Written for the N.Y. “Spirit of the Times,” by “Hazel Greene, Esq.”

In the course of my visit to Arkansas, not long since, I had occasion to pass from Little Rock to Mt. Vernon by stage. The roads were exceedingly bad, in consequence of which the trip was anything but an agreeable one. At the little town of Blank—a substitute for its real name—our vehicle broke down, and as there was not a wagon to be had in the place for either love or money, we were forced to lie over till next day in order that our driver might ride back to procure another stage.

During our short sojourn with the people of Blank, we learned many new things in relation to life in the interior of Arkansas. We found the citizens friendly and hospitable—willing to take upon themselves any degree of trouble or inconvenience to make our stay a pleasant one. It was in the early part of the day when we were “dumped” among them, so that evening they got up a shooting match, I verily believe for our especial entertainment. Of course we could not participate, for not a member of our company knew anything about handling a rifle; but we enjoyed the sport for all that.

Next morning, after our stop at Blank, the fellow whose business it was to do chores about our little hotel, told me it was one of their “dog days,” and that I might look for lots and gobs of fun.

“Dog days!” said I, “what are they?”

“What!” he exclaimed, “don’t you know what dog days is?”


“Well, I’ll swear! Why we have a dog day here every once in a while, and real fun it is too. I say, stranger, if you never seen any dog fun, just go down to the pond arter breakfast, and you’ll see some, I'll bet.”

With that he wheeled off to attend to some duty, leaving me sorely puzzled as to what a “dog day” was. My curiousity was up. I could scarcely wait till breakfast, and you may be sure I waited no longer.

As soon as our meal had been swallowed, I, accompanied by my stage companions—four in number—repaired to the “pond.” We found quite a number of men and boys there, all laughing and talking merrily, and looking with apparent eagerness towards the door of a small building—a shoemaker’s shop, perhaps. We took a station among them and awaited in silence to see what would turn up.

We had been there ten minutes, perhaps, when a voice from within the shop announced that all was ready. In the next instant the door flew open, and out poured not less then twenty dogs, each one with a sardine box, an old tin pan or a crushed coffee boiler attached to his “narrative.” And such a rattling, and yelling, and running and shouting, was before seen or heard by a correspondent of the “Spirit.” It excelled the most liberal imagination. You have seen one dog running with something tied to his tail—then imagine twenty, all of different sizes, shapes, and colors, and you have a faint idea of a dog day in Arkansas.

I have heard of many kind of sports, but this rather took the say from all of them. The citizens told me it was a thing of common occurrence—that they got all the dogs together they could, and had a “dog day” every few weeks. Some poor old canines, they said, had been tricked so often, that all you had to do was to slip up and pinch their tails and they would run right straight along for half an hour. In fact, after such an operation it was hard to convince them that there was not a tin bucket to their tails. [1]


Source: New York Spirit of the Times 30.2 (18 February 1860): 17. University of Virginia Alderman Library.

Erin Bartels, University of Richmond English undergraduate, prepared this typescript.

[1] This type of "practical joke" on an animal offends our sensibilities today, but it seems not to have been an infrequent form of entertainment. Consider obvious connection to the "loafers" and other backwoods residents Huck Finn describes in Bricksville, Arkansas:

There couldn't anything wake them up all over, and make them happy all over, like a dog-fight--unless it might be putting turpentine on a stray dog and setting fire to him, or tying a tin pan to his tail and see him run himself to death (183).

--from Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Blair. W. & Fischer, V. Eds. Berkeley: U of California P, 1985.

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