Mules and Men

Chapter 8

  1. How the Lion Met the King of The World
  2. Sermon by Travelling Preacher

Y'all been tellin' and lyin' 'bout all dese varmints but you ain't yet spoke about de high chief boss of all de world which is de lion," Sack Daddy ' commented

"He's de King of de Beasts, but he ain't no King of de World, now Sack," Dad Boykin spoke up. "He thought he was King till John give him a straightenin'."

"Don't put dat lie out!" Sack Daddy contended. "De lion won't stand no straightenin'."

"Course I 'gree wid you dat everybody can't show de lion deep point, but John showed it to him. Oh, yeah, John not only straightened him out, he showed dat ole lion where in."

"When did he do all of dis, Dad? Ah ain't never heard tell of it." Dad spoke up:

Oh, dis was way befo' yo' time. Ah don't recolleck my self. De old folks told me about John and de lion. Well, John was ridin' long one day straddle of his horse when de grizzly bear come pranchin' out in de middle of de road and hollered: "Hold on a minute! They tell me you goin' round strowin' it dat youse de King of de World."

John stopped his horse: "Whoa! Yeah, Ah'm de King of de World, don't you b'lieve it?" John told him.

"Naw, you ain't no King. Ah'm de King of de World. You can't be no King till you whip me. Git down and fight. "

John hit de ground and de fight started. First, John grabbed him a rough-dried brick and started to work de fat offa de bear's head. De bear just fumbled 'round till, he got a good holt, then he begin to squeeze and squeeze. John knowed he couldn't stand dat much longer, do he'd be jus' another man wid his breath done give out. So he reached into his pocket and got out his razor and slipped it between dat bear's ribs. De bear turnt loose and reeled on over in de bushes to lay down. He had enough of dat fight. 

John got back on his horse and rode on off.

De lion smelt de bear's blood and come runnin' to where de grizzly was layin' and started to lappin' his blood.

De bear was skeered de lion was gointer eat him while he was all cut and bleedin' nearly to death, so he hollered and said: "Please don't touch me, Brer Lion. Ah done met de King of de World and he done cut me all up."'

De lion got his bristles all up and clashed down at de bear: "Don't you lay there and tell me you done met de King of de World and not be talkin' 'bout me! Ah'll tear you to pieces!"

"Oh, don't tetch me, Brer Lion! Please lemme alone so Ah kin git well."

"Well, don't you call nobody no King of de World but me.

"But Brer Lion, Ah done met de King sho' nuff. Wait till you see him and you'll say Ah'm right."

"Naw, Ah won't, neither. Show him to me and Ah'll show you how much King he is."

"All right, Brer Lion, you jus' have a seat right behind dese bushes. He'll be by here befo' long."

Lion squatted down by de bear and waited. Fust person he saw goin' up de road was a old man. Lion jumped up and ast de bear, "Is dat him?"

Bear say, "Naw, dat's Unde Yistiddy, he's a useter-be!"

After while a li'l boy passed down de road. De lion seen him and jumped up agin. "Is dat him?" he ast de bear.

Bear told him, "Naw, dat's li'l tomorrow, he's a gointerbe, you jus' lay quiet. Ah'll let you know when he gits here. "

Sho nuff after while here come John on his horse but he had done got his gun. Lion jumped up agin and ast, "Is dat him?"

Bear say: "Yeah, dat's him! Dat's de King of de World."

Lion reared up and cracked his tail back and forwards like a bull?whip. He 'lowed, "You wait till Ah git thru wid him and you won't be callin' him no King no mo'."

He took and galloped out in de middle of de road right in front of John's horse and laid his years back. His tail was crackin' like torpedoes.

"Stop!" de lion hollered at John. "They tell me you goes for de King of de World!"

John looked him dead in de ball of his eye and told him,

"Yeah, Ah'm de King. Don't you like it, don't you take it. Here's mah collar, come and shake it!"

De lion and John eye-balled one another for a minute or two, den de lion sprung on John.

Talk about fightin'! Man, you ain't seen no sich fightin' and wrasslin' since de mornin' stars sung together. De lion clawed and bit John and John bit him right back.

Way after while John got to his rifle and he up wid de muzzle right in ole lion's face and pulled de trigger. Long, slim black feller, snatch 'er back and hear 'er beller! Dog damn! Dat was too much for de lion. He turnt go of John and wheeled to run to de woods. John levelled down on him agin and let him have another load, right in his hindquarters.

