March 04, 2022

#08-194: The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky

Illustration of the story's first appearance in in McClure's Magazine, February, 1898

Note: Sometimes a good story will capture a moment in history as it affects the lives of everyday people. Here we see what happens as the "Wild West" becomes more civilized.

Get Ready: How does getting married change a person? How can it change the way other people treat him or her?

American author Stephen Crane is best known for his novel The Red Badge of Courage about the U.S. Civil War, but I love him best for his short stories, including "The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky."

The story is divided into four parts. In Part I, Jack Potter and his new bride are traveling by train west from San Antonio, Texas, to the town of Yellow Sky. Potter becomes increasingly anxious as they approach his town: anonymous in San Antonio, he's Yellow Sky's marshal, and his new life-status will be seen by all.

Part II opens in the Yellow Sky saloon, called "The Weary Gentlemen," where several characters are introduced: a traveling salesman, three quiet Texans, and two Mexican sheep-herders. In comes another man, who announces trouble in the town: "Scratchy Wilson's drunk, and has turned loose with both hands." The bartender closes the saloon's shutters and locks the door, and the salesman starts asking nervous questions. The bartender tells him that Scratchy is the last of a gang that formerly terrorized the town, and he's "a wonder with a gun." These days, he's a nice enough guy--but not when he's drunk! The barkeeper wishes Potter was back from San Antonio--he would know what to do with Scratchy.

Part III tells us that Scratchy is walking up the street carrying a revolver and yelling, looking for a fight. He shoots twice at the bartender's dog and misses, but now starts pounding on the locked saloon door with his revolver: he wants a drink. Denied, he remembers Jack Potter, his "ancient antagonist," and starts toward his house. He "howled a challenge" at the house, but when he receives no answer, he "churn[ed] himself into deepest rage over the immobility of a house."

At last, in Part IV Potter and his bride walk around the corner to his house, and come face to face with Scratchy. He aims a gun at Potter and his bride, thinking Potter is trying to sneak up on him. Potter tells him calmly, "You know I fight when it comes to fighting, Scratchy Wilson, but I ain't got a gun on me. You'll have to do all the shootin' yourself."

Scratchy doesn't believe there's no gun, until Potter tells him that he just got married in San Antonio. Scratchy sees Potter's new wife standing next to him on the street, and asks, "Is this the lady?" Potter says she is, and Wilson says at last, slowly, "I s'pose it's all off now." He walks away in disbelief, realizing that things have changed in Yellow Sky.


Read more:

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. antagonist
  2. bartender
  3. disbelief
  4. howled
  5. marshal
  6. revolver
  7. saloon
  8. shutters
  9. sneak
  10. terrorize

  1. cried out like a wolf
  2. frighten; abuse
  3. amazement; suspicion
  4. a handgun
  5. like a policeman
  6. move quietly
  7. a person who makes drinks
  8. a bar; a drinking place
  9. an enemy
  10. heavy wooden window covers

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for March 4, 2022

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. i; 2. g; 3. c; 4. a; 5. e; 6. d; 7. h; 8. j; 9. f; 10. b