The Good Sport

Damon Runyon

My old man had great admiration and respect for women. Maybe that is where I get mine. He always contended that women are better sports than men in any situation.

“Even love?” someone might ask.

“Even love,” my old man would say and then he would tell a story about a woman named Hattie who ran what was known in those days as a roadhouse outside Oldtown in Colorado. A roadhouse was a place where people went to drink and dance. We still have roadhouses under other titles.

Hattie’s house was not considered a very nice place. In fact, the public prints in speaking of it generally referred to it as notorious and they spoke of Hattie the same way when occasion required that they speak of her at all.

Oldtown was also known as Colorado City. It is near Colorado Springs, the famous resort city in the shadow of Pike’s Peak. Colorado City was the first capital of Colorado, if memory serves. We understand it is now part of Colorado Springs.

However, in the days of Hattie and her roadhouse, Oldtown was a separate municipality and gambling houses and saloons ran wide open there. Colorado Springs was supposed to be dry and the only places you could buy liquor were the drug stores where they sold whiskey that tasted like something a doctor prescribes for malaria. If a fellow wanted to really cut up, he had to go to Oldtown.

Well, this Hattie my old man used to tell about was a handsome woman of mature years, maybe forty, and had flashing, slashing black eyes and blue black hair and a swell figure. She fell in love with a young gambler named Dan something who was about ten years her junior and a tall, good-looking fellow, but rather shiftless. He may have reciprocated Hattie’s love, though my old man was not sure about that.

Hattie was making a lot of money with her road-house and she bestowed plenty of it on Dan, giving him expensive presents like a fast buggy horse and a big diamond ring and a diamond stud for his shirt bosom and finally bank-rolling him in a gambling house of his own that was a success from the start.

Dan had a good business head, because he was soon investing in side lines of a sounder nature than gambling and finally one of these ventures took him east to New York City. Hattie’s interest kept her in Oldtown and my old man says she seemed to mourn Dan’s absence greatly, especially as Dan was no hand for writing letters.

Well, Dan discovered Wall Street on his trip east and presently he was setting himself up in business there and going great, and in fact if it would not be getting ahead of our story we would tell you that his name and fame eventually became nationwide—for this is a true yarn. But before that he met a young girl of highly respectable family and fell in love with her.

He was away from Oldtown a couple of years and one day he turned up back there to settle some business affairs in connection with his gambling enterprise and he was in town a couple of days before he went to see Hattie. She knew of his arrival but never said a word to anyone about it and my old man says there was speculation as to how she would receive Dan because everybody knew Hattie had a hot temper.

One evening Dan dropped in at the roadhouse and went into a private room and sent for Hattie. She came in quietly and greeted him with a handshake and said she was glad to see him. Dan, a little shamefaced, said: “Let’s have a bottle of wine, Hattie, like old times.”

So she rang for a waiter and they had a bottle of wine and sat there talking about how well each thought the other was looking and saying how are things, and all that with Dan wondering how he was going to explain certain matters. Finally Hattie said: “Well, Dan, I’m going to save you any embarrassment by telling you I know all about you—how well you’ve done, and the girl back East and your wanting to marry her, and everything else. You need not apologize to me because I understand thoroughly. All I can say is good luck to you always. We have had great times together and it’s been swell knowing you and there are no hard feelings on my side.”

Dan murmured something about the money she had invested in him and Hattie said: “It was my pleasure, and it’s all wiped off the slate. Never mind about it.”

Dan got up to go and said: “Thanks, Hattie. I always thought you were one of the finest women in the world and now I know it. Good-bye, Hattie, and God bless you.”

“Much obliged, Dan, and the same to you,” Hattie replied, then as he got to the door, she added: “By the way, Dan, don’t forget you owe me for that bottle of wine.”