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Written by T.S. Dalton   

C H A P T E R  VI.
I had trained my dogs as good hunters, and would often go out and spend half the night in the woods catching coons and opossums, and, as a matter of fact, had learned to think very highly of my dogs. One night "Flatnose" and "Popeyes" came by and decoyed my dogs off for a hunt without my knowledge. I soon found out what was up, and waited until I could determine the course they intended to take, then I slipped into the dining room and got a large white tablecloth grandmother had to spread over the dishes after they were washed, and ran away up in the woods on a ridge, as I felt sure they would come that way. Sure enough, after a while they came along, talking very big about how they had beaten me for that night. I had wrapped the cloth around me, and raked together some sticks that I could break easily; and as they came up, I raised and popped some of the sticks very loud. Neither of them spoke a word, but one of them started in one direction an the other took the opposite route.

Old Uncle Edwin Ruffin had a pond on his place that covered about an acre of land, and the deepest place was about to a man’s waist, and "Flatnose" went splashing right through the center of that pond, puffing like a locomotive going up a Virginia mountain, and never checked his speed until he had reached his home. "Popeyes" jumped the fence into Uncle Edwin’s field in which there was a large blackberry thicket that Uncle Edwin had  left especially for the berries, and the briars on them were very long and sharp, and I heard him go ripping through them without checking his speed the least particle, until he reached his home.  So ended their hunt for the night. I returned home and put the cloth back on the table.
No one had missed me from the house, so no one knew what I had done. I have often sat and heard these boys tell the wonderful "Ghost story" of that night and never let on that I knew a thing about it.  "Flatnose" died without ever knowing what it was. 

I was back in that country in about 1890 and met "Popeyes" who was then a member of the Old School Baptists, where my grandmother used to belong. I preached there; and after meeting, we got into conversation over old matters, and I asked him if he remembered that circumstance. He said, "I guess I do." I then told him it was I. He looked at me for some time, seemingly utterly surprised, and remarked with a laugh, "I have a good mind to whip you for it now." I told him that it had been so long I thought the better thing would be for us to shake hands, call it even, and quit, to which he readily agreed; and thus we ended the matter.

Some time after that night, "Popeyes" came over one night to play with us until bedtime, and we had a real good time having a little negro boy grandfather owned make speeches for us. We would hollo at him saying, "Use big words, Miles. Say Oconostoto." He would squall as loud as he could, "Old-Mos-Porter," and we would nearly die laughing. Then some of us would say, "’Ompompanoosuck,’ Miles," and he would squall out "Uncle-John-Wood-Chuck." All this time would have one boy hidden somewhere near by. He would burst forth from his hiding, making strange noises, and "Miles" would break for the house, scared half to death, and we were almost convulsed with laughter.

Thus we passed the evening until time for "Popeyes" to go home, and he started. There were two ways to go; one by a by-path somewhat nearer, but the other a good plain wagon road. I saw that "Popeyes" had taken the path; so I ran in and got a tablecloth and ran around the wagon way, to where the road and path met, and squatted down with the cloth over me.  Presently "Popeyes" came along whistling. When he got within about ten steps of me, I raised up, and gave the cloth a shake. "Popeyes" jumped about ten feet to one side in the bushes and made for home, running almost equal to a deer, and almost every time he struck the ground he hollowed "O George!" as mournful as if he though "Old Nick" had him, and I was right after him with all my might.

Thus ended our fun for the night. I presume that "Popeyes" is in ignorance until this day of what it was that gave him such a chase. But I have often laughed heartily to myself over the matter.
One Sunday, some weeks after this, grandfather and grandmother had gone to some place in the neighborhood and left "General" and me home. In a short while "Sockwringer" came over to spend the day with us, and the first thing that entered our minds was how to spend the day; of course, we wanted fun.

I soon said to the boys, "Let us get the old cow bell and put it on the calves." They agreed, and at it we went. We caught the first one, put the bell on him, and he started around the lot, running for dear life and bawling at every step, and us after him. We kept on until the calf was completely exhausted and gave up.

We then adjourned until after dinner. But after eating a real good dinner that grandmother had left there for us and resting a while with spinning yarns, we gathered up our bell and returned to the lot and soon had the third calf captured, the bell on him, and he running over the lot for dear life. Thus we continued until the last calf had been put through a (what we then called) "Gymnasium" performance.
We then started for the house. It was growing late in the evening; but, of course, I was still looking for something to finish out the day of amusement, and as we walked along the old turkey gobbler crossed the path before us. I said, "Boys, let’s bell him." They agreed at once. So we started for him, and soon had him a captive, the bell on him, and oh, fun inexpressible!

The old gobbler would lie flat on the ground for awhile, then raise his head, and the bell would "ting." The old gobbler would say, "Cloot, cloot," and jump away up in the air, then fall back to the ground and lie still for a while. When he raised his head again the bell would "ting," and he would say, "Cloot, cloot," and away up he would go again. We were nearly dying laughing. The fun was so great we never took our eyes off the gobbler. After a while I looked around and there stood grandfather in ten feet of us, looking on and laughing as heartily as any of us. But our feathers fell, for we did not know but the next thing would be a whipping; but grandfather said, "That will do, boys, turn him loose" which we did, and "Sockwringer" went home. "General" and I soon turned in for the night, and after a few hearty laughs over the day’s exploits, we were soon in dreamland, feeling as innocent doubtless as if we had spent the day at Sunday School.

