Kinyon Digital Library
Civil War Rosters
|Home || What's New? || Notes || Census Data || Data By State || Military Records || Links || Tombstones || Poetry || Privacy|
Kinyon Digital Library
Copyright © 1999-2013,
IV.---UNCLE DAVY LANE.
I must not forget, in these random sketches, my old friend and neighbor Uncle Davy Lane. Some men make an early and decided impression upon you---features, actions, habits, all the entire man, real and artificial. "Uncle Davy" was that kind of man.
I will mention a few things that make me remember him. His looks were peculiar. He was tall, dark, and rough-skinned; lymphatic, dull, and don't-care-looking in his whole physiognomy. He had lazy looks and movements. Nothing could move him out of a slow, horse-mill gait but snakes, of which "creeturs he was monstrous 'fraid." The reader shall soon have abundant evidence of the truth of this admission in his numerous and rapid flights from "sarpunts."
Uncle Davy was a gunsmith, and, as an evidence of the fact, he carried about with him the last gun he ever made. His gun, a rifle, was characteristic of its maker and owner---rough and unfinished outside, but good within. It was put in an old worm-eaten half-stock which he had picked up somewhere, and the barrel had never been dressed nor ground outside. He would visit a neighbor early in the morning, sit down with his rifle across his knees, in "too great a hurry" to set it aside, would stay all day, would lay it by only at meals, which he seldom refused, but "never was a-hongry."
He had a great fund of long-winded stories and incidents, mostly manufactured by himself---some few he had "hearn"---and would bore you or edify you, as it might turn out, from sun to sun, interspersing them now and then with a dull, guttural, lazy laugh.
He became quite a proverb in the line of big story-telling. True, he had may obstinate competitors, but he distanced them all farther than he did the numerous snakes that "run arter him." He had given his ambitious competitors fair warning thus:
"Ef any on 'um beats me, I'll sell out my deadnin' and hustle off to other deadnin's."
In sheer justice to Uncle Davy, however, and with pleasure I record the fact that he reformed his life, became a Christian, I hope, as well as a Baptist, and died a penitent man.
As stated, he was never known to get out of a snail's gallop only when in contact with snakes; and the reader shall now have, in Uncle Davy's own style, an account of his flight from a coachwhip snake.
"I had a hog claim over beyant Moor's Fork, and I concluded I'd take old Bucksmasher (his rifle), and go inter the big huckleberry patch, on Round Hill, in sarch for 'um. Off I trolloped, and toddled about for some time, but couldn't find head nur tail uv 'um. But while I was moseyin' about, I cum right chug upon one uv the biggest, longest, outdaciousest coachwhip snakes I uver laid my peepers on. He rared right straight up, like a May-pole, licked out his tarnacious tongue, and good as said, 'Here's at you, sir. What bizness have you on my grit? Now I'd hearn folks say ef you'd look a vinimus animil right plump in the eyes he wouldn't hurt you. Now I tried it good, jut like I were trying to look through a mill-stone. But, bless you, honey! he had no more respect fur a man's face and eyes than he had fur a huckleberry, sure's gun's iron. So I seed clearly that I'd have to try my trotters.
"I dashed down old Bucksmasher, and jumped'bout ten steps the fust leap, and on I went wusser nur an old buck fur 'bout a quarter, and turned my noggin round to look fur the critter. Jehu Nimshi! thar he were right dab at my heels, head up, tongue out, and red as a nail-rod, and his eyes like two balls uv fire, red as chain lightnin'. I 'creased my verlocity, jumped logs twenty foot high, clarin' thick bushes, and bush-heaps, deep gullies, and branches. Again I looked back, thinkin' I had sartinly left it a long gap behind. And what do you think? By jingo! he'd hardly begun to run---jist gittin' his hand in. So I just put flatly down again faster than uver. 'Twasn't long afore I run out'n my shot-bag, I went so fast, then out'n my shirt, then out'n my britches---luther britches at that---then away went my drawers. Thus I run clea out'n all my linnen a half a mile afore I got home; and, thinks I, surely the tarnul sarpunt are distanced now.
"But what do you think now? Nebuchadnezzar! thar he were, fresh as mounting buck jist scared up. I soon seen that wouldn't do, so I jumped about thirty-five foot, screamed like a wildcat, and 'creased my verlocity at a monstrous rate. Jist then I begun to feel my skin split, and, thinks I, it's no use to run out'n my skin, like I have out'n my linnen, as huming skin are scarce, so I tuck in a leetle.
"But by this time I'd run clean beyant my house, right smack through my yard, scaring Molly and the clildering, dogs, cats, chickens---uvry thing---half to death. But, you see, I got shet uv my inimy, the sarpunt, fur it had respect fur my house, ef it hadn't fur my face and eyes in the woods. I puffed, and blowed, and sweated 'bout half an hour afore I had wind to tell Molly and the childering what were the matter.
"Poor old Bucksmasher staid several days in the woods afore I could have the pluck to go arter him."
