"Awful History of Young Dred Drake" by Mason Locke Weems (1818)

But few are the citizens of Greene county, Georgia, who have not heard of Noyle Nelms's race paths. Many a precious hour has been murdered there; and often has the silence of its pine groves been disturbed by the horrid oaths of noisy crowds celebrating their horse-races. But idleness and profanity are not the only concomitants of such cruel sports. No! for when young men, heated with whiskey, and mounted on fiery steeds, are bounding over the turf, who can tell how soon their rosy cheeks may become the food of devouring worms?

Dred Drake was a young man, naturally warm hearted and gay; and had it been his lot to have received the early light of education, 'fis probable he would have lived many years, a useful member of society. But, alas! it was his misfortune to have been neglected in his education; and hence sprung all his vices and misfortunes: for, in his rage after pleasure, "which is Nature's Law," instead of rising to the pleasures of the mIND, he sunk to those of sense, particularly to that of strong drink, in which he indulged to such excess, that the friends of humanity were always sad, whenever they saw him. But the days of his folly were but few. He was soon snatched away to bear awful witness to that general truth, "the wicked shall not live out half their days."

A match is made in Greene county, and the purse is to be run for over Noyle Nelms's race-paths. Notice of the same is given by plentiful advertisements stuck up, as usual, at blacksmiths' shops, taverns, and cross roads. At length the eventful day arrives; and the neighbourhood, for miles around, quitting their spinning-wheels and ploughs, are all in motion to see the races! By an early hour the piny wood, which surrounds the racepaths, is filled with a motley crowd-yonder, the delicate daughters of wealth, lolling at ease in their silks and chariots, waiting for the starting of the horses; and here the sturdier daughters of poverty, standing together in giggling groups, shining in health and homespun. On this side, a gang of smirky-faced negroes, each with a whiskey bottle sticking out of his pocket-and on that a troop of broad grinning Indians, with their brandy kegs and children strapped over their shoulders-while in rows, along the course, stand the whiskey wagons and cyder carts, surrounded by thirsty topers, thick as bees, all sipping away as hard as the smiling tapsters can fill, and hand their tin pots and noggins. Presently the fiery draughts begin to operate; dull care unbends from every brow; and all tongues are loosened to chatter; for honest Nature, now um-nuzzled by the whiskey, throws off restraint, and bids every man appear in his proper character. Some are singing-and some are dancing; here, they hug and fondle like brothers-there they curse and quarrel like enemies. The negroes laughthe Indians whoop-and all the wood resounds with uproar. No flock of black-birds lighting on an autumnal cornfield, ever raised such a chorus of ear distracting discords.

But hark! what dreadful noise is that? "A fight! a fightl" is the general cry. Instantly the people from all sides are running towards the crowded spot, but with widely different looks: some with pleasure in their eyes, like negro boys running to a dog-fight; but others, and particularly the young women, with faces pale with fright and calling on the names of their brothers supposed to be in the fray. The uproar is all created by a couple of big-limbed young boobies, rushing into furious combat. It had often been a question among their vulgar neighbours which of them was the best man. The poor blockheads knowing no better, and mistaking their shame for their glory, have long wished to try each other. And now,. accidentally meeting at the horse-race, (the proper theatre for such work) and being put up to it partly by vanity, but more by whiskey, they have grappled each other.

"Part 'em! part 'em! "-is the cry of some. But others of the more savage sort bawl out-"No touch! no touch! Hands off, gentlemen, hands off!- Hurra!-Now, then, crack away again my little game cocks! At it again, my Heroes!"

