At the age of 7 his family moved to Pueblo, Colorado, where he would remain until adulthood. Growing up both his father and grandfather were newspaper editors. As a teenager, Runyon dabbled in the newspaper business himself, writing stories and reporting for the Pueblo Evening Press, that is until he enlisted to serve in the Spanish-American War. After his service in the military, Runyon continued to write for several newspapers. In , Runyon moved to New York City where he continued his work for the newspaper business, working as a sports reporter for New York American, a newspaper owned by William Hearst. As he continued to contribute to the newspaper, Runyon in began writing stories.
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In fact, the reason he is called The Sky is because he goes so high when it comes to betting on any proposition whatever. H e will bet all he has, and nobody can bet any more than this. His right name is Obadiah Masterson, and he is originally out of a little town i n southern Colorado where he learns to shoot craps, and play cards, and one thin g and another, and where his old man is a very well-known citizen, and something of a sport himself.
In fact, The Sky tells me that when he finally cleans up al l the loose scratch around his home town and decides he needs more room, his old man has a little private talk with him and says to him like this: "Son," the old guy says, "you are now going out into the wide, wide world to mak e your own way, and it is a very good thing to do, as there are no more opportun ities for you in this burg.
I am only sorry," he says, "that I am not able to ba nk-roll you to a very large start, but," he says, "not having any potatoes to gi ve you, I am now going to stake you to some very valuable advice, which I person ally collect in my years of experience around and about, and I hope and trust yo u will always bear this advice in mind.
But, son," the old guy says, "do not bet him, for as sure as you do you are going to get an ear full of cider. In fact, the only real mistake The Sky makes is when he hits St. Lou is after leaving his old home town, and loses all his potatoes betting a guy St. Louis is the biggest town in the world.
NOW of course this is before The Sky ever sees any bigger towns, and he is never much of a hand for reading up on matters such as this. In fact, the only readin g The Sky ever does as he goes along through life is in these Gideon Bibles such as he finds in the hotel rooms where he lives, for The Sky never lives anywhere else but in hotel rooms for years.
He tells me that he reads many items of great interest in these Gideon Bibles, a nd furthermore The Sky says that several times these Gideon Bibles keep him from getting out of line, such as the time he finds himself pretty much frozen-in ov er in Cincinnati, what with owing everybody in town except maybe the mayor from playing games of chance of one kind and another.
Well, The Sky says he sees no way of meeting these obligations and he is figurin g the only thing he can do is to take a run-out powder, when he happens to read in one of these Gideon Bibles where it says like this: "Better is it," the Gideon Bible says, "that thou shouldest not vow, than that t hou shouldest vow and not pay.
He is maybe thirty years old, and is a tall guy with a round kisser, and big blu e eyes, and he always looks as innocent as a little baby. But The Sky is by no m eans as innocent as he looks.
In fact, The Sky is smarter than three Philadelphi a lawyers, which makes him very smart, indeed, and he is well established as a h igh player in New Orleans, and Chicago, and Los Angeles, and wherever else there is any action in the way of card-playing, or crap-shooting, or horse-racing, or betting on the baseball games, for The Sky is always moving around the country following the action. BUT while The Sky will bet on anything whatever, he is more of a short-card play er and a crap shooter than anything else, and furthermore he is a great hand for propositions, such as are always coming up among citizens who follow games of c hance for a living.
Many citizens prefer betting on propositions to anything you can think of, because they figure a proposition gives them a chance to out-smar t somebody, and in fact I know citizens w7ho will sit up all night making up pro positions to offer other citizens the next day. A proposition may be only a problem in cards, such as what is the price against a guy getting aces back-to-back, or how often a pair of deuces will win a hand i n stud, and then again it may be some very daffy proposition, indeed, although t he daffier any proposition seems to be, the more some citizens like it.
And no o ne ever sees The Sky when he does not have some proposition of his own. He is eating these peanuts all through the game, and after th e game is over and he is walking across the field with the citizens, he says to them like this: "What price," The Sky says, "I cannot throw a peanut from second base to the hom e plate? But it seems that Mindy knows that The Sky plants a tame rat in the cellar, and this rat knows The Sky and loves him dearly, and will let him catch it any time he wishes, and it also seems that Mindy knows that one of his dish washers happe ns upon this rat, and not knowing it is tame, knocks it flatter than a pancake.
I am only telling you all this to show you what a smart guy The Sky is, and I am only sorry I do not have time to tell you about many other very remarkable prop ositions that he thinks up outside of his regular business. It is well-known to one and all that he is very honest in every respect, and tha t he hates and despises cheaters at cards, or dice, and furthermore The Sky neve r wishes to play with any the best of it himself, or anyway not much.
