An Arizona Etude by Will C. Barnes

"Las' time I was in Fo't Worth," drawled Peg Leg Russel who was industriously working away, with marlin spike and leather strings, on a new quirt, "I seen a circus band there a-ridin' hosses an' a-playin' at the same time."

"Makin' sure enuff music?" queried one of the boys.

"They sure was," replied Peg Leg; "an' what's more, them ole white hosses they was a-ridin' never batted an eye, but jist tromped along like a bunch of hearse horses.

"I'd sure love to see 'em try any such funny business with these yere little ole diggers we're a-ridin'," he continued, "Lordy, but wouldn't they git up an' rag when the first toot come off."

"If ye'd been wid me in the good old 'gallopin' Sixth Cavalry,' ye'd sure had a chanst to observe jist such a performance," said Pat the cook, who was busy at the mess box with supper preparations.

The mess wagon was backed up into the shade of a great, wide-spreading juniper, and the outfit was waiting there a few days for a bunch of fresh saddle horses from the horse camp. Ten or a dozen punchers were lying about in the shade, some asleep, some overhauling "war bags," sunning bedding, and others like Russel making quirts or hair ropes.

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 "The mess wagon was backed up into the shade"

The old red-headed cook's army experiences were the butt of a great many sly jokes among the men, but he always had something new to relate, and the intimation, that he had seen a band mounted on western horses, was enough to excite their curiosity.

"Tell us about it, Pat," said Tex, "them Sixth Cavalry fellers sure rode the outpitchenest lot of bronks I ever see outside of a cow-outfit. I reckin' I'd oughter know, fer I were a workin' fer old man White down in the San Simon Valley clost to Fort Bowie in them days."

Any reference to the old man's former regiment warmed the cockles of the cook's heart, and he needed no urging to start him off on the story.

"We was all a-layin' up at old Fort Tonto," he said rolling out, with an empty beer bottle, what Russel said was the "lid" of a dried apple pie, "the whole regiment being there after two years spent chasin' over them hills and deserts trying to catch those divils of Apaches.

"'Twere the first time in three years we'd seen the band, an' when the General sent word for them bandsmen to come up from Camp Lowell we sure felt mighty pleased, for, barrin' a couple of fiddles an' Danny Hogan's concertina, there wasn't any music worth mentioning in the whole post.

"The old general had been over in Europe the year before an' picked up a lot of cranky idees about soldiering which didn't set well on the old Sixth, them bein' a bunch of rough ridin' hombres, very divils for fightin', but wid mighty little love for drills an' garrison duty.

"Wan day, I was the gineral's orderly, an' a standin' outside the door to his quarters, I could hear him an' the adjutant a-wranglin' about dress parade for next Sunday.

"The old man he was insistin' that them bandsmen could play mounted instead of afoot. 'Why,' ses he, 'didn't I see wid me own eyes in Paris, a army band all mounted an' a-ridin' an' a-playin' like good fellies?'

"'But, gineral,' says the adjutant, 'them there bandsmen of ours, bein' enlisted solely for musicians, not wan of them knows anything about ridin', an' as for ridin' an' a-playin' at the same time, on top of them there horses of ours, sure every wan of them will git thrown off an' hurted.'

"'So much the worse for them,' snorted the gineral, 'let them learn to ride—that's what they've got horses for. This is no bunch of doughboys I'm commandin', 'tis a regiment of cavalry-men, and cavalry-men we'll make of them or kill them a-tryin'.'

"'Sure,' he ses, ses he 'didn't Custer's band use to play mounted, an' why can't my band do the same?'

"The adjutant he tried to argufy wid the old man, tellin' him them there furrin' mounts were jist like a bunch of old dray hosses, an' edicated like trained pigs. But nothin' would suit the gineral but a mounted dress parade for all hands, includin' the band.

"So the adjutant he calls to me an he ses, 'Orderly,' ses he, 'my compliments to Mr. Schwartz, the band leader, an' ask him to report to the office immediately.'

"Now Schwartz, he was a little old fat Dutchman, about five feet six, an' weighin' over two hundred pounds. When I gave him me message he ses, ses he,

"'What's up,' ses he.

"'Mounted dress parade for the band,' ses I.

"'Mein Gott, me for sick report,' ses he.

"'Mr. Schwartz,' ses the adjutant when he waddles up to the office, ''tis the orders of the commanding officer that the band attend dress parade next Sunday afternoon, mounted an' wid their instruments ready to play.'

"Schwartz he gasps an' tried hard to say a word, but the adjutant he ses, ses he: 'Git your men out an' drill them every day till they can handle their hosses an' instruments at the same time. An' mind ye,' ses he, 'them there band instruments costs money, an' we want none of thim unnecsarily injured.'

"Schwartz he mumbled somethin' as he went out about them bein' a sight more anxious over not injurin' the instruments than they were the men, men bein' a matter for the recruitin' service, while instruments must be paid for out of the regimental funds.

"For the next four or five days the bandsmen was mighty busy a-drillin' their hosses an' a-gettin' them usened to the sound of the instruments by standin' on the ground in front of them an' a-playin.'

"Comes Saturday, the word goes about the post, that the band would make the first try at playin' on the backs of their hosses that afternoon.

