"Nimrod's Wildfire Tall Talk" by James Kirk Paulding (1833)

Wildfire: Madam, your most obedient.

Mrs. Wollope: Sir.

Wildfire: I believe your name is Mrs. Wollope.

Mrs. Wollope: It is.

Wildfire: Then you know my uncle, Peter Freeman. He tells me you have come among us to take a squint at things in general on this here side of the big pond.

Mrs. Wollope: The big pond? Oh, the Atlantic. That, sir, is my object.

Wildfire: Then I meant to say, madam, on that subject, I can out-talk any fellow in this country -and give him half an hour's start.

Mrs. Wollope: A man of intelligence. Pray be seated.

Wildfire (brings forward two chairs, sits on one, and as Mrs. Wollope is about to sink into the other, he throws his legs on it): Now, Mrs. Wollope.

Mrs. Wollope: The soldier tired. Perhaps, sir, you would prefer an armchair.

Wildfire: No, Madam, if it was just after dinner, I should like to put my legs out of the window.

Mrs. Wollope: His legs out of the window-a very cool proceeding, certainly. May I offer you a cup of tea?

Wildfire: Much objected to you, madam. I never raise the steam with hot water - always go on the high-pressure principle - all whiskey.

Mrs. Wollope: A man of spirit. Are you stationed in New York, sir?

Wildfire: Stationed-yes! But don't mean to stop long. Old Kaintuck's the spot. There the world's made upon a large scale.

Mrs. Wollope: A region of superior cultivation-in what branch of science do its gentlemen excel?

Wildfire: Why, madam, of all the fellows either side of the Allegheny hills, I myself can jump higher-squat lower-dive deeper-stay under longer and come out drier.

Mrs. Wollope: Here's amelioration. And your ladies, sir?

Wildfire: The gals! Oh, they go it on the big figure, too -no mistake in them. There's my late sweetheart, Patty Snaggs. At nine year old she shot a bear, and now she can whip her weight in wildcats. There's the skin of one of 'em. (Takes off his cap)

Mrs. Wollope: Feminine accomplishments! Doubtless your soil and people correspond.

Wildfire: The soil -oh, the soil's so rich you may travel under it.

Mrs. Wollope: Travel under ground, sir? I must put this down.

Wildfire: Yes, madam, particularly after the spring rains. Look you here now, t' other day, I was a-horseback, paddling away pretty comfortably through Nobottom Swamp, when suddenly-I wish I may be currycombed by 50,000 tomcats, if I didn't see a white hat getting along in mightly considerable style all alone by itself on top of the mud-so up I rid, and being a bit dubious, I lifted it with the butt-end of my whip, when a fellow sung out from under it, "Hullo, stranger! Who told you to knock my hat off?" "Why," says I, "what sort of a sample of a white man are you? What's come of the rest of you'?" "Oh," says he, "I'm not far off -only in the next county. I'm doing beautifully -got one of the best horses under me that ever burrowed-claws like a mole-no stop in him -but here's a wagon and horses right under me in a mighty bad fix, I reckon, for I heard the driver say a spell ago one of the team was getting a leetle tired."

Mrs. Wollope: What a geological novelty.

Wildfire: "So," says I, "you must be a considerable fellow on your own, but you had better keep your mouth shut or you'll get your teeth sunburnt. So," says I, "good-bye, stranger. I wish you a pleasant ride."


Wildfire: A gentleman? Oh, I'll put it to him like a gentleman, but if this had happened about ten years ago-when I was chock full of fun and fight-I wouldn't have minded doing it in Old Mississippi style.

Percival: Some mode peculiar to the wildness of the region?

Wildfire: Well, I'll tell you how it was. I was riding along the Mississippi one day when I came across a fellow floating down the stream, sitting cocked up in the stem of his boat, fast asleep. Well, I hadn't had a fight for as much as ten days -felt as though I must cover myself up in a salt bin to keep -so wolfy about the head and shoulders. So, says I, "Hullo, stranger, if you don't take care your boat will run away wP you." So he looked up at me slantindicular, and I looked down on him slaunchwise. He took out a chaw of tobacco from his mouth and, says he, "I don't value you tantamount to that," and then he flapped his wings and crowed like a cock. I riz up, shook my mane, crooked my neck, and neighed like a horse. Well, he run his boat foremost ashore. I stopped my wagon and set my triggers. "Mister," says he, "I'm the best man-if I ain't, I wish I may be tetotaciously exflunctified! I can whip my weight in wildcats and ride straight through a crabapple orchard on a flash of lightning-clear meat-axe disposition! And what's more I once backed a bull off a bridge." "Poh," says I, "what do I care for that? I can tote a steamboat up the Mississippi and over the Allegheny Mountains. My father can whip the best man in old Kaintuck, and I can whip my father. When I'm good-natured I weigh about a hundred and seventy, but when I'm mad, I weigh about a ton." With that I fetched him the regular Injun war-whoop. Out he jumped from his boat and down I tumbled from my wagon-and, I say, we came together like two steamboats going sixty mile an hour. He was a pretty severe colt, but no part of a priming to such a fellow as me. I put it to him mightly droll -tickled the varmint tin he squealed like a young colt, bellowed "enough" and swore I was a ripstaver. Says I, "Ain't I a horse?" Says he, "Stranger, you're a beauty anyhow, and if you'd stand for Congress, Id vote for you next 'lection." Says I, "Would you? My name's Nimrod Wildfire. Why I'm the yellow flower of the forest. I'm all biimstone but the head, and that's aqua fortis."

Percival: A renowned achievement. Well, Colonel, I feel it my duty before I leave New York to disclose the rumor I have heard to your uncle. Proceed in this affair as you think best, but remember, if you do meet his Lordship, it must be with the weapons of a gentlemen. (Exit)

Wildfire: A gentleman's weapons? Oh, of course, he means rifles. Maybe that Lord has heard of mine. She's a noisy varmint made of Powder House lightning-rod steel, and twisted like our Kentucky widow. She's got but one peeper, but if she blinks that at him, his head will hum like a hornet's nest-he'll see the stars dance in the daytime. He'll come off as badly as a fellow I once hit a sledgehammer lick over the head-a real sockdologer. He disappeared altogether; all they could ever find of him was a little grease spot in one corner. (Exit)