Grandpap and the Foot-Racers

Damon Runyon

One time a foot-racer by the name of Sol something or other comes to my old home town out west, and gets a job for himself in the O. K. barbershop shaving our citizens.

He does not let it out for a while that he is a foot-racer, but he finally mentions it to several parties, and then there is great indignation in our community.

There is great indignation because our citizens feel that somebody is trying to insult our little city. Naturally everybody in town knows the barber is a plant. They know that he is planted in our town for a certain purpose, and that pretty soon some boys will be along with propositions.

They know this because foot racing is invented in our town, and put aside many years before as out of date, and our citizens feel that the planting of this foot-racer shows that somebody thinks they are a lot of neck-yokes.

They do not let the barber know they are onto him, but there is some talk of taking him out and hanging him somewhere just as a lesson, and the chances are it will be done if it is not for my Grandpap. My Grandpap tells the citizens not to do anything rash but wait and see what comes off. Well, sure enough it is not long before the boys happen in, and they are boys from out of Omaha, Neb., and they come with plenty of dough. They are around town good-timing, one and all, and saying they are cattlemen, thinking that nobody figures their real angle.

Then one day the barber foot-racer looks up my Grandpap, and he says to Grandpap like this:

“Now,” he says, “these Omaha guys are talking about a fellow back in Omaha that they think is a great foot-racer. I know this fellow well,” the barber says, “and here is the way we will make plenty of dough for ourselves.

“He can beat me easy, all right,” the barber says, “but I got him right in my vest pocket. He will do anything I say, and I will fix it for him to lose to me. These Omaha sports know he can beat me, but they do not know I can fix him not to beat me. We will take these eggs just like Grant takes Richmond if you will put up the dough.”

Well, of course my Grandpap Mugg tells the barber it is a wonderful plan, although he knows as well as anybody else in town that the barber will not beat the Omaha guy under any circumstances. My Grandpap knows that the barber will lose, and that the Omaha boys will take away any dough that is bet on the race, for that is the idea of the proposition in the beginning.

But anyway, my Grandpap hunts these Omaha sports after listening to the barber, and he says to them like this:

“Gents,” he says, “I hear you boys got a pretty good foot-racer. Well, I got a foot-racer myself, and if everything is Jake I will match him against your man.”

Naturally the Omaha sports are tickled silly, and so my Grandpap puts up a thousand bucks, and they put up a thousand bucks, and the thing is on.

They send to Omaha for their foot-racer, and meantime my Grandpap goes around among our citizens and tells them to bet on the barber. Of course they know the barber will not win, but they have great confidence in my Grandpap, so they do as he says.

Well, the day of the race there is much excitement and plenty of betting, our citizens covering all the dough the Omaha sports wish to put up. The barber is in the pink of condition, and so is the Omaha guy, as far as anybody knows, but the barber tells my Grandpap that he has the Omaha guy all fixed nice.

So they get on their marks, and somebody shoots a gun, and away they go, lickety-split. Of course the barber is away in front, but of course he is not supposed to stay in front long. The idea is that near the finish he is supposed to fall flat with the old blood pouring out of his mouth, as if he bursts a blood vessel, or some such, and that the Omaha guy will go on and win.

The barber is carrying a little capsule full of beef blood in his mouth, and the thing for him to do is to bite into the beef capsule as he falls. What makes everybody in our town so indignant is that one of our own citizens invents this capsule racket, and tries to get it patented, but is turned down by the patent office, and a lot of people afterwards steal the idea, including these Omaha eggs.

Well, they are not far from the finish, with the barber still pretty well ahead, and we see old mister barber stumble and start to fall. Then all of a sudden he lets out a terrible yell, and keeps on moving so fast that he is over the finish line before he knows it, and still going, a block ahead of the other guy.

Nobody can figure what happens to him, but the last seen of him he is hopping into the Arkansaw River. Of course he wins the race, but there is an awful row among the Omaha boys. At first they do not wish to pay their debts, saying that they are swindled, but somebody sticks a gun out of his pocket at them, and by and by other guns commence sticking out, so they figure it best not to say so much.

They decide that Sol, the barber, double-crossed them, and they take out after him to drown him, but they are never able to catch him. Then someone gets to thinking it over and asks my Grandpap whatever it is he does to the barber to make him keep running when he is supposed to fall down and lose, and my Grandpap says to them like this :

“Why,” he says, “I get hold of his capsule last night, and all I do is to empty the beef blood out, and fill it up with plenty of tabasco sauce. When the poor guy bites into that capsule he thinks he is on fire, and forgets to stop running, and,” my Grandpap says, “I do not blame him a bit.”