Dat ole lion give John de book; de bookity book.  He hauled de fast mail back into de woods where de bear was laid up.

"Move over," he told de bear. "Ah wanta lay down too. "

"How come?" de bear ast him.

"Ah done met de King of de World, and he done ruint me. "

"Brer Lion, how you know you done met de King?".

" 'Cause he made lightnin' in my face and thunder in my hips. Ah know Ah done met de King, move over."  TOP

"Dad, dat lie of your'n done brought up a high wind," said Jim Allen, measuring the weather with his eye. "look a li'l bit like rain."

"T'ain't gonna rain, but de winds to high for de fish to bite.Le's go back," suggested Presley. "All them that caught fish got fish. All them that didn't got another chance."

Everybody began to gather up things. The bait cans were kicked over so that the worms could find homes. The strings of fish were tied to pole ends. When Joe Wiley went to pull up his string of fish, he found,a water moccasin stealin' them and the men made a great ceremony of killin' it. Then they started away from the water. Cliff had a long string of fish.

"Look, Gran'pa," he said, "Ah reckon you satisfied, ain't you? ~5

"Sho Ah'm satisfied, Ah must is got cat blood in me 'cause Ah never gits tired of fish. Ah knows how to cat 'em too, and dat's somethin' everybody don't know."

"Oh, anybody can eat fish," said Joe Willard.

"Yeah," Jim conceded grudgingly, "they kin eat it, but they can't git de real refreshment out dc meat like they oughter."

"If you kin git any mo' refreshment off a fish bone than me, you must be got two necks and a gang of bellies," said Larkins.

"You see," went on Jim, "y'all ain't got into dc technical apex of dc business. When y'all see a great big platter of fried fish y'all jus' grab hold of a fish and, bite him any which way, and dat's wrong."

. "Dat's good enough for me!" declared Willard emphatically. "Anywhere and any place Ah ketch a fish Ah'm ready to bite him 'ceptin' he's raw."

"Me too."

"See dat?" Jim cried exasperated "You young folks is just like a passle of crows in a corn patch. Everybody talkin' at one time. Ain't nary one of you tried to learn how to eat a fish right."

 "How you eat 'em, Mr. Allen?" Gene Oliver asked to pacify him.

"Well, after yo' hands is washed and de blessin' is said, you look at de fried fish, but you don't grab it. First thing you chooses a piece of corn-bread for yo' plate whilst youse lookin' de platter over for a nice fat perch or maybe it's trout. Nobody wid any manners or home-raisin' don't take de fork and turn over every fish in de dish in order to pick de best one. You does dat wid yo' eye whilst youse choosin' yo' pone bread. Now, then, take yo' fork and stick straight at de fish you done choosed, and if somebody ast you to take two you say,'No ma'am, Ah thank you. This un will do for right now.'

"You see if you got too many fishes on yo' plate at once, folkses, you can't lay 'em out proper. So you take one fish at de time. Then you turn him over and take yo' fork and start at de tail, liff de meat all off de bone dear up to de head, 'thout misplacin' a bone. You eats dat wid some bread. Not a whole heap of bread-just enough to keep you from swallerin' de fish befo' you enjoy de consequences. When you thru on dat side of de fish turn him over and do de same on de other side. 'Don't eat de heads. Shove 'em to one side till you thru wid all de fish from de platter, den when there ain't no mo' fish wid sides to 'em, you reach back and pull dem heads befo' you and start at de back of de fish neck and eat right on thru to his jaw-bones.

"Now then, if it's summer time, go set on de porch and rest Yo'self in de cool. If it's winter time, go git in front of de fireplace and warm yo'self-ow Ah done tole you right. A whole heap of people talks about fish-eatin' but Ah done to you real."

"He's tellin' you right," agreed Dad Boykin." Ah'm older than he is, 'cause Ah was eighty-one las' November, and was eatin' fish befo' Jim was born, but Ah never did get gennywine schoolin' till Jim showed me. But Ah teached him somethin' too, didn't Ah, Jim?"

"Yeah, Dad, yo' showed me how to warm myself."

There was a great burst of laughter from the young me but the two old men scowled upon them.