Rid now of all restraint, forward they pitch at each other like bulldogs. The contest, however, is but of short duration; for, one of the fools, in taking his dose of Dutch courage, had gone so deep into the whiskey bottle, that he was quite on the staggers, when the fight began; so that on the first or second thump he was tumbled over sprawling and helpless as a cotton bag. Whereat his antagonist, charmed with so glorious a victory, leaped into the air, and snapping his fingers, roared out, "Hurra, for me! a hard horse I am gentlemen, a proper hard horse, depend' may-be I an't a ROARER"

O the GLORY! the GLORY! the GLORY, of such an exploit as this! what young man of six foot by three over the shoulders, but must covet an equal fame? yes, they will covet it. See them now leaping out from the crowd, binding up their heads, and throwing off their clothes! Some strip to the shirt-others throw off shirt and all to the bare pantaloons and suspenders. Then boldly stepping forward, and striking their right-hand fists into the hollow of the left, with a noise loud as a pistol's crack, crossing their arms like boxers, and bawling out to each in his own blackguard phrases.


Another d-ns himself to h-l1, "IF HE CAN'T FLOG ANY SON OF A B-TCH ON THE WHOLE GROUND."

"Here I come, gentlemen!" roars a third, "Here I come! a screamer! yes, d-n me, if I an't a proper screamer; JUST FROM BENGAL! HALF HORSE HALF ALLIGATOR, AND WITH A LITTLE TOUCH OF THE SNAPPING TURTLE."

Up comes a fourth and more beastly still, rips out, "Hurra for little BONAPARTE, the Stud! yes, I'll be d-nd if I an't a TRUE STUD. O! may be I an't a ROARER."

A fifth now pushes forward, and like one ready for battle, thunders out-"Don't fight for nothing! d-n you, don't fight for nothing! fight for a horse."

Into the midst of this drunken crew, up dashes poor Dred Drake with red eyes and whiskey bloated face, bearing hard in hand a high mettled Tacky, and screaming out, "Clear the track! clear the track! d-n you, clear the track."

Though fit only for the pillory or prison, he fancies himself the greatest man on the ground. He can hardly sit on his horse, and yet hear how he roars, "Hurra for young Fulker! against horse, mare, or gelding, the best Tacky on the turf, d-n me! " That's a whaler! replies another young sot, half-shaved, for here's little READY MONEY can beat him high or low, the best day he ever see'd, for a hundred dollars all down upon the nail.

Dred's friends all gathered around him-"For God's sake, Dred, don't think of running! you have drank too much; my dear boy, you have drank too much. And, besides, only look how thick the pine trees stand around the course, you71 get your brains dashd out, as sure as ever you were born."

"D-n the pine trees," he replied, "who cares for the pine trees! I'll stave through 'em like a hurricane!- I'11 sweep 'em all to h-ll!"

In the same moment, the other horse by his side, and the word "go," given, he applies his whip, and off he drives, in the proper garb of a pineywood sot-no hat-no jacket-and his uncombed locks flying in every direction on the wind.

He had not gone above an hundred yards, when his horse under the lash, as hard as he could crack it, rather flying than running, started a little from the path, and in full lightening speed, dash'd his rider against the body of a pine tree. Knocked backwards, high above his horse's rump, he fell dead, without a groan, to the earth. Instantly in tumultuous crowds, the people all gathered around him, and were presented with as sad a spectacle, as mortal eyes ever beheld. He whom they had but this moment seen so brisk and gay, now lay there before them a lifeless lump, and so mangled that no friend on earth could have recognized a feature. There was not a sign of a nose remaining on his face, the violence of the blow had crushed it flat, miserably battering his mouth and teeth, and completely scalping the right side of his face and head-the flesh, skin, and ear, torn off to the back of his skull. One of his eyes, meeting a snag on the trunk of a tree, was clearly knocked out of its socket; and, held only by a string of skin, there it lay naked on his bloody cheek.

The next day the mangled remains of poor Dred Drake were buried. They were buried by his weeping brothers in a field belonging to his father. To this day the place where he sleeps is beheld at a distance with secret awe. The children, when they run to the door, before the hour of bed, listen with terror to the voice of the WHIP-POOR-WILL mourning from the oak that bends in darkness over his grave. The negro boys, too, as they seek their horses through the field, carefully shun the haunted spot. For often, in dead of night, a noise, they say, is heard, as of cracking whips, and the sound of horses' feet loud galloping over the race paths....