Nov 3 2008
07:44 am
By: WhitesCreek

By Ray Collett

Due to our "Fall Festival", Halloween, "Yonder Hollow's opening up again, and the first "Murder Mystery," I received permission from David Sliger, Class of 1954, to use one of his stories. David grew up around Pine Hill, Tn. and his younger days were similar to ours. Here is one of David's stories.

Ray: here's another story. now a turkey raiser was a philosopher and fount of wisdom. I got this term from my granddad who always started his stories with the expression "now this old turkey raiser...."

Reuben Hawker and the Possum Hunt

Back in the days of my youth growing up in Pine Hill there was a strong sense of individualism and fierce independence. A man would have to be nigh at starvation's door before he would ask of his neighbors for assistance or victuals.
I well remember one such family by the name of Hawker who lived on a wind-swept hill that was cut by gullies and covered with sage brush and second growth locust sprouts, and even for the barren, thin rocky soil of Pine Hill, was known as poor land. Now the Hawkers were a large family of some ten or twelve youngens, their Mama and various and sundry kinfolks all living in a ramshackle, four room slab shack with a leaky, oak shingle roof. The head of the clan was Reuben Hawker who never seemed to make ends meet. He would try, no doubt of that, but his endeavors as a farmer fell way short in providing for his family. His youngens were always threadbare and poorly shod, to say the least, and were thin as rails and wan of countenance from a poor diet -when available- of white beans, fried fatback and turnip greens. I recall one time when his two oldest boys had to share a pair of shoes. Reuben could not afford to buy shoes for the both of of them. The other youngens fared better because they could wear the hand-me-downs of the older ones. Anyway, the two boys would come to school with one wearing the shoes one day and the other the next day. Then one day - I believe it was Arlous Rakestraw - suggested that why didn't they both wear one shoe each? This seemed like a reasonable solution at the time, so accordingly, they each wore one shoe from then on; never once thinking they looked strange. Far as that goes, neither did we. Why, they even swapped shoes on alternate days so that their one unshod foot could experience some relief from the extreme discomfort of walking through he heavy frosts of winter. You know, I ran into the Hawker brothers one day years later over at Parker's store, and noticed that they both walked with a pronounced limp. They opined that the limp came from all those years walking around wearing only one shoe.
Now, if Reuben couldn't see for his family, he could maintain a goodly number of various breeds of hunting hounds. You see, old Reuben had himself one vice; namely he loved to hunt possums and sit around a blazing fire out in the woods with his friends on a bitter, cold winter night listening to the sweet music of the trailing hounds, sipping from a jug of corn liquor and telling lies; which brings me to the context of this true story.
It was a bitter cold, sleety night in late December when Reuben got down his lantern and slipped his jar of shine into his overall jumper pocket and commenced to call up his hounds for a hunt. Now at the time, Reuben had him the most audacious redbone hound a body had ever seen. This poor old hound must have been pushing ten or twelve years which is way too old for a hound to still be hunting. This hound's name was Baptist Preacher, or "B.P." as Reuben usually called him. One of the wags out at Parker's store in McDonald once asked Reuben where in the world had he ever come up with such a name for his redbone. Reuben tongued his cud over to his other cheek and laconically replied: "wal, old B.P. now, he's allus chasing atter bitch hounds and he shore does like fried chicken, so I figured I ort to name him Baptist Preacher."
Old B.P. had him another characteristic that you don't usually find in a redbone hound; he had got run over by a fast-moving buggy one day while indulging in his favorite pastime of chasing after a bitch hound, and got his back broke which rendered him paralyzed in his back legs. Now, old B.P. sure was a caution as he drug himself around through the hills and valleys of Pine Hill pulling himself along with his front legs. He got to where he could move fairly swift like, and for sure it didn't affect his keen nose when it came to trailing a possum.
To expedite old B.P.'s potential and enhance his possum hunting endeavors, Reuben devised a sure-fire method for using old B.P. What he done, Reuben did, was modify a wheelbarrow with sideboards nailed on and B.P. would sit there in that wheelbarrow on a tow sack with Reuben pushing him along and would yodel loud when he struck a possum scent and had even evolved to the extent he would turn his head and stare unblinkingly in the direction he wanted Reuben to push. Reuben had also attached a hickory limb outrigger to the front of the wheelbarrow from which he hung his lantern to light the way.
Anyhow, Reuben set out through the cold sleet dutifully pushing the wheelbarrow with old B.P. setting there with his tongue lolled out tasting and sniffing the freezing night air for the salivating scent of possum. They soon reached the hilltop where several other hunters had gathered with their hounds around a roaring hickory fire, and they shouted their greetings to the laboring Reuben as he wheeled up with B.P. setting there erect in the wheelbarrow with a haughty grin on his old scarred face as he disdainfully eyed the other hounds lolling around with their eyes reflecting red from the blazing fire.
After taking several hits from the jar of corn liquor Reuben passed around, the men commenced to tell stories about their hounds' prowess, and how this one and that one had treed more dadblamed possums than a body could tote in a two-mule wagon. Reuben didn't say nothing; just stood there drinking and grinning as he contemplated the noble head of old B.P. still in the wheelbarrow waiting for the hunt to commence.
