Complete Poetical Works

Dow’s Flat


Bret Harte

DOW’S FLAT. That’s its name;
    And I reckon that you
Are a stranger?    The same?
    Well, I thought it was true,—
For thar isn’t a man on the river as can’t spot the place at first view.

It was called after Dow,—
    Which the same was an ass,—
And as to the how
    Thet the thing kem to pass,—
Jest tie up your hoss to that buckeye, and sit ye down here in the grass.

You see this ’yer Dow
    Hed the worst kind of luck;
He slipped up somehow
    On each thing thet he struck.
Why, ef he’d a straddled thet fence-rail, the derned thing’d get up and buck.

He mined on the bar
    Till he couldn’t pay rates;
He was smashed by a car
    When he tunneled with Bates;
And right on the top of his trouble kem his wife and five kids from the States.

It was rough,—mighty rough;
    But the boys they stood by,
And they brought him the stuff
    For a house, on the sly;
And the old woman,—well, she did washing, and took on when no one was nigh.

But this ’yer luck of Dow’s
    Was so powerful mean
That the spring near his house
    Dried right up on the green;
And he sunk forty feet down for water, but nary a drop to be seen.

Then the bar petered out,
    And the boys wouldn’t stay;
And the chills got about,
    And his wife fell away;
But Dow in his well kept a peggin’ in his usual ridikilous way.

One day,—it was June,
    And a year ago, jest—
This Dow kem at noon
    To his work like the rest,
With a shovel and pick on his shoulder, and derringer hid in his breast.

He goes to the well,
    And he stands on the brink,
And stops for a spell
    Jest to listen and think:
For the sun in his eyes (jest like this, sir!), you see, kinder made the cuss blink.

His two ragged gals
    In the gulch were at play,
And a gownd that was Sal’s
    Kinder flapped on a bay:
Not much for a man to be leavin’, but his all,—as I’ve heer’d the folks say.

And—That’s a peart hoss
    Thet you’ve got,—ain’t it now?
What might be her cost?
    Eh?    Oh!—Well, then, Dow—
Let’s see,—well, that forty-foot grave wasn’t his, sir, that day, anyhow.

For a blow of his pick
    Sorter caved in the side,
And he looked and turned sick,
    Then he trembled and cried.
For you see the dern cuss had struck—”Water?”—Beg your parding, young man,—there you lied!

It was gold,—in the quartz,
    And it ran all alike;
And I reckon five oughts
    Was the worth of that strike;
And that house with the coopilow’s his’n,—which the same isn’t bad for a Pike.

Thet’s why it’s Dow’s Flat;
    And the thing of it is
That he kinder got that
    Through sheer contrairiness:
For ’twas water the derned cuss was seekin’, and his luck made him certain to miss.

Thet’s so!    Thar’s your way,
    To the left of yon tree;
But—a—look h’yur, say?
    Won’t you come up to tea?
No?    Well, then the next time you’re passin’; and ask after Dow,— and thet’s me.

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