SCENES ON DEER CREEK AND THE SUNFLOWER.
Bar and Deer Hunting in Mississippi.
BY THE TURKEY RUNNER.*
"Yes, Capting, they war lower, I tell you--why, God bless your soul, honey, they war not only powerful thick, but some on 'em war as big as common sized horses, I do reckon ; cause why, nobody ever had hunted 'em, you see. In the winter time the overflow, and in the summer time the lakes and snakes, bayous and alligators, musketoes and gallinippers, buffaloe gnats and sand flies, with a small sprinkle of the agur and a perfect cord or congestive, prevented the Ingins from gwine through the country ! Oh no ; the red skins would rather hunt fat turkey and deer in the Azoo Hills and pine lands t'other side of Pearl River, to killin fat bar on the Creek or Sunflower."
"Well, Jim, I think they were right ; you must then have been among the first hunters in the country."
"Yes, I do reckon when I first went into that country, from the Azoo Hills to the Mississippi, there never had been but mighty few hunters. Why thar ar places thar now, whar the deer ar tame as sheep, and whar the bar don't care a dam for nobody ! Fact ! ask Chunkey."
"That is very remarkable ; what is the cause ?"
"Cause they've never been hunted ; no, sir ; never hearn the crack of a rifle nor the yelp of a dog ; why thar ar more nor a hundred lakes and brakes in them diggins, that hain't never been pressed by no mortal 'ceptin varmints. You know more nor half the country is overflowed in the winter, and t'other half, which is a damned sight the biggest, is covered with cane palmetto and other fixings ;--why it stands to reason, and in course no man ever had hunted 'em.--Why, sir, when I first went to the Creek"--
"Let the Creek run, Jim ; tell us about the bear !"
"Well, sir, the bar war very promiscuous indeed, and some ov the old hees war mighty mellifluous, I tell you. I had no sens about bar then, but thar warn't no cabin or camp in the whole settlement, and in course I soon larnt ther natur by livin 'mongst 'em. A bar, Capting, an old he bar, ain't no candidate or other good natured greenhorn to stand gougin and treating. Oh no, he ain't, but he's as ramstugenous an animal as a log cabin loafer in the dog days, jist about, and if a stranger fools with him he'll get sarved like that white gal what come into my settlement."
"How was that, Jim ?"
"Why perfectly ruinated, as Buck BRIEN says."
"You don't mean to say Jim, that you"-----
"Yes, dam'd if I diddent. Ask CHUNKEY, or"------
"Oh I am satisfied with the girl. Go on with the bear."
"Well, let's licker--(After drinking)--a bar is a consaity animal, but as far as his sens do go he's about as smart as any other animal ; arter that, the balance is clear fat and fool. I have lived 'mongst 'em, and know ther natur. I have killed as many as seven in a day, and smartly to the rise of sixty in a season. Arter I'd been on the Creek about two months, up comes the Governor and Chunkey ; the Governor 'tended like he wanted to see how I come on with the Clearin ; but, sir, he were arter a spree, and I knoe'd it, or why did he bring Chunkey ? Every thing looked mighty well ; the negers looked fat and slick as old BELCHER in catfish season. I'd done cut more nor two hundred acres of cain and had the rails on the ground. I'd done"----
"Come, Jim, keep the track !"
"Well, Capting, they war mighty savagerous arter likker ; they'd been fightin the stranger† mightily, comin up and war perfectly wolfish arter some har of the dog, and dam'd the drop did I have, so I started two negers with mules and jugs to the pint (Princeton, Washington Co.,) and the ox team arter a barrel. Well, sir, the day arter the jugs come, and we darted on 'em, (giving a sigh) but lord, what war two jugs in sich a crowd ? They jist kept Chunkey from dyin as he was so dry he had the rattles ; next day the barrel come and then we krack-ovienned up to it in airnest. You know what kind of man Chunkey is when he gits started--if he commences talkin, singin, or whistlin, no matter which, you'd jist as well try and stop the Mississippi as him. Why I have knoed him to whistle three days and three nights on a stretch,--the Governor couldent eat nor drink for Chunkey's whistlin, and at last he gits mad and that's the last thing he does with any body what he likes, and, says he to Chunkey--
"Chunkey, you have kept me awake two nights a whistlin, and you must stop it to night, or you or me must quit the plantation."