After a spell B.P.s' head snapped erect and he let out a yodel that carried far and echoed eerily from the deep, and darkly ominous hollows. B.P. had garnered a hot and heart-thumping aroma from the cold night air and was raring to commence trailing. Reuben slid his jar back in his jumper pocket and hefting the wheelbarrow handles, set out at a lope through the icy woods with the lantern swinging wildly where it hung from the hickory pole dimly lighting the way and casting eerie and mottled shadows in the frozen, silent woods.
The men back at the fire all laughed loudly and slapped their legs in derision as they watched the lantern fade out of sight. Pretty soon their laughter turned to rapt attention and they cupped their ears as they stood silent with mouths slightly gaped listening to the faint, but clear melodious yodeling of old B.P. as he caught the warm, musty aroma of a fresh possum.
Out in the darkness Reuben labored up and down the steep and slippery slopes as he followed the directions of B.P.'s turning head. First they cut up a steep hollow that threaded out atop Grindstone Mountain, and then down the other side until they hit out in the meadow fronting the Pine Hill road. B.P. was yodeling louder and louder and the panting Reuben was fair rushing along in obedience to the fast pivoting head. B.P.'s tongue was drooling slobbers right and left as he inhaled deeply of the good scent he was following. He pivoted his head sharply to the left, and Reuben obediently turned the wheelbarrow pushing fast as he could. They went up one hill and down the next, and cut through the hollow where the Brock family had their sorghum mill. Reuben's tongue was hanging out nigh as far as B.P.'s and his sides were heaving from exertion as he pushed harder and harder in time to B.P.'s loud bass yodeling. He was thinking to himself as he gasped for breath and tried to calm his quivering legs: "bydang this here must be the damdest possum a body ever seed. I'm dang nigh wore clean to a frazzle, and we ain't even ketched the varmint yet. I disremember ever seeing aery possum that could travel like this 'un."
Well, every good hunt must eventually come to an end with the possum either caught or hid out in a hollow sycamore, and this sleet- filled and freezing night was no different than a hundred others that Reuben and B.P. had shared. However, this one came to a conclusion in an unexpected manner and one which is still talked about out at Parker's store in McDonald.
All the loafers were standing on the store porch around dinner time the day following the hunt. The sassafras bushes and blackberry briars growing thick in the ditches along side the graveled road were hanging heavy with ice, and the day was heavy clouded with a cold, wet wind keening sharply in gusts up the road, and moaning sorrowfully around the corners of the old store. One of the loafers exclaimed loudly that Reuben was coming up the road pushing his wheelbarrow but B.P. wont sitting in it.
Reuben pushed on up to the store and parked his wheelbarrow and labored up the store steps where he gladly accepted the jar of shine one of the loafers handed him. After taking a long pull and getting his cud settled, he spit out into the road and told his story.
"Wal, boys I pushed that dang redbone all over half of Bradley county last night the whole while him a-yodeling and pinting his head as to which a-way that possum was a-traveling. Hells fire! I was plumb wore out, and then old B.P. sot in with the loudest carrying on a body ever heard. I was pushing him up the Brock road fast as the wind, when he pinted his head up towards the Brock's barn. I thought to myself, now by god, that shore is a funny place fer a possum to tree, but since old B.P. ain't never lied to me fer as I can recall, I pushed on up to the barn. Wal, that danged old redbone lept out of that wheelbarrow like he wont crippled up nary bit, and went a-dragging hisself into the barn and went into one of the stalls. I never heard the likes of carrying on coming from that stall, and it shore as dang didn't sound like no hound-and-possum fight! I rushed on over and helt my lantern up sos I could see, and by god! There was that damn redbone in there with one of Fred Brock's bird dog bitches what was in heat!
I was so dadblamed put out at B.P., I whupped out my old .32 Owlhead pistol and shot that sorry chicken-eating-bitch-chasing-rascal right smack dab in his crippled hindend! It shore seemed to of cured the old devil 'cause he lit out of that barn like a fox atter a rabbit. He's only hitting the high spots as he tore up the road, and I ain't seed hide nor hair of 'im since. And here all these years I been a-pushing that no-count sonofabuck aroundt in that dang wheelbarrow feeling sorry fer 'im!"
Reuben sat there on an upturned empty nail keg drinking from the jar slowly shaking his head side-to-side and looking down on his empty wheelbarrow with sad and somber eyes.
He finally set the jar down on the porch floor, rose to his feet and walked back down the steps without a word of farewell to the loafers and set out for his house.
He left the wheelbarrow setting there by the store porch where it remained for many years afterwards until it fell into decay and collapsed in a pile of slats and a ragged tow sack with only the metal rimed wheel remaining.
Reuben never did do no more possum hunting far as I know.

The End

from the pen of david sliger

Thanks David, David compiled his stories into a book last year and if anyone wishes to contact him, I will be glad to connect him with you by email to purchase on of his books.
...... Until next week, Ray

Lost Medicaid Funding

To date, the failure to expand Medicaid / TennCare has cost the State of Tennessee ? in lost federal funding.