A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from October 15, 2006
“Only a fool argues with a skunk, a mule, or a cook”

"Only a fool argues with a skunk, a mule, or a cook” is a popular bit of cowboy wisdom. The origin of the phrase is unclear.


Harry Oliver’s Desert Rat Scrap Book
Only a fool argues with a skunk, a mule, or a cook.
(There is no date for this edition of Harry Oliver’s Desert Rat Scrap Book, but it might be 1949—ed.)

Google Books
American Cattle Trails 1540-1900
by Garnet M. Brayer and Herbert Oliver Brayer
Bayside, NY: Western Range Cattle Industry Study, in cooperation with the American Pioneer Trails Association
1952
Pg. ?:
When not in his hearing other members of the crew frequently referred to him as the “old woman,” but all remembered the range maxim that “only a fool argues with a skunk, a mule or a cook.”

(JSTOR research database)
Reviewed Work(s):
Come an’ Get It: The Story of the Old Cowboy Cook by Ramon F. Adams, Nick Eggenhofer
Review author[s]: J. Frank Dobie
Western Folklore, Vol. 12, No. 1 (Jan., 1953), pp. 67-68:
“Only a fool argues with a skunk, a mule, or a cook,” went a range saying. Mr. Adams treats of the camp cook as belonging to the past.

Golden Valley County (MT) History
Seventy-Nine Ranch*
By Albie Gordon, 1971
(...)
Not all men on the Ranch did their work on horseback. Perhaps the most important one was the cook and did his work on foot. Sometimes his patience was worn pretty thin and as one cowhand expressed himself, “Only a fool argues with a skunk, a mule, or a cook.”
*This is an excerpt from the book “Dawn in Golden Valley,” 1971, compiled by Albie Gordon, Margaret Lehfeldt, and Mary Morsanny.

3 January 1970, Florence (SC) Morning News, pg. 11:
“Only a fool argues with a skunk, a mule or a cook,” he once said.
(Cowboy artist Charles Russell—ed.)

16 August 1985, Chicago Tribune, pg. D1:
Only a fool argues with a skunk, a mule or the cook.
-- Reader’s Digest.

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Sunday, October 15, 2006 • Permalink