Chunkey said, "Governor I don't want to put you to no trouble, but I can't stop in the middle of a chune, and as you have known the plantation longer than me, I expect you can leave it with lest trouble."
The Governor jist roar'd, and gin Chunkey a new gun and -----
"Stop, Jim, you have forgot the bear."
"Well, whar was I, Capting--oh, I remember, now ! Well when the barrel come we did lumber ; Chunkey he soon commenced singin, and I to thinkin about that white gal. We went on that way nigh a week, and then cooled off. One mornin, I and Chunkey had gone down to the Creek to git a bait of water, and I knoed the bar would be thar, as it war waterin time with them."
"Why Jim, have they a particular time to water ?"
"In course they has ; they come to water at a certain place and jist as regular, as a parson to his eatin ; every bar has his waterin place, and he comes and goes in the same path and in the same foot tracks, always, until he moves his settlement : and jist you breake a cane, or limb, or move a chunk or stick near his trail and see how quick he'll move his cabin ! Oh yes, a bar is mighty particular about sich things--that's his sens--that's his trap to find out if you are in his settlement. Why, Capting, I have watched 'em"-----
"Jim, you have left yourself and Chunkey on the bank of the Creek, 'a waterin.' Are you going to stay there ?"
"Well, we set down on the bank and took our stand opposite the biggest kind of a sign, and sure enough presently down he come ; a bar don't lap water like a dog ; no, they sucks it like a hog. You jist ought to see him rais his nose and smell the wind. Well he seed us, and with that he ris ! He war a whopper, I tell you ! He looked like a big burn, and he throw'd them arms about awful, honey. It war about 120 yards to him, but I knoed he were my meat without an accident, so I let drive, and he took the Creek--then out he went and scampered up the bank mighty quick, and then sich a ratlin among cane, sich a growlin and snortin, sich a breakin of saplins and vines, I reckon you never did hear ! I knoed, in course, I had him. I throwed a log in and paddled across--found his trail and lots of har and fat, but no blood !"
"That was very strange, Jim ; how did you account for that ?"
"Why he were too fat to bleed ! Oh you think I am foolin you, but you ask Chunkey. It is freekquently the case. I follered his trail about a quarter and a half a quarter, and thar he lay, so I jist hollered to Chunkey to git two negers and a yoke of stears to take him to the house. How much do you reckon he weighed ?"
"I have no idea, Jim."
"Now, Sir, he weighed, without head, skin, or entrails, 493 pounds, and his head 60 pounds ! You don't believe me ! Well, jist ask Chunkey if I haint killed 'em smartly over 700 pounds ! Killin' him sorter got my blood up, and I determined to have another. Chunkey had been jerkin' it to the licker gourd mighty smart, and was jest right. 'Chunkey,' says I, 'let's gin it to another !'
'Good as ----,' says Chunkey. 'Who cars for expenses ? a hundred dollar bill aint no more in my pocket nor a cord of wood !' With that we started down to the Bend ; we haddent been thar long when in comes an old buck ; he was a smasher, and one horn were broke off. I telled Chunkey now's his time, as I scorned to toch him arter killin' a bar. Chunkey lathered away, and ca chunk ! he went into the creek ; he then gin him a turn with t'other barrel ; the buck wabbled about a time or two and sunk, jist at the head of the little raft at the lower end of the clearin'. I knowed he'd lodged agin the drift, and determined to have him, and if you'll believe me, I'd been workin' at the gourd since I'd killed the bar. I pulled off my coat and jest throwed myself in ; I swim out to the place and div--you know the current are mighty rapid thar. Well, I found him, yes, ----- if I diddent. But, Moses ! warn't I in a tight place that time ? Well I reckon I were. I'd been willin' to fight the biggest he on the creek, and gin him the first bite, to have been out !"
"Why, Jim, what was the matter ?"
"Arter I'd got in I couldent get out--that was the matter ! You see the drift were a homogification of old cypress logs, vines, and drift-wood of every description, for nigh three hundred yards long, and the creek runs under thar like it was arter somebody ; the trees and vines, and prognostics of all sorts ar sorter nit together like a sock, and you couldent begin to get through 'em. Well, Capting, I thought my time had come, and I knowed it war for killin' that cub what I telled you about. And, Sir, it would have come if it haddent been for the sorritude I felt arterwards. You see the young cub was standin' in the corner of the fence eatin' roastin' ears, and I was goin' to the"----
"But, Jim, you have told that once, and I don't want to hear it again."
