Saturday, June 26, 2010

Brer Rabbit Takes Some Excercise

One night while the little boy was sitting in Uncle Remus's cabin, waiting for the old man to finish his hoe-cake, and refresh his memory as to the further adventures of Brother Rabbit, his friends and his enemies, something dropped upon the top of the house with a noise like the crack of a pistol. The little boy jumped, but Uncle Remus looked up and exclaimed, "Ah-yi!" in a tone of triumph.

"What was that, Uncle Remus?" the child asked, after waiting a moment to see what else would happen.

"New from Jack Frost, honey. When that hickory-nut tree out there hears him coming, she begins to drop what she's got. I'm mighty glad," he continued, scraping the burnt crust from hi hoe-cake with an old case-knife. "I'm mighty glad hickory nuts aren't as big and heavy as grindstones."

He waited a moment to see what effect this queer statement would have on the child.

"Yes, sir, I'm might glad, that I am. Because if hickory nuts were as big as grindstones, this here old calaboose would be leaking long before Christmas."

Just then another hickory nut dropped upon the roof, and the little boy jumped again. This seemed to amuse Uncle Remus, and he laughed until he was near to choking himself with his smoking hoe-cake.

"You are doing exactly what old Brer Rabbit did, I declare to gracious if you aren't," the old man cried, as soon as he could get his breath. "Exactly for the world."

The child was immensely flattered, and at once he wanted to know how Brother Rabbit did. Uncle Remus was in such good humor that he needed no coaxing. He pushed his spectacles back on he forehead, wiped him mouth on his sleeve, and began:

It came about that early one morning towards the fall of the year Brer Rabbit was stirring around in the woods after some bergamot to use for making him some hair grease. The wind was blowing so cold that it made him feel right frisky, and every time he heard the bushes rattle, it seemed to scare him. He was going on this way, hoppity-skippity, when by and by he heard Mr. Man cutting on a tree way off in the woods. He sat up, Brer Rabbit did, and listened first with one ear and then with the other.

The man, he cut and cut, and Brer Rabbit, he listened and listened. By and by, while all this was going on, down came the tree: kubber-lang-bang-blam! Brer Rabbit, he took and jumped just like you jumped, and not only that, he made a break, he did, and he leaped out of as though the dogs were after him.

"Was he scared, Uncle Remus?" asked the little boy.

"Scared! Who? Him? Shoo! Don't you fret yourself about Brer Rabbit, honey. In those days there was nothing going that could scare Brer Rabbit. To be sure, he took care of himself, and if you know anyone who refuses to take care of himself, I would mighty well like you to point him out. Indeed I would!" Uncle Remus seemed to boil over wit argumentative indignation.

Well then, he continued, Brer Rabbit ran until he sort of got heated up, and about the time he was getting ready to squat and catch his wind, who should he meet but Brer Coon going home after sitting up with old Brer Bull-Frog. Brer Coon saw him running, and he hailed him, "What's your hurry, Brer Rabbit?"

"Haven't got time to tarry."

"Folks sick?"

"No, my Lord! Haven't got time to tarry!"

"Trying out your suppleness?"

"No, my Lord! Haven't got time to tarry!"

"Do pray, Brer Rabbit, tell me the news!"

"Mighty big fuss back there in the woods. Haven't got time to tarry!"

This made Brer Coon feel might skittish, because he was far from home, and he just leaped out, he did, and he went a-boiling through the woods. Brer Coon hadn't gone far until he met Brer Fox.

"Hey, Brer Coon, where are you going?"

"Haven't got time to tarry!"

"Going to the doctor?"

"No, my Lord! Haven't got time to tarry!"

Do pry, Brer Coon, tell me the news."

Mighty queer racket back there in the woods! Haven't got time to tarry!

With that, Brer Fox leaped out, he did, and fairly split the wind. He hadn't gone far until he met Brer Wolf.

"Hey, Brer Fox! Stop and rest yourself!"

"Haven't got time to tarry!"

"Who is wanting the doctor?"

"No one, my Lord! Haven't got time to tarry."

"Do pray, Brer Fox, good or bad, tell me the news."

"Mighty curious fuss back there in the woods! Haven't got time to tarry!"

With that, Brer Wolf shook himself loose from the face of the earth, and he didn't get far until he met Brer Bear. Brer Bear, he asked, and Brer Wolf made an answer, and by and by Brer Bear snorted and ran off. And, bless gracious, it wasn't long before the last one of the creatures was a-skaddling through the woods as though the Old Boy were after them, and all because Brer Rabbit heard Mr. Man cut a tree down.

They ran and they ran, Uncle Remus went on, until they them to Brer Terrapin's house, and they sort of slacked up, because they had nearly lost their wind. Brer Terrapin, he up an asked them where they were going, and they said there was a monstrous, terrifying racket back there in the woods. Brer Terrapin, he asked what it sounded like. One said he didn't know; the other said he didn't know; and they all said they didn't know. This made old Brer Terrapin laugh way down in his insides, and he up and said, "You all can run along if you feel skittish," he said. "After I cook my breakfast and wash up the dishes, and if I get wind of any suspicious racket, maybe I might just take down my parasol and follow along after you," he said.

When the creatures came to ask one another about who started the news, it went right back to Brer Rabbit, but low and behold, Brer Rabbit wasn't there! It turned out that Brer Coon was the one who had seen him last. Then they got to laying the blame of it on one or the other, until they almost began to fight, but then old Brer Terrapin, he up and said that if they wanted to straighten it out, they'd better go see Brer Rabbit.

All the creatures agreed, the they started out for Brer Rabbit's house. When they got there, Brer Rabbit was sitting cross-legged on the front porch winking his eyes at the sun.

Brer Bear spoke up, "What made you fool me, Brer Rabbit?"

"Fool who, Brer Bear?"

"Me, Brer Rabbit, that's who."

"This is the first time I've seen you today, Brer Bear, and you are more than welcome at that."

They all asked him and got the same answer, and then Brer Coon put in, "What made you fool me, Brer Rabbit?"

"How did I fool you, Brer Coon?"

"You made like there was a big racket, Brer Rabbit."

"What kind of a racket, Brer Rabbit?"

"Ah-yi! You should have asked me that first, Brer Coon."

"I'm asking you now, Brer Rabbit."

"Mr. Man cut a tree down, Brer Coon."

Of course this made Brer Coon feel like a natural-born slink, and it wasn't long before all the creatures made their bows to Brer Rabbit and moseyed off home.

"Brother Rabbit had the best of it all along," said the little boy, after waiting to see whether there was a sequel to the story.

"Oh, did he ever!" exclaimed Uncle Remus. "Brer Rabbit was a mighty man in those days."

* Source: Joel Chandler Harris, Nights with Uncle Remus: Myths and Legends of the Old Plantation published in 1883
This version found online at End of the World Tales (D.L. Ashliman)