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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Backwoods Bowie-Knife Humor

Eastern newspapers allowed themselves some latitude when reporting activities among backwoods types. The Brooklyn Eagle published the following in 1884:
Sixteen years ago “Old man” Jim Hardison, of Richilieu, Logan County, Ky., killed “Old man” Bob Bronson with an ax at a log rolling. Last Wednesday afternoon old man Jim’s boy George met old man Bob’s boy Harry, and the two young men interviewed each other upon the subject of their ancestors with bowie knives. George cut Harry’s heart in two and Harry opened a passage through which George’s intestines sought the daylight. It is a common saying among married people in Kentucky that it is a great advantage to have boys.
 The Atlanta Constitution ran the following short item in 1874:
A woman’s college has been founded in Little Rock. The scholastic day is perhaps divided among the fair pupils as follows: They rise at 6:30, take a morning snifter of gin and bitters, and practice with bowie knives till breakfast. Then comes revolver practice till dinner. The afternoon is devoted to poker. The evening is whiled away in a little more bowie knife practice, and finished with a whisky straight for a night cap. A young lady’s education is warranted complete in six months. Washing and Choctaw extra.
 (I'm not sure what "Choctaw" referred to.  Possibly chewing tobacco?)

NOTE: Reader Lyman Lyon suggests Choctaw beer. This from the Journal of Cultural Geography: "Originally a drink of the Choctaw Indians, Choctaw beer was a concoction composed of hops, barley, tobacco, fishberries, and a small amount of alcohol. When thousands of com miners found work in the Choctaw Nation in the 1880s, they quickly adopted "choc" as their favorite libation."

Harper's New Monthly Magazine published the following conversation between Parson Jones and a rustic fellow named Joab, from Alabama, who was prone to fighting: 
        “Joab,” said Parson Jones, “you are a good fellow at heart: why don't you leave off drinking and fighting, and be a Christian?”
        “Well, I can’t say, parson; seems like I jist can't do it, that’s all,” replied Joab, solemnly.
        “Just think of it, my friend,” continued Parson Jones, much encouraged by Joab’s apparent concern. “Don’t you ever get frightened at the idea of being killed in a fight, and going before your Maker fresh from a disgraceful, murderous scene?”
        “Well, parson,” drawled Joab, whittling away at a stick, and growing still more solemn, “in one of these here ordinary little fights a feller don't take no consarn about religious matters, ‘cause, you know, he don’t see no r’al danger in it; but when he gits into one of them ‘ere old tussles down in Alabam, and he feels the feller what’s a-fightin’ him stick his bowie-knife through his heart all up amongst his lungs and a-ticklin’ of his neck j’int with the p’int of it, things does begin to take on a sort o’ religious aspect—they does, parson, for a fact!”

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