"When they led their steeds out of the corral an' formed on the cavalry prade ground, every soul in the post, officers, sogers, apache injins, dog robbers an' laundresses was there to see the doin's.

"They led them bronks out an' played one chune, a-standin' at their heads, an' barrin' a few of them what pulled back an' got loose from the men, they stood the racket all right.

"Then the drum major, a-ridin' a white hoss, trots out to the front of them, waves his baton, an' gives the command, 'Prepare to mount.'

"Ivery man, accordin' to the latest tactics, grabs a handful of mane, in his left hand, an' his reins an' the saddle pommel wid his right, his instruments a-hangin' to his anatemy by straps or slings.

"When they gits the word 'mount,' they all swings up into their saddles somehow, some of them fat old musicians clamberin' up more like loadin' a sack of bran than anything else in all the world.

"The chap what played the bass drum, he bowed up when it come to tryin' to use his big drum, an' so they compromised on a pair of kittle drums, wan strapped to each side of the saddle horn.

"Them kittle drums looked for all the world like a pair of twenty-gallon water kaigs on a pack saddle.

"The horse, he eyed the load on his back sort of suspicious-like, an' lets the drummer git settled down into his saddle wid a drumstick in each wan of his two hands, but keepin' his ears a-workin' like a couple of wig-wag signal flags.

"Finally, when every wan was safely on top, an' the horses standin' fairly quiet, the drum major he waves his stick, an' wid a sweep of his arms, gives the signal to play.

"An' right there the fun began. The first rap the drummer give wid his drumsticks was too much for his horse, an' wid wan wild look at them two great soup kittles a-hangin' onto his back, an' wid the roar of them in his ears, he jist hung his head down, an' began some of the scientifickest buckin' an' pitchin' you ever seen.

"Bustin' through the band, wid them two kittles a-wavin' an' a-thumpin' on his back, the drummer's horse had little trouble in incitin' several more of them to the same line of conduct, an' in about two minutes half the horses in the outfit were a-buckin' an' a-cavortin' around like very divils.

"The kittle drummer an' the Swiss gent, what played the tubey—an' him a-settin' there in the middle of them great silvery coils like some prehistoric monster—they went through that bunch of wild-eyed Dutch musicians, like two shooting stars.

"The drummer tried hard to stay on top of his load, but what wid them two great copper tubs a-knockin' an' a-thumpin' away on his horse's withers, a-barkin' his shins an' knees wid every jump, an' a-floppin' like two big buzzards' wings, 'twas no disgrace that he couldn't stay there, him bein' no bronco buster, but jist a Dutch bandsman.

"He went up into the air wid them two drumsticks, wan in each hand, describin' a lovely circle, an' a comin' down head first in the soft dirt, while the hoss wid them two drums, beatin' a very divil's tattoo on his ribs, tored off down the road an' out of sight.

"As for the tubey player, he tried hard to stay in the middle of his bucker. But, bein' handicapped as it were, wid some thirty odd feet of German silver tubin' wrapped about his anatemy, an' it a-bumpin' an' a-bangin' agin his head every time the hoss struck the sod, he made hard work of it.

"After makin' some desperate efforts to find somethin' solid to hold onto, an' a-clawin' all the leather offen his saddle pommel in the effort, the wind jammer gives it up for a bad job, turned all holds loose, an' went up into the air like a musical sky rocket. The saddler sergint of G-troop sed he was a Dutch meteor.

"Ony how, he went up, an', encircled wid them great silvery pipes, made a fine landin' in the soft dirt, drivin' the bell of his tubey deep into it.

"The next minute his hoss was a-folerin' the kittle drums like Tam O'Shanter's ghost.

"Then there was a tall hungry Irishman—though what a dacent Irisher was a-doin' in that bunch of Dutchies I dunno—but there he was. He played a clarinet about a yard long, an' when his hoss decided 'twas time for him to do a little stunt of his own, in the buckin' line, he made a wild grab for his reins. But 'twas no good. Ivery time he comes down, he jabbed the sharp pint of that clarinet mouthpiece into the horse's withers, which didn't help matters a little bit.

"He was a-doin' some elegant reachin' for something to hold onto, but some way he couldn't connect wid anything at all. Wan jump an' he lost his cap, the next he landed behind the saddle, which gives his horse an opporchunity for lettin' out a few extry holes in his performance. Back into the saddle he goes, but not findin' conditions there to his likin', he continued on wid a forward movement finally landin' in front of the saddle, then a little furder forward, workin' out on the horse's neck like some sailor lad a-climbin' out on the bowsprit of a ship.

"Finally, the hoss took time enough to lift his nose from scrapin' the ground bechune his two front feet, an' have a look about him; in doin' which he turned the clarinet player end for end like a tumbler in a circus. Down he comes, wid his precious clarinet grabbed in his hand like a black-thorn shillalah, and when he lit, he bored a place in the dirt deep enough for a post hole.

"Over on the porch of the adjutant's office, a-takin' it all in, was the old gineral wid a bunch of ladies. When the last of the twenty or more riderless bronks disappeared over the brow of the hill down the road toward the creek, the old man turned to his orderly standin' near by an' ses, ses he, 'Orderly, prisint me compliments to the adjutant an' tell him that the band's excused from attindin' dress parade mounted till furder orders.'"