Read “COUGAR” DALY of Bamboo Tales , free online book, by Ira L. Reeves, on

“Cougar” Daly’s connection with the company had not extended two days till he was duly installed as “dog-robber” for Lieutenant John Buestom, the most handsome, soldierly-looking, and intensely despised officer in the th “Foot.” Buestom or “Bues,” his enemies called him must have had liver complaint, for his temper was always riled like stagnant water full of crawfish; and when Captain Bobson left the company for a few weeks to go on a hunt up the St. Joe River, the “non-coms” resigned in a body, every man of them, so hot did he make it for them during that brief period. As for the batch of recruits, fresh from the drill-sergeants and bulldozing of the recruiting rendezvous, they deserted by platoons and sets of fours, for the life with them was unbearable. Had the “Old Man” Bobson remained away a few days longer, he would have had no one of his company the one pride of his life to greet him upon his return, with the possible exception of Private McCoy, who had been in the service since George Washington was a “lance jack,” and who swore that all the damned “shave-tails” in the Army could not drive him out.

Many hard things were said of Buestom, but not half that could have been told and yet save one’s reputation for veracity and secretiveness. Among the things he could not keep were his word and servants. Not even would a Chinaman attend his many wants. His last effort was a big Manchu from northern China; and he had no more than been installed and began his work with the usual celestial energy, till in rushed “Bues,” as savage as a bear, and gave him more instructions in a minute than the frightened menial could have executed in a month. To cap the climax, he taught poor “Chino” to stand at attention, and ordered him to ever thus stand when in his august presence.

This was more than the faithful fellow of the pigtail locks could stand, so he made it known in his own English: “Me squit jlob. Me no dalmn sloder.” And he slipped into his pajamas and was gone.

Then came a long series of soldier servants “dog-robbers” but none could endure him for more than a day or two, and seldom got their pay for that. The complaints were all similar: “He asked me to bathe his mangy dog;” or, “He ordered me to stand at attention when rocking the damned cradle, so precious are his ’brick-top brats’;” or, “She,” for Mrs. B. was not angelic, “wanted me to fan the flies off her ring-tailed cat while that animal chose to nap;” and so they ran. Thus they growled and quit their places, usually without giving notice. Then Private Jones, Brown, Smith, or whoever the offender might happen to be, endured his turn of torture and calling-down when at drills and other duty till there was a fresher victim on whom this choleric officer could wreak his vengeance.

Now came “Cougar” Daly, fresh from the Bowery, with the odor of stale beer and “twofers” on his seven-dollar “cit” suit marked down to five ninety-nine, which was hanging in the orderly room, and which he was sure to don when on “old guard” pass and sober; but Daly was like all soldiers in one respect he always got drunk in uniform.

Daly, indeed as true a Dutchman as ever bore an Irish name. Daly, he of the “ingrowing face”; “kidney-foot” Daly; Daly, the man “wid his chist on his back,” were just a few of the “handles” he enjoyed.

It was Archie Fettin, lately of the Queen’s Own, but now a “buck” private in Uncle Sam’s service, who aptly said: “Daly, tek off yer bloomin’ ‘ed and put it on facin’ t’ the rare and ye’ll hev as foine a brace an’ as smaart ’perance as any non-com ’n the Quane’s Guayards; mesel’, fer example.”

Unfortunately for poor Daly, he could not follow Fettin’s advice, and must content himself with his dromedary “set up.” The company non-commissioned officers were disgusted with him, for the company enjoyed the reputation of being the best drilled in the regiment, but here came this hopeless recruit to muddle the rear rank at parades and walk on the heels of his front rank man. Corporal Self, the meanest martinet in the outfit, drilled him till his tongue was hanging out, and then reported to the captain: “Sir, there’s slight hope fer thet spalpeen o’ a rakroot Daly, fer th’ more sittin’ up ixercise I giv’ ‘m th’ bigger th’ lump on ’is schloping shoulders.”

Daly, the newest recruit in the regiment, now “dog-robbing” for “Bues,” and excused from cook’s police, room orderly, guard, fatigue, and, in fact, everything except drill, and he would have been relieved from that had he not been sorely in need of it. The men hated him more cordially than the devil despises a Christian who refuses to black-slide. A man with the slightest hint of spirit would have resented their insults, heaped so lavishly and frequently, but he was as impervious to the names, epithets, growling, and swearing as a duck’s back is to water.