When Uncle Davy told one snake story, he must needs exhaust his stock, big and little. After breathing a little from telling his coachwhip story, which always excited him, he would introduce and tell the story of his adventure with
"Fur some time arter I were chased by that sassy coachwhip, I were desput 'fraid uv snakes. My har would stand on eend, stiff as hog's bristles, at the noise uv uvry lizzard that ran through the leaves, and my flesh would jerk like a dead beef's.
"But at last I ventured to go into the face uv the Round Peak one day a-huntin'. I were skinnin' my eyes fur old bucks, with my head up, not thinkin' abour sarpunts, when, by Zucks! I cum right plum upon one uv the curiousest snakes I uver seen in all my borned days.
"Fur a spell I were spellbound in three foot uv. it. There it lay on the side uv a steep presserpis, at full length, ten foot long, its tail strait out, right up the presserpis, head big as a sasser, right toards me, eyes red as forked lightnin', lickin' out his forked tongue, and I could no more move than the Ball Rock on Fisher's Peak. But when I seen the stinger in his tail, six inches long and sharp as a needle, stickin' out like a cock's spur, I thought I'd a drapped in my tracks. I'd ruther a had uvry coachwhip on Round Hill arter me en full chase than to a bin in that drefful siteation.
"Thar I stood, petterfied with relarm---couldn't budge a peg---couldn't even take old Bucksmasher off uv my shoulder to shoot the infarmul thing. Nyther uv us moved nor bolted 'ur eyes fur fifteen minits.
"At last, as good luck would have it, a rabbit run close by, and the snake turned its eyes to look what it were, and that broke the charm, and I jumped forty foot down the mounting, and dashed behind a big white oak five foot in diamatur. The snake he cotched the eend uv his tail in his mouth, he did, and come rollin' down the mounting arter me jist like a hoop, and jist as I landed behind the tree he struck t'other side with his stinger, and stuv it up, clean to his tail, smack in the tree. He were fast.
"Of all the hissin' and blowin' that uver you hearn sense you seen daylight, it tuck the lead. Ef there'd a bin forty-nine forges all a-blowin' at once, it couldn't a beat it. He rared and charged, lapped round the tree, spread his mouf and grinned at me orful, puked and spit quarts an' quarts of green pisen at me, an' made the ar stink with his nasty breath.
"I seen thar were no time to lose: I seen thar were no time to lose; I cotched up old Bucksmasher from whar I'd dashed him down, and tried to shoot the tarnil thing; but he kep' sich a movin' about and sich a splutteration that I couldn't git a bead at his head, for I know'd it warn't wuth while to shoot him any whar else. So I kep' my distunce tell he wore hisself out, then I put a ball right between his eyes, and he gin up the ghost.
"Soon as he were dead I happened to look up inter the tree, and what do you think? Why, sir, it were dead as a herrin'; all the leaves was wilted like a fire had gone through its branches.
"I left the old feller with his stinger in the tree, thinkin' it were the best place fur him, and moseyed home, 'tarmined not to go out agin soon.
"Now folks may talk as they please 'bout there bein' no sich things as horn-snakes, but what I've seen I've seen, and what I've jist norated is true as the third uv Mathy.
"I mout add that I passed that tree three weeks arterwards, and the leaves and the whole tree was dead as a door-nail."
Uncle Davy's mind was trained in a sort of horse-mill track, and would pass from one story to another with great naturalness and ease. No sooner was he done with the horn-snake rencounter, after giving you time to use some word of astonishment, note of exclamation---some sign of astonishment, note of exclamation---some sign of approbation or disapprobation, it made but little odds which---he would commence the story of
THE RATTLESNAKE BITE.
"I thort my sarpunt difficulties was sartinly ended arter that desput horn-snake scrape; but hush, honey! they'd just begun. T'other two was jist ligttle frightnin's; this that I'm a-gwine to narrate was a sure-enough bite. He waded inter me far enuff. It happened arter this fashion:
"I knowed whar thar was a mighty nice blackberry patch, 'bout a mile from home. I 'tarmined to have a bait out'n 'um, and some on 'um for Molly to make a pie out'n, fur I'm mighty fond uv blackberry pies---nothin' nicer, 'ceptin' a raal North Carolina puddin'. So off I piked to the old field whar they was. I didn't 'spect to see any old bucks to smash, so I didn't take old Bucksmasher with me that time, which I nairly always done, nur did I---lack-a-day!---know what were to befall me that drefful, drefful day.
"I 'riv on the spot in the cool uv the evenin', which it were mighty hot weather, waded into 'um without ceremony ur interduction, and eat a bushel on 'um afore I picked any fur the family. Last I seen a monstrous big brier full uv great big 'uns. big as hen's eggs. I were so taken with 'um, with my head as high as ef I was looking at the stars, I went up, and, says I to myself, 'I'll soon hev my basket full uv these master fellers; they'll make bully pies.'
