This third book in the series differs a bit from the first two. Because J.K. Ralston, the famous Western artist who illustrated Bill’s first two books, has long followed Bill over the Great Divide, the family decided to use a couple hundred actual family photographs instead of illustrations. Additionally, Bill’s great-granddaughter Linda wrote his biography and divided it into sections to accompany appropriate stories and photographs.
To whet your appetite…
I was borned in North Platte, Nebraska, and went to school there until I was in the second grade. I used to stay with my grandfolks a great deal as my father was foreman for a cow outfit, and Mother stayed at the ranch with him. My grandfolks had two boys—Bert, two years younger and Lew, one year older than me. We used to have lots of fights and lots of fun. I also had five cousins: one girl Pearl and four boys Ed, Rob, George, and Jim. They was all nice kids and slim built but Jim. He was chunky and fat, so we nicknamed him Fatty. I used to go over to my aunt’s and play with the kids as they was about my age. I don’t think I ever had any scrapes with any of them only Fatty, but Fatty and I used to tangle up pretty often. (Editor’s note: These five cousins were the children of Bill’s father’s sister Nellie. She married a man by the name of Joseph E. Weeks.)
Uncle Joe used to work for the Union Pacific Railroad in the roundhouse. He had a pretty large family, and the railroad didn’t pay very big wages in those early days. They had plenty to eat but no knickknacks. I don’t think I was ever to their house that they didn’t have a big pot of boiled beans. Uncle Joe used to dish out the beans with a long-handled ladle that would hold about a soup plate full of beans. Fatty—on account of being fat—was kind of greedy and if he didn’t get the first ladle full, he’d get mad and make a fuss and Uncle Joe would crack him on the head with the bean ladle and the way Fatty would bawl was awful. He’d keep it up until Uncle Joe would whack him again.
Fatty was always the boss of the other kids in the family as he was the best scrapper. He had a big stomach and a snotty nose. He was plenty tough and nobody’s pet. He had a bad habit of calling any one a sonofabitch when he got mad at them, and he took many a licking for using that foul name. We used to play marbles a lot. You could buy 20 commies for a dime or glasseys for 1 cent apiece or 12 for a dime. Aunt Nellie gave Fatty a dime to buy marbles with. He bought glasseys and played keeps.
One day Fatty lost all his marbles and was mad at the kid that won them and called him a sonofabitch, and they had a fight. They was both bawling, and every once in a while, Fatty would holler, “Sonofabitch!” The other boy was doing pretty good until they clinched. Fatty fell on top. He was so much heavier that the kid couldn’t roll him off, and Fatty was sure giving him plenty abuse and hollering, “Sonofabitch!”
In our rules of fighting, when a kid hollered, “Enough!” that was supposed to end the fight, but Fatty just kept hammering away so the kids pulled Fatty off. He sulked off a ways and then thumbed his hand at us, yelled, “Sonofabitch!” and run.
One of the kids in our gang had a birthday party, and the folks all got together and fixed us a nice lunch as we wanted to make it kind of a picnic and go down to the river where we could swim. We had sandwiches, three pies, donuts, cake, and some chicken. One old lady that had cows sent a jug of sweet milk and a jug of buttermilk. They put it all in a big basket with a handle. We put a stick through the handle and charged off, carrying it to the river about a mile and a half from town. We had our swimming hole in the South Platte River just east of the bridge. We had agreed that no one would touch the lunch until the whistle blew at noon. So we tied the basket up under the bridge where the ants wouldn’t get in the lunch. We was a-swimming when we missed Fatty.
We looked all over, and someone spied him under the bridge eating pie! He had set the basket down, and a lot of ants had got in the lunch. The gang was plenty mad! We caught him, and four of the biggest boys got him by the hands and feet, counted one-two-three, swinging back and forth, and on three heaved him off the bridge in the river in a deep hole! He came out of that 10-foot-deep hole, blowing bubbles out of his mouth and nose like a shark!