"Jones' Fight" by Thomas Kirkman (1845)

Col. Dick Jones was decidedly the great man of the village of Summerville. He was colonel of the regiment-he had represented his district in congress-he had been spoken of as candidate for governor-he was at the head of the bar in Hawkins county, Kentucky, and figured otherwise largely in public life. His legal opinion and advice were highly valued by the senior part of the population-his dress and taste were law to the juniors-his easy, affable, and attentive manner charmed all the matrons-his dignified politeness captivated the young ladies-and his suavity and condescension delighted the little boarding-school misses. He possessed a universal smattering of information-his manners were the most popular; extremely friendly and obliging, lively and witty; and, in short, he was a very agreeable companion.

Yet truth requires it to be admitted, that Col. Dick Jones was professionally more specious than deep, and that his political advancement was owing to personal partiality more than superior merit-that his taste and dress were of questionable propriety: for instance, he occasionally wore a hunting-shirt white fringed, or a red waistcoat, or a fawn-skin one, or a calico morning gown of a small yellow pattern, and he indulged in other similar vagaries in clothing. And in manners and deportment, there was an air of harmless (true Virginian bred and Kentucky raised) self-conceit and swagger, which, though not to be admired, yet it gave piquancy and individuality to his character.

If further particulars are required, I can only state that the colonel boarded at the Eagle hotel-his office, in the square, fronted the courthouse-he was a manager of all the balls-he was vice-president of the Summerville Jockey Club-he was trustee of the Female Academy-he gallanted the old ladies to church, holding his umbrella over them in the sun, and escorted the young ladies, at night, to the dances or parties, always bringing out the smallest ones. He rode a high headed, proudlooking sorrel horse, with a streak down his face; and he was a general referee and umpire, whether it was a horse swap, a race, a rifle match, or a cock fight.

It so chanced, on a time, though Col. Jones was one of the best-natured of men, that he took umbrage at some report circulated about him in an adjoining county and one of his districts, to the effect that he had been a federalist during the last war; and, instead of relying on the fact of his being a school-boy on Mill Creek at that time, he proclaimed, at the tavern table, that the next time he went over the mountain to court, Bill Patterson, the reputed author of the slander, should either sign a liebill fight, or run.

This became narrated through the town,-the case and argument of the difference was discussed among the patriarchs of the place, who generally came to the conclusion that the colonel had good cause of quarrel, as more had been said of him than an honorable man could staild. The young store boys of the village became greatly interested, conjectured how the fight would go, and gave their opinions what they would do under similar circumstances. The young lawyers, and young M.D.'s, as often as they were in the colonel's company, introduced the subject of the expected fight. On such occasions, the colonel spoke carelessly and banteringly. Some good old ladies spoke deprecatingly, in the general and in the particular, that so good and clever a young man as Colonel Dick should set so bad an example; and the young ladies, and little misses, bless their dear little innocent souls, they only consulted their own kind hearts, and were satisfied that he must be a wicked and bad man that Colonel Jones would fight.

Spring term of the courts came on, and the lawyers all started on their circuit, and, with them, Col. Jones went over the mountain. The whole town was alive to the consequences of this trip, and without much communion or understanding on the subject, most of the population either gathered at the tavern at his departure, or noticed it from a distance, and he rode off, gaily saluting his acquaintances, and raising his hat to the ladies, on both sides of the street, as he passed out of town.

From that time, only one subject engaged the thoughts of the good people of Summerville; and on the third day the common salutation was, "Any news from over the mountain?" "Has any one come down the road?" The fourth, fifth, and sixth came, and still the public anxiety was unappeased: it had, with the delay, become insufferable, quite agonizing; business and occupation was at a stand still; a doctor or a constable would not ride to the country lest news of the fight might arrive in their absence. People in crossing the square, or entering or coming out of their houses, all had their heads turned up that road. And many, though ashamed to confess it, sat up an hour or two past their usual bed-time, hoping some one would return from court. Still all was doubt and uncertainty. There is an unaccountable perversity in these things that bothers conjecture. I watched the road from Louisville two days, to hear of Grey Eagle beating Wagner, on which I had one hundred dollars staked, of borrowed money, and no one came; though before that, some person passed every hour.

On the seventh morning, the uneasy public were consoled by the certainty that the lawyers, must be home that day, as court seldom held a week, and the universal resolve seemed to be that nothing was to be attended to until they were satisfied about the fight. Storekeepers and their clerks, saddlers, hatters, cabinet-makers, and their apprentices, all stood out at the doors. The hammer ceased to ring on the anvil, and the barkeeper would scarcely walk in to put away the stranger's saddle-bags, who had called for breakfast; when suddenly a young man, that had been walking from one side of the street to the other, in a state of feverish anxiety, thought he saw dust away up the road, and stopped. I have been told a man won a wager in Philadelphia, on his collecting a crowd by staring, without speaking, at an opposite chimney. So no sooner was this Young man's point noticed, than there was a general reconnoissance of the road made, and before long, doubt became certainty, when one of the company declared he knew the colonel's old sorrel riding-horse, "General Jackson," by the blaze on his face.

