"How Sally Hooter Got Snake-Bit" by William C. Hall (1851)

Our old acquaintance, Mike Hooter, made another visit to town last week, an' being, as he supposed, beyond the hearing of his brethren in the church (for be it remembered that Mike is of pious inclining, an' a ruling elder in the denomination of Methodists), concluded that he would go on a "bust." Having sold his crop of cotton an' fobbed the "tin," forth sallied Mike with a pocket full of rocks an' bent on a bit of a spree. After patronizing all the groceries an' getting rather mellow, he grew garrulous in the extreme, an' forthwith began to expatiate on his wonderful exploits. After running through with a number of "Pant'er an' Bar fights," an' several "wolf disputes," he finally subsided into the recital of events more nearly appertaining to members of his family. "That Yazoo," said Mike, "is the durndest hole that ever come along. If it ain't the next place to nowhar, you can take my head for a drinkin gourd- you can. an' as for that-ere devil's camp ground that they calls Satartia, if this world was a kitchen, it would be the slop hole, an' a mighty stinkin one at that! I pledge you my word, it comes closer to bein the jumpin off place than any I ever beam tell on. Talk about Texas! It ain't nothin to them Yazoo hills. The eternalest out-of-the-way place for bear, an' panthers, an' wolfs, an' possums, an' coons, an' skeeters, an' gnats, an' hoss flies, an' chiggers, an' lizards, an' frogs, an' mean fellows, an' drinkin whiskey, an' stealin one-another's hogs, an' gittin corned, an' swappin horses, an' playing hell generally, that ever you did see! Pledge you my word 'nough to sink it. "an' as for snakes! whew! don't talk! I've hearn tell of the Boa Constructor, an' the Annagan'er, an' all that kind o' ruptile what swallows a he-goat whole, an' don't care a switch of his tail for his horns; an' I see the preacher tell 'bout Aaron's walkin stick what turned itself into a serpent, an' swallowed up ever-so many other sticks, an' rods, an' bean poles, an' chunks of wood, an' was hungry yet- an' all that kind a hellerbelloo, but that's all moonshine. Jist wait a minute till you've hearn 'bout the snakes what flourishes up 'bout my stompin ground, an' how one of 'em come precious nigh chawin up my daughter Sal, an' if you don't forgit everything you ever knowed, then Mike Hooter's the durndest liar that ever straddled a fence rail. "Jeeminy, criminy! just to see him, one of them-ere great big rusty rattlesnakes, an' hear him shake that-ere tail of hisn! I tell you what, if you didn't think all the peas in my corn field was a-spillin in the floor, there ain't no 'simmons! talk about the clouds burstin an' the hail rattlin down in a tin pan! Why 'tain't a patchin to it! Cracky! it's worse nor a young earthquake -beats hell!

"Now, I don't valley er snake no more nor er she bear in suckin time 'specially a rattlesnake, cause you see it's a vermin what always rattles his tail 'fore he strikes, an' gives you time to scoot out'n the way, but the women folks an' my gal Sally is always, in generally, the scaredest in the world of 'em. I never seed but one woman what wouldn't cut up when a snake was about, an' that was old Missus Lemay, an' she didn't care a doggone bit for all the serpents that ever come along. That old gal was a boss! Pledge you my word I believe she was pizen- couldn't be no other way. Didn't never hear how that old petticoat bit the snake? Well, I'll tell you.

"She went out one day an' was a-squattin down, pickin up chips, an' the first thing she knowed she'd got onto the whappinest, biggest, rustiest yellow moccasin that ever you shuck a stick at, an' bein as how she was kind-a deaf, she didn't hear him when he gin to puff an' blow, an' hiss like. The first thing she knowed he bit her, slap- the all-firedest, biggest kind o' lick! You oughta seen that old gal, how she fell down, an' rolled, an' wallowed, an' tumbled 'bout an' hollered 'nough, an' screamed, an' prayed, an' tried to sing a paslin, an' played hell generally! You'd a-thought the very yearth was a-comin to an eend! Then she begin hollerin for help. Sez she, Missus Hooter, come here an' kill this here snake! Well, my wife run out an' fotch the old 'ornan in the house an' gin her some whiskey, an' she tuck it like milk. Torectly she sorta come to herself, an' sez my wife to her-sez she to Missus Lemay, sez she-'Missus Lemay, what hurts you?'

"'Snakebit!' sez she.

"'Whar 'bouts?' sez I.

"'Never mind,' sez she-'snakebit!'

`But, Missus Lemay,' sez I, 'tell me whar he bit you, so as we may put somethin to it.'

"Sez she, lookin kinda glum, an' turnin red in the face-sez she to me, 'It don't want nothin to it: I'm snakebit, an' 'tain't none of your business whar!'

"With that I smelt a mice an' commenced laughin. You oughta hearn me holler! If I didn't think I'd a-bust my boiler, I wish I may never see Christmas! I ain't laughed so much since the time John Potter got on the bear's back without no knife, an' rode him round like a boss, an' was scared to get off! I give you my word I fairly rolled!