He will ne ver take the inside of any situation, as many gamblers love to do, such as ownin g a gambling house, and having the percentage run for him instead of against him , for always The Sky is strictly a player, because he says he will never care to settle down in one spot long enough to become the owner of anything.
He never owns such a thing as a house, or an automobile, or a piece of jewelry. He never owns a watch, because The Sky says time means nothing to him. The only time The Sky ever thinks of money as money is when he is broke, and t he only way he can tell he is broke is when he reaches into his pocket and finds nothing there but his fingers.
Then it is necessary for The Sky to go out and dig up some fresh scratch somewhe re, and when it comes to digging up scratch, The Sky is practically supernatural.
He can get more potatoes on the strength of a telegram to some place or other than John D. Now one Sunday evening The Sky is walking along Broadway, and at the corner of F orty-ninth Street he comes upon a little bunch of mission workers who are holdin g a religious meeting, such as mission workers love to do of a Sunday evening, t he idea being that they may round up a few sinners here and there, although pers onally I always claim the mission workers come out too early to catch any sinner s on this part of Broadway.
At such an hour the sinners are still in bed resting up from their sinning of the night before, so they will be in good shape for mo re sinning a little later on. There are only four of these mission workers, and two of them arc old guys, and one is an old doll, while the other is a young doll who is tootling on a cornet.
And after a couple of ganders at this young doll. The Sky is a goner, for this is one of the most beautiful young dolls anybody ever sees on Broadway, and espe cially as a mission worker.
Her name is Miss Sarah Brown. She is tall, and thin, and has a first-class shape, and her hair is a light brow n, going on blond, and her eyes arc like I do not know what, except that they ar e one-hundred-per-cent eyes in every respect. Furthermore, she is not a bad corn et player, if you like cornet players, although at this spot on Broadway she has to play against a scat band in a chop-suey joint near by, and this is tough com petition, although at that many citizens believe Miss Sarah Brown will win by a large score if she only gets a little more support from one of the old guys with her who has a big bass drum, but does not pound it hearty enough.
But of course we already know about Miss Sarah Brown, because she is so beautiful, and so good. Furthermore, everybody feels somewhat sorry for Miss Sarah Brown, for while she is always tootling the cornet, and making speeches, and looking to save any soul s that need saving, she never seems to find any souls to save, or at least her b unch of mission workers never gets any bigger. In fact, it gets smaller, as she starts out with a guy who plays a very fair sort of trombone, but this guy takes it.
Now from this time on, The Sky does not take any interest in anything but Miss S arah Brown, and any night she is out on the corner with the other mission worker s, you will see The Sky standing around looking at her, and naturally after a fe w weeks of this, Miss Sarah Brown must know The Sky is looking at her, or she is dumber than seems possible. And nobody ever figures Miss Sarah Brown dumb, as s he is always on her toes, and seems plenty able to take care of herself, even on Broadway.
Sometimes after the street meeting is over, The Sky follows the mission workers to their headquarters in an old storeroom around in Forty-eighth Street where th ey generally hold an indoor session, and I hear The Sky drops many a large coars e note in the collection box while looking at Miss Sarah Brown, and there is doubt these notes come in handy around the mission, as I hear business is by no means so good there.
How The Sky ever becomes acquainted with Miss Sarah Brown is a very great myster y, but the next thing anybody knows, he is saying hello to her, and she is smili ng at him out of her one-hundred-per-cent eyes, and one evening when I happen to be with The Sky we run into her walking along Forty-ninth Street, and The Sky h auls off and stops her, and says it is a nice evening, which it is, at that.
Are you saving any souls? Well, it seems from what Miss Sarah Brown says the soul-saving is very slow, ind eed, these days. Sometimes I wonder if we are lacking in grace. I must spe ak to her again, and see if I can figure something out. Furthermore, she sends him w ord that she does not care to accept any more of his potatoes in the collection box, because his potatoes are nothing but ill-gotten gains.
OF COURSE the crap games that are going on at this lime are nothing much, becaus e practically everybody in the world is broke, but there is a head-and-head game run by Nathan Detroit over a garage in Fifty-second Street where there is occas ionally some action, and who shows up at this crap game early one evening but Th e Sky, although it seems he shows up there more to find company than anything el se.