"I were pickin' away hard as I could clatter, barefooted as the day I were borned, when I felt suthin rakin' my feet wusser than sawbriers. But I picked on, and nuver looked down to see what were the matter, thinking all the time it were briers. But it got wusser and wusser till it were no use. I looted down to see what were the matter, and what do you think? Why, thar were the biggest rattlesnake that uver were seen or hearn tell on---would a filled a washin'-tub to the brim. There he were peggin' away at my feet and legs like he were the hongriest critter on yeth.
"I jist let all holts go, and begun to jump right up and down, full thirty foot igh, fur a dozen times, I reckon, screamin' like an Injun, allers lightin' in an inch uv the same place. Ev'ry time I'd strike the yeth the cussed sarpunt would peg away at me. At last the spell were broke, and I moseyed home at an orful rate. It's no use to say how fast I did run, fur nobody would b'leeve it, but I can say in truth, the runnin' from the coachwhip warn't a primin' to it. No, sir!
"Now I'd hearn that sweet milk were a mighty remedy fur snake-bites, and, as good luck would have it, Molly and the childering had jist got home from the cuppen (Note: Cow-pen) with the milk of seven master cows to give milk, and I, without sayin' a word, drunk down uvry drap uv it. They looked mighty curious at me. Soon I got monstrous sick, and commenced puking at an orful rate. Up come milk and blackberries, all mixed up together, makin' a relarmin' mess to the family. They begun to beller and squall like ten thousand Injuns were arter 'um and skelpin' on 'um, and me so sick I couldn't say a word. I thort in my soul I should puke up the bottoms of my feet. No poor little mangy pig uver hove and set at a 'tater-hill wusser nur I did. When I'd hulled out uvry thing innardly, I run to the whisky-kag, snatched it up, and landed at least two gallons down me. This were the king cure-all. I went to sleep in less than no time, nuver said a word to any on 'um, and waked up next mornin' read fur breakfust, and eat more'n common, seein' I were tolluble empty."
Uncle Davy has one more "sarpunt story," which I will not let him tell now, but will reserve it for his last story. I will now give the reader, for the sake of variety, some of his hunting feats and stories, which will show him to have been a hero in that ancient and honorable occupation.
We have it from ancient and the best authority that "Nimrod was a mighty hunter before the Lord." Uncle Davy was a second Nimrod at least. To allow Uncle Davy to decide the question, the Eastern hunter, Nimrod, who has been deified as Hercules for his wondrous feats, has been immeasurably eclipsed by the Western hunter, the Fisher's River Davy Lane. Hercules hunted with a club; Uncle Davy with old Bucksmasher. Hercules was doomed to hunt and perform his feats; Uncle Davy did his without compulsion. Poets and historians have sung and told the stories of Hercules; Uncle Davy tells his own stories. A fruitful imagination could run the analogy endlessly; but I shut down upon it.
I shall not record a tithe of the hunting stories of my Western Hercules, for they would make a ponderous volume. Only a few samples of the many shall be given; and I here take occasion to express the sincere hope that my countrymen will never return to such a state of barbarism as to deify our Fisher's River hero, as the ancients did Hercules, and make for him a mythology out of these imperfect records; for I now testify to all coming generations that Uncle Davy Lane was but a mortal man, and has been gathered to his fathers for several years. But excuse this digression: my plea is, The importance of the subject demanded it.
I will give but a few of my hero's stories, and will begin, without being choice, with
THE FAST-RUNNING BUCK.
"Now I'd smashed up so many master old bucks 'bout Fisher's Gap, Blaze Spur, Flour Gap, clean round to Ward's Gap, (Note: Different crossing-places of the Blue Ridge.) I 'cluded they mout be gittin' scass, and I'd let 'um rest a spell, and try my luck in other woods; so I toddled off to the Sugar Loaf. (Note: A lofty peak of the Blue Ridge, running up in a beautiful conical form, resembling a sugar-loaf.)
"Now I know'd it were the time uv year fur old bucks to be hard'nin' thar horns, so I tuck the sunny side uv the Sugar Loaf. I kep' my eyes skinned all the way up, but nuver seen any thing tell I got nairly to the top, when up jumped one uv the poxtakedest biggest old bucks you uver seen. He dashed round the mounting faster nur a shootin' star ur lightnin'. But, howseomever, I blazed away at him, but he were goin' so fast round the Loaf, and the bullet goin' strait forrud, I missed him. Ev'ry day fur a week I went to that spot, allers jumped him up in ten steps uv the same place, would fire away, but allers missed him, as jist norated.
"I felt that my credit as a marksman, and uv old Bucksmasher, was gittin' mighty under repair. I didn't like to be outgineraled in any sich a way by any sich a critter. I could smash bucks anywhar and any time, but that sassy rascal, I couldn't tech a har on him. He were a perfect dar-devil. One whole night I didn't sleep a wink---didn't bolt my eyes---fixin' up my plan. Next mornin' I went right smack inter my blacksmith shop, tuck my hammer, and bent old Bucksmasher jist to suit the mounting, so that when the pesky old buck started round the mounting the bullet mout take the twist with him, and thus have a far shake in the race.