"Well, I tried to rise, but I'd as well tried to rise down'ard. I then tried to swim up 'bove the raft, but I found from the way the logs and vines were tearin' the extras off me, that I were goin' further under, and I was gettin' out of wind very fast. I knowed thar was but one chance, and that was to go clean through ! So I busted loose and set my paddles to goin' mightily ; presently my head bumped agin the drift ! I div again, and kept my paddles a lumberin ! Chunk ! my head went agin a log, and then I knowed the thing were irrefrangably out, but I div agin, still workin' on my oars smartly, until I hung agin ! 'Good bye, Chunkey !--farewell, Governor,' says I. But, Capting, I were all the time tryin' to do something. Things had begun to look speckeled, green, and then omniferous, but findin' I were not gone yet, by the way I were kickin' and pawin', and knowing I were goin' somewhere, and expectin' to the devil, there aint no tellin' how long or powerful I did work ! The first thing I recollect arter that was gittin' a mouth full of wind ! Fact ! I'd done gone clean through, and were hangin' on to a tree below the raft ! But, Sir, I were mighty weak, and couldent tell a stump from an old he, and 'spected smartly for some time that I were in the yother world, and commenced an excuse for comin' so onexpectedly ! However, presently I got sorter right, and when I found I were safe, I reckon you never did see a man feel so unanimous in your life, and I made the water fly for joy."
"Well, Jim, what had become of Chunkey ? He did not leave you ?"
"Yes, ------ if he diddent ! He'd commenced gittin' dry afore he shot the deer, and when Chunkey wants a drink, if his daddy was droundin', Chunkey would go to the licker gourd afore he'd go to his daddy. I went to the house, and thar he was settin' at the table, jist a rattlin' his teeth agin the bar's ribs : the grease war runnin' off his chin ; he held a tin cup in one hand 'bout half full of licker ; his head were sorter throwed back ; he were breathin' sorter hard, his eye set on the Governor, humpin' himself on politics. 'Dam the specie currrency,' says Chunkey, 'it aint no account, and I'm agin it. When we had good times I drank five-dollar-a-gallon brandy, and had pockets full of money.' 'But,' says the Governor, 'you bought the brandy on a credit and never paid for it !' 'What's the difference ?' asks Chunkey ! 'Them what I bought it from never paid for it, and them foreigners, you say, are a pack of scoundrels, and I go in for ruinin' 'em, so far as good licker is concerned.' 'You are drunk,' says the Governor,  and then--but Capting, you look sleepy ; let's licker and go to bed."
"No, I am not sleepy, Jim."
"Well, then, I'll tell you how I sarved Chunkey for leavin' me under the raft. Moses ! diddent I pay him back ? Did I ever tell you about takin' Chunkey out on Sky Lake, makin' him drunk, takin' his gun and knife away from him, and a puttin' him to sleep in a panter's nest ?"
"No, you never did ; but was you not apprehensive they would kill him ?"
"Apple--bell ! no ! If they'd commenced bitin' Chunkey they'd have been looed, as that's a game Chunkey invented ! But here he comes, and if you mention it before him it puts the devil in him. Let's licker !"
Vicksburg, April 1, 1844.
*[Footnote in original] In the barren lands of the South, during the autumn, from the falling nut and ripening berry, the Turkeys not infrequently become so fat as to be unable to fly any distance ; it is then the "Turkey Runner," who is also a Bee and still hunter, sallies forth in quest of a drove from which he selects some master spirit, and flushes him--he very leisurely follows desirous of tiring him by flights until he is unable longer to fly, then the Turkey runner lets out and exhibits a turn of speed perfectly astonishing--to the Turkey. This is continued until he secures as many as he wants, when he makes for the nearest creek or spring branch, when after quenching his thirst, he watches for the honey bee, takes his "bee line" and follows for half a mile, examining critically every tree until he detects the swarm issuing from some knot or gnarled trunk, then returns and tries for another or seeks his cabin, as inclination prompts.
†[Footnote in original] A barrel of whiskey is called a "stranger," from the fact that it is brought from a distance, there being none made in the country.
Erin Bartels prepared this typescript.
 In original a single quotation mark appears here, and no further quotation marks appear before the end of the sentence.
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