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Fisher's River
(North Carolina)
Scenes and Characters (1859)

  
 

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VI.---DICK SNOW.

Speaking of Uncle Frost Snow, the association of ideas will naturally carry the mind to his family; and of all the members of his family, which was quite numerous, I have the most vivid and distinct recollection of his son Dick.  No wonder, when we were raised together, he being a few years my senior.  I shall not have occasion to ask the reader's pardon for giving my friend Dick Snow so much space in this work, for he will find him, upon farther acquaintance, an "original document"---will be pleased with him every way.  I shall first give some original anecdotes illustrative of the animus of the man, and, secondly, relate his thrilling courtship.

I have just stated that Dick Snow was a son of Uncle Frost Snow, and a favorite one too, for he inherited most of the looks and eccentricities of his father; and as to the vernacular of his father, no Roman Catholic ever stuck closer to his creed than Dick, besides a considerable addition from other sources.  The fact is, Dick had a smattering of all the rustic literature of the land---a fair representative of Fisher's River literature, overdoing the thing a little, however.  Uncle Frost loved Dick much, 'because he won't git above his daddy, and talks like they did in old Albermerle, Fudginny."

As to size, Dick was a little above ordinary, but well made and finely proportioned, with muscles clearly and fully developed.  He was a little stoop-shouldered, and moved quickly and with great ease.  His face was quite paradoxical, wearing both a vinegar and pleasant appearance.  His eyes were black, small, and restless, indicating quick perception, particularly of the ridiculous.  His nose was well set, indicative of decision of character, of which he evidently had much.  His chin testified to the same, and so did his lips.  His person and countenance combined bespoke his honesty, frankness, bravery, decision, and mischievousness.

But this must suffice for description---a poor one too.  If the reader could see the man, he would agree with me.  I will now give some

CHARACTERISTIC ANECDOTES.

When Dick was married, he settled on a very poor farm, on which no other man could have lived.  His wife Sallie in due time gave him a son, and as soon thereafter as things of the kind are ever done, she presented him one night with two beautiful twin sons.  In the morning, some time before daylight, Dick was heard rattling his chains and gearing his horse.  His attendant friends were surprised, and remonstrated.

"Dick, where on earth are you going?  What are you going to do?"

"I'm gwine to wurk---that's what.  When the fambly is 'creasin' so fast, I must 'crease my wurk, by jingo!"

This was said, not by way of complaint, but from the promptings of his indomitable energy.


People in that country, at the time of which I speak, got nearly all their information by inquiry.  They did not take the papers;  the sound of the stage bugle never echoed through their hills and mountains.  If a man went twenty miles from home, he might expect on his return to be quizzed not a little.  Dick once went to Rockford, the seat of justice for Surry County, to court, when a certain "'Squire Byrd" was to be tried for murder.  Expectation was on tip-toe.  Dick returned, and was asked the news.  He replied:

"Thar warn't no trial; 'twas put off, an' 'Squire Byrd has gi'n siscurity for his exspearunce at the next court, so they 'least him."


Dick had a pertinacious way of abbreviating nearly all his words, even when he knew better.  He was a man of fine sense and good judgment, but he wished to take "short cuts," and "talk jest like he'd bin larnt," and was too energetic to take time to pronounce whole words.  Once he returned from court, and was giving his neighbors the news in the presence of his wife, who was a woman of good learning for that section, and said "sich an' sich" men were "'turned to court."

His wife was amused at him, and said, "Dick, why don't you call that word right?"

"Well, ree-turned, then, ef you will have it the long way," replied Dick.  "Some folks are allers gwine the long way, but that ain't me.  I gits right inter it, like a homminny-bird (humming-bird) inter a tech-me-not flower."


I remember well the first time I ever heard of domestic cotton cloth.  It was from my friend Dick Snow that I learned that there was such a thing.  Dick had been to Waugh's store, in the "Hollows" of the Yadkin, and upon his return I inquired the news.

"I'm danged ef thar ain't some uv the cheapestest mastiss cloth at Waugh's store on top of the yeth, by jingo!"

"What?"  said I.

"Mastiss cloth, dang it!  on'y twenty-five cents a yard."

I saw it was useless to press the question, as far as Dick was concerned, but I inquired of my father, and found it to be domestic cotton cloth.


Not long after this, Dick came where I was at work.  "Dick," said I, "how is your health?"

"Laus-a-day, I'm 'most dade."