"I loadened up, and moseyed off to try the 'speriment. I ruv at the spot, and up he jumped, hoisted his tail like a kite, kicked up his heels in a banterin' manner, fur he'd outdone me so often he'd got raal sassy. I lammed away at him, and away he went round the mounting, and the bullet arter him---so good a man, and so good a boy. I stood chock still. Presentely round they come like a streak uv sunshine, both buck and bullit, bullit singin' out, 'What is it? what is it? 'Go it, my fellers,' says I, and away they went round the Loaf like a Blue Ridge storm. Afore you could crack yer finger they was around agin, bucklety-whet. Jist as they got agin me, bullit throwed him.
"I throwed down old Bucksmasher, out with my butcher-knife, jerked off my shot-bag and hung it on the horn uv one uv the purtiest things you uver seen. I thort I'd look at it better when I stuck my buck. I knifer him monstrous quick, and turned round to look at the curious thing I'd hung my shot-bag on, and it were gone most out'n sight. I woon seen it were the moon passin' along, and I'd hung by shot-bag on the corner uv it. I hated mightily to lose it, fur it had all my ammernition in it, and too 'bout a pound uv Thompson's powder. (Note: A favorite powder with hunters in that section, made by a man named John Thompson. I have no doubt of its being the best powder in the world.)
But I shouldered my old buck, moseyed home, skinned and weighed him, and he weighed 150 pounds clean weight. I slep' sound that night, fur I'd gained the victory. I went next day to look fur the moon, and to git my shot-bag, pervided it hadn't spilt it off in moseyin' so fast. Sure 'nuff, it come moseyin' along next day, jist at the same time o' day, with my shot-bag on its horn. I snatched it off, and told it to mosey on 'bout its business.
"Now thar's some things I'll describe the best I can, and I'm a tolluble hand at it, though I say it; but I nuver will tell a human critter ow that moon looked. But I'll say this much: all that talk of 'stronimy and 'lossify 'bout the moon are nonsense; that's what I know. They can't fool this old 'coon, fur what I know I know---what I've seen, I've seen."
After a lazy laugh, in which he cared not whether you engaged or not---at least his looks would so indicate---Uncle Davy would straighten himself, fetch a long breath, charge his mouth with a fresh chew of tobacco, and would proceed to tell of his
RIDE IN THE PEACH-TREE
"Now when I got my shot-bag off uv the moon, I lost no time, which I'd lost a great deal arter that old buck, as jist norated. I moseyed home in a hurry, straightened old Bucksmasher, and piked off to Skull Camp (Note: A spur of the Blue Ridge, at the foot of which one or two human skeletons were found at the first settling of the country, where there were signs of an old hunters' camp; hence the name of the mountain.) to smash up a few old bucks on that grit. Soon as I landed I seen 'bout a dozen old bucks and one old doe. I planted myself, fur they was comin' right smack to'ads me, and I waited tell they got in shootin' range, as it were. I knowed ef I smashed Mrs. Doe fust I'd be right apt to smash all the Mr. Bucks. That's the way with all creation---the males allers a-traipsin' arter the females.
"So I lammed away at her, fotched her to the yeth, and the bucks scampered off. Agin I got loadened up they come back to the doe, smellin' round, and I blazed away agin, and tripped up the heels uv one uv 'um. They'd run off a little ways uvry time, but agin I'd load up thar'd allers be one read to be smashed, and I jist kep' smashin' away tell there were but one left, and he were a whopper.
"I felt in my shot-bag, and, pox take the luck! there warn't a bullit in it---nothin' but a peach-stone. I crammed it down, thort I'd salute him with that, and blazed away, aimin' to hit him right behind the wethers, and, by golly! ef he didn't slap down his tail and outrun creation, and give it two in the game. I run up, out with my butcher-knife, stuck uvry one on 'um afore you could cry 'cavy. And sich a pile on 'um, all lyin' cross and pile, you nuver seen in yer borned days.
"I moseyed home in a turkey-trot, got Jim and Sanders and the little waggin, went arter 'um, and, I tell you, we had nice livin' fur a fortnight. Some o' the old bucks would a cut four inches clare fat on the rump. Molly didn't hev to use any hog fat nur fry no bacon with 'um. We sopped both sides uv ur bread, and greased ur mouths from ear to ear. It made the childering as sassy as it does a sea-board feller when he gits his belly full uv herrin'. Thar was skins plenty to make me and all the boys britches, and to buy ammernition to keep old Bucksmasher a-talkin' fur a long time, fur he's a mighty gabby old critter to varmunts uv uvry kind, well as to old bucks, he is.
"Arter makin a desput smash among old bucks uvry whar else fur three very long years, I thort I'd try my luck in Skull Camp agin. I took plenty uv ammernition with me this time---didn't care about shootin' peach-stones any more out'n old Bucksmasher---and piked off full tilt.
