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Pscyhology And Copper


by W. C. Tuttle

Author of "Magpie's Nightbear," "When Oscar Went Wild," etc.


"SCIENTIFIC prospectin' has its merits," announced Ike Harper, as he climbed out of the gopher-hole and sat down beside me on a boulder and filled his pipe, "but fool luck has uncovered more bonanzas than science.

"Now, there was ol' Jerry Sullivan's burro went skatin' down th' hill off th' trail one day and slid th' coverin' off th' Silver Cross, which made uh millionaire outa Jerry. Hen Berry accidentally fired his six-shooter into th' ground oncet and uncovered one of th' richest gold veins in th' State. Yuh can talk science till yer tongue hangs out, but if yuh ain't lucky yuh never hit it rich. Do yuh happen to know uh elongated person named Magpie Simpkins?"

I replied that I had never had that pleasure.

"Pleasure!" he snorted. "No, I reckon nobody ever did. Let me tell yuh why.


"MAGPIE was uh scientific prospector. He could take uh piece uh rock and tell yuh jist what it contained and why it contained said constituents. Mineralogy was an open book to that jasper, and because of it he never made uh strike.

"But he didn't merely go in fer prospectin'. That person was loco on anything except work. I reckon he had tried nearly everything. First he went in fer hypnotism. Not havin' uh likely subject, he tried it on uh wildcat. I reckon he forgot to tell th' cat what it meant. He got loose from th' cat and th' hypnotism thing at th' same time.

"Next he goes in for—wait uh bit; I'm gittin' ahead of my yarn. You asked about th' de-funct Copper King mine uh while ago, and as that is part of th' story I'll connect it all up.

"Me and Magpie has these two claims here on Plenty Stone Creek which look promisin', and we're figgerin' that maybe we can git some one to buy us out. Magpie has been down to Piperock after grub, and when he comes back he's got uh proposition.

"I knowed all th' time that we hadn't ought to let uh third party into our outfit, but Magpie argues that uh captalist like this feller, Peters, will help smooth our trail uh heap, and bein' right on th' ground he can land us uh buyer.

"Peters was uh queer cuss. He was about knee-high to uh tall Injun, and spent his spare time tryin' to cultivate hair on his face. He wore uh little brown derby hat, and it had uh nervous way uh wigglin' around on top of his head when he was talkin'. He didn't have no chin to speak of—jist sort a slid away from his lower lip. He had money and uh thirst fer th' great West, so he comes to Piperock and opens an office—mines and real estate.

"Mebby he's kumtux to th' real estate, but on mines he don't show uh trace. He has six little books on mineralogy which he reads continually; and when uh feller has to consult uh book every time he sees uh piece uh rock he's in th' same class with th' jasper who opens th' Home Doctor book every time he feels off color—he shore finds symptoms of everything.

"Me and Magpie needs uh grub stake fer our Winter work if we don't sell out, and bein' as Peters is plumb wild to be uh mine owner we lets him buy uh third interest in our claims.

"As Magpie remarks—'He comes uh stranger and we takes him in.'

"I ain't strong fer Peters, but after livin' with Magpie all these years I don't shy at any ordinary freak.

"Now, Magpie has been plumb rational fer several months, and I'm beginning to think he's sort a outgrown his love fer something new in th' scientific line, but I'm wrong. It's only uh sort a 'Not dead but sleepin" proposition, 'cause one day Magpie pilgrims in from Piperock with uh pack-load uh black-covered books.

"I shore recognizes th' symptoms and goes up to Tellurium Woods' cabin and bunks with him that night. Tellurium is workin' uh copper prospect which he calls th' 'Copper King,' and when I tells him why I'm there he welcomes me openly—him and Magpie ain't jist what you'd call friendly.

"Th' next mornin' I sneaks home cautious like, and when I comes in range I knows that it's workin'. Magpie is oratin' out loud, with nobody to listen except th' pack burros. Right there I quotes General Sherman, but don't mention war a-tall. He quits cold when he sees me and fer th' next few days he surrounds himself with cigarette butts and mystery.

