Snakeoil - venom - was added to buffalo-camp alcohol. From neither corn nor rye, John will not call it whiskey. Snakeoil gave bite and substance - poison, addling thought, vision, co-ordination... digestion. It impressed the skinners, commanding higher price. John left them to it.

Misnamed snakeoil salesmen of patent medicine were far more worrying. John's mother, desperate for ease, taken from herself by pain and fever, had begged for specific bottles of coloured water, and worse. John has an indelible horror of what so often contains tincture of mercury. Pictures of its effects in dental manuals - alveolar processes exfoliating - are nightmarish.

Years: 1872, 1866
Again fleeing Texas, crossing New Mexico, John hired a camp cook and choreman who loved beans. Polecat Adams. Beans rice and coffee, though John still insisted on tea. Dried peas, fruit, game shot on the trail. But mainly beans, boiled to paste with a little molasses. John never travelled that way again.

What John really likes are green beans - whole, firm, glazed with almonds, garlic, a little basil. Their shape and bright colour please him. Their crunch between his teeth speaks of cultured health. He becomes a connoisseur in the elegant Denver restaurants. He is a gentleman, not a cowboy.

Years:1875, 1885


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