Interested in Language
I would like to ask if the sentence "them damned buzzards would put the finger on a guy if he didn't play wise" means something like "the birds of prey will attack a man if he is not careful."
"On the bare mountains there was water —had to be! Pete wouldn't make it, Red Donovan thought. He'd have to be left out of sight in some dry arroyo. Cave down the bank—hide the corpse. Because them damned buzzards would put the finger on a guy if he didn't play wise."
O.M.Cabral, Mirage, 1941
No, in this case 'put the finger on' means give away, or disclose. Buzzards and vultures only eat dead things, they don't kill prey.
He has to cover up the body, or else the circling buzzards would be dead giveaway to anybody in the area that there was a body. If somebody found Pete's body, it could be traced back to Red Donovan.