The Worlds Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906. Vols. IV: American
By Augustus Baldwin Longstreet (17901870)
From Georgia Scenes
DURING the session of the Supreme Court in the village of , about three weeks ago, when a number of people were collected in the principal street of the village, I observed a young man riding up and down the street, as I supposed, in a violent passion. He galloped this way, then that, and then the other; spurred his horse to one group of citizens, then to another; then dashed off at half-speed, as if fleeing from danger; and, suddenly checking his horse, returned first in a pace, then in a trot, and then in a canter. While he was performing these various evolutions he cursed, swore, whooped, screamed, and tossed himself in every attitude which man could assume on horseback. In short, he cavorted most magnanimously (a term which, in our tongue, expresses all that I have described, and a little more), and seemed to be setting all creation at defiance. As I like to see all that is passing, I determined to take a position a little nearer to him, and to ascertain, if possible, what it was that affected him so sensibly. Accordingly I approached a crowd before which he had stopped for a moment, and examined it with the strictest scrutiny. But I could see nothing in it that seemed to have anything to do with the cavorter. Every man appeared to be in good humor, and all minding their own business. Not one so much as noticed the principal figure. Still he went on. After a semicolon pause, which my appearance seemed to produce (for he eyed me closely as I approached), he fetched a whoop, and swore that he could out-swap any live man, woman, or child that ever walked these hills, or that ever straddled horse-flesh since the days of old daddy Adam. Stranger, said he to me, did you ever see the Yallow Blossom from Jasper?
I began to feel my situation a little awkward, when I was relieved by a man somewhat advanced in years, who stepped up and began to survey the Yellow Blossoms horse with much apparent interest. This drew the riders attention, and he turned the conversation from me to the stranger.
Well, fetch up your nag, my old cock; youre jist the lark I wanted to get hold of. I am perhaps a leetle, jist a leetle, of the best man at a horse-swap that ever stole cracklins out of his mammys fat gourd. Wheres your hoss?
Oh, look at him, said the Blossom, alighting and hitting him a cutlook at him! Hes the best piece of hoss-flesh in the thirteen united univarsal worlds. Theres no sort o mistake in little Bullet. He can pick up miles on his feet, and fling em behind him as fast as the next mans hoss, I dont care where he comes from. And he can keep at it as long as the sun can shine without resting.
During this harangue little Bullet looked as if he understood it all, believed it, and was ready at any moment to verify it. He was a horse of goodly countenance, rather expressive of vigilance than fire; though an unnatural appearance of fierceness was thrown into it by the loss of his ears, which had been cropped pretty close to his head. Nature had done but little for Bullets head and neck; but he managed, in a great measure, to hide their defects by bowing perpetually. He had obviously suffered severely for corn; but if his ribs and hip-bones had not disclosed the fact, he never would have done it; for he was in all respects as cheerful and happy as if he commanded all the corn-cribs and fodder-stacks in Georgia. His height was about twelve hands; but as his shape partook somewhat of that of the giraffe, his haunches stood much lower. They were short, strait, peaked, and concave. Bullets tail, however, made amends for all his defects. All that the artist could do to beautify it had been done; and all that horse could do to compliment the artist, Bullet did. His tail was nicked in superior style, and exhibited the line of beauty in so many directions that it could not fail to hit the most fastidious taste in some of them. From the root it dropped into a graceful festoon, then rose in a handsome curve, then resumed its first direction, and then mounted suddenly upward like a cypress knee to a perpendicular of about two and a half inches. The whole had a careless and bewitching inclination to the right. Bullet obviously knew where his beauty lay, and took all occasions to display it to the best advantage. If a stick cracked, or if any one moved suddenly about him, or coughed, or hawked, or spoke a little louder than common, up went Bullets tail like lightning; and if the going up did not please, the coming down must of necessity, for it was as different from the other movement as was its direction. The first was a bold and rapid flight upward, usually to an angle of forty-five degrees. In this position he kept his interesting appendage until he satisfied himself that nothing in particular was to be done; when he commenced dropping it by half inches, in second beats, then in triple time, then faster and shorter, and faster and shorter still, until it finally died away imperceptibly into its natural position. If I might compare sights to sounds, I should say its settling was more like the note of a locust than anything else in nature.
Either from native sprightliness of disposition, from uncontrollable activity, or from an unconquerable habit of removing flies by the stamping of the feet, Bullet never stood still, but always kept up a gentle fly-scaring movement of his limbs, which was peculiarly interesting.
I tell you, man, proceeded the Yellow Blossom, hes the best live hoss that ever trod the grit of Georgia. Bob Smart knows the hoss. Come here, Bob, and mount this hoss, and show Bullets motions. Here Bullet bristled up, and looked as if he had been hunting for Bob all day long, and had just found him. Bob sprang on his back. Boo-oo-oo! said Bob, with a fluttering noise of the lips, and away went Bullet as if in a quarter race, with all his beauties spread in handsome style.
