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1 occurrence of roughing it
[Clear Hits]


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1 occurrence of roughing it
[Clear Hits]




EVERY now and then, in these days, the boys used to tell
me I ought to get one Jim Blaine to tell me the stirring
story of his grandfather's old ram—but they always added
that I must not mention the matter unless Jim was drunk at
the time—just comfortably and sociably drunk. They kept
this up until my curiosity was on the rack to hear the story. I
got to haunting Blaine; but it was of no use, the boys always
found fault with his condition; he was often moderately but
never satisfactorily drunk. I never watched a man's condition
with such absorbing interest, such anxious solicitude; I never
so pined to see a man uncompromisingly drunk before. At
last, one evening I hurried to his cabin, for I learned that this
time his situation was such that even the most fastidious could
find no fault with it—he was tranquilly, serenely, symmetrically
drunk—not a hiccup to mar his voice, not a cloud upon
his brain thick enough to obscure his memory. As I entered,
he was sitting upon an empty powder-keg, with a clay pipe in
one hand and the other raised to command silence. His face
was round, red, and very serious; his throat was bare and his
hair tumbled; in general appearance and costume he was a
stalwart miner of the period. On the pine table stood a
candle, and its dim light revealed “the boys” sitting here and
there on bunks, candle-boxes, powder-kegs, etc. They said:

“Sh—! Don't speak—he's going to commence.”


I found a seat at once, and Blaine said:

“I don't reckon them times will ever come again. There


Page 384
never was a more bullier old ram than what he was. Grandfather
fetched him from Illinois—got him of a man by the
name of Yates
—Bill Yates—
maybe you
might have
heard of him;
his father was a
he was
a rustler, too; a
man had to get
up ruther early
to get the start
of old Thankful
Yates; it was
him that put the
Greens up to
jining teams
with my grandfather
when he
moved west. Seth Green was prob'ly the pick of the flock;
he married a Wilkerson—Sarah Wilkerson—good cretur, she
was—one of the likeliest heifers that was ever raised in old
Stoddard, everybody said that knowed her. She could heft a
bar'l of flour as easy as I can flirt a flapjack. And spin?
Don't mention it! Independent? Humph! When Sile
Hawkins come a browsing around her, she let him know that
for all his tin he couldn't trot in harness alongside of her.
You see, Sile Hawkins was—no, it warn't Sile Hawkins, after
all—it was a galoot by the name of Filkins—I disremember
his first name; but he was a stump—come into pra'r meeting
drunk, one night, hooraying for Nixon, becuz he thought it
was a primary; and old deacon Ferguson up and scooted him
through the window and he lit on old Miss Jefferson's head,
poor old filly. She was a good soul—had a glass eye and used
to lend it to old Miss Wagner, that hadn't any, to receive


Page 385
company in; it warn't big enough, and when Miss Wagner
warn't noticing, it would get twisted around in the socket, and
look up, maybe, or out to one side, and every which way,
while t' other one was looking as straight ahead as a spy-glass.
Grown people didn't mind it, but it most always made the
children cry, it was so sort of scary. She tried packing it in raw
cotton, but it wouldn't work, somehow—the cotton would get
loose and stick out and look so kind of awful that the children
couldn't stand it no way. She was always dropping it out, and
turning up her old dead-light on the company empty, and
making them oncomfortable, becuz she never could tell when
it hopped out, being blind on that side, you see. So somebody
would have to hunch her and say, “Your game eye has
fetched loose, Miss Wagner dear”—and then all of them
would have to sit and wait till she jammed it in again—wrong
side before, as a general thing, and green as a bird's egg, being
a bashful cretur and easy sot back before company. But


Page 386
being wrong side before warn't much difference, anyway,
becuz her own eye was sky-blue and the glass one was yaller
on the front side, so whichever
way she turned it it
didn't match nohow. Old
Miss Wagner was considerable
on the borrow, she
was. When she had a
quilting, or Dorcas S'iety at
her house she gen'ally borrowed
Miss Higgins's wooden
leg to stump around on;
it was considerable shorter
than her other pin, but
much she minded that. She
said she couldn't abide
crutches when she had company, becuz they were so slow;
said when she had company and things had to be done, she
wanted to get up and hump herself. She was as bald as
a jug, and so she used to borrow Miss Jacops's wig—Miss
Jacops was the coffin-peddler's wife—a ratty old buzzard, he
was, that used to go roosting around where people was sick,
waiting for 'em; and there that old rip would sit all day, in
the shade, on a coffin that he judged would fit the can'idate;
and if it was a slow customer and kind of uncertain, he'd
fetch his rations and a blanket along and sleep in the coffin
nights. He was anchored out that way, in frosty weather, for
about three weeks, once, before old Robbins's place, waiting
for him; and after that, for as much as two years, Jacops was
not on speaking terms with the old man, on account of his
disapp'inting him. He got one of his feet froze, and lost
money, too, becuz old Robbins took a favorable turn and got
well. The next time Robbins got sick, Jacops tried to make
up with him, and varnished up the same old coffin and fetched
it along; but old Robbins was too many for him; he had him
in, and 'peared to be powerful weak; he bought the coffin for
ten dollars and Jacops was to pay it back and twenty-five more


