(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Judge Priest and his friends are sitting on the judge’s porch, talking as usual. Reminiscing about “the Big War,” Captain Shelby Woodward tells two contrasting stories that lead the men to discuss courage and cowardice. In the first, Miss Em Garrett defied a Union commander by refusing to surrender her Confederate flag. For four years, she wore it under her dress while she nursed the wounded of both armies, and eventually her courage and her kindness won salutes from the Union soldiers. Then Woodward describes his brigade’s futile attempts to delay General Sherman’s advance. Most members of his brigade were eventually killed, and Woodward questions their real reason for continuing to fight: Were they brave, or was everyone unwilling to quit for fear of being considered a coward? Judge Priest suggests that the bravest person is someone who would like to run from trouble but faces it instead; Woodward adds that Southern women, who faced difficulties alone, probably were more courageous than the soldiers.

Captain Jasper Lawson then tells a story of frontier days, when disputes were settled by fistfights instead of gunfights. Harve Allen, who was acknowledged to be the toughest and meanest man in town, had badly beaten so many men that everyone, including the constable, was intimidated. One day he claimed to have been offended by Singin’ Sandy Riggs, a small man known only for his perpetual humming. The ensuing fight was totally one-sided, and...

(The entire section is 509 words.)