THE ORIGIN OF THE TWIST IN PIG’S TAILS.
FORT LEAVENWORTH, 5th April, 1844.
In ancient times, (they certainly, dear Mr. Editor, must have been very ancient, for few living have had access to the MS. from which the following tale was taken, for if they have, they are blessed with better memories than I am,) there lived an old fellow called CUT LEGS. Heaven only knows why he should have had given him so euphonious an appellation, but yet such was the case. His reputation as a keen, shrewd fellow, up to trap in all bargains, athletic, a tall and knowing coon upon the race course, and top of the heap at any thing he undertook, was bruited far and wide. It is said it even reached ears of his Satanic Majesty, and the idea that there should exist any one so near akin to himself, with whom he was not acquainted, caused his Majesty many sleepless nights. Rest came not to him, until he had firmly resolved so call upon Cut Legs and make his acquaintance. This determination made, it was immediately put into execution.
The Devil was soon at the little house in the village occupied by the renowned Cut Legs. He knocks at the door and is asked in.
“ Mr. Cut Legs, I presume ?”
“ At your service, Mr. Devil,” for Legs with his accustomed shrewdness, could not be deceived by “ the Old Boy,” spite of all attempts at concealment. This ready recognition, rather took the Devil aback, but soon recovering his self-possession, he entered into conversation. It was a long and pleasant one on both sides, a sharp rencontre of wits, the result of which was a most excellent understanding, and an intimate friendship was formed. Cut Legs was so pleased with the old gentleman that he pressed him to spend the night with him, promising good cheer, and, as an inducement (full well knowing the Devil’s aversion to anything cold) held out to him the charms and pleasures of a long and deep carouse over some of the best of Irish whiskey punch, which latter completely overcame any objections the Devil could have offered ; the invitation was readily accepted, and at it they went.
Cut Legs completely worked himself, or, if you please, insinivated himself into the affections of the Devil ; so much so, that the latter frankly told him, that he dreaded the hour of parting.
“ But why should that ever be, my old friend,” says Legs.
“ How can it be avoided ?” asked the Devil.
“ Most readily,” replied Legs. “ I feel in common with you the dread of saying that melancholy word ‘ farewell,’ and while sipping my punch I have been thinking of some plan, by which we can be forever at each other’s side, and never allow a moment to pass that we will not be revelling in the beauties of each other’s character, making life pleasant and merry, thereby proving to the world how mistaken they are in your disposition. I have hit upon this plan ; suppose (as I have an old sow with a fine litter of pigs,) we stock a farm and work it on shares ?”
Scarce had the proposition passed the lips of Cut Legs, than the Devil replied—
“ Agreed ! agreed ! How delightful it will be, my dear Legs, to employ ourselves in so romantic and rural a manner ; and besides, what incalculable benefit can we not be to the agricultural world by giving them the benefit of our experience in husbandry.”
They shook hands upon the bargain and swore everlasting friendship. A small farm was immediately purchased in the vicinity of the village in which Cut Legs resided, the old sow with her litter of pigs were comfortably ensconced in their stye, and it was resolved that their first crop should be corn. The corn came up finely and promised a good yield, and when it was ready to be gathered to the granary, Cut Legs proposed to the Devil, that they should divide the crops on the ground. The Devil was perfectly satisfied, but being wholly ignorant of the value of the crop, allowed Cut Legs to make the division.
“ Well,” says Legs, “ you take the roots and I’ll take the tops.”
“ Agreed,” says the Devil. Of course Legs got all the corn and woolled the Devil on the first division. Their stock of pigs increased finely the first year, “ were fruitful and multiplied.” The second year’s crop it was decided should be potatoes ; when they were ready to be gathered, the Devil thinking to get ahead of Cut Legs this time, proposed that, “ Legs should take the roots and he would take the tops.”
“ Agreed,” says Legs. Cut Legs of course got all the potatoes and woolled the Devil the second time. The Devil was perfectly astonished that there should live the man, who was keener at a trade or division, than himself, concluded that he had made a ------ bad partnership--this farming it on shares, with a gentleman of the intelligence of Cut Legs, was inimical to his diabolical taste, and he decided upon flying the track.
Cut Legs of course had enjoyed it with a zest, and was nothing loath to continue the business—“ all was wheat that came to his mill.” The Devil having determined to break with Legs, abruptly told him “ that he thought they had better divide the hogs (which by this time had increased to a respectable number) and dissolve partnership.” Cut Legs replied, with the blandest smile, “ Most certainly ;--just as the Devil pleases.” Previous to division the hogs were collected in one large pen, with two others built on each side to hold their different shares. They threw out pig for pig, when as they approached the completion of the division, it was found that the small pens would not hold them and that they had already intermingled.
“ Hello !” says the Devil, “ Cut Legs, what shall we do ? How shall we tell our pigs ?”
“ Oh ! most readily, I twisted the tails of all mine as I threw them out, and they will be easily recognised.”
Upon examination, to the utter discomfiture and mortification of the Devil, all the tails were found twisted, save one lean old sow, who from want of strength and old age combined, had let the kink out of her tail !
So Cut Legs again woolled the Devil, who rapidly made his escape from our worthy friend Cut Legs—put for the tall timber, and by the last advices from the Styx, the poor old man, still deplores the result of his acquaintance.
What a pity it is that we all have not at our elbow, some friendly Cut Legs to wool the Devil. That’s my private opinion publicly expressed. What do you think of it ?
Source: New York Spirit of the Times 14.10 (4 May 1844): 109. University of Virginia Alderman Library.
Erin Bartels prepared this typescript.
|We would like to thank the staff of the Library of Virginia Archives and Special Collections, Alderman Library, and Barrett Collection for their assistance. This page contains material in the public domain and it may be reproduced in its entirety or cited for courses, scholarship, or other non-commercial uses. We ask that users cite the source and support the archives that have provided materials to the Spirit site.|