"Soon as I got on good hunting yeth, I seen right by the side uv a clift uv rocks (I were on the upper side uv the clift) a fine young peach-tree, full uv master plum peaches. I were monstrous hongry and dry, and thanked my stars fur the good luck. I sot down old Bucksmasher, stepped from the top uv the clift inter the peach-tree---nuver looded down to see whar it were growin'---jerked out old Butch, and went to eatin' riproarin' fashion.
"I hadn't gulluped down more'n fifty master peaches afore, by golly! the tree started off, with me in it, faster nur you uver seen a scared wolf run. When it had run a mile ur so, I looked down to see what it mout mean. And what do you think? True as preachin', the peach-tree was growin' out'n an old buck, right behind his shoulders.
"I thort my time had come, for on he moseyed over logs, rocks, clifts, and all sorts o' things, and me up in the tree. He went so fast, he did, that he split the wind, and made it roar in my head like a harricane. I tried to pray, but soon found I had no breath to spar in that way, fur he went so orful fast that my wind was sometimes clean gone. He run in that fashion for fifteen mile, gin out, stopped to rest, when I got out'n my fast-runnin' stage mighty soon, and glad o' the chance.
"I left him pantin' away like he were mighty short o' wind, returned thanks fur once, tuck my foot in my hand, and walked all the way back to old Bucksmasher. I more old bucks on my way than I uver seen in the same length uv time in all my borned days. They knowed jist as well as I did that I had nothin' to smash 'um with. Thar they was a-kickin' up thar heels and snortin' at me fur fifteen long miles---miles measured with a 'coon-skin, and the tail throwed in fur good measure, fur sure. It were a mighty trial, but I grinned and endured it. I piked on and landed at the place whar I started in my peach-tree stage, found old Bucksmasher, shouldered him, and moseyed fur home, with my feathers cut, fur I'd made a water haul that time, fur sure and sartin."
"To---be---shore, Mr. Lane?" said old Mr. Wilmoth, a good, credulous old man; "ef I didn't know you to be a man of truth, I couldn't believe you. How do you think that peach-tree come up in the back of that deer?"
"Bless you, man! it was from the peach-stone I shot in his back, as jist norated---nothin' plainer."
Our here loved to tell of his adventures with other "villinus varmunts" as well as with "old bucks." We will now hear him "let off" with is marvelous adventure with that ever-dreaded and feared monster,
"Arter this dreadful relarm jist norated, I thort I'd not go inter the Skull Camp Mountings agin soon, so I sot my compass fur Fisher's Peak to try my luck. I crossed it at the Bald Rock, (Note: Near the top of Fisher's Peak, on the south side, there is a large rock, about an acre in size, called the "Balk Rock.") and went back uv it a piece, skinnin' my eyes all the time fur old bucks, when I come up chug upon one, dead as a mittin---just killed. Thar warn't the sign uv a bullit on it; it were desputly scratched up and raked hither and thither, and the yeth and leaves was tore up all round. Says I, 'I'll skin you, any how, and make suthin out'n your hide.'
"I tuck off his jacket quick, hung it up, piked on furder, and found another jist in the same fix. Says I, 'This is a cheap way of gittin' old bucks' skins, fur sure. No wastin' ammernition here, for Thompson's powder and Pearce's lead (Note: Hunters in that section obtained their lead at Pearce's lead mines, Poplar Camp Mountain, Wythe County, Virginia.) is mighty precious.' So I tuck off his clothin' in three shakes of a sheep's tail.
"On I moseyed tell I ondressed eight master bucks in the same way, tell I were in a lather uv sweat, fur it was tolluble hot. When I come to the ninth, the sign was fresher and fresher; it was hardly done kickin'. I ondressed him too, muver thinkin' fur a minit what it were a-smashin' up old bucks in that drefful way.
"Jist as I riz up from skinnin' him, I looked up in a post-oak-tree right dab over me, and there sot the biggest painter that uver walked the Blue Ridge, fur sure. Thar he sot on a limb, his eyes shinin' away like new money, slappin' his tail jist like a cat gwine to jump on a rat. I like to a sunk in my tracks. Poor, helpless critter I was. I thort about prayin', but I seen there were no time fur that; so I kep' my eyes on him, stepped four ur five steps backwards to'ads where I'd sot old Bucksmasher, thinkin' thar mout be more vartue in powder and lead than in prayers jist then. I cocked him, whipped him up to the side uv my face, drawed a bead right between the eyws, let him hev it jist as he commenced springin' on me. He fell at my feet, and died monstrous hard, like he had a thousand lives, slappin' his tail on the ground; you mout a hearn him three hundred and fifth yards.
"Thinkin' there mout be some more uv the same stock in them thar woods, I nuver tuck time to ondress him, which his skin would a bin wuth right smart uv ammernition. I gathered up my skins, and moseyed fur home."
