April 14, we drove into Bee county and camped on the river. Packing up what bird skins we had, and leaving the camp in care of Absalom, we drove to the railroad town of Papalote, to ship our trophies, and do some trading.
The settlement of Papalote consists of one dwelling house, one store and post office combined, and the railroad station; all being closely huddled in a small clearing, and surrounded on all sides by a thick wood. The only outlets of the place appeared to be the railroad track and the path by which we had come, a passage cut through the timber, and not much the better from wear.
The store and post office commanded the greater part of our attention. We purchased some coffee and grain, and after a long consultation between Priour and myself in regard to advisability, etc., we decided to invest in a cake of soap. Making our want known to the grocery man, he proceeded to attack a large lump of yellow something with a chisel and hammer. This lump was about as large as a bushel, and I could not remember having seen soap on sale in such style before. After chiseling a while, the man held in his hand a piece of the substance, weighing perhaps a pound, for which we were to pay one dollar. Making a hole in this lump with a nail, he threaded it with a stout piece of bark, that would serve as a handle to carry or hang it by.
As we had seen no human beings besides each other, for a week, it was natural that we should remain here a short time and talk with people as they came and went from the store. Where they came from was uncertain, they all emerged from the wood surrounding the clearing, and disappeared in a similar manner, no two persons entering the wood at the same place when going away. They came and went like bees from the hive, every man bringing a back-load of some merchantable article, and taking away something in exchange.
Shortly after we had secured our soap, a customer entered the store, and accosted the proprietor, " Have ye got 'ny beeswax here ?"
"Yes; what in thunder d'you want of bees-wax?" " None your darn business what I want it fer. I want beeswax, I do."
"But yer ain't got no gun, and wax is no good ter ye; I don't see what ye want wax fer."
"I want wax fer a sore on my gal's foot. Wax is good 'nough fer any gal's foot."
"Well, how much wax yer want; and how ye goin' to put it on yer wife's foot ?"
To my astonishment, the man in charge chiseled the customer off a piece of the same stuff he had sold us for soap. Soon after this, and while I was studying the subject over, and wondering whether we had been sold wax for soap, or if the last buyer had been given soap for wax, still another customer entered, and called for hard-bread and cheese. He was supplied with both, the cheese being chiseled from the same amorphous body that had supplied two other articles. Tightly clinging to the piece we had bought, I determined at the first opportunity to hold an inquest and learn its precise nature.
We remained an hour or more, and I closely watched every customer who entered, hoping to learn more of the subject which was uppermost in my mind. But no one asked for genuine bees-wax, creamery cheese or best toilet soap, and I thought it best not to show my ignorance by questioning the proprietor. Dressed as I was, and somewhat grimed and oily, I fancied I would pass for a Texan anywhere. But should I ask such a question as was on my mind, I feared it would "give me away;" and in such a case I would be driven crazy by improbable stories of encounters with, and hairbreadth escapes from, tigers, hyenas, snakes and scorpions, the narration of such stories being the conventional way in which sons of Texas amuse a "Boston man."
We saw skunk skins traded for coffee; wild game exchanged for bacon; potatoes bartered for jerked beef, and dog hides swapped for molasses, until I was tired of confusion, and longed for our camp again.