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


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You may expect, in a healthy country like that, there would be big eaters.  Stout, healthy men must eat accordingly.  Their food was plain and simle --- no highly seasoned viands to destroy the stomach and produce dyspepsia.  Whether a French cook was better than a Fisher's River cook they knew not, nor did they care a chestnut.  So they got their bacon and cabbage, chicken soup and pot-pies, Irish potatoes and hominy, and their buckwheat pancakes, tarts, and puddings, by way of dessert, all was well.  A good appetite supplied the rest.  A few families (called the "quality") could afford coffee once a week, only colored at that.  All their "sweetnin'" was honey, of which there was great abundance, and the best in the world.  Sugar and molasses were never used;  they could not be afforded.  Black "Gingy-cake Josh Easley" was the only man that used molasses, and where he procured it I can not tell.  I never saw any till I left that country in my nineteenth year.  No "change of course" at their tables;  substantials, dessert, pastry, and all went on the same table, using the same plates.

Their gatherings were frequent, as previously intimated.  One neighbor would help another harvest his grain, taking it in turn till they were all through.  Corn-shuckings were conducted in the same way;  nor could a man clear a piece of ground without inviting his neighbors, and having a "clearin'."  They "swopped work."  They were pre-eminently social.  At such gatherings and workings, all hands would sit down to a long table, and the first dish they "moseyed into" was soup.  Large pewter basins full of soup were placed along the table at a convenient distance, and several pewter spoons were placed in each basin.  They "waded inter it" --- never dipped it out --- all that could reach in the same basin.  Shadrach Franklin played a prank on "Long Jimmy Thompson" over a basin of soup once.  Shadrach was the first man who dipped his spoon into the smoking basin, and it burned his mouth awfully;  but he resolved to have his fun, and bore it without a frown.  "Long Jimmy," a big eater, asked him, "Shadrach, is the soup in good kelter?"  "Yes," was the serious reply.  Long Jimmy tried it, and unceremoniously spirted it out all over the table, producing a soup rainbow.  All right;  a hearty laugh was full compensation for the shower of saliva and soup.

I have said Long Jimmy Thompson was a big eater.  He was the Mile of Mitchell's River, and Mose Cackerham was the Maximius of Fisher's River.  Once, at a gathering, Long Jimmy let in on a large tray of hog's feet that was set on a table.  He made such havoc of them, and the bones fell so fast on the floor, that it provoked Lark Cannady to blurt out,

"Hellow, Uncle Jimmy, you hull out bones faster nur a cotting-gin can shell out cotting-seed, a nation sight.  You kin beat a whole cotting-pickin' uv huming beings all holler."

But Long Jimmy paid no more attention to this witty gibe than a hungry cur would to a gnat.  At a reaping at Uncle Billy Norman's, Mose Cackerham ate up the backbones of several hogs, and their joles.  The bones kept falling on the floor with such force and noise that Dick Snow exclaimed,

"Dang it, Uncle Mose, ef your bones don't fall as hard on the floor as ears o' corn on the floor of a empty corn-crib at a corn-shuckin', and nearly as fast.  By jingo!  I wouldn't feed you fur all yer wuck.  You'd 'duce a famine in a man's smoke-house mighty quick."

A tinker was about the first man I remember to have seen.  He was an indispensable in that section --- as much so as Prince Knock-'em-stiff.  A tinker, in that honest region, needed not the name of a John Bunyan to make his fraternity respectable;  he was a man of distinction, and honorable.  Pewter cupboard ware was all the go.  The tinker made it his business once a year to visit every family to remould their broken pewter ware.  We had pewter basins, dishes, plates, spoons, etc.  Our cups were tin mostly;  some were pewter;  but few men had plain delft-ware;  china was unknown.  Of "yethen ware" where were crocks, jugs, and jars, which are essential every where.  Major Oglesby, a man of some wealth, "one of the quality," had the finest delft known.  It was a great curiosity to the "natives," and much talked of every where.  When his plain neighbors visited him they were much embarrassed to know how to use it.

Uncle Frost Snow, William Golding, and others went to the "major's" to take a hunt.  At meal milk was served in tea-cups --- glass was then not used, not even by the major --- and Uncle Frost, not knowing how to handle a tea-cup, turned it over, and spilled the milk on  a fine table-cloth.

"Dang it, major," said Uncle Frost, "I wish you'd a gi'n me a tin cup, then I'd a knowed how to a used him.  I ain't no quality no how.  You can't make a quality man out'n me.  I'm nobody but Frost Snow, from old Fudginny."



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