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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

John Hay (1838–1905)

The Mystery of Gilgal

From “Pike County Ballads”

THE DARKEST, strangest mystery

I ever read, or heern, or see,

Is ’long of a drink at Taggart’s Hall—

Tom Taggart’s of Gilgal.

I’ve heern the tale a thousand ways,

But never could git through the maze

That hangs around that queer day’s doin’s;

But I’ll tell the yarn to youans.

Tom Taggart stood behind his bar,

The time was fall, the skies was fa’r,

The neighbors round the counter drawed,

And ca’mly drinked and jawed.

At last come Colonel Blood of Pike,

And old Jedge Phinn, permiscus-like,

And each, as he meandered in,

Remarked, “A whisky-skin.”

Tom mixed the beverage full and fa’r,

And slammed it, smoking, on the bar.

Some says three fingers, some says two—

I’ll leave the choice to you.

Phinn to the drink put forth his hand;

Blood drawed his knife, with accent bland,

“I ax yer parding, Mister Phinn—

Jest drap that whisky-skin.”

No man high-toneder could be found

Than old Jedge Phinn the country round.

Says he, “Young man, the tribe of Phinns

Knows their own whisky-skins!”

He went for his ’leven-inch bowie-knife:

“I tries to foller a Christian life;

But I’ll drap a slice of liver or two,

My bloomin’ shrub, with you.”

They carved in a way that all admired,

Tell Blood drawed iron at last, and fired.

It took Seth Bludso ’twixt the eyes,

Which caused him great surprise.

Then coats went off, and all went in;

Shots and bad language swelled the din;

The short, sharp bark of Derringers,

Like bull-pups, cheered the furse.

They piled the stiffs outside the door;

They made, I reckon, a cord or more.

Girls went that winter, as a rule,

Alone to spellin’-school.

I’ve sarched in vain, from Dan to Beer-

Sheba, to make this mystery clear;

But I end with hit as I did begin—