The Rampaging Frontier: Manners and Humors of Pioneer Days in the South and the Middle West

By Thomas D. Clark | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XII
KEARDS

FRONTIERSMEN were gamblers, whether at cards, dice, A. B. C., E. O. tables, or just living. Every time they passed beyond the shadows of their dwellings they ran a good chance of losing their stakes and their lives. Taking chances became second nature with immigrants, and when they moved westward they brought with them not only useful fruit and grain seeds for their fields, but likewise a plentiful supply of seeds of vice. Loo, brag, old sledge, all fours, whist, poker and dice diverted troubled minds from disturbing business at hand. Historians have pointed many times to the fact that these immigrants made the first civilizing advances in the West. In Kentucky the beginnings of social adjustment were made.

A discreet Kentucky legislature, of which Henry Clay was a member, held its collective tongue-in-cheek and in 1804 placed upon the statute books "An Act effectually to suppress the practice of gaming."1 This was the legal precedent in the West for legislative frowning upon the vice of gambling. Westerners reacted in an interesting manner toward their "blue laws." The crafty hand of Henry Clay is clearly visible in the phraseology of the Kentucky law. This law applied only to the banking games such as E. O. and A. B. C. and, later, faro. At none of these was young Clay a master, but at cards he was the pride of the community. Moral forces which had campaigned for antigambling legislation were only half-satisfied in this clever law, because Clay and his fellow legislators had resorted to the coney-catching practice of dealing them hands in the language of western gamblers, "up from the lap," from "behind the knee," and by neglecting cards and dice. In later years a more profligate trick was played upon the moral forces of Arkansas

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The Rampaging Frontier: Manners and Humors of Pioneer Days in the South and the Middle West
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Preface xi
  • Chapter I - The Backwoods 17
  • Chapter II - Varmints 39
  • Chapter III - Green Un's 57
  • Chapter IV - Boom Poles and Paddle Wheels 79
  • Chapter V - Somebody in My Bed 102
  • Chapter VI - Servants of the People 120
  • Chapter VII - Where the Lion Roareth and the Wang Doodle Mourneth for His First-Born 142
  • Chapter VIII - Bench, Bar and Jury 163
  • Chapter IX - Gentlemen of Rank 183
  • Chapter X - Liars 205
  • Chapter XI - Qurater Hosses 224
  • Chapter XII - Keards 239
  • Chapter XIII - Fiddlin' 259
  • Chapter XIV - Foolin' with the Gals 281
  • Chapter XV - Yankees B'Gad 301
  • Notes 321
  • Bibliography. 341
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