Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature: An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891. Vols. VIVIII: Literature of the Republic, Part III., 18351860
Taking the Census
By Johnson J. Hooper (18151862)
[Born in North Carolina, 1815. Died in Alabama. Adventures of Capt. Simon Suggs. 1845.New Edition, with Alabama Sketches. 1881.]
WE rode up one day to the residence of a widow rather past the prime of lifejust that period at which nature supplies most abundantly the oil which lubricates the hinges of the female tongueand hitching to the fence, walked into the house.
The mischief you are! said the old termagant. Yes, Ive hearn of you; Parson W. told me you was coming, and I told him jist what I tell you, that if you said cloth, soap, ur chickens, to me, Id set the dogs on ye.Here, Bull! here, Pomp! Two wolfish curs responded to the gall for Bull and Pomp, by coming to the door, smelling at our feet with a slight growl, and then laid down on the steps. Now, continued the old she-savage, thems the severest dogs in this country. Last week Bill Stoneckers two-year-old steer jumped my yard-fence, and Bull and Pomp tuk him by the throat, and they killed him afore my boys could break em loose, to save the world.
You may well say that: what I tells them to do they doand if I was to sick them on your old hoss yonder, theyd eat him up afore you could say Jack Roberson. And its jist what I shall do, if you try to pry into my consarns. They are none of your business, nor Van Burens nuther, I reckon. Oh, old Van Banburen! I wish I had you here, you old rascal! Id show you whatIdId make Bull and Pomp show you how to be sendin out men to take down what little stuff peoples got, jist to tax it, when its taxed enough aready!
All this time we were perspiring through fear of the fierce guardians of the old widows portal. At length, when the widow paused, we remarked that as she was determined not to answer questions about the produce of the farm, we would just set down the age, sex, and complexion of each member of her family.
No sich a thingyoull do no sich a thing, said she; Ive got five in family, and thats all youll git from me. Old Van Buren must have a heap to do, the dratted old villyan, to send you to take down how old my children is. Ive got five in family, and they are all between five and a hundred years old; they are all a plaguy sight whiter than you, and whether they are he or she, is none of your consarns.
Yes! send your marshal, or your Mr. Van Buren here, if youre bad off tolet em comelet Mr. Van Buren comelooking as savage as a Bengal tigressOh, I wish he would comeand her nostrils dilated, and her eyes gleamedId cut his head off!
Kill him! kill himohif I had him here by the years I reckon I would kill him. A pretty fellow to be eating his vittils outn gold spoons that poor peoples taxed for, and raisin an army to get him made king of Amerikythe oudacious, nasty, stinking old scamp! She paused a moment, and then resumed, And now, mister, jist put down what I tell you on that paper, and dont be telling no lies to send to Washington city. Jist put down Judy Tompkins, ageable woman, and four children.
We objected to making any such entry, but the old hag vowed it should be done, to prevent any misrepresentation of her case. We, however, were pretty resolute, until she appealed to the couchant whelps, Bull and Pomp. At the first glimpse of their teeth, our courage gave way, and we made the entry in a bold hand across a blank scheduleJudy Tompkins, ageable woman, and four children.
We now begged the old lady to dismiss her canine friends, that we might go out and depart: and forthwith mounting our old black, we determined to give the old soul a parting fire. Turning half round, in order to face her, we shouted
Placing our right thumb on the nasal extremity of our countenance, we said, You neednt be uneasy, old un, on that scorethought you might suit sore-legged Dick S up our way, and should like to know what to tell him he might count on, if he comes down next Sunday!
Here, Bull! shouted the widow, sick him, Pomp! but we cantered off, unwounded, fortunately, by the fangs of Bull and Pomp, who kept up the chase as long as they could hear the cheering voice of their mistressSi-c-k, Pompsick, sick, si-c-k him, Bullsuboy! suboy! suboy!