"About this time Peters makes good. He ain't never been up to see our property—I reckon it's 'cause we ain't got no bawth-room—but he gits his rope on one Alfred Myron Cowgill, of Boston, Massachusetts, and sends him up to look it over.

"Alfred knows all about mines—havin' been educated fer th' ministry—and he finds out that we've got th' finest piece uh property he ever seen. Copper pyrites shore makes uh hit with people who don't sabe free gold, and after uh little pow-wow we sells Alfred our prospect hole and goodwill fer five thousand dollars cash.

"Alfred announces that he's got to go back East fer uh while, and he hires me and Magpie to sort a keep people from pesticatin' around on his property, and probably runnin' off with some of his nice yellow pyrites. We're uh heap obliged to Peters, cause this money will make possible uh proposition we've argued uh heap uh times. Old Sourdough Johnson's got uh claim about three miles over th' south fork, which he calls th' 'Daylight,' and me and Magpie have laid awake nights tryin' to figger out how to seperate him from his location.

"Johnson ain't on th' lead and never will be where he's workin', but one day we're comin' across th' claim and find th' real lead. Sticks right out in th' middle of th' claim and she shore is rich. Uh course we don't tell anybody—not even Peters. We're folks that mind our own business thataway.

"But Magpie is too much absorbed with his books to even consider uh minin' deal. He sits there half th' night by th' light of uh candle and prospects them books. He won't eat a-tall. Jist sits there and peruses them books with uh 'Cease yer worldly cares' look on his face. I'm uh heap curious to know what's in 'em, but won't show it enough to pick one up. I know I'll find out all about 'em jist as soon as Magpie gits his system full.


"SOMEBODY tells Tellurium about our sale and he comes down to congratulate us. He's plumb lame with rheumatism, and after th' usual words have been spoken he complains on his affliction uh heap.

"'What you needs, Tellurium,' remarks Magpie, and I'm pleased to hear his voice once more, 'is uh touch of psychology.'

"'Ain't I got enough?' snaps Tellurium. 'Rheumatics and plumbago and—shucks! I kain't stand much more.'

"'Mr. Woods, yore powers uh perception are limited to sourdough bread and low-grade ore,' states Magpie, markin' th' place in his book and reachin' fer another. 'Yore ideas of science don't go beyond throwin' uh diamond hitch and th' correct way to hold yer knife when yuh eats pie.

"'Remember this—' he shakes his finger at Tellurium and rolls uh smoke one-handed—'I'm not discoursin' on diseases. I'm touchin' on th' grandest subject on earth—science of th' mind, before which all diseases vanish like iron pyrites in boilin' nitric. You ain't got nothin' th' matter with yuh a-tall. It's jist uh lazy streak in yore subconscious mind.'

"'As I was sayin' before this interruption,' remarks Tellurium, 'as I was sayin', Ike, th' Lord made uh big mistake. Yuh shore got to agree with me that it was an error on His part when He wished long ears and uh brayin' voice on uh perfectly innocent jackass, and let some people I know resemble uh human bein'.'

"Tellurium is uh big hulk of uh man, and Magpie ain't what you'd call uh runt; so after watchin' it uh while I pries 'em apart with uh pick-handle. They arbitrates what's left of th' battle and smoke uh peace pipe. When Tellurium hikes back up th' trail home, I notices that his limp is plumb gone.

"'That's psychology, Ike,' states Magpie. 'He comes down uh cripple and we sends him home whole. Great stuff, Ike. Now jist let me read yuh one little chapter out loud and I'll bet——'

"I didn't hear it 'cause I'm on my way down to th' pitch stump after kindlin'-wood. One Winter me and him was snowed in up in th' Cœur d'Alenes, and Magpie finds uh copy of th' Congressional Record.

"Since then nobody can read out loud to me.

