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Dusting Off the Old Ones
Originally published 1961, W. B. Clarke, Miles City, Montana

141. The Big Game

Fallon, that little town about 50 miles east of us on the Northern Pacific Railroad was quite a shipping point around the turn of the century and there are many stories told of the doings of the cowboys around the little point during the fall when the cattle were being shipped. We ran onto one the other day that we thought you would enjoy, so we will give it to you just as it appeared in the Yellowstone Journal of October 17, 1896. It must be remembered that those were the days of the big herds of cattle and that the larger outfits shipped a train load of cattle or more at a time, sending them to some eastern commission house to run through the yards and take what the market brought. This story is entitled "A Big Game" and the subheading is "Three Nobobs play a Straight Ten Points for a Train Load of Cattle." And the story follows verbatim, as it appeared in the Journal:

"Talk about big games, there was one played at Fallon last week that would make your hair curl. It was 'cutthroat seven up', the first ten points, and the stake was a trainload of cattle. Of course, the players were blooded. They were George Dunlap, E. J. Jaffray and Charley McDaniels, each representing a livestock commission house. The way it came about was this. Ed Marron was shipping from Fallon. He had inadvertently promised each of the gentlemen a trainload of cattle, and they were there to get each his trainload. But when the cattle got to Fallon for shipment, Ed found that he had only enough for one trainload instead of three. The three worthies above mentioned knew this too, and they followed Ed around with such wistful eyes and hungry looks that Ed, who is softhearted, began to feel as if he was guilty of some grave misdemeanor. What to do, he didn't know. He thought first that he would give the cattle to Dunlap because he was the best looking; then the thoughts of Jaffray's large family came into his mind and he would be on the point of telling "Jaff" to take them when Charley MacDaniel's large blue eyes and high forehead would loom up before him like an accusing spirit, and then he would about make up his mind to turn the darned cattle loose on the range and go home. It was a tough proposition with apparently no solution, but in the darkest hours there is always hope and Ed was meditating suicide, but the way out of the trouble opened like a broad avenue, and he arose and set forth smiling.

The Dreibund saw him coming and noted his smiling countenance--but neither of them dared to hope that the decision was to be in his favor.
They just waited for him to speak and these words fell upon their expectant ears:

'Well, boys, I have promised each of you a trainload of cattle.
All smiled and nodded a hasty assent.
'And you are here to ship them'.
More smiles and nods.
'And you know that I have only got one train to give.'
No smiles this time, but dubious nods and exposure of Charley
McDaniel's shining dome of thought as he wiped the perspiration off
of it.
'Well I'll tell you what I've made up my mind to do with you
fellows'
And here Ed assumed a stern judicial air that sent 'Jaff's'
heart down in his boots and caused Dunlap to glance uneasily
from Marron to the other two.
'I've made up my mind to have you three play a ten point game
of seven-up to see who gets this trainload of cattle'--and he
added, noting sign of revolt, 'if you don't do that I won't
give it to either of you' and with that he turned and walked
away.
They went back to the section house where there was a table and cards and squared themselves for the game. 'Mac' insisted on a removal of coats and a turning up of sleeves 'so there would be no trouble' and so they all 'peeled.' Meanwhile the news of the big game spread and the entire population of Fallon was soon clustered around the table where the game was going on.

'It was the meanest game of seven-up ever played. There wasn't a pronounced high or low out in any hand and consequently there was a squabble at the end of each hand to decide who held these points. Dunlap didn't get a chance to flip a Jack and 'Jaff's' cards were carefully counted out to him whenever he dealt. The game dragged on and the excitement increased until the climax was reached. Dunlap was 8--Jaffray 9--and Mac 7. It was Dunlap's deal and Jaff's beg and it looked like a cinch. Dunlap dealt out six apiece and felt for the Jack that was on the bottom but there were too many looking and with a sigh he turned the top card. Jaff skinned his hand slowly in silence so intense that you could have heard a gum drop if there had been one there.

'Run the cards' he said finally, not having found a trump in his hand.

Of course to 'give' him would be to put him out, so George picked up the deck again, and moistened his fingers for another try at that Jack. Three more were dealt and again the dealer moved the top card. It was a spade. 'Jaff' had the lone ten, 'Mac' the jack and seven spot, and George had the little teeney-weeney two spot.

As the play went on it came to be Dunlap's lead and he lead the king of hearts. It looked very tempting to Jaff and besides he was getting a little nervous about his ten spot of trump, so he slaps it down on the king and 'Mac' didn't do a thing but nail it with his jack, and by the play pull fourteen for game. 'Mac' was feeling pretty good just then--there seemed no doubt that he was high, jack and game, with a seven spot for low. The next chance he got he dipped in with his seven spot to trump some more game. This left George with the only trump out, and although he didn't know this, he hugged it, not seeing anything worth while trumping, and so it came to the last play. 'Mac' led his last card, it was the ten of clubs; Dunlap played his deuce of trumps and Jaffray contributed with the ten of hearts. Low-game on the trick--and Dunlap won the trainload of cattle. After they had counted and recounted the cards and satisfied themselves that everything was on the square, 'Jaff' and 'Mac' gave it up and then George gave them some fatherly advice about playing for big stakes, and then he wired his house to look out for a trainload of Marron's cattle, 'shipped under peculiar circumstances; particulars by mail." It was a good game and worthy of mention, but strange to say neither 'Mac' nor 'Jaff' had much to say about it. George Dunlap is doing the talking."

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