From The Wit and Humor of America, edited by Marshall P. Wilder, Volume III, New York and London: Funk and Wagnalls and Company, 1911; pp. 575-582.
BY BILL ARP
I was only thinkin’ how much better it is to be in a lively humor than be goin’ about like a disappointed offis seeker. Good humor is a blessed thing in a family and smooths down a heap of trubble. I never was mad but a few times in my life, and then I wasn’t mad long. Foaks thought I was mad when I fout Jim Allcorn, but I wasent. I never had any grudge agin Jim. He had never done me any harm, but I could hear of his sayin’ around in the naborhood that Bill Arp had played cock of the walk long enuf. So one day I went over to Chulio court ground to joak with the boys, and shore enuf Jim was there, and I soon perseeved that the devil was in him. He had never been whipped by anybody in the distrikt, and he outweighed me by about fifteen pounds. A drink or two had made him sassy, and so he commenced walkin’ around first to one crowd, and then to another, darin’ anybody to fite him. He would pint to his forrerd and say, “I’ll give anybody five dollars to hit that.” I was standin’ tawkin’ to Frank Air and John Johnsin, and as nobody took up Jim’s offer, thinks I to myself, if he cums round here a huntin’ for a fite he shall have one, by golly. If he dares me to hit him I’ll do it if it’s the last lick I ever strike on this side of Jordin. Frank Air looked at me, and seemed to know what I was a thinkin’, and 57 says he, “Bill, jest let Allcorn alone. He’s too big for you, and besides, there ain’t nothin’ to fite about.” By this time Jim was makin’ rite towards us. I put myself in position, and by the time he go to us every muscle in my body was strung as tite as a banjo. I was worked up powerful, and felt like I could whip a campmeetin’ of wild cats. Shore enuf Jim stepped up defiantly, and lookin’ me rite in the eye, says he, ‘I dare anybody to hit that,” and he touched his knuckles to his forrerd. He had barely straightened before I took him rite in the left eye with a sock-dolyger that popped like a wagin’ whip. It turned him half round, and as quick as lightnin’ I let him hav another on the right temple, and followed it up with a leap that sprawled him as flat as a foot mat. I knowed my customer, and I never giv him time to rally. If ever a man was diligent in business it was me. I took him so hard and so fast in the eyes with my fists, and in his bred basket with my knees, that he didn’t hav a chance to see or to breathe, and he was the worst whipped man in two minets I ever seed in my life. When he hollered I helped him up and breshed the dirt off his clothes, and he was as umble as a ded nigger and as sober as a Presbyterian preacher. We took a dram on the strength of it, and was always good friends afterwards.
But I dident start to tell you about that.
I jist wanted to say that I wasent mad with Jim Allcorn, as sum peepul supposed; but it do illustrate the unsertainty of human calculations in this subloonery world. The disappintments of life are amazin’, and if a man wants to fret and grumble at his luck he can find a reesunable oppertunity to do so every day that he lives. Them 577 sort of constitutional grumblers ain’t much cumpany to me. I’d rather be Jim Perkins with a bullit hole through me and take my chances. Jim, you know, was shot down at Gains’ Mill, and the ball went in at the umbilicus, as Dr. Battey called it, and cum out at the backbone. The Doktor sounded him, and sez he, “Jeems, my friend, your wound is mortal.” Jim looked at the Doktor, and then at me, and sez he, “That’s bad, ain’t it?” “Mighty bad,” sez I, and I was as sorry for him as I ever was for anybody in my life. Sez he, “Bill, I’d make a will if it warn’t for one thing.” “What’s that, Jim?” sez I. He sorter smiled and sez, “I hain’t got nothin’ to will.” He then raised up on his elbow, and sez he, “Doktor, is there one chance in a hundred for me?” And the Doktor sez, “Jest about, Jim.” “Well, then,” sez he, “I’ll git well — I feel it in my gizzard.” He looked down at the big hole in his umbilicus, and sez he, “If I do get well, won’t it be a great naval viktry, Doktor Battey?” Well, shore enuff he did git well, and in two months he was fitin’ the Yanks away up in Maryland.
But I didn’t start to tell you about that.
