From The Rise and Fall of the Mustache, and other “Hawk-eyetems,” by Robert J. Burdette, illustrated by R. W. Wallis; Burlington Publishing Company, Burlington, Iowa; 1877; pp. 67-69.
MR. JOSKINS is not an old settler in Burlington. He came to the city of magnificent hills from Keokuk, and after looking around, selected a residence out on West Hill, because it was in such a quiet locality, and Mr. Joskins loves peace and seclusion. It is a rural kind of neighborhood, and all of Mr. Joskin’s neighbors keep cows. And every cow wears a bell. And with an instinct worthy of the Peak family, each neighbor had selected a cow bell of a different key and tone from any of the others, in order that he might know the cow of his heart from the other kine of the district. So that Mr. Joskin’s nights are filled with music, of rather wild, barbaric type; and the lone starry hours talk nothing but cow to him, and he has learned so exactly the tones of every bell and the habits of each corrsponding cow, that the voices of the night are not an unintelligible jargon to him, but they are full of intelligence, and he understands them. It makes it much easier for Mr. Joskins, who is a very nervous man, than if he had to listen and conjecture and wonder until he was fairly wild, as the rest of us would have to do. As it is, when the first sweet moments of his slumber are broken by a solemn, ponderous, resonant
“Ka - lum, ka - lum, ka - lum!”
Mr. Joskins knows that the widow Barbery’s old crumple horn is going down the street looking for an open front gate, and his knowledge is confirmed by a doleful “Ka - lum - pu - lum!” that occurs at regular intervals as 68 old crumple pauses to try each gate as she passes it, for she knows that appearances are deceitful, and that a boy can shut a front gate in such a way as to thoroughly deceive his father and yet leave every catch unfastened. Then when Mr. Joskins is called up from his second doze by a lively serenade of
“To - link, to - lank, lank, lankle - inkle, lankle - inkle - tekinleinkletelink, kink, kink!”
He knows that Mr. Throop’s young brindle is in Throstlewaite’s garden and that Throstlewaite is sailing around after her in a pair of slippers and a few clothes. And by sitting up in bed Mr. Joskins can hear the things that Mr. Throstlewaite is throwing strike against the side of the house and the woodshed, thud, spat, bang, and the character of the noises tells him whether the missile was a clod, a piece of board, or a brick. And when the wind down the street is fair, it brings with it faint echoes of Mr. Throstlewaite’s remarks, which bring into Mr. Joskins’ bedroom the odor of bad grammatical construction and wicked wishes and very ill-applied epithets. Then when the final crash and tinkle announce that the cow has bulged through the front fence and got away, and Mr. Joskins turns over to try and get a little sleep, he is not surprised, although he is annoyed, to be aroused by a sepulchral
“Klank, klank, klank!”
Like the chains on the old-fashioned ghost of a murdered man, for he knows it is Throstlewaite’s old duck-legged brown cow, going down to the vacant lot on the corner to fight anything that gives milk. And he waits and listens to the “klank, klank, klank,” until it reaches the corner and a terrific din and medley of all the cow bells on the street tell him all the skirmishers have been driven in and the action has become general. And from
that on till morning, Mr. Joskins hears the “tinkle - tankle” of the little red cow going down the alley to prospect among the garbage hedges, and the “rankle - tankle, rankle - tankle” of the short-tailed black and white cow skirmishing down the street ahead of an escort of badly assorted dogs, and the “tringle - de - ding, tringle - de - ding, ding, ding,” of the muley cow that goes along on the sidewlk, browsing on the lower limbs of the shade trees, and the “klank, klank, klank,” of the fighting cow, whose bell is cracked in three places, and incessant “moo - o - oo - ah - ha” of the big black cow that has lost the clapper our of her bell and has ever since kept up an unintermittent bellowing to supply the loss. And Mr. Joskins knows all these cows by their bells, and he knows what they are doing and where they are going. And although it has murdered his dreams of a quiet home, yet it has given him an opportunity to cultivate habits of intelligent observation, and it has induced him to register a vow that if he is ever rich enough he will keep nine cows, trained to sleep all day so as to be ready for duty at night, and he will live in the city with them and make them wear four bells apiece just for the pleasure of his neighbors.