Uncle Davy must have had the organ of "destructiveness" pretty fully developed, for fowls, as well as "animils" and "sarpunts," were "smashed up" by him, as may be gathered from
THE TURKEY HUNT.
"Now I got mighty tired livin' on old buck meat---nairly as sick uv it as the chillun of Israel was in the wellerness livin' on partridges and manna, which my teeth was most wore down to the gums eatin' it; so I thort I'd sweeten my mouf a little on turkey meat. So I piked off to Nettle's Knob (Note: A beautiful knob near the foot of the Blue Ridge, not far from the "Flour Gap," now "Pipher's Gap." The line between Virginia and North Carolina crossed it.) knowin' as how thar was a slambhangin' chance uv 'um in that mounting. I seen hundereds uv old bucks as I moseyed on, but, pshaw! I told uvry rascal on 'um to git out'n the way, fur when I went a-turkey-in' I didn't go a-buckin'; so they didn't tempt me any more---fur sure they didn't.
"Now soon as I got nairly to the top uv the knob, on the south side, I seen a master gang of turkeys feedin' along on beggar's lice, etc., mighty busy, comin' right to'ads me. I hid myself right behind an old ches'nut log, sly as a wild-cat. Thar was 'bout sixty on 'um---a right nice gang. I soon seen which were the grandmamma uv the whole possercomitattus, and I detarmined to smash her fust. I lammed away, and down she fell to flutterin', and her feet clatterin' away like a pack uv fool boys and gals a-dancin'. The childering and grandchildering all run up to see what were the matter, hollerin' loud as they could, most splittin' their throats, 'coot! coot! coot!
"Afore she was done a-flutterin', I lammed down another old hen; the rest run up, and the same coot!! coot! tuck place. I kep' lammin' 'um down fast as I could, which was mighty fast, till the whole woods was alive with flutterin' and hollerin' coot! coot! Soon as I got about forty on 'um, I quit burnin' powder; besides, old Bucksmasher had got so hot I were afraid to put powder down him. I went up to whar they was, and, my stars! hwat a pile on 'um! I could a killed the last one on 'um, fur I had to shoo 'um off. I went home fur the boys and the little waggin, and for sure we had good livin' fur a week on baked and hashed turkey, which isn't bad eatin' any time, it ain't."
The transition from one fowl story to another was quite easy and natural to Uncle Davy. Thus he passed with great facility from the "turkey smashin'" to
"Now, do ye see, a man will git tired out on one kind o' meat, I don't care a drot what it is ('ceptin' Johnson Snow, who nuver gits tired o' hog's gullicks and turnup greens). So I got tireder of them thar turkeys, which thar was so many, than I uver did uv old buck meat. I hearn uv a mighty pigeon-roost down in the Little Mountings, (Note: A range of mountains by that name, an offshoot from the Blue Ridge, in the "Hollows of the Yadkin.") so I 'tarmined to make a smash uv some uv 'um, to hev a variety uv all sorts o' meat. I had got to turnin' up my nose whenuver Molly sot turkey on the table, which I hated to do, fur she's a mighty kind critter.
"So I jist fixed up old Tower, (Note: The name of his musket.) and filled my shot-bag chug full uv drap-shot, mounted old Nip, (Note: The name of his horse.) and moseyed off fur the pigeon-roost. I 'ruv thar 'bout two hours by the sun, and frum that blessed hour till chock dark the heavens was dark with 'um comin' inter the roost. It is unconceivable to tell the number on 'um, which it were so great. Bein' a man that has a character fur truth, I won't say how many there was. Thar was a mighty heap uv saplins fur 'um to roost in, which they would allers light on the biggest trees fust, then pitch down on the little uns ter roost.
"Now jist at dark I thort I'd commence smashin' 'um; so I hitched old Nip to the limb uv a tree with a monstrous strong bridle---a good hitchin' place, I thort. I commenced blazin' away at the pigeons like thunder and lightnin'; which they'd light on big trees thich as bees, bend the trees to the yeth like they'd been lead. Uvry pop I'd spill about a pint uv drap-shot at 'um, throwed at 'um by Thompson's powder, which made a drefful smash among 'um. By hokey! I shot so fast, and so long, and so often, I het old Tower so hot that I shot six inches off uv the muzzle uv the old slut. I seen it were no use to shoot the old critter clean away, which I mout have some use fur agin; so I jist quit burnin' powder and flingin' shot arter I'd killer 'bout a thousand on 'um, fur sure.
"Arter I'd picked up as many on 'um as my wallets would hold, I looker fur old Nip right smack whar I'd hitched him, but he were, like King Saul's asses, nowhar to be found. I looked a consid'able spell next to the yeth, but, bless you, honey! I mout as well a sarched fur a needle in a haystack. At last I looker up inter a tree 'bout forty foot high, and thar he were swingin' to a limb, danglin' 'bout 'tween the heavens and the yeth like a rabbit on a snare-pole. I could hardly keep from burstin' opern laughin' at the odd fix the old critter were in. The way he whickered were a fact, when I spoke to him---wusser nur ef I'd a had a stack uv fodder fur him ur a corn-crip to put him in.