I jest stuck it in by way of illustratin’ the good effeks of keepin’ up one’s spirits. My motto has always been to never say die, as Gen. Nelson sed at the battle of Madagascar, or sum other big river. All things considered, I’ve had a power of good luck in my life. I don’t mean money luck, by no means, for most of my life I’ve been so ded poor that Lazarus would hev been considered a note shaver compared with me. But I’ve been in a heap of close places, and sumhow always cum out rite side up with keer. Speakin’ of luck, I don’t know that 578 I ever told you about that rassel I had with Ike McKoy at Bob Hide’s barbyku. You see Ike was perhaps the best rasler in all Cherokee, and he jest hankered after a chance to break a bone or two in my body. Now, you know, I never hunted for a fite nor fuss in my life, but I never dodged one. I dident want a tilt with Ike, for my opinyun was that he was the best man of the two, but I never sed anything and jest trusted to luck. We was both at the barbyku, and he put on a heap of airs, and strutted around with his shirt collar open clean down to his waist, and his hat cocked on one side as sassy as a confedrit quartermaster. He took a dram or two and stuffed himself full of fresh meat at dinner time. Purty soon it was norated around that Ike was going to banter me for a rassel, and, shore enuff, he did. The boys were all up for some fun, and Ike hollered out, “I’ll bet ten dollars I can paster the length of any man on the ground, and I’ll giv Bill Arp five dollars to take up the bet.” Of course there was no gittin’ around the like of that. The banter got my blood up, and so, without waitin’ for preliminaries, I shucked myself and went in. The boys was all powerfully excited, and was a bettin’ evry dollar they could raise; and Bob Moore, the feller I had licked about a year before, jumped on a stump and sed hed bet twenty dollars to ten that Ike would knock the breath out of me the first fall. I jest walked over to him with the money and sed, “I’ll take that bet.” The river was right close to the ring, and the bank was purty steep. I had on a pair of old breeches that had been sained in and dried so often they was about half rotten. When we hitched, Ike took good britches hold, and lifted me up and down a few times like I was a child. He was the heaviest, but I had the most spring in me, and so I jest let him play round for sum time, limber like, until he suddenly took 579 a notion to make short work of it by one of his backleg movements. He drawed me up to his body and lifted me in the air with a powerful twist. Just at that minit his back was close to the river bank, and as my feet touched the ground I giv a tremenjius jerk backwards, and a shuv forwards, and my britches busted plum open on the back, and tore clean off in front, and he fell from me and tumbled into the water, kerchug, and went out of sight as clean as a mud turtle in a mill pond. Such hollerin’ as them boys done I rekon never heard in them woods. I jumped in and helped Ike get out as he riz to the top. He had took in a quart or two of water on top of his barbyku, and he set on the bank and throwed up enuff vittels to feed a pack of houns for a week. When he got over it he laffd, and sed Sally told him before he left home he’d better let Bill Arp alone — for nobody could run agin his luck. Ike always believed he would hav throwd me if britches holt hadent broke, and I rekon may be he would. One thing is sertin, it cured him of braggin’, and that helps anybody. I never did like a braggin’ man. As a genrul thing they ain’t much akkount, and remind me of a dog I used to have, named Cesar.
But I dident start to tell you a dog story ૼ only now, since I’ve mentioned him, I must tell you a circumstance about Cees. He was a middlin’ size broot, with fox ears and yaller spots over his eyes, and could out bark and out brag all creation when he was inside the yard. If another dog was goin’ along he’d run up and down the palins and bark and take on like he’d give the world if that fence wasent there. So one day when he was showin’ off in that way I caught him by the nap of the neck as he 580 run by me, and jest histed him right over and drapped him. He struck the ground like an injun rubber ball, and was back agin on my side in a jiffy. If he had ever jumped that fence before I dident know it. The other dog run a quarter of a mile without stoppin’. Now, that’s the way with sum foaks. If you want to hear war tawk just put a fence between ’em; and if you want it stopped jest take the fence away. Dogs is mighty like peepul anyhow. They’ve got karacter. Sum of ’em are good, honest, trusty dogs, that bark mity little and bite at the right time. Sum are good pluk, and will fite like the dickens when their masters is close by to back em, but ain’t worth a cent by themselves. Sum make it a bizness to make other dogs fite. You’ve seen those little fices a runnin’ around growlin’ and snappin’ when two big dogs cum together. They are jest as keen to get up a row and see a big dog fite as a store clerk or a shoemaker, and seem to enjoy it as much. And then, there’s them mean yaller-eyed bull terriers that don’t care who they bite, so they bite sumbody. They are no respekter of persons, and I never had much respekt for a man who kept one on his premises. But of all mean, triflin’, contemptible dogs in the world, the meanest of all is a country nigger’s houn — one that will kill sheep, and suck eggs, and lick the skillet, and steal everything he can find, and try to do as nigh like his master as possibul. Sum dogs are filosofers, and study other dogs’ natur, just like foaks study foaks. It’s amazin’ to see a town dog trot up to a country dog and interview him. How quick he finds out whether it will do to attack him or not. If the country dog shows fite jest notis the consequential dignity with which the town dog retires. He goes off like there was a sudden emergency of bisness a callin’ him away. Town dogs sumtimes combine agin a country dog, jest like town 581 boys try to run over country boys. I wish you could see Dr. Miller’s dog Cartoosh. He jest lays in the piazzer all day watchin’ out for a stray dog, and as soon as he sees him he goes for him, and he can tell in half a minit whether he can whip him or run him; and if he can, he does it instanter, and if he can’t he runs to the next yard, where there’s two more dogs that nabor with him, and in a minit they all cum a tarin’ out together, and that country dog has to run or take a whippin’, shore. I’ve seen Cartoosh play that game many a time. These town pups remind me powerfully of small editurs prowlin’ around for news. In my opinyun they is the inventors of the interview bisness.
If it ain’t a doggish sort of bisnes I’m mistaken in my idees of the proprietes of life. When a man gits into trubble, these sub editurs go fur him right strait, and they force their curiosity away down into his heart strings, and bore into is buzzom with an augur as hard and as cold as chilld iron. Then away they go to skatter his feelins and sekrets to the wide, wide world. You see the poor feller can’t help himself, for if he won’t talk they’ll go off and slander him, and make the publik beleeve he’s dun sumthing mean, and is ashamed to own it. I’ve knowd em to go into a dungeon and interview a man who dident have two hours to live. Dot rot em. I wish one of em would try to interview me. If he didnt catch leather under his coat tail it would be bekaus he retired prematurely — that’s all. But I like editurs sorter — especially sum. I like them that is the guardeens of sleepin’ liberty, and good morals, and publik welfare, and sich like; but there’s sum kinds I don’t like. Them what 58 makes sensation a bizness; feedin’ the peepul on skandal, and crime, and gossip, and private quarrels, and them what levies black mail on polytiks, and won’t go for a man who won’t pay em, and will go for a man that will. Them last watch for elekshun times jest like a sick frog waitin’ for rain.
As Bill Nations used to say, I’d drather be a luniak and gnaw chains in an asylum, that to be an editur that everybody feard and nobody respected.