"You see," Dad said bitingly. "You young poots won't lissen to nothin'! Not a one of you knows how to warm hiself right and youse so hard-headed you don't want to be teached. Any fool kin lam hisself up in a chimbley corn and cook his shins, but when it comes right down to de  trimmins youse as ig'nant as a hog up under a acorn tree, he eats and grunts and never look up to see where de acorn is comin' from."

"Dad,please suh , teach us how to warm ourselves," begged Cliff. "We all wants to know."

"Oh, y'all done wasted too much time, almost back in de quarters now, and de crowd will be scatterin'."

"Dat's all right, Dad," urged Joe Willard. "We ain't goin' nowhere till we been teached by you."

"Well, then, Ah'll tell y'all somethin'. De real way to warm is first to git a good rockin' chear and draw it up to 't flop yo'self down in it lak a cow in de pasture. Draw it right up to de center of de fireplace 'cause  dat's de best.Some folks love to pile into de chimbley corn cause theys lazy and feared somebody gointer step on they foots. They don't want to have no trouble shiftin' 'em back and forth. But de center is de best place- so take dat. You even might ha' to push and shove a li'l bit to git dere, but dat's all right, go 'head.

"When you git yo' chear all set where you wants it, then you walk up to de mantel piece and turn yo' back to de fire to knock de breezes offen yo' back. You know, all de time  outside in de weather, li'l breezes and winds is jumpin'  on yo ' back and crawlin' down yo' neck, to hide. They'll stay on you if you don't do somethin' to git shet of 'em. They right there when you turn yo' back to de fire, They don't lak fires, so when you turn yer back to de fire,  de inflamed atmosphere goes up under your coat-tails and runs dem winds and breezes out from up dere. Sometimes, lessen you drive 'em out, they goes to bed wid you. Ain't y'all never been so you couldn't git warm don't keer how much kivver you put  on?"

"Many's de time I been lak dat."

"Well," went on Dad, "Dat because some stray breezes had done  rode you to bed. Now dat brings up to de second claw of de subjick. You done got rid of de back breezes, so YOU git shoes and set in yo' sock feet. Now, don't set there all spraddle-legged and let de heat just hit you any which way, put yo' feet right close together so dat both yo' big toes is side by side. Then shove 'em up close to de fire and let 'em get good and hot. Ah know it don't look  lak it but dem toes'll warm you all over. You see studyin when Ah was studyin' doctor Ah found out dat you got a leader dat runs from yo' big toe straight to yo' heart, and when you git dem toes hot youse hot all over."

"Yeah, Ah b'lieve youse right, Dad, 'bout dat warmin' business, but Ah wisht somebody'd tell us how to git cool right now."

The party was back in the camp. Everybody began to head for his own shack.

"See you tonight at the Jook," Jim Presley called to Willard. "Don't you and Big Sweet put on no roll now. Ah hate to see men and wimmin folks fightin'."

"Me too," said Wiley emphatically. "If a man kin whip his woman and whip her good; all right, but when they don't do nothin' but fight, it makes my stomach turn."

"Well" said Big Sweet crisply. "If Joe Willard try to take dese few fishes he done caught where he shacked up last night, Ah'm gointer take my Tampa switch-blade knife, and Ah'm goin' 'round de hambone lookin' for meat."

"Aw, is dat so?" Joe challenged her.

"Ah been baptized, papa, and Ah wouldn't mislead you," Big Sweet told him to his teeth.

"Hey, hey!" Gene Oliver exclaimed. "Big Moose done come down from de mountain. Ah'm gointer be at dat jook tonight to see what Big Sweet and Ella Wall gointer tal about."

"Me too. De time is done come where big britches gointe fit li'l Willie," Joe Wiley declared significantly.

"Oh, wese all gointer be there," Larkins said . " Say, Big Sweet, don't let de 'gator beat you to de pond, do he'll give you mo' trouble than de day is long."

So everybody got for home.

Back in the quarters the sun was setting. Plenty women over the cook-pot scorching up supper. Lots of them were already thru cooking, with the pots shoved to the back of the stove while they put on fresh things and went out in front of the house to see and be seen.

The fishermen began scraping fish and hot grease began to pop in happy houses. All but the Allen's. Mrs. Allen wouldn't have a thing to do with our fish because Mr. Allen and Cliffert had made her mad about the yard. So I fried the fish. She wouldn't touch a bite, but Mr. Allen, Cliffert and I pitched into it. Mr. Allen might have eaten by the rules but Cliffert and I went at it rough-and-tumble with no holds barred.

