Scratchy Wilson rounds a corner and struts right into Yellow Sky’s main street. For “decoration,” he wears a maroon flannel shirt made by Jewish women on New York’s east side, while his red-topped boots with “gilded imprints” invoke “sledding boys” from New England. Brandishing a revolver in each hand, Wilson whoops and hollers into the night, but only silence responds. He stalks the town’s windows and doorways like a “midnight cat” in search of prey, but hears only his own yells echoing through the night. There is “no offer of fight” from anyone.
Scratchy Wilson is immediately presented as a character rife with contradictory gendered symbolism. He embodies a violent frontier masculinity (guns blazing as he looks for a fight), but his clothes invoke the influence of women and children from the civilized east. Wilson may be a desperado, but the presence of a feminine touch upon his body indicates that his wild public display is part of a broader last stand in which he tries, but fails, to avoid ceding his masculine space to women.
Incensed at the lack of attention he receives in the street, Scratchy turns towards the Weary Gentleman, where he confronts the barkeeper’s dozing dog. The dog, who “had not appreciated the advance of events,” gets up and walks away until Wilson’s yells inspire the animal to gallop. Scratchy makes sport of the dog’s fear, forcing the poor animal to dodge multiple bullets before it scurries away.
Here, Wilson’s fulfills his foreshadowed role of the storm that disrupts the town’s sleepy calm. The bartender’s lazy, bewildered dog is a helpful stand-in for the town that is utterly helpless to do anything about Scratchy.
Having finished tormenting the dog, Scratchy Wilson hammers the saloon’s door with his revolver and demands a drink. Unable to break down the door, he sticks a piece of paper into it with a knife, then fires at the paper from across the street. He barely misses and, acting as if the town were his plaything, fires a rash of bullets into multiple windows. Wilson, however, soon gets bored shooting at dogs and saloons, and “the name of Jack Potter, his ancient antagonist, entered his mind.”
Wilson performs all kinds of violent acts on the town, but to no real end. Only Jack Potter can give Wilson the fight he craves. The town’s utter silence in the face of Scratchy’s posturing underscores how out of fashion the outlaw’s frontier bravado is.
Sensing that only Jack Potter can give him the fight he craves, Scratchy Wilson heads towards the marshal’s house “chanting Apache scalp-music.” When he arrives at the adobe dwelling, Wilson howls out multiple challenges mingled with “wonderful epithets,” but hears nothing in return. After “churning himself into deepest rage over the immobility of a house,” Scratchy pauses to reload his guns.
Wilson’s decision to make a “last stand” at Jack Potter’s house comes with an underlying sense of doom. Crane’s description of Wilson chanting “Apache scalp-music” is a reference to one of the many vanquished “savage” tribes that white settlers subdued while conquering the frontier, and whose ranks Wilson will soon join.