In fact, he only stands around watching the play, and talking with other guys wh o are also standing around and watching, and many of these guys are very high sh ots during the gold rush, although most of them are now as clean as a jaybird, a nd maybe cleaner. One of these guys is a guy by the name of Brandy Bottle Bates, who is known from coast to coast as a high player when he has anything to play with, and who is called Brandy Bottle Bates because it seems that years ago he i s a great hand for belting a brandy bottle around.
This Brandy Bottle Bates is a big, black-looking guy, with a large beezer, and a head shaped like a pear, and he is considered a very immoral and wicked charact er, but he is a pretty slick gambler, and a fast man with a dollar when he is in the money.
Well, finally The Sky asks Brandy Bottle why he is not playing and Brandy laughs , and states as follows: "Why," he says, "in the first place I have no potatoes, and in the second place I doubt if it will do me much good if I do have any potatoes the way I am going the past year. Why," Brandy Bottle says, "I cannot win a bet to save my soul. Why," he says, "Nig can make sixes all night when he is hot. If he does not make this six, the way he is, I will be willing to tur n square and quit gambling forever.
I will lay you a G note Big Nig does not get his six. I will lay you a G note against nothing but your soul," he says. He only stands there looking on and seeming somewhat depressed as Brandy Bottle goes into action on his own account with the G note, fading other guys around th e table with cash money. It finally comes his turn to handle the dice, and he hits a couple of times, and then he comes out on a four, and anybody will tell you that a four is a very to ugh point to make, even with a lead pencil.
I know you do n ot want my dough," he says. I am young once myself," Brandy Bottle says. Well, Regret wishes to bet his soul against a G that Brandy Bottle gets his nine , and is greatly insulted when The Sky cannot figure his price any better than a double saw, but finally Regret accepts this price, and Brandy Bottle hits again.
But Brandy Bottle says that while ordinarily he will be pleased to extend The Sk y this accommodation, he does not care to accept markers against his soul, so th en The Sky has to leave the joint and go over to his hotel two or three blocks a way, and get the night clerk to open his damper so The Sky can get the rest of h is bank roll.
Big Nig claims that all gamblers are daffy anyway, and in fact he says if they a re not daffy they will not be gamblers, and while he is arguing this matter back comes The Sky with fresh scratch, and Brandy Bottle Bates takes up where he lea ves off, although Brandy says he is accepting the worst of it, as the dice have a chance to cool off.
It is plain to be seen that she is all steamed up about something. She marches right up to the crap table where Brandy Bottle Bates and The Sky and the other citizens are standing, and one and all are feeling sorry for Dobber, the doorman, thinking of what Nathan Detroit is bound to say to him for letting her in.
I can win any souls I need myself. You better be thinking of your own soul. By the way," she says, "ar e you risking your own soul, or just your money? I ought to," she says. If you wish to gamble for souls, Mister Sky, gamble for your own soul. This two dollars agai nst your soul. Mister Sky. It is all I have, but," she says, "it is more than yo ur soul is worth.
She turns at once and pushes through the citizens around the table without even waiting to pick up the deuce she lays down when she grabs the dice. Afterwards a most obnoxious character by the name of Red Nose Regan tries to claim the deuce as a sleeper and gets the heave-o from Nathan Detroit, who becomes very indigna nt about this, stating that Red Nose is trying to give his joint a wrong rap.
Well, at this Dobber figures The Sky is bound to let one go, as this seems to be most insulting language, but instead of letting one go, The Sky only smiles at Miss Sarah Brown and says to her like this: "Why," The Sky says, "Paul says If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this w orld, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. Well, now, Dobber has a pretty fair sort of memory, and he says that Miss Sarah Brown tolls The Sky that since he seems to know so much about the Bible, maybe h e remembers the second verse of the Song of Solomon, but the chances are Dobber muffs the number of the verse, because I look the matter up in one of these Gide on Bibles, and the verse seems a little too much for Miss Sarah Brown, although of course you never can tell.
Anyway, this is about al! I see The Sky the other night at Forty-ninth Street and Broadway, and he is with quite a raft of mission workers, including Mrs. Sky, for it seems that the soul -saving business picks up wonderfully, and The Sky is giving a big bass drum suc h a first-class whacking that the scat band in the chop-suey joint can scarcely be heard.
Furthermore, The Sky is hollering between whacks, and I never see a gu y look happier, especially when Mrs. Sky smiles at him out of her hundred-per-ce nt eyes. But I do not linger long, because The Sky gets a gander at me, and righ t away he begins hollering: "I see before me a sinner of deepest dye," he hollers. Join with us, sinner," he hollers, "and let us save your soul. Related Interests.
A Nice Price & The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown
The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown