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

  
 

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VIII.---LARKIN SNOW, THE MILLER.

Larkin Snow was doomed to be a miller.  I have ever believed that a man will fill the station for which he was designed by the Sovereign Master Overseer of mankind.  Though Providence designs a man for a certain position, natural causes and agencies operate also, and, ere he is aware of it, he is fulfilling his destiny.  But I will not moralize;  my business is with facts.

Larkin Snow was a graduate --- an old stager --- in milling when I was a mill-boy;  and the last time I heard of him, and no doubt at this present time of writing, he is grinding away at somebody's tub-mill, for he never owned a mill --- not he.  Over a quarter of a century ago I was a jolly, singing, hoop-pee mill-boy, and carried many a "grice" to William Easley's tub-mill on "Little Fish River," kept by my old friend Larkin Snow.  But where am I wandering? 

After all, the reader must indulge me a little while I pay a tribute of respect to the numerous but-mills of my native country, for it does me good to think of them and of my mill-boy days.  Who has not been a romping mill-boy?

Well, I love tub-mills, and ever shall, for my grandfather was the father of them in that section.

"But who is your grandfather?"

Never mind.  Go and ask Larkin Snow, for he knows every man that ever built a mill, or ever kept one in that mountain territory.  His memory is a perfect genealogy of mills and millers.  Uncle Billy Lewis built a tub-mill on nearly every mountain branch (and they were numerous) where he could get two or three customers.  Uncle Davy Lane, who figures largely in this volume, had a tub-mill on "Moore's Fork," as lazy and slow in its movements as its owner.  The truth is, Uncle Davy had the advantage, for "sarpunts" could move him to the speed of electricity, but a "good head of water" made little difference with his mill.  His son "Dave" kept it (said Dave was his daddy's own son), and he and I used to bake "johnny-cakes" to keep from starving while it was grinding my "grice."  We ate nearly as fast as it could grind.  But my old neighbor, William Easley, had the fastest tub-mill in all that country, on Little Fisher's River, and Larkin Snow was his faithful miller.

Every man has ambition of some kind, and Larkin, though nothing but a humble miller who gloried in his calling, had his share, and a good one too, of ambition.  His ambition consisted in being the best miller in the land, and in being number one in big story-telling.  He had several competitors, as may be seen from these sketches, but he held his own with them all, even with Uncle Davy Lane.  The reader will judge best, however, when he reads the stories given as samples of Larkin's gift in that line.  Larkin must pardon us, should he ever see these pages, for giving but tow of his fine stories, that of the eels and the fox-dog.  These stories will do him ample justice.

Larkin Snow was a patient, kind, forbearing-looking man, of ordinary size.  His eyes squinted, and so did his sallow features.  His dress was plain:  tow and cotton shirt, summer and winter;  striped cotton pants in summer, and dressed buckskin ones in winter;  no coat in summer, a linsey hunting-shirt in winter.  His hat was wool, turned up all round, gummed up with meal, and so was his entire suit.  His looks were wholly unambitious --- strange that he should ever strive to excel in big story-telling.  But looks sometimes deceive one, and we will let Larkin speak for himself in the

STORY OF THE EELS.

"Now, you see, while I were keepin' Mr. Easley's mill," said Larkin, squinting his eyes and features, showing the remains of his little round teeth, nearly worn to the gums chewing tobacco, "I planted me a track patch near the bank uv the river, jist below the mill-dam.  I knowed I could work it at odd spells, while the water were low and the mill ran slow, and I jist filled it with all sorts o' things and notions.  But as all on us, the old Quilt (his wife), childering, and all, was mighty fond o' peas, I were mighty pertic'ler to plant a mighty good share uv them;  and to make a bully crap o' Crowders and all other sorts o' peas uver hearn on, I pitched them in the best spot uv the little bit uv yeth, near the river, clost on the bank.

"We, the old Quilt and I, spilt sevrul galluns uv humin grease workin' on 'um, and they growed monstus nice.  We was a-congratterlatin' ourselves on the monstus crap we'd make, when we seed suthin kept crappin' 'um, pertic'ler right on the bank uv the river.  Uvry mornin' it was wuss and wuss.  I soon seen the thing would be out wi' my peas ef thar warn't a stop put to it, fur thar wouldn't a bin a Crowder to sweeten our teeth with.  I kept watchin' and watchin', but couldn't make the least 'scuvry.  The fence were allers up good, the gate shot, and not the track of varmunts could be seen nur smelt, har nur hide.  I were mighty low down in the mouth, I tell you.  Starvation huv in sight;  my sallet were meltin' away mighty fast.

"I were so mightily taken down 'bout it I couldn't sleep a wink;  so I thort I mout as well watch.  I sneaked along down to the bank uv the river through my pea-patch.

The moon were shinin' mighty bright, and what do you think I seen?  I seen 'bout five hundred big maulbustin eels dart into the river out'n my pea-patch.  I soon seen through the dreadful 'vastation uv my black-eyed Crowders;  the pesky eels had done it."

"Dang it, Larkin," said Dick Snow, "whar did sich a gullbustin chance uv eels cum from?"

"Eels, you see," continued Larkin, "ef you knowed the natur on 'um, are mighty creeturs to travel, and they'd cum up --- a host on 'um --- fur as the mill-dam, and couldn't git no furder.  They had to live. and they'd cotched uvry minner, and had eat up uvry thing in the river about thar, and they moseyed out on my pea-patch.

"Now I were fur from lettin' them eat up my crap, so I put on my studyin' cap to find out the best plan to make a smash uv the whole bilin' on 'um.  I soon hit the nail on the head, and fixed on the plan.

"You see thar were but one place whar theey could git out'n the river inter my patch uv Crowders, and that were a narrer place, 'bout three foot wide, that crossed the river.  I knowed it warn't wuth while to try to hold the creeters, they was so slickery;  so, you see, I sot a big, whoppin bar'l near the river whar they cum out, near thar path.  I told the old Quilt to fill it full uv dry ashes durrin' the day while I were grindin', which she done, fur the old creetur thought a mighty sight uv her pea-patch.

"Now when night cum on, and a dark one too --- a good night fur eels to graze, and when I thort all on 'um was out a-grazin', I sneaked along by the bank uv the river, mighty sly, I tell you, till I got to the bar'l.  I then listened, and hearn 'um makin' the peas wake:  so I jist turned the bar'l over right smack in thar path, and filled it chug full uv the dry ashes fur ten steps, I reckon.  I then went p in the patch above 'um, gin a keen holler, and away they went, scootin' fur the river.  You nuver hearn sich a rippin' and clatteration afore, I reckon.  I knowed I had 'um;  so, you see, I called fur a torchlight to see my luck.  Now when the old Quilt and the childering brought the light, hallaluyer!  what a sight.  Sich a pile on 'um, all workin' up together in the dry ashes, like maggits in carron.  The ashes were the very thing fur 'um, fur they soon gin up the ghost.

"I soon, you see, 'cided what to do with 'um.  We went to work and tuck out'n the ashes five hundred and forty-nine, some uv 'um master eels.  All the next day we was a-skinnin', cleanin', and barrelin' on 'um up.  They'd got fat out'n my peas, but we got good pay out'n 'um fur it.  The fryin'-pan stunk fur months with fat eels,a nd we all got fat and sassy.  So I were troubled no more with eels that year;  fur I think, you see, we shucked out the whole river."

This story he would tell you coolly, while he would occasionally feel of his meal --- while the old tub-mill would perform its slow revolutions as though it was paid by the year --- to see whether it was ground fine enough to suit him.  He would then give you one of his peculiar looks, having just got his hand in, and would tell you the story of the

FAST-RUNNING DOG.

Fox-hunting was a favorite sport with many;  indeed, all loved it, but only a few kept hounds and gave chase to mischievous Reynard.  Foxes were quite plenty, and renowned for deeds of daring.  The women hated hounds most cordially, yet they would endure them for the sake of their fowls.  If their fowls were destroyed, they could neither make soup nor their rich pot-pies, both of which were much admired.  Wylie Franklin was a great favorite with chicken-raisers, for if a hen-roost was invaded a hint to him was all that was needed, and the marauder was soon taken.  The compositions of Mozart, Handel, and Haydn were no music to these fox-hunters compared with the voice of hounds in the chase.  Sometimes there would be a great rally of fox-hunters at some point to have a united chase, to see who had the fastest and the toughest hound.  This must be kept in view in reading the story of Larkin's fast-running dog.

"You see," said Larkin, "a passel uv fellers cum frum 'bout Rockford, Jonesville, and the Holler to have a fox-hunt, and kep' a-boastin' uv thar fast dogs.  I told 'um my little dog Flyin'-jib could beat all thar dogs, and give 'um two in the game.  I called him up and showed him to 'um, and you mout a hearn 'um laugh a mile, measured with a 'coonskin and the tail throwed in.  I told 'um they'd laugh t'other side o' thar mouths afore it were done.  THey hooted me.

"We went out with 'bout fifty hounds, and, as good luck would hev it, we started a rale old Virginny red fox, 'bout three hours afore day, on the west side uv Skull Camp Mountin.  He struck right off for the Saddle Mountin, then whirled round over Scott's Knob, then to Cedar Ridge, up it, and over Fisher's Peak, round back uv the Blue Ridge, then crossed over and down it at Blaze Spur, then down to and over Round Peak, then Down Ring's Creek to Shipp's Musterground, and on agin to'ads Skull Camp.  Not fur from Shipp's Muster-ground they passed me, and Flyin'-jib were 'bout half a mile ahead on 'um all, goin' fast as the report of a rifle gun.  Passin' through a meader whar thar were a movin'-scythe with the blade standin' up, Flyin'-jib run chug aginst it with sich force that it split him wide open frum the eend uv his nose to the tip uv his tail.  Thar he lay, and nuver whimpered, tryin' to run right on.  I streaked it to him, snatched up both sides uv him, slapped 'um together, but were in sich a hurry that I put two feet down and two up.  But away he went arter the fox, scootin' jist in that fix.  You see, when he got tired runnin' on two feet on one side, he'd whirl over, quick as lightnin', on t'other two, and it seemed ruther to hev increased his verlocity.  He cotch the fox on the east side uv Skull Camp, a mile ahead uv the whole kit uv 'um.

"Now when the fellers cum up, and seen all thar dogs lyin' on the ground pantin' fur life, and Flyin'-jib jist gittin' his hand in, they was mighty low down in the mouth, I warrant you.  All the conserlation they had was seein' my dog in sich a curious fix.  But I jist kervorted, and told 'um that were the way fur a dog to run fast and long, fust one side up, then t'other --- it rested him."

 

 

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