Some days after this grandmother’s geese were getting into the wheat field, grandfather had become very much vexed at them, and said to me, "Tolbert, you go over there and kill those geese and stop the holes with them." I started, and when I got there, I gathered up stones and began to kill, sure enough, and to stick them in the holes under the fence, and before they were out I had killed four of them and stuffed them in the holes. Grandmother found them, and came to me about it, and asked me if I did it. I told her I did, and that grandfather told me to; but she got a long switch, and I was making my arrangements to be almost skinned alive. I was crying and begging and telling her, "Grandmother, grandfather told me to." She said, "Never mind, young laddy, I’ll teach you to have better sense than to  kill my geese." About this time grandfather came out and asked, "What does this mean?" Grandmother said, "This little laddy has killed some of my geese, and I am going to whip some sense into him." Grandfather said, "Hold on, Fannie. I told him to do that; but I thought the little gump would have better sense than to do it." So grandmother said, "I will whip some sense into him," and was just in the act of hitting me when grandfather stepped in and said, "Fannie, you shall not whip the boy for that, for I told him to do it."

So by grandfather interceding for me, my back was saved a striping, for which I have ever felt grateful to grandfather. I often deserved whippings that I never got; yet I felt then, and really feel now, that this was one I ought not to have.  At another time an old man, who lived not far from grandfather, came over to see him on business on day. While he was there I tied a brush to his horse’s tail, and when he got on his horse to start home the horse began to jump and run. He knew some mischief had been done to his horse and looked back and saw me standing in the yard laughing. He shouted back to me, "Ah! Tolbert, you are still sowing your wild oats, are you?" I said, "No, sir, I am brushing them in now." Grandfather got hold of me and said, "I will brush mine in for a while;" and you may rest assured that before he was done I felt like the furrows in my back were deep enough not to need a drill to get his oats in deep enough to sprout. This whipping I deserved, and I fully got it.

One day grandfather and grandmother went on a visit to some of the neighbors, and left "General" and me there to look after things. After they had got on their horses and started off, grandmother stopped and called back, "Tolbert, don’t you and "General" bother that jar of cream in the corner. I said, "All right;" but they were hardly out of sight until I said to "General," "Let’s have some of that cream to drink," and he agreed. (We perhaps would not have thought of the cream if she had not mentioned it.) We went into the house and never stopped to get a cup or glass to dip it out. I said to "General," "You hold it over while I drink, then I will hold it while you drink." "General" took hold; and I got down on my knees and drank to my satisfaction. Then I took hold, "General" got on his knees, and as I started to tilt the jar, my hold slipped. Over it went and the cream scattered all over the floor. We looked at each other for a moment and neither of us spoke a word.

But it was a clear case that we could not pick it up; so we got scared and broke for the woods, and stayed out until late at night. When we could stay out no longer we sneaked back to the house and into the room where grandfather and grandmother were sitting, and slipped around next to the wall. They were both looking at us; but we slipped into our room and went to bed. We were soon asleep, and never woke until next morning, when grandfather had me out on the floor, and was making a switch talk across my back and I was squalling for dear life. I looked toward the bed, and "General" was sitting about the middle, with his hair almost standing straight up, and he was rubbing his eyes, fully realizing that his turn was next. So when grandfather got through with me, he reached up and hauled "General" out (having set me up in one corner of the room to witness the next performance) and after he had given "General" about the same as he did me, he said, "I don’t suppose that tasted as good as the cream." But we were not at all disposed to argue the case with him, knowing that he had so much the advantage of us in proof texts.

Sometime after this we had company at our house, and grandmother made pumpkin bread for dinner. I was very fond of pumpkin bread and was afraid there would not be enough to go around. I knew I had to wait; so I climbed up on top of the chimney (which was only a stick and mud affair), to the room they were using for a dining room at that time, and I parted the boards so I could look down between them and see how the pumpkin bread was going. I saw it was melting away very fast, and felt that I must say something in self-defense, so I yelled out, "Don’t eat up all of that pumpkin bread." Grandfather looked around and said, "Never mind, young man, I will give you pumpkin bread."

So after the company were gone, he took me out to a peach tree, and broke off three of four watersprouts, and oh, my! The pumpkin bread he gave me was a plenty, and if my memory is not greatly at fault, the taste was not at all pleasant. And ever since that memorable occasion, I have not particularly cared for pumpkin bread; my taste seemed to have changed under the pressure of the peach tree sprouts.

At another time I saw an old lady, who lived some two or three miles from us down the creek, coming up smoking her pipe and grunting and brushing her hair back with her hands, as was her custom at almost every move. So I went and hid myself under the stile, in front of the house, and waited for her to come up; and just as she mounted the stile I struck it with a rock right under her feet and yelled as loud as I could, and I never saw an old lady jump so high in all my life. Her pipe fell out of her mouth and she ran for the house as hard as she could go, and you may rest assured it was fun for me. I then went into the house. We had just finished dinner, and she was invited to eat, mother telling her that there was plenty except the bread. There had been left a piece of corn bread about the size of a woman’s fist. That old lady sat down and ate a large dish of turnips, with fat meat in abundance; and when she was through with her dinner, about half of that piece of bread was left. Mother said to her, "Aunt Betty, you don’t eat much bread."

"No, bless you, honey. I don’t keer for bread when thar’s so many other good things goin’."

This we boys had for a saying for many years after that. Poor old Aunt Betty has long since gone to her long hom, and I hope rest in heaven; but I must say that such a gorge of turnips and fat meat, I have never seen eaten by a living mortal since, yet it did not seem to hurt her. I found her pipe, she lit it and started home, smoking and grunting as she went.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 27 September 2006 )
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The Primitive or Old School Baptists cling to the doctrines and practices held by Baptist Churches throughout America at the close of the Revolutionary War. This site is dedicated to providing access to our rich heritage, with both historic and contemporary writings.