In those days Paloma was a new town on the line of the Southern Pacific. A reporter would have called it a "mushroom" town; but it was not. Paloma was, first and last, of the toadstool variety.
The train stopped there at noon for the engine to drink and for the passengers both to drink and to dine. There was a new yellow-pine hotel, also a wool warehouse, and perhaps three dozen box residences. The rest was composed of tents, cow ponies, "black-waxy" mud, and mesquite-trees, all bound round by a horizon. Paloma was an about-to- be city. The houses represented faith; the tents hope; the twice-a- day train by which you might leave, creditably sustained the role of charity.
The Parisian Restaurant occupied the muddiest spot in the town while it rained, and the warmest when it shone. It was operated, owned, and perpetrated by a citizen known as Old Man Hinkle, who had come out of Indiana to make his fortune in this land of condensed milk and sorghum.
There was a four-room, unpainted, weather-boarded box house in which the family lived. From the kitchen extended a "shelter" made of poles covered with chaparral brush. Under this was a table and two benches, each twenty feet long, the product of Paloma home carpentry. Here was set forth the roast mutton, the stewed apples, boiled beans, soda- biscuits, puddinorpie, and hot coffee of the Parisian menu.
Ma Hinkle and a subordinate known to the ears as "Betty," but denied to the eyesight, presided at the range. Pa Hinkle himself, with salamandrous thumbs, served the scalding viands. During rush hours a Mexican youth, who rolled and smoked cigarettes between courses, aided him in waiting on the guests. As is customary at Parisian banquets, I place the sweets at the end of my wordy menu.
The spelling is correct, for I have seen her write it. No doubt she had been named by ear; but she so splendidly bore the orthography that Tom Moore himself (had he seen her) would have indorsed the phonography.
Ileen was the daughter of the house, and the first Lady Cashier to invade the territory south of an east-and-west line drawn through Galveston and Del Rio. She sat on a high stool in a rough pine grand- stand--or was it a temple?--under the shelter at the door of the kitchen. There was a barbed-wire protection in front of her, with a little arch under which you passed your money. Heaven knows why the barbed wire; for every man who dined Parisianly there would have died in her service. Her duties were light; each meal was a dollar; you put it under the arch, and she took it.
I set out with the intent to describe Ileen Hinkle to you. Instead, I must refer you to the volume by Edmund Burke entitled: A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful. It is an exhaustive treatise, dealing first with the primitive conceptions of beauty--roundness and smoothness, I think they are, according to Burke. It is well said. Rotundity is a patent charm; as for smoothness--the more new wrinkles a woman acquires, the smoother she becomes.