An Outdoor View: Words too good to die

They don’t make words like they used to.

Some of my favorite words not only convey meaning, but are fun to say and hear. Words such as flapdoodle, bumblepuppy and slubberdegullion excite the imagination and add color to otherwise flaccid intercourse.

Trouble is, many of these colorful words are falling into disuse, probably because we don’t have time to use them. If a word takes more than one syllable, it’s too long. It’s not textable.

Like letter writing, long words are dying out. Texting and overuse of acronyms have helped kill them. People won’t put down their smart phones long enough to say or write long words. They’ve shortened “information” to “info.” “Temperature” has shrunk to “temp.”

I miss long words. I can’t remember the last time I heard someone say “Horsefeathers!” My father used to say it whenever he read or heard something he didn’t believe, which was often. Horsefeathers, along with hogwash and balderdash, is gone, chopped down to HS and BS.

While watching an old Gunsmoke TV show recently, I was reminded that some of my favorite words are from old Western movies, seen when a Saturday matinee cost 15 cents and a candy bar went for a nickel. I loved those movies. After seeing a few, you knew that the greenhorn who didn’t know a fourflusher from a royal flush was going to be hoodwinked. You also knew that if you couldn’t tell an owlhoot from a hoot owl, you could find yourself drygulched by a bushwhacker. Whether you were a cow puncher, a sodbuster or a dance-hall floozie, those words were a colorful way of communicating. Nowadays, we just say, “Git ‘er done.”

The plot for the Western movie on the fly-specked screen of my memory would have a villainous rapscallion who is hornswoggling the townspeople out of their land and ruining their daughters in his saloon. He’s in cahoots with the town’s vicious sheriff and crooked judge, and the hoodwinked townies are too lily-livered to do anything to stop the scalawags from bamboozling them.

My hero is a down-at-his-luck buckaroo who has lost his pride, his gumption, his boots and his saddle. He rides into the town barefoot and bareback. In need of an amigo, he befriends a cantankerous old galoot. What no one knows is that the geezer is a recently-retired gunfighter with a 50-0 win-loss ratio.

After some palaver with the townsfolk, my hero reluctantly accepts the fact that the town’s fate rests in his hands. but the town’s cowardly banker will have no truck with him and turns the townies against him. My hero is in the saloon, thinking about how he might go about setting things right, when one of the saloon hussies sashays up to him. Right off, she takes a shine to him. However, the no-good sheriff has already spoken for her. In the inevitable upskuddle over the painted lady, my hero is beaten like a rented mule and thrown in the calaboose.

Just when this brouhaha couldn’t possibly get worse, the evil doers hire a squinty-eyed sidewinder and a passel of hogleg-packing varmints to maintain their version of law and order. My hero and the gunfighter, who comes out of retirement for the occasion, eventually outshoot and out-bamboozle the whole kit and kaboodle of the baddies. A few of those skedaddle, but most wind up either in the hoosegow or on Boot Hill.

The grateful townsfolk throw a shindig to celebrate, after which my hero, the painted lady and the retired gunfighter galavant off into the sunset. Shortly after they light out, the cowardly banker discovers that his safe is empty. All the gold, the whole shebang, is gone.

Fast forward two years to Montana, where my hero, his woman and his gunfighter/foreman now own the largest cattle ranch north of Texas, lock, stock and barrel, and Ted Turner wants to give them $100 million for it.

They just don’t make words like they used to.


Les Palmer can be reached at

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