"How come him up thar, Uncle Davy?" said Bill Holder, a great quiz.
"Why, I hitched him to the limb uv a big tree bent to the yeth with pigeons, you num-skull, and when they riz the tree went up, and old Nip with it, fur sure."
"But how did yo uget him down?" said Bill, again.
"That's nuther here nor thar; I got him down, and that's 'nuff fur sich pukes as you ter know. Soon as I got him down I piked fur home with my pigeons, and we made uvry pan and pot stink with 'um fur one whet, and they made us all as sassy as a Tar River feller when he gits his belly full uv fresh herrin'."
"These is the oncommonest biggest plum peaches I uver seen sense my peepers looked on daylight," said Uncle Frost Snow, in the presence of Uncle Davy Lane, while a party were making a desperate havoc of some very fine peaches. "They is 'most as good as I use' to eat in ole Albermarle, Fudginny. While I lived thar I eat a bushel on jist sich peaches at one eatin'." This was said to draw out a story from our hero. Uncle Frost was good at that.
"Pshaw! fidgittyfudge!" said Uncle Davy; "that's nothin' to a bait I once tuck in ole Pitsulvany, Virginny I and Uncle John Lane went into his orchard one day, and thar was two grate big plum peach-trees so full that the limbs lay on the ground all round.
"Dave,' said Uncle John, 'do ye see them big peaches thar? I can beat you eatin' 'um so fur that you won't know yerself.'
"'Not so fast, Uncle John,' says I.
"'I'll bet you ten buckskins,' says he.
"'Done, by Jeeminny!' says I.
"'Take yer choice uv the trees,' says he.
"'Here's at you! this one,' say I.
"And at it we went, like Sampson killin' the Philistines, with our butcher-knives, ommencin' at 'bout twelve ur clock, and moseyed into 'um till 'most night.
"'How do ye come on, Dave? said Uncle John.
"'Fust-rate,' says I---'jist gittin' my hand in. How do you navigate, Uncle John? says I.
"'I gin up,' says he. 'My craw's full,' says he.
"I looked, and, Jehu Mimshi! ef we hadn't eat till all the limbs on his tree had riz from the yeth two foot, and mine had riz three foot. The peach-stones lay in two piles, and they looked fur all the world like two Injun mounds--mine a nation sight the biggest."
"Haw! haw! haw! laughed Uncle Frost; "that takes the rag off uv the bush."
"I'm danged," said Dick Snow, "ef I can't beat any man in this crowd eatin' apples."
"How mamy can you eat, yearlin'?" said Uncle Davy. "I'm a snorter in that line, sartin."
"Don't know adzackly; a half a bushel, I s'pose," said Dick.
"Bah! that's nothin'. No more'n a bar to an elephant. That same Uncle John Lane which I won the buckskins from, eatin' peaches, not satisfied with one lickin', tuck me into his apple orchard, and, 'Dave,' says he, 'do you see yon two big leathercoat apple-trees?'
"'Yes," says I; 'and what uv that?"
"'You see,' says he, 'they're mighty full, with thar limbs lyin' on the yeth?' says he.
"Yes,' says I; 'and what does all that signify? Don't be beatin' the bush so long. Come out! Be a man, and tell me what you're arter,' says I.
"'I want to win them thar buckskins back agin,' says Uncle John.
"'Can't do it,' says I.
"'Which tree will you take?' says he.
"'This bully un,' says I.
"'Bad choice,' says he; 'but I'll beat you the easier,' says he.
"So we moseyed into 'um yearly in the mornin', and 'bout twelve o'clock he called fur the calf-rope. I'd beat him all holler. Uncle John were swelled out like a hoss with the colic, while I looked as trim as a grayhound. We looked, and limbs uv my tree had riz from the yeth full four foot, and his'n three foot. Thar was apple-peelin's and cores enough under them thar trees to a fed five dozen hogs, aartin."
"I'm danged," said Dick Snow, "ef that don't take the huckleberry off of my 'simmon."
Patent medicines go every where; so do the almanacs of the inventors of such medicines. Soon after Dr. Jayne commenced publishing his almanacs, one of them got into the Fisher's River region. It was quite a wonder. It was as great a show as the elephant. Some one showed Uncle Davy the picture of the tape-worm, and read the account of it. He was determined not to be outdone, and held forth as follows:
"Fiddlesticks and Irish 'taters! For to think that a man of larnin', like Dr. Jaynes, should prent sich a little flea-bitten story as that! He sartinly nuver seen any crape-wurrums."
"Tape-worms, Uncle Davy," said one.
"Nuver mind, and save your breath," said he, very emphatically; "I know what I'm explanigatin' about. I say Dr. Janyes were mighty pushed fur a wurrum story to prent sich a little baby story as that you have jist norated frum his book. If he'd a called on me, I'd a gi'n him one what was wuth prentin'."
