The August morning was overcast and a drizzly rain was falling. The few men around the courthouse door drew underneath the porch. The group was made up of three or four townspeople and a half dozen male teachers. The acquaintance existing among the latter was limited, or else they did not feel in a chatty mood. At all events they stood idly by, holding their hands in their pockets. One of them was glancing over the legal notices posted on either side of the entrance. Now and then a later arrival would pass over the diagonal path, generally exchanging salutations with members of the group.
On the stone facing of the porch stood Dr. Pellam, his hands in his pockets and a broad smile resting on his features. A short, stout man was approaching him.
“Hello, Doc,” he exclaimed. “I see that Irish grin on your face. How are you, anyway?”
“Fine as silk, Tolby.”
“The same crackerjack?”
“The same one. And have you come over from Terra Alta to look for trouble?”
“Trouble? How can a man get into trouble in this dry old town?”
“Just cut loose and try ‘er on. We’ll lay you out every whipstitch. The lockup is on this street and we keep it ready for such heathen as you.”
“How big some people can talk,” replied Tolby. “What in the mischief would you fellows do if it wasn’t for court and one or two other affairs that come around about once every fly time? We let you have the institute this year just to keep you from getting totally discouraged. You have the dullest old shell of a town one can find in a month’s drive. You can’t even hear a railroad whistle except when the wind is favoring. Where would you come out at, if we fellows from the other side of the river didn’t come over here and trim you up once in a while?”
“Now you remember our bargain,” said the doctor, “I was to shave off my mustache if you would quit telling yarns for three months.”
“Have to tell yarns over here to keep from feeling dead.”
“Pshaw, you can’t see straight. No stale, musty, second-hand jokes from you Terra Alta fellows. Suppose I would live in that one-horse town of yours, all chugged in among the hills? Just to see a few plow joggers jolt in over your bumpy roads and have to windlass themselves up to get from one street into the next? And when you see half a dozen old broken-down wagons blocking your street, you say business is lively. Why, the snowdrifts lay on your hills over there till the middle of June.
“Well, the rain’s let up.”
—excerpt from WINNING OR LOSING? A Story of the West Virginia Hills, by Oren F. Morton, Sincell Printing Company, Oakland, MD, 1901
text at www.archive.org/stream/winningorlosings00mort/winningorlosings00mort_djvu.txt