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


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Oliver was quite a competitor in the line of big story-telling, and came to that region from the "seaboard."  It did him so much good to spin his yarns and tell his feats that you would feel perfectly at ease while he laughed and "norated" one after another of his "bully scrapes."  I have room for but two of them, though I could fill a volumen.

But I must first attempt a description of Oliver, though a photographer could not get his inexpressibly eccentric features.  He was one of your rare men whose whole physiognomy bids defiance to all picture-taking artists.

He was a small, well-set man, with a sallow, dyspeptic complexion, black eyes, wide-mouthed naturally, and it was generally spread with uproarious laughter.  His stout, well-compacted body stood firmly upon, and was carried with great ease and facility by, a short, stubbed pair of benched legs and little feet, after the Chinese fashion.  Though his skin was tanned yellow as a pumpkin by the seaboard sun, yet he was strongly attached to white garments, and with great uniformity wore that color, to present, no doubt, the striking contrast between white cloth and a yellow skin.  And, to give his white shirt and pants some variety in color, he was quite careful to besmear his front well with tobacco.

But I must not take up too much time in describing an indescribable man, and will hasten to give the reader two of Oliver's stories, giving them in his own language; and, by the way, he was a good hand at coining new words.  His looks and laugh I can not give, for they are not transferable to paper.  The first story is


"On the shank ov one monstracious nice evenin'," said the redoubtable Oliver, after spitting a stream of tobacco-juice on a very decent floor, "I toddled down to the seaboard to git a bait ov oysters, feelin' considdible qualmy 'bout my gizzard.  I seen a passel uv men com trucklin' to me, rockin' along, see-saw one side, then see-saw t'other side.  They soon fixed thar tarnul peepers on me, all on 'um at once, and charmed me to the spot, like a black snake charms a catbird, and I couldn't budge a peg for the life on me.  I were tetotatiously spellbound.  They come right chug up to me, and says one on 'um, 'Hellow, old landlubber!  Go with us down to the boat, and we'll gin you a gullywhompin bait ov oysters.'

"So, by the same darned charm that had chained me that fatal spot, I was forced off with 'um.  I seen they was a string ov sailors, but what o' that?  They had sorcerized me, and I were a done-over sucker; so I jist gin up.  No sooner had we 'rove at the boat, instead o' feastin' me on gullywhompin oysters, they nabbed me quick as a snappin' turkle, put a gag in my mouf quicker nur yer could bridle a hoss, a bandage on my peepers, tied me hand and foot lika a hog, shouldered me, and trolluped off with me I couldn't 'jecter whar.  I had ten thousand idees in a minit, but to no use.

"Way in the night they loosened me, and I soon seen I were out on the 'Lantick Pond, and say I, 'What on the face ov the yeth does this mean?'  says I;  but they gin me no answer but a great big hoss laugh.  Scissorifactions!  how mad I were.  I felt like I could a whipped a string o' wildcats long as Tar River.  But thar they stood with pistols 'nuff to make a corn-sifter ov my hide afore you could bat yer eye, pintin' right at me, and said, 'No questions, you landlubber, else we'll send you to Davy Jones's Locker afore three strokes ov a mutton's tail.'

"I soon seen that the jig were up, and I mout as well cave in.  So I jist laid down and moseyed off to the land of Nod, and staid in that blessed country ov forgitfulness till mornin'.  I had sich great respect for the sun that I riz not till he did;  then the cap'en come to me and explorated the whole thing.  He said they was scase of sailors, and thought they'd jist kidnump me, and make a gentleman sailor ov me.  I seen my cake were dough, and that it warn't wuthwhile to grieve arter spilt milk, and that I'd make the best on it.  I bowed, told him I were at his sarvice, 'tarmined to make my rent out'n 'um and 'fect my escape, whether I got out'n the big eend or the little eend o' the horn.  So I went to work bully fashion.

"It were a custon ov the sailors to shave when they crossed the equinox.  So they fixed to shave tharselves 'cordin' to this rule when they got into the Topic of Capincorn.  Arter one on 'um, who acted as barger, had shaved several on 'um, which he done by layin' 'um flat on thar backs, he said to me, 'Oliver,' says he, 'wprawl yerself leeward, and let me shave you 'cordin' to the custom o' the world-renowned craft.'

"Says I, 'What do you lather with?' says I, for I had been 'spectin' thar nasty lather.

"'With hog's dung and tarpintine,' says he.

"I felt orful indignunt, and looked daggerified at him, and said, 'Not I!' says I.

"'You'll see,' says he, and made at me.

"'Never!' says I; and, suitin' action to resolution, I kicked over the nasty gourd o' shavin' soap smack into the sea, jumped overboard, kitin' right arter it, co-souse! head foremost, 'tarmined to die afore I'd summit to sich an indignitorious shavin' as that.

"I duv 'bout one hundred and fifty yards, riz to the top, and outswum like creation, distancin' the sharks, and uvry other vinimus fish, fur eight hours, till a monstrus, maulbustin whale com upon me, and licked me down like I'd been a year-old herrin'.

"I soon seen I'd 'jumped out'n the fryin'-pan smack inter the fire,' as the parrabal runs.  He piked right off wi' me, for all the world like I'd been a tiny bullfrog---no more'n a bug moufful fur him.  When I landed at the bottom uv his paunch, and had time to survey my parlor a little, I detarmined in less nur no time that I warn't a-gwine to stay thar; it were no place fur a white man well bred.  I didn't like the furnitur at all.  Every thing were so nasty, I detarmined to shift my boardin' and lodgin' in short-metre time.

"I kep' in my pocket allers a tin watertight fixin', which I toated my smokin' apperrattus in.  So I detarmined to try what vartue there were in 'baccer smoke, and see ef I couldn't have a volcanic erucktion, and be throwed out'n his krater like rocks out'n Heckla.  So I 'liberately took out my pipe and 'baccer, flint, steel, and punk, struck fire, crossed my legs, lit my pipe, and went to smokin' like ketchin' herrin'.  I nuver axed liberty to smoke in that parlor, fur it were so dirty I didn't think it wuth while to be perlite;  so I soon filled that room with rich smoke.  In little ur no time it waked up the old hoss, fur he soon shown signs uv disapperbation at my oncommon liberty.  I didn't let on.  Presuntly he begun to blow like a iron forge;  but I smoked on, knowin' the subject were comin' to an issue fast.  Soon the old feller begin to cast up fust one, then another piece uv belly-furnitur, till at last he were sharp enuff to guess that I were the cause uv all the fuss in his 'dominal regions; so he gin me a rucktion, and sent me 'bout a hundred feet right up to'ads the good world.  But alas!  my troubles was not eended, fur I come down right on the flat uv my back in the sea, co-slash!

"Soon as I struck water I whirled over, quick as a cat, and moseyed off fur tumma fumma.  My old inimy were perfectly satisfied with me, and let me truckle off and save my bacon, so fur as he were consarned.  So I drawed a bead fur land somewhar.  I swum fur a whole day with sich verlocity that sea-sarpints, sharks, and uvry other vinimous monster uv the deep was no more to me than snails a-crawlin'.  Jist at night I landed on a friendly island, and staid thar till a vessel come along and tuck me in fifty miles uv home, whar, through great mercy, I landed next day, to the great joy and astonishment uv my friends."

The above are the particulars of this wonderful adventure, "norated" without the least fear of contradiction, as was ever indicated in his looks of defiance.  After a few hearty laughs and a fresh chew of tobacco, he would introduce, with great gusto, his


"Soon arter this kidnappering by the sailors," said the imperturbable Oliver, "I 'cluded I'd best save my bacon by leavin' the seaboard, and try my luck in the Allegany Mountings;  fur this scrape had made a rantankerous impression on me.  So I pulled up my stakes, which it warn't hard to do, and piked off to a higher latitude.  I hadn't a doubt in my noggin but what I'd far a nation sight better nur I had on the seaboard.  But hush, honey!  thar were no rest fur Oliver Stanley, fur he were borned to rough 'ventures.  It is the lot uv great men uvry whar, in uvry age.

"No sooner had I landed and marked off a little spot uv yeth fur a home, and had made a little deadnin' on it, than the cussed red-skinned Injins 'vaded my peaceful homicil, kidnumped we wusser ef possible nur the tarnacious tompaulin sailors did, as jist norated.  When they got me 'way out inter the mountings, where no huming but an Injin (ef they are humings) uver trod the sile, after wavin', brandisherin', and gleameratin' thar tommyhocks over my knowledge-box for a long spell, and then thar butcher-knives in the same threatnin' aspex, they helt a council over my case, and after much glomeration of talk they decided to head me up tight in a bar'l, and let me starve to death.

"This drefful detarmination the carried into refect, for they had toated a ile bar'l all the way with 'um on purpose, I s'pose.  So they jist loosened some uv the hoops at one eend, tuck out the head, put me in, and headed me up tight as ef I'd a bin old peach brandy, all 'ceptin the bung-hole at one eend fur me to git ar.  Now ef the unhuman critters had 'skluded all the ar, my wind would a bin broke quick as crockery, and my troubles would a been eended, and me at rest.  But not so, bless you, mate!  that were too good fur an Injun.  So they jist left a bung-hole, inch and a half big, to feed me with ar till I bolted out, be it long or short.

"They put me in, as jist norated, jabbered a little, and left me to my own codgertations.  I codgertated and rumbinated fast, I tell you, but it done no good. I soon got a-hongry, which I allers had a rantankerous appertite, and thought uv uvry thing to eat, good and bad, in all creation, pertic'ler uv the big, lungin', fat oysters on the seaboard.  But it didn't suffy any thing'  it only whetted my gizzard to think uv 'um.  And the nasty, stinkin', tarnacious old ile bar'l stunk like thunder.

"So I detarmined to git out'n thar ur bust a trace;  and so I jist pounded away with my fist, till I beat it nairly into a jelly, at the eend uv the bar'l;  but it were no go.  Then I butted a spell with my noggin, but I had no purchase like old rams have when they butt, fur you know they back ever so fur when they take a tilt.  Now ef I'd a had a purchase to a backed, I'd a knocked the head out'n that bar'l to the astonishment uv painters and wildcats --- fur the woods was full on 'um, frum the racket they made.

"So I caved in, made my last will and testerment and vartually gin up the ghost.  It were a mighty serious time with me, fur sure.  While I were lyin thar, balancin' accounts with t'other world, and afore I had all my figgers made out to see how things 'ud stand, I hearn suthin' scrambulatin' in the leaves, and snortin' uvry whip-stitch like he smelt suthin' he didn't adzackly like.  I lay as still as a salamander, and thought, Maybe there's a chance fur Stanley yit.

"So the critter, whatever it mout be, kep' moseyin' round the bar'l.  Last he come to the bung-hole, put his nose in, and smelt mighty pertic'ler, and gin a monstrous loud snort.  I helt what little breath I had, to keep the critter from smellin' the intarnuls uv the bar'l.  I soon seen it were a bar --- the big king bar uv the woods, who had lived thar from time immortal.  Thinks I, old feller, look out;  old Oliver ain't dade yit.  Jist then he put his big black paw in jist as fur as he could, and scrabbled about to make some 'scovery.

"The fust thought that struck my noggin was to nab his paw, as 'a drowndin' man will ketch at a straw;' but I soon seen that wouldn't do, fur, you see, he couldn't then travel.  Thinks I, 'There's luck in leisure,' as I've hearn folks say, so I'll try it, wusser fur better and better fur wusser, as the parson says when he marries folks.  So I jist waited a spell, with great flutterbation of mind.

"His next move was to put his tail in the bung-hole uv the bar'l to test its innards.  I seen that were my time to make my Jack;  so I seized hold, and shouted at the top uv my voice, weak as it was,

"'Charge, Chester!  charge!
  On Stanley!  on!'

And the bar he put, and I knowed tail hold were better than no holt, and on we went, bar'l and all, the bar at full speed.  Now my hope were that the bar would jump over some presserpiss, brake the bar'l all to shiverations, and liberate me from my nasty, stinking, ily prison.  And, sure 'nuff, the bar at full speed, outrunning a scared wolf, leaped over a catterrack fifty foot high.  Down we all went together in a pile, co-whollop, on a big rock, bustin' the bar'l all to flinderations, nairly shockin' my gizzard out'n be.  I let go my tail holt --- had no more use for it --- and away went the bar like a whirlygust uv woodpeckers were arter it.  I've nuther seen nur hearn from that bar since, but he has my best wishes fur his present and futer welfar.

The foregoing are pretty fair specimens of the story-telling of my old friend Oliver Stanley.



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