THE KENTUCKIAN IN HAVANA.
On a certain Twenty-Second of February, not many years ago, there was
seated at a dinner-table, at Cuney and Fulton’s, Havana, a party of about a
dozen Americans, principally sea-faring men, who had gathered there for the
purpose of celebrating, in a quiet way, the anniversary of the birth of the
immortal Washington. As a matter of course, “ patriotism” was all the go that
day. There was not a man in the crowd whose heart failed to overflow with American
feeling. As the apostle Johnson had not then visited the West Indies, tee-totalers
were rather scarce among the shipmasters in port. Consequently, early on the
morning of the anniversary, commenced their libations--they took occasion to
foreswear “ their potations,” in the outset, and when the dinner hour arrived,
no one “ came to the scratch” who would answer for a particular pattern of sobriety.
The most uproarious of the collection was an out-and-out Kentuckian, who, by
some strange operation, had made the “ deep, deep sea” his home, and was then
in command of a Baltimore schooner, which happened to be in the harbor. In no
man’s breast did the fire of amor patriœ beam with a steadier or stronger
flame. He was chuck full of Kentucky glory, Kentucky valor, as well as Kentucky
fun. Yet another of the party was a young captain of an English merchantman,
who had been urgently pressed to partake of the feast, by some acquaintance
at the table not particularly mindful of the consequences. The Englishman evidently
found himself in a bad box--the set was not such an one as he had been accustomed
to, and the tone of conversation, and the behaviour of the Republicans, seemed
to be of a very novel character. He watched the motions of the
Kentuckian with some degree of apprehension, for his ideas in regard to Kentucky
and its inhabitants were of a very peculiar character, and he thought he saw in
the sample opposite him at the table all that wildness and ferocity which he had
been led to believe characterized the barbarians of the “ Dark and Bloody Ground.”
The Kentuckian was not long in perceiving that he was attracting a good share
of the Englishman’s attention, and silently determined to make the most of the
joke. The eyes of this man wore a singular expression ; one of them was a light
blue, and the other a dark hazel ; on the bridge of his nose, near the corner
of his right eye, was a small wart, which he had attempted to destroy with some
sort of lotion, and which had thereby been dyed quite black. These peculiarities
gave his face a queer and sinister appearance.
The first toast offered, from the head of the table, was, “Mary, the Mother
of Washington ! ” The Kentuckian seized a decanter, swallowed at least one-fourth
of its contents, and rising from his chair, deliberately dashed the bottle into
fifty pieces. “ That’s the way to drink that toast,” said he, and calmly
took his seat. The Englishman turned pale, for he began to think the next decanter
would be broken over his head.
“ I say, Thompson,” observed the Kentuckian, winking to a person next to the Englishman,
on the opposite side of the table, “ do you know that the man who gouged my eye
out the second time is now in this very city ?”
“ No, is he ?”
“ Yes, he is, I met him yesterday on the Paseo, and he sunk like a mud
turtle into his shell.”
“ Did you speak to him ?”
“ Devil the word, but I watched where he went to, and I am determined to fix him,
spite of the consequences,”
“ I think you had better not,” said the other, who seemed fully to comprehend
the Kentuckian’s desire for a little fun.
“ Perhaps you don’t know the circumstances of that
fight,” said the other, drawing himself up, rather proudly.--
“ The way it begun, you see, was rather queer. That man’s cattle used to get into
dad’s pasture, and one day I caught”--
“ Fill up for the second toast, gentlemen,” called out the President.
“ All charged.”
“The Star Spangled Banner ! ”
The Kentuckian contented himself with a wild and startling “ hip, hip, hurra !”
over this toast, and quietly resumed his story.
“ One day I caught a favorite Durham short-horned bull, cut off its tail and right
fore-leg, tarred and feathered it, and sent it home, in all its glory.”
The eyes of the Englishman were fixed upon the narrator with a glassy stare. The
Kentuckian continued his tale.
“ There were three brothers of them ; two came to me the next day to give me a
flogging. I killed one, by throwing him three rods over a stone-wall with a pitch-fork.
The other run and jumped into a horse-pond, where I pelted him to death with squashes.
The jury acquitted me, on the ground that I had merely acted in self-defence.
A few days after, the third brother--the one now in Havana--and myself, went out
a training, and fought until we were completely tuckered out. When we got through
we compared notes. He had got my right eye, and I had chewed off both of his ears,
and we made an even swap ; that was the way I got my eye back. A celebrated eye-doctor
came along a day or two after, and fastened my eye into my head again. Do you
see that?” (pointing to the black wart in the corner of his eye,) “that is
the head of the screw by which he fastened the eye to my nose, in order to hold
It would be difficult to paint the various expressions of disgust, terror and
alarm, which chased each other across the face of the Englishman during this recital.
When “ Old Kaintuck”
pointed to the “ screw” the Englishman could stand it no longer, but leaped from
the table, seized his hat and made for the door. At one bound, the Kentuckian
jumped over the table, and with a perfect Choctaw yell, rushed after the fugitive.
The last that was seen of the Englishman he was racing down the street as though
Old Nick was after him, while our friend from Kentucky had coolly resumed his
seat at the table and filled his glass for the third toast.
Source: Southern and Southwestern Sketches: Fun, Sentiment, and Adventure.
Edited by a Gentleman of Richmond. Richmond: J.W. Randolph, n.d. 121-124. University
of Virginia Alderman Library.
Erin Bartels prepared this typescript.
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