"Truly," said I, "your face is quite long.  What is the matter?"

"I've got the wust discontary that uver a reflicted critter had.  It's wearin' me out fast.  I'm empty as a bar'l."

"What is it?"  I inquired.

"Discontary!  Dang it!  can't you hear?  I'll pick yer ears with a handspike d'rectly."


Dick was a good farmer, and was among the first to get any new plow that came along and promised to be useful.  There came into the neighborhood a valuable plow called the Dagon Cooter.  Dick, determined to have one, went to the blacksmith, Meredy Edmonds, and said,

"Meredy, I'm come to git yo to make me a bully plow."

"What sort of a plow?"  asked the blacksmith.

"Dang it!  I furgit the name, but I b'leeve it's Caten Dooden or Doodly Dagon.  It makes no odds;  you know what's what---what I wants jest as well as I does."


Dragoon bridle-bits used to be in fashion.  Dick had never used a pair, but, having an unruly horse, he concluded he'd try him with a pair of dragoon bits;  but, not having a pair of his own, he went to a neighbor and inquired,

"I'm come to borry yer dagon bits."

"What is it?"  asked the neighbor.

"Dagon bits!  Cuss these hard names!  My mouf was nuver made to 'nounce 'um.  Ding such big quality words."


Game of every kind was plentiful in that mountainous country, and sometimes hunters would descend from big game down to rabbit hunting.  Dr. K. Thompson and Dick took a rabbit hunt one day, and when the hunt was over the doctor proposed to divide the game with Dick, to which he responded emphatically,

"Don't want 'um.  I doesn't like rabbit meat;  it tastes too danged rabbity."


Dick was a man of respectability, and had a wife whom he and every body else considered number one.  The best of company, even the "quality," visited his house.  The Misses Franklin, daughters of Meshech Franklin, "the Congressman," went to a Methodist quarterly meeting near Dick's residence, called on, and staid all night with him.  Dick was unacquainted with "quality ways," and when the ladies retired to bed up stairs, they bade the family "good-night."  He didn't know what it meant, and it worried him worse than the nightmare.  At last he concluded it was some "rig" the young ladies were running on him, and he resolved to retrieve what he had lost, for he was a man who did not like to be outdone.  So, early next morning, he rose, built his fire, and watched the stair-steps until he heard the ladies coming down.  He then ran and hid himself near the foot of the stairway.  As soon as they landed on the lower floor, Dick rushed out of his hiding-place, scaring misses not a little, and bawled out loudly,

"Good-mornin' at ye, ladies!  I's fast anuff fur you this time.  Now I'll quit ye, as we's even.  You got me last night;  I's got ye this mornin'."


I have never seen a place yet where politics had not reached.  In that secluded spot where Dame Fashion has seldom found her way, or has met with such a cold reception that she does not care to visit it, even there the demon Politics is open-mouthed.  Dick was therefore compelled to take sides.  He became a warm "Dimicrat---a mortal Jackson man."

During the Revolution there were many Tories in that region, and their descendants were derided and despised by the descendants of the Whigs.  Dick entered the list in controversy with the grandson of a Tory, who was a Whig in politics.  Sam J____ was a little too hard for Dick in discussion, and Dick turned' upon him with a "jodarter," and smote him thus:

"Sam, you's chock full uv yer grandaddy's blood.  You's got his old rade coat he wore in the Revolution now put away in yer chist.  Next thing you'll be wearin' on it;  the first good chance you git, you'll be rippin', an' shinin', an' sailin' about in it.  I'm danged ef I don't gin you a dollar to see it any day."


Speaking of politics reminds me of one more anecdote connected therewith.  It was customary for "candidites" in olden times to treat with liquor;  but after a while the temperance (Note:  The first time I ever heard of temperance societies in that section, the people called them "temple societies.") reformation reached Fisher's River, mainly through the instrumentality of Solomon Graves, Esq., of Mount Airy, and "polititioners" in treating had to change their "tacktucks" a little.  Mackerel were used by some candidates instead of Johnson Snow's "knock-em-stiff."

"Mackerel!  why, didn't every body have mackerel?"

Not so fast, captious reader.  Close under the Blue Ridge we had nothing but chubs, hornyheads, pikes, white suckers, sunperch, eels, speckled trout, and a few other varieties of the finny tribes.  Mackerel was unknown when I left in 1829.

