by Bill Nye
Public Domain Books
Years ago, before Laramie City got a handsome opera house, everything in the theatrical and musical line of a high order was put on the stage of Blackburn’s Hall. Other light dramas on the stage, and thrilling murders in the audience, used to occur at Alexander’s Theater, on Front street. Here you could get a glass of Laramie beer, made of glucose, alkali water, plug tobacco, and Paris green, by paying two bits at the bar, and, as a prize, you drew a ticket to the olio, specialties, and low gags of the stage. The idea of inebriating a man at the box office, so that he will endure such a sham, is certainly worthy of serious consideration. I have seen shows at Alexander’s, and also at McDaniel’s, in Cheyenne, however, where the bar should have provided an ounce of chloroform with each ticket in order to allay the suffering.
Here you could sit down in the orchestra and take the chances of getting hit when the audience began to shoot at the pianist, or you could go up into the boxes and have a quiet little conversation with the timid beer-jerkers. The beer-jerker was never too proud to speak to the most humble, and if she could sell a grub-staker for $5 a bottle of real Piper Heidsick, made in Cheyenne and warranted to remove the gastric coat, pants and vest from a man’s stomach in two minutes, she felt pleased and proud.
A room-mate of mine, whose name I will not give, simply because he was and still is the best fellow in the United States, came home from the “theater” one night with his hair parted in the middle. He didn’t wear it that way generally, so it occasioned talk in social circles. He still has a natural parting of the hair about five inches long, that he acquired that night. He said it was accidental so far as he was concerned, but unless the management could keep people from shooting the holders of reserved seats between the acts or any other vital spot, he would withdraw his patronage. And he was right about it. I think that any court in the land would protect a man who had purchased a seat in good faith, and with his hat on and both feet on the back of the seat in front of him, sits quietly in said seat, smoking a Colorado Maduro cigar and watching the play.
Several such accidents occurred at the said theater. Among them was a little tableau in which Joe Walker and Centennial Bob took the leading parts. Bob went to the penitentiary, and Joe went to his reward with one of his lungs in his coat pocket. There was a little difference between them as to the regularity of a “draw” and “show down,” so Bob went home from the theater and loaded a double-barrel shot-gun with a lot of scrap-iron, and, after he had introduced the collection into Joe’s front breadth, the latter’s system was so lacerated that it wouldn’t retain ground feed.
There were other little incidents like that which occurred in and around the old theater, some growing out of the lost love of a beer-jerker, some from an injudicious investment in a bob-tail flush that never got ripe enough to pick, and some from the rarified mountain air, united with an epidemic known as mania rotguti.
A funny incident of the stage occurred not long ago to a friend of mine, who is traveling with a play in which a stage cow appears. He is using what is called a profile cow now, which works by machinery. Last winter this cow ran down while in the middle of the stage, and forgot her lines. The prompter gave the string a jerk in order to assist her. This broke the cow in two, and the fore-quarters walked off to the left into one dressing-room, while the behind-quarters and porter-house steak retired to the outer dressing-room. The audience called for an encore; but the cow felt as though she had made a kind of a bull of the part, and would not appear. Those who may be tempted to harshly criticise this last remark, are gently reminded that the intense heat of the past month is liable to effect anyone’s mind. Remember, gentle reader, that your own brain may some day soften also, and then you will remember how harsh you were toward me.
Prior to the profile cow, the company ran a wicker-work cow, that was hollow and admitted of two hired-men, who operated the beast at a moderate salary. These men drilled a long time on what they called a heifer dance–a beautiful spectacular, and highly moral and instructive quadruped clog, sirloin shuffle, and cow gallop, to the music of a piano-forte. The rehearsals had been crowned with success, and when the cow came on the stage she got a bouquet, and made a bran mash on one of the ushers.
She danced up and down the stage, perfectly self-possessed, and with that perfect grace and abandon which is so noticeable in the self-made cow. Finally she got through, the piano sounded a wild Wagnerian bang, and the cow danseuse ambled off. She was improperly steered, however, and ran her head against a wing, where she stopped in full view of the audience. The talent inside of the cow thought they had reached the dressing-room and ran against the wall, so they felt perfectly free to converse with each other. The cow stood with her nose jammed up against the wing, wrapped in thought, Finally, from her thorax the audience heard a voice say:
“Jim, you blamed galoot, that ain’t the step we took at rehearsal no more’n nuthin’. If you’re going to improvise a new cow duet, I wish you wouldn’t take the fore-quarters by surprise next time.”
It is not now known what the reply was, for just then the prompter came on the stage, rudely twisted the tail of the cow, rousing her from her lethargy, and harshly kicking her in the pit of the stomach, he drove her off the stage, The audience loudly called for a repetition, but the cow refused to come in.