"Soon as the old 'oman gin to open her eyes an' I see there warn't much the matter with her, my wife she grabbed up the tongs an' went out to kill the snake, an' I followed. When I see the reptile, sez I to my wife, 'Just wait a minute,' sez I. "Tain't no use killin him-he's past prayin for!' I pledge my word he was dead as Billy-be-damned! "'What made him die?' sez my wife to me. "'Don't know,' sez I-s'pose he couldn't stan' it.' "toreckly Mat Read he come up, an', when he beam what had been goin on, he was so full of laugh his face turned wrong side out'ards, an' sez he, 'Poisoned, by golly!'

"That old 'oman ain't been scared of a snake since, an' goes out huntin 'em regular. I told her one day, sez I, 'Missus Lemay,' sez I, 'I'll give you the best bunch of hogs' bristles I've got, to brush your teeth with, if you'll tell me how not to git scared of a snake!' She didn't say ne'er a word, but she turned round an' took me kerbim right 'tween the eyes! I tell you what, it made me see stars. I ain't said snake to her since.

"Howsever, that ain't tellin you how the serpent kinda chawed up my daughter Sal. I'll tell you how 'twas. You see, there was gwine to be a mighty big camp meetin down at Hickory Grove, an' we all fixed up to go down an' stay a week, an' my wife, she cooked up everything 'bout the house, an' all sorts of good things-bacon, an' possum fat, an' ash cake, an' a great big sausenger, 'bout as big as your arm, an' long enough to eat a week-'cause, whe said, Parson Dilly loved sausengers the best in the world. 'Well, when we got there I went to the basket what had the vittles in it, to git somethin to eat, but the sausenger wasn't there, an' sez I to my daughter, sez I, 'Sally, gal, what's come of that-ere sausenger?' "Then she turned red in the face, an' sez she, 'Never mind-it's all right.' "I smelt that there war somethin gwine on wrong. For you see the women folks 'bout whar I lives is hell for new fashions, an' one day one of them-ere all-fired Yankee peddlers come along with a outlan'ish kind of a jigamaree to make the women's coat sorta stick out in the t'other eend, an the she's, they all put on one, 'cause they s'posed the hes would love to see it. Well, my Sal, she got monstrous tuck up 'bout it, an' axed me to give her one. But I told her she had no more use for one nor a settin hen had for a midwife, an' I wouldn't do no such a thing 'cause how she was big enough there at first.

"Well, as I were a-sayin, camp meetin day it came, an' we was all there, an' the she-folks they was fixed up in a inch of their lives, an' there she was a fidgitin, an' a-twistin, an' a wrigglin about with a new calico coat on, all stuck up at the hind eend, an' as proud as a he lizard with two tails! Tell you what- she made more fuss nor a settin hen with one chicken! I was 'stonished what to make of that whoppin lump on behind. Howsever, it was 'simmon time, an' she'd been eatin a powerful sight of 'em, an' I s'posed she was gittin fat-so I shut up my fly trap, an' lay low an' kept dark! "toreckly the preachin it begin, an' Parson james, he was up on a log a-preachin, an' a-goin it 'hark from the tomb!' I tell you what, Brother james was loud that day! There he was, with the Bible on a board-stuck in between two saplins-an' he was a-comin down on it with his two fists worse nor maulin rails, an' a-stompin his feet, an' a-slobberin at the mouth an' a-cuttin up shines worse nor a bobtail bull in fly time! I tell you what, if he didn't go it boots that time, I don't know. "toreckly I spy the heathens they commence takin on, an' the spirit it begin to move 'em, for true -for Brother Sturtevant's old nigger Cain, an' all of 'em, they gin to kinda groan an' whine, an' feel about like a cornstalk in a storm, an' Brother Gridle, he begin a-rubbin his han's an' slappin 'em together, an' scramblin 'bout on his knees, an' a-cuttin up like mad! "In about a minute I hearn the all-firedest to-do, down 'mongst the women, that ever come along, an' when I kinda cast my eye over that way, I spy my Sal a-rearin an' a-pitchin, a-rippin an' a-tearin, an' ashoutin like flinders! "When Brother james he see that, he thought she'd done got good, an' he come down off the log, an' sez he, 'Pray on, sister!' an' the shes they all got round her, an' cotch hold of her, an' tried to make her hold still. But 'twarn't no use. The more they told her to 'don't' the more she hollered. 'Urectly I discover she'd done got 'ligious, an' I was so glad it kinda lift me off'n the ground, an' sez I, "Go it, Sal! Them's the licks! Blessed am them what seeks for them's 'em what shall find!" "The women they all cotch hold of her by the hair, an' commence wallowin her 'bout in the straw, an' sez I, 'That's right, sisters-beat the Devil out'n her!' an' they did tool I tell you what-the way they did hustle her about 'mongst the straw an' shucks was forked! In about a minute I 'gin to get tired an' disgustified, an' tried to make her shut up, but she wouldn't, but kept a-hollerin worser an' worser, an' she kinda keeled up like a possum when he makes 'tend he's dead! "toreckly she sorta come to herself so she could talk, an' sez I, 'Sal, what ails you, gal?' "The first word she sez, sez she, 'Snake!'