Now it came to pass that a candidate for the suffrages of the sovereigns of Fisher's River, by the name of Reeves, procured a barrel of mackerel from Fayetteville, Wilmington, or somewhere else, at a great deal of expense, brought them into Surry, and a few of them into Dick's neighborhood, and resolved to have a mackerel supper at Wylie Franklin's.  Dick was invited.  Said the person inviting him, "Mr. Reeves sends his compliments, and wishes you to come over this evening to Mr. Franklin's, and take some mackerel with him."

"Ah!  dang Reeves," said Dick.  "That's jest like him.  I knows him jest as well as the man that made him.  He knowed I couldn't read his dinged newspapers and pamphlets" (Dick couldn't read);  "but I'll go and hear him read 'um;  I loves to hear 'um read;  I loves good readin'."

Imagine Dick's surprise when he went and found his newspapers and pamphlets were converted into fish.


Dick was a rough hand to joke people.  It was a law in that region, enacted by common consent, that no one was to get angry at a joke, however rough it might be.  Dick observed M. H., a married man, walking with a young lady, and conversing pretty fluently, and, as he thought, a little too amorously, in a crowd.  He thought it a good chance, and blurted out loudly,

"Hellow, M_____!  I'll tell your wife, sir.  I'm danged ef you hain't sot your coulter too deep to make a good crap.  You can't fool this chile.  I'se cut my eye teeth long ago."


Dick had lost none of his joking propensities when I visited that section in 1857.  I wore a long beard---the whole beard---and was a perfect wonder to the people.  For, as stated, Fashion either neglects that place wholly, or makes it the last place she visits.  Upon my arrival, I found that Dame Fashion had just introduced in full vogue sacks and joseys among the young ladies; and as to a full-grown beard, except among the "Dunkards," it wan "onhearn on."  I made my defense one day in a large crowd, and when I was through Dick came to my relief as follows:

"Gintlemen, I knows what Hardy wears his beard for.  You doesn't know him well as I does.  I was raised wiz him;  I knows him adzackly.  You see, gintlemaen, wimin's mighty 'ticin' things to men, and men's mighty 'ticin' things to wimin.  Hardy is out a grate deal from home, and he doesn't want to 'tice the wimin, nur he don't want the timin to 'tice him;  so he's put on that great big, ugly beard, that there mayn't be any 'ticement neither way."

The foregoing anecdotes of Dick Snow are a few only of the many now in my memory.  They have been selected at random, or nearly so.  If all that are remembered were written, they would fill a large volume; but space allows no more, and I will now give the reader his

COURTSHIP.

The word "courtship" reminds one of courting and of courting days, probably long past.  So back I go to old Surry, to the days of my boyhood.  Where is the boy who has entered his teens who has not "tried his hand" at courting?  His first essays in the business are quite laughable.  The first time I ever attempted to court a girl, being quite bashful, we went into the cook-house, and while I was very awkwardly prefacing matters, a shrill tenor voice was heard form the "big house," which, set to music, runs thus:

"Oh, Poll, mammy says you must git dinner;  and she says you must fry a piece o' meat apiece, and two for daddy."

Thinking meat was a little scarce, and being very bashful too, I unceremoniously left. 

Courting was done then and there on an original scale, differing from that adopted in most other places on this green earth---very different from nowadays courting every where.  Being a peculiar place, it had its own etiquette.

Most of the people walked to "meetin'."  Boys and "gals," the boys mostly barefooted, would get together as by magic, and walk "side-and-side," the "gals" with their beautiful striped cotton home-made dresses on, with their shoes in their "redicules" till they got in sight of the "meetin'-house."  They would then halt,go aside and put on their shoes, while their barefooted gallants, with tow and cotton shirts and "britches," stood in the road till their return.  Reader, don't be incredulous;  every word of it true.  And those were happy days.  I love them because I was an actor in such primitive scenes of life.

There were endless ways of getting the "young folks" together.  In the spring there would be "grubbings" and "log-rollings;" in summer "reapings;"  and in the fall, "corn-shuckings."  On all such occasions the girls would always manage to have "quiltings" and "sewings."  As soon as night came, or the work was done, the fiddle sounded, and they danced and courted all night.  Christmas was a great festival.  They felt grateful to and blessed the man that invented it.  With the "young un" it was a generation from one Christmas to another.  For a whole week they would dance from house to house day and night, "sparkin'" going on at a "big lick" all the time.  The old-fashioned "seven-handed reel" was the only go.  A brainless, barrel-headed dancing-master (for all are such) was a perfect lion;  a fiddler was next in repute; and the parson was "nowhar."

