where there are Indians there are fighting cocks. The betting was as fast as the drinking, and
the winners every now and again slouched away to the store to fetch a fresh supply of alco-
hol. A little further away stood a small wooden box, placed lying on its side and without a lid.
When night came several candles were put inside to illuminate the ground near there whilst
the men played a game of taba . (The game with the heel-bone of a bullock I have described
in a former chapter.)Some ten paces from either side ofthe box,almost in complete darkness,
stood the throwers, and around the box stood or squatted all the others who took side bets, for
there, in front of them, where the candles illuminated the ground the bone had to be thrown
a rare study, and the strong shadows the candlelight threw on them made the scene almost
grotesque when the eager winners clutched the money with greedy hands whilst the losers'
eyes flashed with disappointment.
Fights of a serious nature are the order of the day, and that night was no exception, for two
started slashing each other with their machetes until one had his head split open, the blood
once the wounded man was dragged away by his friends and the victor had escaped, every-
body who had money left again settled down to drinking and gambling, and thus they contin-
ued until finally the last cent was back with the company.
Next morning I went to see how the wounded man was getting on, and I arrived just as
they were curing him. His friends had put handfuls of red pepper on the deep skull wound
to stop the bleeding, and this mixed with blood and with the coarse black hair had formed a
regular knob, about the size of two fists. These people are so tough that almost nothing short
of cutting their heads clean off will kill them, and although this man had his skull split open
and had lost much blood, he walked away immediately after he had been roughly fixed up,
next pay-day to come. The police are supposed to interfere when fights take place, but then it
suitsthecompanytokeepthemenatwork,andalittle propina (tip)forthe comisario (sheriff)
does wonders, as in most other places in the world.
used so far had given fairly good results in the plains, but for mountain travelling a more suit-
able type of pack saddle had to be acquired. Throughout the Argentine up to this point there
was no need to carry firearms, although I had taken a .45 Smith & Wesson with me. I did not
use the automatic type but the old-fashioned six-shooter which is not so likely to jam when