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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Dow’s Flat

By Bret Harte (1836–1902)


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 ’ud 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 a 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.