For one young man to get the advantage of another in "sparkin'" was considered quite lawful and shrewd, and it was called "cuttin' out."  No duels were fought on account of it.  It was a law in their courtships.  The young ladies admired it; hence they would make no engagements with young men to be partners with them for a time---not even to accompany them to "meetin'" and back to their homes.  No;  the young misses loved to see the young "sparkers" exercise their ingenuity in the game of "catch and keep."  They might start coupled, but before they arrived at their destination they would probably "change pardners" often.  All right, for it has been shrewdly done, and has afforded merriment for the crowd and matter for conversation.  The same was true of the few who rode on horseback;  for I have been speaking of the foot crowd.  Some fine feats of horsemanship, worthy of a Murat or a Cossack, have been performed in that region by way of "cuttin' out."

But I have wandered, yet not unintentionally, for it is necessary and prefatory to Dick Snow's courtship.

Now it came to pass, it the course of human events, that Dick fell in love with Sally Tucker, youngest daughter of William and Molly Tucker, a very respectable family.  "Uncle Billy Tucker" being "well off" for that country, and Sally being an admirable girl, Dick had quite a time of it, owing to her many suitors.  Algias Cave was Dick's principal opponent, and the struggle was long, hard, and doubtful.  Nothing but Dick's energy and perseverance, and "gittin' on the blind side o' the old folks," caused him to succeed.  Many a man would have "gi'n it up as a lost ball;" but not so with Dick; "fur," said he, "I nuver gins a thing up as long as there's a pea in the gourd."

But I must let Dick tell his own courtship.

"The fust time I uver seen Sally," said Dick, "I sot my 'fections on her right samck like a leech on to a fish, so that I'd a gi'n my life fur her.  But I was mighty dry a lettin' her know how I was a-takin' on.  I knowed the boys was a-takin' on and shinin' around her, 'tickeler Caldwell Shipp and 'Gius Cave---"Gius the wust.  I knowed ef I didn't spark her soon my cake was dough.  I made a 'skuse to Sally to go wim me inter the garden to show me the hollyhawks and all the purty flowers.  She went wim me, and kept showin' me this, that, and t'other cussed thing, which I keered no more for 'um than a hog does fur holiday.  My heart was a-spinnin' round like a top, and my breath short as pie-crust, and my body shakin' like a dog with the ager.  Last I made out to ax Sally ef she'd have me.  She said she'd 'sider on it a while.  Now I'd ruther hearn any thing else.  I didn't like that 'siderin' a bit, fut I knowed 'Gius had his eye on her like a blue-tailed hawk watchin' a chicken;  but I helt a stiff upper lip;  let on like I didn't care a dried-apple durn, and left.

"I staid away fur some time, and 'Gius was all the time knittin' away.  I b'leeved I could onravel all his knittin' when I got my pegs sot;  yet I was a good deal consarned about it, I must 'fess.  Last I got a hint from Sally, as I tuck it.  I went over and onraveled all 'Gius's knittin', and showed hem whar Tony hid the wadge.  Still I was sorter 'served, all to make Sally b'leeve I wasn't sich anxious arter all.  Last I made a 'skuse to wuck some fur the old man, Sally's daddy.  It was corn-gathering time, and, I tell you, I made things wake---wucked all day, wouldn't stop fur dinner---to show my smartness.

"Sally waited on me at supper, and I 'tarmined to wuck a new plan, and feel uv Sally's pulse in a new way.  I told her I was a-gwine to court a sartin gal, widout namin' her.  I seen it wucked well, fur she didn't like it.  I sparked her a little that night, and told her I was a-gwine wiz her to meetin' next Sunday.

"We went, and 'bout the fust man I seen was 'Gius.  I seen him cuttin' his fox eyes 'bout as I and Sally walked up to the meetin'-house door.  The preachin' didn't do me much good that day, sartin as a turkle fallin' off uv a log into a mill-pond.  They mout a shouted the top of the meetin'-house off, and I wouldn't a hearn a word on it.  I was all the time doin' my own knittin', and 'siderin' how to head 'Gius gwine home, as I seen it in his foxy looks that he 'tended to gin me a clatter.

