ANDERSON BLIVINS, ESQ., OF INDIANA, TELLS A FISH STORY
Written for the New York “Spirit of the Times,” by “Hazel Greene, Esq.”
Know all men by these presents that there resides in the city of Louisville, Ky., one Major Brownington—possibly that may not be exactly the name, but that will do. Know further, that said Major Brownington is a regular old trump in his way; an inveterate joker, and a devoted lover of good things in general, and lager beer in particular. The Major is none of you “small pattern” men, but a man made from whole cloth, as you would readily admit could you see him, for he weighs fully two hundred nett, and fills a chair to overflowing—especially such chairs as one usually meets with in Louisville bar-rooms and barber shops. Nothing personal intended.
So much by way of introduction, and now to the point.
A few days ago found Major Brownington, seated as comfortably as circumstances would admit in a little beer saloon on Market-street, entertaining the “tapster” with an easy flow of his jokes and anecdotes. It was at an hour when there was but little custom, so the polite keeper of the concern had nothing to do but listen. First the Major detailed his experience with the ghost which made its appearance in the city last summer to the terror of the negroes, and others no less superstitious than they; then he told a story of Indians in the days when “Old Kentuck” was young, winding up, finally, with a rehearsal of the adventures which he himself had in the course of a trip to the Rocky Mountains with a fur company.
During the early part of the Major’s discourse a genuine Hoosier stalked into the saloon, and after “dumping” his bundle and stick—for he was evidently on a tramp—stood with eyes wide open, and mouth not closed, drinking in eagerly every word the old gentleman let fall. So deep an interest did he take in the narrative that he seemed lost to every thing around him, until the Major got on as far as the Mountains, and began to trap and otherwise kill hundreds of beaver, otter, and coons; and to catch any quantity of the most delicious fish. The word fish had scarcely been uttered when, apparently, he was struck with an idea, and going up to the old gentleman’s back he punched him with his thumb just between the wig and the coat collar, and said—
“Say, old chuffy, hold on a minnit! You’re board’s down now.”
The Major cut short, hitched forward in his chair, and looked at the Hoosier in profound astonishment.
“Yes ser-e-e!” continued his interrupter, “your board’s down now and mine’s up. Jest wait till I have a shoot. Mebby you don’t know me? My name’s Anderson Blevins—that’s what the old folks named me. Aut when Suk Crabtree, what lives in Brownstown, wrote me a valentine last winter, she signed ‘Anderson Blivins, Esquire,’ on the back of hit. Now, I ain’t no squire, ner never expects to be, nor my daddy before me; but that Suk is sitch a nice gal that I can’t think o’ contradictin’ her word, and so ever since then I’ve concluded that my name is Anderson Blivins, Esquire. Yes, sir-e-e, that hit! I live up to Jackson County, in Indiyana—mebby you’re hearn about the place?”
The Major still remained speechless.
“I cum down to this here town,” continued the Hoosier, “to see if they was enny flatboats a-goin’ to New Orleans, what wanted a hand. If you know of enny jest tell ‘em of Anderson Blivins, Esquire. But mebby it ain’t right to do ennythin’ but spin yarns in this ere house—leastwise I haint seed nothin’ else a goin’ on. Wal, as my board’s up I’ll jest tell you of a fishin’ scrape me and Joe Buschurch had last week. Wal, me and Joe, we got together and concluded to go down te White River in the evenin’, and take a night’s fishin’ spree; and then we got a jug filled with whiskey and started. Now, me and Joe we’re both Temperance men, but we thought weed jest take along the whiskey to keep off the damp air. Wal, we started, and purty soon it got mortal dark, for it was cloudy, and there wern’t enny moon. And soon arter it got dark it got chilly, and then me and Joe we concluded to drink one-another’s health, and we done hit. It went jam up, and as we still felt a little agerish we concluded to try another nip, and we done hit. Then we thought we’d better bite it off again, and so we did. We hadn’t more’n got down the last swaller afore it got darker ‘an ever, and we lost the path. Joe said it made no difference, for he know’d every inch of the ground in that locality, and could woods it to the river; so we concluded to woods it. We went a woodsin’ it along till we cum to Coon Creek. It had poorty steep banks, and there was a good deal of water in hit, and I told Joe we’d better hunt a log to cross on; but he said, ‘No, travlers never stop for water.’ ‘All right,’ said I, and we tumbled down the bank, waded through waist deep, and rolled up on t’other side. The water made us chilly, and so we took some more whiskey to dry our clothes, and then struck out for the river agin. Dark as pitch! Over logs and through brush we went, ontanglin’ one another from grape vines and green briars, until first thing we know’d we cum to anuther deep creek.