`Whar 'bouts?' sez I.

"'Snake,' sez she agin -'serpent! Take it off, or he'll chaw me up be God!'

"'Well!' sez my wife, 'that's cussin!' i

"'whar's any snake?' sez I.

"'Snake!' sez she, 'snake! snake!' an' then she put her han' on the outside of her coat an' cotch hold of somethin an' squeezed it tight as a vise.

"When I seed that, I knowed it was a snake sure 'nough, what had crawled up under her coat, an' I see she'd put her han' on the outside of her clothes, an' cotch it by the head. Soon as I seed that, I knowed he couldn't bite her, for she helt onto him like grim death to a dead nigger, an' I 'cluded 'twam't no use bein in too big a hurry. So I told John Potter not to be scared an' go an' grab the serpent by the tail an' sling him hellwards l 'Well, Potter he went an' sorta felt of him on the outside of her coat, an' I pledge you my word he was the whoppinest, biggest reptile that ever scooted across a road! I tell you, if he warn't as big as my arm, Mike Hooter is as big a liar as old Dave Lemay- an' you know he's a few in that line! Well, when Potter discover that she helt the snake fast, he begin feelin up for the reptile's tail, sorta like he didn't like to do it at first, an' then sorta like he did. When it come to that, Sal she kinda turned red in the face an' squirmed a bit, but 'twarn't no time for puttin on quality airs then, an' she stood it like a hoss! Well, Potter, he kept afeelin up, an' feelin an' a-feelin up, sorta easy-like, an' toreckly he felt somethin in his han'. I "'I've got him,' sez Potter. 'Well, I have, by jingo!' "'Hold on to him, Sal,' sez I, 'an' don't you do nothin, Mr. Potter, till I give the word, an' when I say, "go!" then, Sal, you let go of the varmint's head; an' Potter-you give the all-firedest kind on erjerk, an' sling him to hell an' gone!'

"I tell you what, them was squally times! an' I 'vise you, the next time you go up to Yazoo, just ax anybody, an' if they don't say the snakes up in them parts beats creation, then Mike Hooter'll knock under."

At this point of the narration we ventured to ask Mike what became of the snake.

"As I was a-sayin," continued he, "that was my Sal a-holdin the serpent by the head, an' John Potter he had him by the tail, an' Sal she was a-hollerin an' a-screamin, an' all the women, they was all stan'in round, scared into a fit, an' the durndest row you ever heam. `Hold onto him, Sal,' sez I. 'an' you, John Potter, don't you move a peg till I give the word, an' when I say "Jerk!" then you sling him into the middle of next week.' I tell you what, we had the awfullest time that ever I see! Let's liquor!

"That's the best red eye I've swallowed in a coon's age," said the speaker, after belting a caulker. "But how did you manage at last?" asked a listener.

"Well, you see," said he, "there was my Sal, an' there was all the folks, an' there was the snake, an' John Potter holdin him by the tail, scared out'n his senses, an' hell to pay! I was gettin sorta weak in the knees, I tell you, an' brother James's eyes looked like they'd pop out'n his head. "an' sez I to John Potter, sez I to him, sez I, 'John Potter, don't you budge till I say, "Go!" an' when I gives the word, then you give him a jerk, an' send him kerslap up agin that tree, an' perhaps you'll gin him a headache. Now John Potter,' sez I, 'is you ready?' sez I. `I is,' sez he. " 'Now look at me,' sez I, 'an' when I drop this han'kercher,' sez I, 'then you jerk like flujuns,' sez I. "'Yes,' sez he. "Then I turned round to Miss Lester, an' sez I, 'Miss Lester, bein as how I ain't got no han'kercher, s'pose you let me have that coon-skin cape of yourn.' "sez she, 'Uncle Mike, you can have anything I is got.' " "Bliged to you,' sez I. 'an' now, John Potter,' sez I, 'when I drops this coon-skin cape, then you pull!' "'Yes,' sez he. "'Now,' sez I, 'keep your eye skinned, an' look me right plumb in the face, an' when you see me drop this, then you wallum the serpent out. Is you ready?' sez I. `Yes,' sez he. 'Good,' sez I. 'Jerk!' an' when I said, `Jerk!' he gin the whoppinest pull, an' sent him kerwhop! about a mile an' a feet! I pledge you my word, I thought he'd a-pulled the tail of the varmint clean off!"

Here Mike took a quid of tobacco, an' proceeded. "I've been in a heap of scrapes, an' seem some of the all-firedest cantankerous snakes that ever come along, but that time beats all!"

"What kind of a snake was it?" asked a listener. "I'll tell you," said he. `Twarn't nothin more'n what I 'spected. Sal thought she'd look big like, an' when she was shoutin an' dancin about, that sausenger what she'd put on for a bustle, got loose round her ankle, an' she thought 'twas a snake crawlin up her clothes."

Mike left in a hurry.