He told me all about "day-wranglers" and "night-hawks" and "war-bags" and "round-ups"; showed me how to tie a "bull-noose" and a "sheep-shank" and a "Mexican hacamore"; put me onto the twist-of-the-wrist and the quick arm-thrust that puts half-hitches 'round a steer's legs; showed me how a cowboy makes dance music with a broom and a mouth-harp and many other wonderful feats, none of which I can myself perform.
Here two, with grinning faces, were squared off, not to spar, but to knock at each other's tattered hat; there two more, with legs and arms indistinguishable, were wrestling; close by was the sound of a mouth-harp, a circle of interested spectators, and, within, two dancers pitted against each other, and shuffling with a zest that labor seemed never to affect.
One of them has a mouth-harp which he plays upon, now and then opening his hands hollowed around the instrument. Patsy Gubbins dances to the music, which is a thing even more reckless and daredevil than swearing. Patsy's going with a "troupe" some day. Or else, he's going to get a job firing on an engine. He isn't right sure which he wants to do the most.
I subscribed silently to the mood of Belle O'Neill, whose mind was subject to vagaries, and who in the midst of the gay company was playing weird, plaintive "revival" tunes upon the mouth-harp, enthusiastically absorbed in her art.
He began to play "The Mocking Bird," opening and shutting his bony hands to let the music rise and fall. When he closed that tune he played "O the Mistletoe Bough," and after that over and over again he played "Tenting on the Old Camp Ground." When he dropped the mouth-harp, he lay very still for a time, though his lips moved incessantly. The morning was coming, and he was growing weak.
This is a stringed musical instrument; though the name is Aztec, it is unlikely that it was known before the coming of the Spaniards. Quechol says the word means mouth-harp, coming from the Aztec cam, mouth, and the Spanish harpa, harp. We returned to San Francisco for our dinner, and at four o'clock again started on our journey. It was after five before we reached San Bartolome.
But it transpired that that look of disgust was not for me. It was for Belle O'Neill, who, moved by another inspiration, had thoughtfully abandoned her mouth-harp to creep through the surreptitious channel of the wood-box and learn how Miss Pray and Pershal were progressing in their courting. She returned with a face of excitement. "Be they j'indin' hands, or anything like that?" we asked.
George Kirwin says that long after midnight Joe awakened from a doze, fumbling through the bedclothes, looking for something. Finally he complained that he could not find his mouth-harp.