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Barnum, Veil and Vickeroy Go a Journeying With Barlow and Sanderson.--Vickeroy Is Branded "U.S.M."

In the fall of 1863 I quit the Long Route and went up on what is known as the Denver Branch, driving from Bent's Old Fort, Colorado, to Boonville, Colorado. On my last drive across the Long Route I had a party of "dead heads." They were the "bosses"--owners of the Stage Coach Company Line. That is, Barnum, Veil and Vickeroy were, and Barlow and Sanderson were going over the trip with these fellows with a view of buying out the interest of Vickeroy. There were three more passengers, all on fun intent.

All of these fellows were, we will call it for lack of a better word, "on a toot" and having lots of fun. They had poked so much fun at Vickeroy that they finally got the best of him. Vickeroy enlisted the three passengers on his side and sought an opportunity to "turn the tables," so they made it up to brand Barlow and Sanderson with the branding iron that was used to brand the company's mules. This iron had the letters U.S.M. (United States Mail) on it. When I placed the frying pan on the fire and it commenced to "siz," Vickeroy and two of the passengers stood Barlow on his head and told him they were going to use the branding iron. Barlow thought the branding iron was surely going to be used upon the seat of his pants, but the accommodating Vickeroy had the frying pan used instead. He gave the victim three taps on the seat of his pants with the hot frying pan, one tap for "U," one for "S" and the other for "M," then slapped him soundly and said, "Go, Mr. Mule, when the Indians find you they will take you to the station because your brand shows you to be the 'United States Male.'" Barlow's howls and Vickeroy's laughter made those old plains resound with noises which may have caused the spooks to walk that night. They were having lots of fun about the "branded 'incoming' mule," or the new member of the company that might be. All went smoothly a few days, but Vickeroy would occasionally ask us how long they thought it would take a brand to wear off so people could not know their "mule."

"Every dog has its day," and the day for Barlow's revenge was slowly but surely coming. The second day after the episode described I had the frying pan over the red hot coals fairly sizzling with a white heat ready to place my buffalo steak onto it, but Barlow told me to "wait a minute" and he said he "would attend to that skillet." I saw something was in the air, so I took a back seat and awaited events.

About the time Vickeroy was unraveling some big yarn, all unconscious of the designs Barlow had upon him, Veil and Sanderson grabbed him and had quite a tussle with him to get him in a position to apply the branding iron. The imprint left on the seat of Vickeroy's pants was not U.S.M. this time, it was burned and scorched flesh, for lo, the tussle with his determined tormentors had lasted too long,--the frying pan had gotten too hot for good branding purposes, and for the comfort of the branded one's hams.

When Mr. Barlow saw the condition of Mr. Vickeroy's clothing, he was full of apologies, but the passengers would hear nothing of them, saying that it was always bad for unruly mules when they got to kicking, and Vickeroy would have to swallow his chagrin. The windup was a new "seat" installed and a cushion for the "kicking mule."