The nail was lightly driven, its head painted, and game called. Then the Cooper miracles began. The bullet of the first marksman chipped an edge off the nail-head; the next man's bullet drove the nail a little way into the target--and removed all the paint. Haven't the miracles gone far enough now? Not to suit Cooper; for the purpose of this whole scheme is to show off his prodigy, Deerslayer Hawkeye--Long-Rifle-Leather-Stocking- Pathfinder-Bumppo before the ladies.
"'Be all ready to clench it, boys!' cried out Pathfinder, stepping into his friend's tracks the instant they were vacant. 'Never mind a new nail; I can see that, though the paint is gone, and what I can see I can hit at a hundred yards, though it were only a mosquito's eye. Be ready to clench!'
"The rifle cracked, the bullet sped its way, and the head of the nail was buried in the wood, covered by the piece of flattened lead."
There, you see, is a man who could hunt flies with
This is a nasty little attack by one of Americas iconic and exceptional writers against another of our iconic and exceptional writers. Both have made great and lasting contributions to our national literature. Had this short piece not included Twain's masterful satire, wit and sly humor (something not found in Cooper) it would have demeaned Twain more than Cooper. As it is some of the descriptions are spot on and others at least generate a chuckle. Clearly not the best or most noble work of Mr. Twain but humorous is you have read both authors.
Don't worry if you've never read J. Fenimore Cooper (you're lucky in that respect at least), because Twain's sendup of him is funny as heck without it. From the incredible slow motion toss of the tomahawk to the bizarre inability of a Cooper Indian to board a slow-moving river barge, every one of Twain's criticisms is spot-on and hysterically funny. This is one of my favorite short pieces of Twain's.