In the excited state of the public mind it required, no ringing of the court-house bell to convene the people; those down street walked up, and those across the square came over, and all gathered gradually at the Eagle hotel, and nearly all were present by the time Col. Jones alighted. He had a pair of dark green specks on, his right hand in a sling, with brown paper bound round his wrist; his left hand held the bridle, and the forefinger of it wrapped with a linen rag "with care." One of his ears was covered with a muslin scrap, that looked much like the countrywomen's plan of covering their butter when coming to market; his face was clawed all over, as if he had had it raked by a cat held fast by the tail; his head was unshorn, it being "too delicate an affair," as - said about his wife's character. His complexion suggested an idea to a philosophical young man present, on which he wrote a treatise, dedicated to Arthur Tappan, proving that the negro was only a white well pummelled; and his general swelled appearance would induce a belief he had led the forlorn hope in the storming of a beehive.

The colonel's manner did not exactly proclaim "the conquering hero," but his affability was undiminished, and he addressed them with, "Happy to see you, gents; how are you all?" and then attempted to enter the tavern; but Buck Daily arrested him with, "Why, Colonel, I see you have had a skrimmage. How did you make it! You didn't come out at the little eend of the horn, did you?" "No, not exactly, I had a tight fit of it, though. You know Bill Patterson; he weighs one hundred and seventy-five pounds, has not an ounce of superfluous flesh, is as straight as an Indian, and as active as a wildcat, and as quick as powder, and very much of a man, I assure you. Well, my word was out to lick him; so I hardly put up my horse before I found him at the court-house door, and, to give him a white man's chance, I proposed alternatives to him. He said his daddy, long ago, told him never to give a liebill, and he was not good at running, so he thought he had best fight. By the time the word was fairly out, I hauled off, and took him in the burr of the ear that raised a singing in his head, that made him think he was in Mosquitoe town. At it we went, like killing snakes, so good a man, so good a boy; we had it round and round, and about and about, as dead a yoke as ever pulled at a log chain. Judge Nfitchell was on the bench, and as soon as the cry of 'fight' was raised, the bar and jury ran off and left him. He shouted, 'I command the peace,' within the courthouse, and then ran out to see the fight, and cried out, 'I can't prevent you!' 'fair fight!' 'stand back!' and he caught Parson Benefield by the collar of the coat, who, he thought, was about to interfere, and slung him on his back at least fifteen feet.

"It was the evenest and longest fight ever fought: everybody was tired of it, and I must admit, in truth, that I was" (here he made an effort to enter the tavern.) But several voices called out, "Which whipped? How did you come out?" "Why, much as I tell you; we had it round and round, about and about, over and under. I could throw him at rastle, but he would manage some way to turn me. Old Sparrowhawk was there, who had seen all the best fighting at Natchez, under the hill, in the days of Dad Girty and Jim Snodgrass, and he says my gouging was beautiful; one of Bill's eyes is like the mouth of an old ink bottle, only, as the fellow said, describing the jackass by the mule, it is more so. But, in fact, there was no great choice between us, as you see. I look like having ran into a brush fence of a dark night. So we made it round and round, and about and about" (here again he attempted a retreat into the tavern.) But many voices demanded, "Who hollered?" "Which gave up?" "How did you hurt your hand?" "Oh! I forgot to tell you, that as I aimed a sockdollager at him he ducked his head, and he can dodge like a diedapper, and hitting him awkwardly, I sprained my wrist; so, being like the fellow who, when it rained mush, had no spoon, I changed the suit and made a trump-and went in for eating. In the scuffle we fell, cross and pile, and, while he was chawing my finger, my head was between his legs; his woolen jean britches did not taste well, but I found a bare place, where the seat had worn out, and meat in abundance; so I laid hold of a good mouthful, but the bit came out; and finding his appetite still good for my finger, I adopted Doctor Bones', the tootlismith's, patent method of removing teeth without the aid of instruments, and I extracted two of his incisors, and then I could put my finger in or out at pleasure. However, I shall, for some time, have an excuse for wearing gloves without being thought proud." (He now tried to escape under cover of a laugh.) But vox populi again. "So you tanned him, did you?" "How did the fight finish?" "You were not parted?" "You fought it out, did you?" The colonel resumed, 'Why, there is no telling how the fight might have gone; an old Virginian, who had seen Francesco, and Otey, and Lewis, and Blevins, and all the best men of the day, said he had never seen any one stand up to their fodder better than we did. We had fought round and round, and about and about, all over the court-yard, and, at last, just to end the fight, every body was getting tired of it; so, at l-a-a-st, I hollered.-(Exit colonel.)