standing on his head like I did with Bill that time.  The only problem was, if we used a real buffalo, he would fall and break his neck and we only had a certain number of live buffalo with us so they had this dead buffalo all stuffed with paper and a feller behind him who would lift him up on his head when I flipped up side down.  Trouble was, we never got that far.  I was pretty up close to where the King and Queen were a-sittin’ with all their fancy clothes and all those other important people.  Well I starts to grinnin’ from ear to ear and their eyes got real big and they started tremblin’ with fear and yelling, “It’s a possum eatin’ bumble bees! Run, boys!   The more they cried out the more I grinned.  I was really puttin’ on a show with charm, you might say!  When I thought they was about to charge me like a herd of buffalo, I flipped over on my head and to my surprise the King and Queen both fell out of their chairs and landed on their heads. People were falling out of the grand stand on their heads and bouncing down the steps up side down.  No one could get up. The King and Queen and all those important people were rolling all over the ground trying to stand up but they couldn’t.” 

“About this time all them Flat Head Injuns were a laughing so hard they was a-rolling all over the ground also. Then they got all around me a dancing on their heads.  The Queen finally made it to stand on her head but her crown got stuck in the dirt and her dress fell all over her face.  Some of them Bobbie policemen came over to make me stop but I grinned at them and they went down also.  By this time they were all a-laughing so hard they couldn’t stop.  I finally got tired and stood upright and stopped grinnin’.  They all got up, dusted themselves off, resumed looking dignified and sat down.  Then the King said to the Queen, “What a charming fellow”.  I took a bow as Bill said to do and then they gave me a standing ovation. Bill said that was the strangest sight he had ever seen in his whole life.” Even Annie Okley took to doing trick shots that day while standing on her head also. 

Then old Doc reared back and stretched and said,   “Well boys, I guess that’s enough lying for tonight. I’m gonna go take a little Wizard Oil for my constitution and then hit the tick. Good night, boys.  

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