Page 387
besides if Robbins didn't like the coffin after he'd tried it.
And then Robbins died, and at the funeral he bursted off the
lid and riz up in his shroud and told the parson to let up on
the performances, becuz he could not stand such a coffin as
that. You see he had been in a trance once before, when he
was young, and he took the chances on another, cal'lating that
if he made the trip it was money in his pocket, and if he
missed fire he couldn't lose a cent. And by George he sued
Jacops for the rhino and got jedgment; and he set up the
coffin in his back parlor and said he 'lowed to take his time,
now. It was always an aggravation to Jacops, the way that
miserable old thing acted. He moved back to Indiany pretty
soon—went to Wellsville—Wellsville was the place the Hogadorns
was from. Mighty fine family. Old Maryland stock.
Old Squire Hogadorn could carry around more mixed licker,
and cuss better than most any man I ever see. His second
wife was the widder Billings—she that was Becky Martin;
her dam was deacon Dunlap's first wife. Her oldest child,
Maria, married a missionary and died in grace—et up by the


Page 388


[Description: 504EAF. Page 388. In-line image of a man standing beneath a scaffolding while a man from above falls on him.]
savages. They et him, too, poor feller—biled him. It warn't
the custom, so they say, but they explained to friends of his'n
that went down there to bring away his things, that they'd
tried missionaries every other way and never could get any
good out of 'em—and so it annoyed all his relations to find
out that that man's life was fooled away just out of a dern'd
experiment, so to speak. But mind you, there ain't anything
ever reely lost; everything that people can't understand and
don't see the reason of does good if you only hold on and give
it a fair shake; Prov'dence don't fire no blank ca'tridges, boys.
That there missionary's substance, unbeknowns to himself,
actu'ly converted every last one of them heathens that took a
chance at the barbacue. Nothing ever fetched them but that.
Don't tell me it was an accident that he was biled. There
ain't no such a thing as an
accident. When my uncle
Lem was leaning up agin
a scaffolding once, sick, or
drunk, or suthin, an Irishman
with a hod full of
bricks fell on him out of
the third story and broke
the old man's back in two
places. People said it was
an accident. Much accident
there was about that.
He didn't know what he
was there for, but he was
there for a good object. If
he hadn't been there the
Irishman would have been
killed. Nobody can ever
make me believe anything
different from that. Uncle
Lem's dog was there. Why didn't the Irishman fall on the
dog? Becuz the dog would a seen him a coming and stood from
under. That's the reason the dog warn't appinted. A dog


Page 389
can't be depended on to carry out a special providence. Mark
my words it was a put-up thing. Accidents don't happen,
boys. Uncle Lem's dog—I wish you could a seen that dog.
He was a reglar shepherd—or ruther he was
part bull and part shepherd—splendid animal;
belonged to parson Hagar before Uncle
Lem got him. Parson Hagar belonged to
the Western Reserve Hagars; prime family;
his mother was a Watson; one of his sisters
married a Wheeler; they settled in Morgan
county, and he got nipped by the machinery
in a carpet factory and went through in less
than a quarter of a minute; his widder
bought the piece of carpet that had his
remains wove in, and people come a hundred
mile to 'tend the funeral. There was fourteen
yards in the piece. She wouldn't let
them roll him up, but planted him just so
—full length. The church was middling
small where they preached the funeral, and
they had to let one end of the coffin stick
out of the window. They didn't bury him
—they planted one end, and let him stand
up, same as a monument. And they nailed
a sign on it and put—put on—put on it—
sacred to—the m-e-m-o-r-y—of fourteen
y-a-r-d-s—of three-ply—car - - - pet—containing
all that was—m-o-r-t-a-l—of—of—

Jim Blaine had been growing gradually
drowsy and drowsier—his head nodded,
once, twice, three times—dropped peacefully upon his breast,
and he fell tranquilly asleep. The tears were running down
the boys' cheeks—they were suffocating with suppressed laughter—and
had been from the start, though I had never noticed
it. I perceived that I was “sold.” I learned then that Jim
Blaine's peculiarity was that whenever he reached a certain


Page 390
stage of intoxication, no human power could keep him from
setting out, with impressive unction, to tell about a wonderful
adventure which he had once had with his grandfather's old
ram—and the mention of the ram in the first sentence was as
far as any man had ever heard him get, concerning it. He
always maundered off, interminably, from one thing to another,
till his whisky got the best of him and he fell asleep. What
the thing was that happened to him and his grandfather's old
ram is a dark mystery to this day, for nobody has ever yet
found out.