"So n o sooner had they 'nounced the word 'amen' than I got Sally's eye, gin her the wink, and started wiz her.  I cotch out horses, and hdlped Sally on, and afore I could git on my animil, 'Gius---pox take him!---like to a got in atween us.  But he didn't cut me out that bout, and off we put, 'Gius close arter us.  At last we cum chug up to a fence that had no draw-bars nur gate.  Thar was 'Gius slinkin' along clost behind us.  I thought I'd be fast anuff fur him, so I jumped down, jerked down the fence, 'tendin' to git mine and Sally's hosses over, put it up, and leave 'Gius on t'other side.  But no sooner had Sally's hoss jumped over and clared the fence, than 'Gius---confound him!---jumped his over too, afore I could git up a single rail.  I put up the fence in a mighty great hurry, and was sich anxious that I put it up and left my hoss on t'other side.  The fat was all in the fire, and I caved in.  Aginst I pulled down the fence and got my hoss over, Sally and 'Gius was away yender.  "Twasn't long afore we com to another fence, and thar I slayed 'Gius, and I rode home wiz Sally arter all 'gius's knittin'.

"This scrape made me mighty oneasy, and I 'cluded that night to make the big war-talk to Sally, hit ur miss.  So I yoked her, and 'swaded and 'swaded her all night, till jest before day I got her 'sent to marry me.  When I got her 'sent, I felt like I could a shouted 'most as lout as Passon Beller at  a Mathodiss meetin';  but I helt my tongue.

"Next time I went over I axed fur Sally.  I went over on Saturday night, but kep' puttin' it off till Sunday night, and then didn't ax fur her.  I didn't sleep much Sunday night, for sartin.  I fixed my plan:  I'd git up afore Tommy, Sally's brother, soon in the mornin' (Tommy slep' wix me), knonin' the old folks was yearly risers, and ax 'um fur her as soon as I got down stairs.  But, bless you, mate!  I wasn't more'n out'n my bade afore Tommy was up too, peart as a cricket.  I went down stairs, Tommy a-follerin' along arter me.  Dang him!  he nuver got up so soon afore in all his life.  I waited till the old man went out to feed his hogs, and I axed him.  Said he, "Go and ax the old 'omun."  I went, which I was in sich a sweat to git home to work that I couldn't wait till she got out'n the smoke-house.  While she was in thar cuttin' meat, I axed her, and she gin her 'sent.  I went home tickled to death, nearly, to see how I'd slayed 'Gius, and had onraveled all his knittin'.

"We didn't have much of a weddin', 'case as how the old man, old 'omun, and all the gals, Sally too, was sich Mathodises they wouldn't 'low dancin', and uvry thing was serious as a love-feast, 'most, only we didn't tell our 'spearances, as they does on sich 'casions.  The fact is, I'd been whizzin' round all my life, and had no 'spearnance uv 'ligion to tell ef I'd been axed."

GETTING RELIGION.

The foregoing are a few only of the many interesting incidents in Dick's courtship, which he always told with great gusto.  But before I dismiss him he must tell the story of his attempt to "git 'ligion."

"Not long arter I was married, old Mister and old Miss Tucker 'menced 'swadin me to git 'ligion; as I had a fambly, I ought to set a good 'zample afore 'um, and hold fambly prayer, and all sich good 'vice.  I knowed it would please them and Sally too; and, knowin' I was a poor, sinful creetur, I 'cluded I'd try the 'speriment.  So there cum on a quarterly meetin' at the old man's, and I 'cluded that was the time to make my Jack.  I went on Saturday, wiz my foace tolluble long, and 'cluded I'd make a good start at the 'ginnin'.  Nobody knowed what was in my head, more'n dander, till Sunday.  When they 'vited up mourners I went up, and you may s'pose there was some racket jist then.  They all tuck on mightily, Besides Sally's folks, the circus-rider prayed fur me, like he was beatin' tan-bark off uv trees in dade uv winter.  They beat my back wusser nur a nigger beatin' hominy in a mortar, jist like 'ligion could be beat inter a man, like maulin' rails oun'n locked timber.  The meetin' broke up, and I tried gittin' 'ligion a whole week; but I got along so shacklin' I 'cluded I wouldn't waste my time, and quit short off--short as pie-crust.  So I've nuver 'fessed 'ligion to this day;  I don't say this boastin'---jist state the fact."

Here, for want of space, I leave my friend Dick, only giving the reader, in the following pages, as occasional glance at him.

 

 

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