Make him pace! Bob commenced twitching the bridle and kicking at the same time. These inconsistent movements obviously (and most naturally) disconcerted Bullet; for it was impossible for him to learn from them whether he was to proceed or stand still. He started to trot, and was told that wouldnt do. He attempted a canter, and was checked again. He stopped, and was urged to go on. Bullet now rushed into the wide field of experiment, and struck out a gait of his own that completely turned the tables upon his rider, and certainly deserved a patent. It seemed to have derived its elements from the jig, the minuet, and the cotillon. If it was not a pace, it certainly had pace in it, and no man would venture to call it anything else; so it passed off to the satisfaction of the owner.
The stranger, whose name I afterward learned was Peter Ketch, having examined Bullet to his hearts content, ordered his son Neddy to go and bring up Kit. Neddy soon appeared upon Kit, a well-formed sorrel of the middle size, and in good order. His tout-ensemble threw Bullet entirely in the shade, though a glance was sufficient to satisfy any one that Bullet had the decided advantage of him in point of intellect.
Examine him, said Peter, taking hold of the bridle close to the mouth; hes nothing but a tacky. He aint as pretty a horse as Bullet, I know, but hell do. Start em together for a hundred and fifty mile, and if Kit aint twenty mile ahead of him at the coming out, any man may take Kit for nothing. But hes a monstrous mean horse, gentlemen; any man may see that. Hes the scariest horse, too, you ever saw. He wont do to hunt on, nohow. Stranger, will you let Neddy have your rifle to shoot off him? Lay the rifle between his ears, Neddy, and shoot at the blaze in that stump. Tell me when his head is high enough.
Ned made a tremendous rattling, at which Bullet took fright, broke his bridle, and dashed off in grand style, and would have stopped all further negotiations by going home in disgust, had not a traveler arrested him and brought him back; but Kit did not move.
I tell you, gentlemen, continued Peter, hes the scariest horse you ever saw. He aint as gentle as Bullet, but he wont do any harm if you watch him. Shall I put him in a cart, gig, or wagon for you, stranger? Hell cut the same capers there he does here. Hes a monstrous mean horse.
Blossom did so, and Kit threw up his head rather as if something pricked him under the chin than as if fearing a blow. Blossom repeated the experiment, and Kit jerked back in considerable astonishment.
Come, old man, said Blossom, Ive been joking with you. I begin to think you do want to trade; therefore, give me five dollars and take Bullet. Id rather lose ten dollars any time than not make a trade, though I hate to fling away a good hoss.
Blossom swore again, as roundly as before, that he would not give boot; and, said he, Bullet wouldnt hold five dollars on his back, nohow. But, as I bantered you, if you say an even swap, heres at you.
Blossom repeated his former assertion; and here the parties stood for a long time, and the bystanders (for many were now collected) began to taunt both parties. After some time, however, it was pretty unanimously decided that the old man had backed Blossom out.
Ah, youre the kind of boy I love to trade with. Heres your hoss, old man. Take the saddle and bridle off him, and Ill strip yours; but lift up the blanket easy from Bullets back, for hes a mighty tender-backed hoss.
The removal of the blanket disclosed a sore on Bullets backbone that seemed to have defied all medical skill. It measured six full inches in length and four in breadth, and had as many features as Bullet had motions. My heart sickened at the sight; and I felt that the brute who had been riding him in that situation deserved the halter.
The prevailing feeling, however, was that of mirth. The laugh became loud and general at the old mans expense, and rustic witticisms were liberally bestowed upon him and his late purchase. These Blossom continued to provoke by various remarks. He asked the old man if he thought Bullet would let five dollars lie on his back. He declared most seriously that he had owned that horse three months, and had never discovered before that he had a sore back, or he never should have thought of trading him, etc., etc.
The old man bore it all with the most philosophic composure. He evinced no astonishment at his late discovery, and made no replies. But his son Neddy had not disciplined his feelings quite so well. His eyes opened wider and wider from the first to the last pull of the blanket, and when the whole sore burst upon his view, astonishment and fright seemed to contend for the mastery of his countenance. As the blanket disappeared, he stuck his hands in his breeches pockets, heaved a deep sigh, and lapsed into a profound reverie, from which he was only roused by the cuts at his father. He bore them as long as he could; and, when he could contain himself no longer, he began, with a certain wildness of expression which gave a peculiar interest to what he uttered: His backs mighty bad off; but dod drot my soul if hes put it to daddy as bad as he thinks he has, for old Kits both blind and deef, Ill be dod drot if he eint!
Yes, dod drot my soul if he eint! You walk him, and see if he eint. His eyes dont look like it; but hed jist as leve go agin the house with you, or in a ditch, as anyhow. Now you go try him. The laugh was now turned on Blossom, and many rushed to test the fidelity of the little boys report. A few experiments established its truth beyond controversy.
Neddy, said the old man, you oughtnt to try and make people discontented with their things. Stranger, dont mind what the little boy says. If you can only get Kit rid of them little failings youll find him all sorts of a horse. You are a leetle the best man at a horse-swap that ever I got hold of; but dont fool away Kit. Come, Neddy, my son, lets be moving; the stranger seems to be getting snappish.