"Let's have it, Uncle Davy," said several voices.
"I'm a great mind not to tell it here by the side uv this poor little thing uv Dr. Jayneses. It makes me rantankerous mad to hear sich little stuff, it does. But here's at you, as you look like you'd die ef you don't hear it.
"Where I cum from, in ole Pitsulvany, Virginny, thar lived a strange-lookin' critter by the name uv Sallie Pettigrew. I sha'n't try to describe her, for it is onpossible. She were a sight, sure. She looked more like a bar'l on stilts than anything I can think on. She could eat as much meat sometimes as five dogs, and soon arter eatin' it could drink as much water as a thirsty yoke uv oxen, sartin'. You needn't be winkin' and blinkin' thar; truth, uvry word uv it. She was monstrous fond uv fish, which it was onpossible almost to git anuff fur her to make a meal on. And then, arter eatin' the fish, she would drink galluns upon galluns uv water. The people got mighty tired uv her eatin' and drinkin' so much, and thort suthin must be the matter. They bought a whole bar'l uv salt herrin's; they cooked 'um, and she gulluped down the last one uv 'um. They tied her fast, so that she couldn't git to water. She hollered and bawled fur water, and seemed like gwine inter fits. They brought a bowl uv water, and placed it close to her mouth, not close enough fur her to drink, though. They helt it thar fur some time; at last they seed suthin poke its head out'n her mouth, tryin' to drink. One uv 'um run and got the shoe-pinchers and nabbed it by the head, and commenced drawin' it out. He drawed and drawed, wusser nur a man drawin' jaw teeth, till it looked like he would nuver git done drawing the critter out. At last he got done; and sich a pile! and sich a tape-wurrum! The poor 'oman fainted away, and we like to a nuver a fotched her to. But when she did cum to, Jehu Nimshi! you mout a hearn her a shoutin' two miles and a half. We detarmined to measure the critter. We tuck it up, and tuck it out'n doors, druv a nail through its head at the corner uv the house, then stretched it clean round the house where we started from, which the house was thirty foot long and eighteen foot wide, maken' the wurrum ninety foot long. I tell you, boys, Dr. Jayneses tape-wurrum were nothin' to it."
"Deng it! we'll gin it up," said Dick Snow.
"You mout as well," said Uncle Davy, "fur it were a whaler."
I promised the reader one more hunting story from Uncle Davy. I will now give it, as it seems to have been the cause of his reformation, and with it I close the sketches of our hunting hero. Here it is:
THE BUCK-HORNED SNAKE.
"I piked out one day," said Uncle Davy, "in sarch uv old bucks, but they was monstrous scace, and I couldn't find none. I got 'most home, and thort I hated to return havin' smashed nothin'---didn't like to be laughed at. Jist then an old sucklin' doe got right smack in my way. I leveled old Bucksmasher, and down she fell. I tuck her home, and, meat being ruther scace, we eat her up monstrous quick.
"I furgut to mention that it was on Sunday I smashed that old doe. My feelings sorter hurt me fur killin' her on Sunday, and frum her young fawn too, poor critter! So in two ur three days arter, I thort I'd go out and git the fawn. I made me a blate, (Note: Hunters split a stick, put a leaf into it, and by blowing it can imitate the bleating of deer so as to deceive them. They call it a "blate.") went out to the laurel and ivy thicket whar I'd killed the doe, blated, and the fawn answered me, fur it thought it was its mammy, poor thing! I kep' blatin' away, and uvry time I'd blate it would answer me, but it cum to me mighty slow, sartin. I got onpatient, and moseyed a little to'ads it, and got on a log where I could see a leetle, which the laurel and ivy was monstrous thick. I blated agin, which it answered close by. I then streeched up my neck liken a scared turkey, lookin' 'mong the laurel and ivy, and what do you think I seen?"
"I can not imagine," said Taliaferro, to whom he was relating this adventure.
"Well, I'll tell you. Thar lay the biggest, oncommonest black snake the Lord uver made, sartin---which he has made a many a one---full fifteen foot long, with a pair of rantankerous big buck's horns, big as antelope's horns. It fixed its tarnacious eyes on me, but afore it could get its spell on me I jumped off uv that log, and run so fast that I nuver hev nur nuver will tell any man---which it is onpossible to tell any man---how fast I did pike fur home. But sartin it is that the runnin' from the coach whip on Round Hill were no more to it than the runnin' uv a snail to a streak uv lightnin'."
"What do you think it was?" inquired Taliaferro.
"I jist think it were suthin' sent thar to warn me 'bout huntin' on Sundays. It blated jist like a fawn, and I thort it were the fawn I were arter; but, Jehu Nimshi! it were no more a fawn than I am a fawn, sartin. But as sure as old Bucksmasher is made uv iron, and is the best gun in the world, I've nuver hunted on Sunday sense."