Written for the New York “Spirit of the Times” by Hazel Greene, Esq.

“While stopping at one of Indiana’s country hotels, not long since, a homespun Hoosier poked his head into my room and called out, partially through his nose:

“Howawe e, mister!”

“How are you, sir,” said I, “won’t you walk in and have a seat?”

“Don’t care if I do,” said he; “is your name Greene?”

“That is what they call me sometimes.”

“Prezactly. Hazel Greene, I reckon?”

“The same, at your service, sir.”

“So-o! Wal, Mister Hazel Greene, I’m told you are a very great hunter, and that when you go a huntin’ you allers write about it?”

“Not a very great hunter; but write of hunting adventures occasionally.”

“Prezactly. Wal, I’ll jist tell you what I’m arter. I live down the river about two miles from here, and I’ve got one of the nicest wheat patches that’s in the bottom; but the darned deer are a beginnin’ to use on it, and ef I can’t manage to break ‘em off soon, it wont be worth a tinker’s cuss. Now ef you’re hankerin’ arter a hunt, and will go down home with me to-night, I’ll bet we can have a nice one. I’m a goin’ to try firin’ their eyes. You’ll be mortal welcome, for my old ‘oman’s read about you in the papers, and she’ll almost take a gemany fit when I tell her it’s you, she’ll be so glad. She aint at all like me, for she come from York State when she was a gal, and afore she left there she got to be a mortal fine reader and cypherer. What do you say to goin’?”

Of course I could not refuse, and half an hour later found me following the Hoosier to his home. As he had intimated, I received a truly warm welcome from his spouse, who was, indeed, a very intelligent and amiable lady. The contrast between them was so very great, that I felt much curiosity to learn how the union was brought about; still I thought it best to ask no questions.

The Hoosier soon busied himself about making preparation for “firing their eyes,” which meant, I finally learned, that we were going to have a “torch hunt.” Does the reader understand what I mean by the term? Torch hunting, in a general sense, is conducted by carrying a lighted torch in a very dark night, through the woods where deer are known to frequent. The deer, seeing this strange object, and impelled by curiosity, perhaps, approaches so near that his eyes may be seen shining like two coals of fire. Between these the hunter levels his aim, fires, and cuts short the race of his unsuspecting victim.

All was ready, and about eleven o’clock we went down to the wheat patch. The Hoosier offered to hold the torch, which was a long-handled frying pan full of fat pine, and let me do the shooting; but not being familiar with torch hunting, I declined and took the torch myself. Just before crossing the fence we ignited the combustibles, and in a few moments the blaze threw its glaring circle around us, painting all proximate objects with a beautiful vermilion. We got inside the patch and moved slowly around, talking in whispers, and keeping our eyes turned in every direction. No success. Not a fiery object to be seen save what I carried in the pan.

Just as we were about completing the circuit of the enclosure, the Hoosier came to a sudden halt, and brought his rifle to his shoulder. At the same time I peered forward, and distinctly saw a pair of small round circles, glistening in the darkness like two little discs of fire. Nobody was visible, but there were certain the eyes, looking, for all the world, like huge diamonds set in a ground of polished ebony. The next thing of which I was sensible, was a sharp report from the Hoosier’s rifle, followed by a floundering noise, in the direction of the locality where I had just seen the fiery orbs.

“By cripe, I’ve saved ‘im,” said my companion. “He’ll eat no more wheat I’d bet a coon skin;” and with that he leaped forward in the darkness, to put him past recovery. Scarcely had he disappeared from sight, when I heard him exclaim:

“H—l and d—nation!”

In the next instant he joined me.

“Did you kill him?” I asked.

“No, never touched a hair,” said he, “let’s be goin’.”

“But hadn’t we better look around a little? Possibly it has floundered off a short distance.

“Oh no, not worth while, never touched a hair, come let’s go home.”

Still I insisted upon looking with the torch, and the more I done so, the stronger the Hoosier urged our departure. I could not tell what to make of his conduct. My curiosity was up, and when I fancied that he looked very pale, it rose still higher. Who knows but the fellow has done some mischief, I thought, in which event, should we leave in this manner, both would be equally implicated. I resolved to look for myself, and so started on with the torch. A few steps, and I saw an object lying upon the ground, apparently lifeless.

“Why here it is!” I called out.

“Wal, don’t you reckon I know it?” said he, sulkily. “It’s my old jackass; how the devil he got in here, is a puzzle to me. I jest tell you I wouldn’t a done it for five hundred dollars!”

“Sure enough, it was his old jack, with a bullet hole exactly between the eyes. Of course our “torch hunt" [1] was at an end.”


Source: New York Spirit of the Times 29.45 (17 December 1859): 531. University of Virginia Alderman Library.

Erin Bartels prepared this typescript.

[1] In original the typesetter uses three double-quotation marks in this line, but omits an obvious one here.

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