But we did sit down on the front porch to rest after the fish was eaten.

The men were still coming into the quarters from varlo parts of the "job." The children played "Shoo-round," a "Chick-mah-Chick" until Mrs. Williams called her four year-old Frankie and put her to sleep by rocking her and singing "Mister Frog."

It wasn't black dark, but night was peeping around the corner. The quarters were getting alive. Woofing, threats and brags up and down the line.

Three figures in the dusk-dark detached themselves from the railroad track and came walking into the quarters. A tall black grim-faced man with a rusty black reticule, followed by two women.

Everybody thought he was a bootlegger and yelled orders to him to that effect. He paid no attention, but set down his bag slowly, opened it still slower and took out a dog-eared Bible and opened it. The crowd quieted down. They knew he was a travelling preacher, a "stump-knocker" in the language of the "job."

Some fell silent to listen. Others sucked their teeth and either went back into their houses or went on to the jook.

When he had a reasonable amount of attention he nodded to the woman at his left and she raised "Death comes a Creepin' " and the crowd helped out. At the end the preacher began:4

You all done been over in Pentecost (got to feeling spiritual by singing) and now we going to talk about de woman that was taken from man. I take my text from Genesis two and twenty-one (Gen. 2:21)

Behold de Rib!

Now, my beloved,

Behold means to look and see.

Look at dis woman God done made,

But first thing, ah hah!

Ah wants you to gaze upon God's previous works.

Almighty and arisen God, hah!

Peace-giving and prayer-hearing God,

High-riding and strong armed God

Walking acrost his globe creation, hah!

Death Comes a Creepin'

Wid de blue elements for a helmet

And a wall of fire round his feet

He wakes de sun every morning from his fiery bed

Wid de breath of his smile

And commands de moon wid his eyes.

And Oh

Wid de eye of Faith

I can see him

Standing out on de eaves of ether

Breathing clouds from out his nostrils,

Blowing storms from 'tween his lips I can see!

Him seize de mighty axe of his proving powre

And smite the stubborn-standing space,

And laid it wide open in a mighty gash--

Making a place to hold de world

I can see him

Molding de world out of thought and power

And whirling it out on its eternal track,

Ah hah, my strong armded God!

He set de blood red eye of de sun in de sky

 And told it,

Wait, wait! Wait there till Shiloh come

 I can see!

Him mold de mighty mountains

And melting de skies into seas.

Oh, Behold, and look and see! hah

We see in de beginning

He made de bestes every one after its kind,

De birds that fly de trackless air,

De fishes dat swim de mighty deep

Male and fee-male, hah!

Then he took of de dust of de earth

And made man in his own image.

And man was alone,

Even de lion had a mate

So God shook his head

And a thousand million diamonds

 Flew out from his glittering crown

And studded de evening sky and made de stars.

So God put Adam into a deep sleep

 And took out a bone, ah hah!

And it is said that it was a rib.

Behold, de rib!

A bone out of a man's side.

 He put de man to sleep and made wo-man,

And men and women been sleeping together ever since.

Behold de rib!

Brothers, if God Had taken dat bone out of man's head

He would have meant for woman to rule, hah

If he had taken a bone out of his foot,

 He would have meant for us to dominize and rule.

He could have made her out of back-bone

 And then she would have been behind us.

But, no, God Amighty, he took de bone out of his side

 So dat places de woman beside us;

Hah! God knowed his own mind.

Behold de rib!

And now I leave dis thought wid you,

 Let us all go marchin' up to de gates of Glory.

 Tramp! tramp! tramp!

In step wid de host dat John saw.

Male and female like God made us

Side by side.

Oh, behold de rib!

 And less all set-down in Glory together

Right round his glorified throne

And praise his name forever.Amen. TOP

At the end of the sermon the woman on the preacher's left raised "Been a Listenin' All de Night Long," and th preacher descended from his fiery cloud and lifted the collection in his hat. The singers switched to, "You Can't Hide Sinners, You Can't Hide." The sparse contribution taken, the trio drifted back into the darkness of the railroad, walking towards Kissimmee.

Chapter 7 | Chapter 9

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