"'Laziness covers uh multitude uh sins,' announces Magpie, while we're eatin' supper that night. 'Tellurium states that he's only drivin' uh foot uh day. Now, Ike, no man can ever live long enough to develop uh copper mine at that rate. With th' help of psychology he can drift three feet uh day in that formation.'

"'Well, mebby,' I sort of agrees. 'I don't know th' power of this element yuh claim to have corraled, but I do know Tellurium, and I'm here to state that uh foot uh day is hy-iu driftin' fer him.'

"Magpie peruses his book some plentiful before he opens up again.

"Ike, I'll bet yuh uh hundred dollars that I can have Tellurium drivin' three feet uh day inside of uh week. I aims to sort of work on his imagination through th' elements uh psychology. Enervate his subconscious mind, sabe?"

"'I passes th' sabe part,' I replies, 'but I'll take that bet. Yuh might practise on that he-burro now, Magpie. He's been standin' there under that tree since noon. Reckon he's sick or jist lost his appetite?'

"'Both, I reckon,' replies Magpie. 'But science of th' mind won't help any in his case 'cause he's done ate up yore Sunday overalls and two pair uh yore wool socks.'

"Th' next day I goes down to Granite to have a talk with Peters about this Daylight Mine deal. Me and Magpie had decided not to tell Peters how good it is, 'cause uh hombre like him is jist as apt to talk as not. We don't want ourselves to show in th' deal 'cause Johnson might suspect our motives. Uh feller like Peters looks like uh sucker, and mebby Johnson will make him uh good price.

"Peters swells out his chest and his little derby does uh tango on his head when I puts it up to him. He sure thinks he's an expert. I tells him that it's uh likely lookin' prospect and to shoot th' hull roll if he has to.

"Him bein' some elated I borrows uh hundred from him and goes over to Helena for uh week, leavin' Magpie to his books. I riggers that we can make uh large piece uh money out of th' Daylight without much development work, and I sings uh care-free song while I scatters that hundred amid th' bright lights.

"When I gits back to Piperock th' first person I sees is Magpie, and he welcomes me heartily and also imparts th' information that I'm out uh hundred bucks 'cause Tellurium's doin' better than three feet uh day, and his rheumatism is ancient history. Of course, bein' uh direct descendant of one uh Missouri's first settlers, I declines to settle without first-hand information.

"We goes up to Peters's office to find out about th' Daylight deal, but he ain't in, so we goes over to Dutch Fred's and plays seven-up until supper-time. Along about dark Peters rides and yells to us that everything is fine.

"We goes up to his office later, and he's there with uh smile and uh glad hand. He looks almost too danged happy, some way.

"'Gentlemen,' sez he, 'I'm sorry to have kept yuh waitin' so long, but it was uh hard trip, and as I was in th' mountains several days I was badly in need of my tub. Now to business. I—er—have uh smoke.'

"He shoves out uh box uh seegars and we lights up.

"'My friends and partners, it's uh lucky thing fer you both that you've got uh technical as well as uh practical mining man fer uh partner in yore ventures—meanin' myself. To th' untaught mind of th' average prospector, that Daylight claim might look promisin'. But I saw its defects, gentlemen, I saw its defects. Remember, I took five days in my examination, and refused to make him an offer.'

"'But, Peters, we've—' began Magpie.

"'Beg pardon, Mr. Simpkins, but I'd like to finish. As I said before, I turned th' proposition down, but before I returned I had an inspiration. I decided to investigate other prospects in that particular district. Now, here is where you have me to thank, gentlemen. Yesterday afternoon I ran across uh piece uh property that bids fair to make us all rich. It is located in th' vicinity of yore former property, I believe, and is mighty rich in copper—mighty rich, speaking mildly. I beg yore pardon, Mr. Simpkins, did you speak?'

"'Go ahead,' mumbles Magpie, and I notices that he's got all of that seegar in his mouth, and seems to be slowly chokin' to death.