“ ‘Joe,’ says I, ‘what creek’s this?’
“ ‘Tain’t no matter,’ says he, ‘ I know every inch of this ground—let’s take a horn.’
“ ‘Good!’ says I; so we took it, and then we slided down and plunged through. Fifty yards, and we waded another big creek, and poorty soon we found ourselves on the steep bank of another.
“ ‘Whar in h—l can we be got to, Joe?’ said I. ‘These ere creeks are all out of my knowledge.’
“ ‘Darn’d if they hain’t out of mine too,’ said he; ‘but let’s take another drink all round and let ‘em rip.’
Took the drink and tumbled through.
“ ‘Whoop-e-e-e!’ said Joe, when we’d wallered up the bank, ‘it’s all right now; I know just where we are. Only a few steps to the river. Come on with the jug and let’s drink to the folks at home—then let’s feel about and cut us some poles to fish with.’
“We drunk, and then toddled on, a feelin’ for the poles. Joe was a few steps before, and dreckly I heard a dreaful lumbin’ and a sort of a splashin’.’ “ ‘Is that you, Joe?’ hollered I.
“ ‘Durn hit, yes!’ said he, a-spoutin’ somethin’ out’n his mouth.
“ ‘What’s the matter?’ said I.
“ ‘Matter!’ said he, ‘I’ve tumbled down a steep bank into another blasted creek!”
“ ‘Mebby you’re in the river a drowndin’,’ said I, a getten mighty scared.
“ ‘Thunder, no!’ said he, ‘I’m climbin’ up the other bank—‘
“Before I fairly understood him, somethin’ gin way under my shoes, and down I went, about ten feet, lightin’ on a log, and bouncin’ into the creek. The jug hit flew out of my hands, and when I told Joe he waded back to help me hunt hit. We found nothin’ but the nick of hit, and a few other broken pieces—it had went to smash on the log; and we cum mortal nigh havin’ a fight about the catastrophy. The coldness of the water kind of simmered down our tempers, however, and we made friends and shook hands in the creek, and then went to work a-tryin’ to climb out. It took us a dreadful long while to get up that bank, but, after workin’ along it a good ways, and makin’ hundreds of otter-slides into the water, for it was awful muddy and no rocks about, we made the riffle. But, oh! how tired! Joe swore he’d rest afore goin’ any further, and I seconded [six or seven words unclear] ground and went to sleep. When we got awoke it was broad daylight, and what do you think? Why, sir—old chuffy I mean—we seed that we’d bin a-splungin’ through the same creek all night, not more’n two hundred yards from where we first crost hit! You needn’t to look so sour ‘bout hit, for I’m a-tellin’ you as true as preachin’. How we got our iders tangled up so I couldn’t tell, though it mout a-bin the licker, for they say the people’s getting’ to make a mortal mean article, specially down here in Louisville; and our grocery keeper gets his whiskey down here—that is, all except the water he puts in hit. But I must be a trampin’. Guess that’s you’re son behind the table there. Looks like he’d rubbed the hair off’re his head packin’ a bottle in his hat, as Aunt Judy says. Don’t never mind my jokes. ‘Spose you’re both poorty good sorts o’ fellers—only a leetle too dressy, that’s all. If you go up to our diggings very soon, stop and tell our folks you seed me all right, and a thrivin’. Good bye, old chuffy—good bye, young chuffy!”
And the Hoosier threw his bundle over his shoulder and started towards the river.
Source: New York Spirit of the Times 30.19 (16 June 1860): 220. University of Virginia Alderman Library.
Erin Bartels prepared this typescript.
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