Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
America: Vols. XXV–XXIX. 1876–79.

Western States: Dow’s Flat, Cal.

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 is n’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 denied thing ’ed get up and buck.

He mined on the bar

Till he could n’t pay rates;

He was smashed by a car

When he tunnelled 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 would n’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 was n’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 is n’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 ’t was 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.