"'As I started to say,' resumed Peters, 'I panned some of th' drillin's in this prospect and what do you suppose I found, gentlemen? Native copper! Why, in one pan of that dust I got at least half an ounce.'

"He paused to let this sink in. It shore listens good to me, but Magpie don't seem elated none whatever.

"'The owner was wise to what he had,' continued Peters, 'and when I offered him five thousand for his claim he laughed at me. But I refused to give up the ship, gentlemen, and after talkin' to him nearly all day I got him to sell us half interest for that price.'

"'Listen, Peters!' Magpie's Adam's apple is doin' uh war-dance up and down his neck as he stands there weavin' on his heels and glarin' down at Peters. 'What's that prospector's name?'

"'Mr. Tellurium Woods. Of course, Tellurium is only——'

"'Yeo-o-o-ow!' yells Magpie, kickin' over his chair and gallopin' to th' door, and we hears him jist hit twice on his way down.

"Me and Peters sits there fer uh spell lookin' foolish-like at each other and not knowin' what to say.

"Finally I opines aloud that I believe Magpie's been eatin' loco salad and I'd better close-herd him before he bites somebody. Uh course Peters politely offers his valuable services, but I'm able to decline with thanks.


"KNOWIN' Magpie's failin' in times uh stress, I ambles straight fer th' nearest hooch emporium. I proves my deductions. There he is, draped over th' bar, lookin' sad-like into uh glass uh woblum—that bein' th' Chippeway appellation fer whisky.

"'Magpie,' sez I, puttin' uh friendly hand on his droopin' shoulder and motionin' to th' barkeep that mine's th' same, 'why this cross between uh foot race and uh Piegan war dance?'

"He looks me over like uh man who is seein' his last white chip go into th' rack. He lifts up his right hand straight over his head like th' peace signs yuh see in movin' pictures and says:

"'Never again, Ike! Never again!'

"I'm agreeable. I don't know what he means, but I'm pleased. Any time Magpie says 'Never again,' I looks at th' future with more animation.

"'Ike,' sez he, mournful-like, 'I'm sorry. It ain't fair to you. I reckon I'm one uh them unfortunate persons who are born with uh lot uh brains and no sense. Some way I seems to ball up everything. But, Ike, I asks yuh, how did I know? I can't see that far, and it seemed like——'

"'Magpie,' I replies, 'let's have uh little more uh th' same and then I'll accept any explanation yuh delivers. Remember, I'm uh heap in th' dark yet.'

"'Ike, yo're uh trustin' soul. Yuh shore are salt uh th' earth. I shore spilled th' beans, Ike, but I proved my point. Yes, sir, I reckon I proved it entirely. I knowed that uh little psychology with uh dash uh copper would make Tellurium—dang his little old petrified, moss-backed, narrow, contracted soul——'

"'Pardner uh mine,' I interrupts, 'drink yore liquor and ferget them little ol' books fer oncet. Fer old Tellurium's sake I'm glad he's struck it rich. We'll amble up there tomorrow, and if she's as rich as Peters says she is we'll——'

"'Yah!' snorts Magpie. 'Don't talk Peters to me, Ike! I'm uh man of peaceful pursuits, but if I ever lays eyes on that little dancin' derby hat uh his I'm goin' to shoot.'

"'Peters is workin' fer our interests, Magpie, and——'

"'Listen, Ike.' Magpie takes me by th' arm and leads me out of th' saloon. 'Uh grog-shop, Ike, ain't no place to discourse on scientific themes.'

"He leads me around the corner of th' building.

"'Remember our bet on Tellurium's driftin' average, Ike?'

"I replies that I've uh hazy recollection of it.

"'Well, Ike, winnin' that hundred from you, coupled with th' assistance of one Peters, has lost us th' Daylight mine,' he announces slow and distinct. 'Psychology——! Remember that old copper bolt that was in our shack, Ike? Well, I—I took that bolt and ground her up, and salted his danged mine!'"