Rising in the morning long before reveille, he noiselessly slipped out of the barracks, always carrying his shoes in his hand till away from the quarters, and then went to Buestom’s house and began his day’s work by building fires, preparing the bath, and assisting in the cuisine. He never ate his meals with the company always served himself in the kitchen or back yard of his master. Master? Yes; for a more menial slave was never sold from the block.

When nothing else to engage him, he had his orders to take the mangy dog out for a walk and what a dog! What breed? Just dog the yellow kind. His comrades always spoke of these walks as “two curs out for a constitutional.” But that same dog was Daly’s only friend, and he no doubt enjoyed his society.

Then came the great railroad strike, and the tie-up of the mails. The regiment was ordered out to open up the roads. To everybody’s delight, Buestom remained behind to take care of the post; but a greater delight was when Daly asked to go with his company in the field, for now he would get more than his share of duty to make good the work thrown on his comrades while he was excused from everything. The “non-coms” were “laying for him.”

When it came to choosing tent-mates, Daly was left a widow, for even Rassmussen the Swede “Rouse mit ’em der sweet” the worst reprobate that ever wore a uniform, refused to pair with him; so he hied himself to the nearest escort wagon and slept under it.

They marched past miles of obstructed railroad track to Patterson, where the switches were crammed full of freight cars and “killed” engines. The work of clearing the tracks went on for many days, till finally they were cleared, and a train made up to take the first mail through that had passed since the strike began. Soldiers were everywhere on the tops of cars, on the platforms, inside, on the tender; and riding on the cow-catcher, loaded rifles in hand, were Archie Fettin and “Cougar” Daly.

This heavily guarded train sped on at a lively rate, through tunnels, over cuts and fills, coughing a continuous challenge to the groups of strikers gathered along the way to watch it pass. On it went. The soldier-engineer, taking courage from the docile attitude of the strikers, pulled the throttle wide open, while the soldier-fireman was heaving coal into the fiery furnace, even though the steam was at the time “blowing off.” The giant machine leaped forward like a spurred stallion, easily making fifty miles an hour. Daly and Fettin were holding on like grim Death, for the track was rough and the speed unprecedented for that road a new one.

A bad curve was just ahead, but the speed was not slackened. Like a racing horse on a small track, the engine struck it and leaned toward the inner circle, but an instant later straightened up and flew on its way.

Just as the curve was turned, a few hundred paces ahead, stood a small group of tramps. Seeing the train, they hastily broke and ran for the timber along the edge of the right-of-way, but not before one of them hurriedly stooped and placed something on the track, A hundred eyes were on him, and as many rifles were instantly raised to fire, but Daly was the first to pull the trigger, and the man fell backward down the enbankment, bearing with him that which he had endeavored to place on the rail.

In firing, Daly was compelled to let go his hold, which kept him on the train, and he lost his balance and fell forward, crushed into an unrecognizable mass beneath the wheels.

The train was stopped, and a hundred aching hearts, which had melted in the presence of death, went tenderly to their duty of gathering up poor Daly’s remains.

The tramp had been shot fairly through the head, and he had died holding in one of his clenched fists a deadly bomb, which, but for the presence of mind and quickness of action of the despised recruit, would have sent every soul on the train into eternity.

The next day the Rocky Mountain Daily Eagle contained this Associated Press report:

“The late Private Daly, of Company E, th Infantry, who was crushed beneath the first train out of Patterson, Mont., while firing at Antonio Bressi, the anarchist, was from New York City, where he has a mother and younger sisters and brothers dependent on him for support. His right name was Leonard Dresel, and the name Daly seems to have been assumed when he entered the Army to conceal his identity. There was no apparent reason for this, as he has an excellent reputation for honesty and industry, and he enlisted in the Regulars because he could obtain no employment elsewhere. He worked for officers of his regiment in order to make additional money that his brothers and sisters might remain in school.

“Antonio Bressi, who died from the deadly aim of Daly, was a noted anarchist leader, prominent in the Coeur d’Alene riots a few years ago, which were so promptly quelled by the th Infantry. It is believed that for this reason he endeavored to blow up the train, for it is known that he is not in sympathy with the striking railroad men.”

A week later Company E was paid, and that night a money order payable to Mrs. Catharine Dresel, No. Baxter Street, New York, for $150, left on the east-bound train.

In the little cemetery at Fort Meredith there is an elaborate granite monument bearing the inscription:

“Private Patrick Daly,
Co. E, th Inf.
He gave his life that others might live.
Erected by his comrades.”