BRER RABBIT and the GIZZARD-EATER
Ever since I been pirooting round in these low-grounds, it's been the talk of them what knowed that Brer Rabbit was a mighty man at a frolic. I don't expect he'd show up much in these days, but in the times when the critters was bossing their own jobs, Brer Rabbit was up for pretty nigh everything that was going on if there want too much work in it. There couldn't be a dance or a quilting nowhere's around but what he'd be there; he was first to come and last to go.
Well, there was one time when he went too far and stayed too late, because a big rain come enduring the time when they was playing and dancing, and when Brer Rabbit put out for home, he found that a big freshet done come and gone. The drains had got to be creeks, the creeks had got to be rivers, and the rivers—well, I ain't going to tell you what the rivers was 'cause you'd think that I done told the truth good-bye. By making big jumps and going out of his way, Brer Rabbit manage for to get as close to home as the creek, but when he get there, the creek was so wide that it make him feel like he been lost so long that his family done forgot him. Many and many a time had he crossed that creek on a log, but the log done gone, and the water was spread out all over creation. The water was wide, but that weren't more than half—it look like it was the wettest water that Brer Rabbit ever lay eyes on.
There was a ferry there for times like this, but it look like it was a bigger fresh than what they had counted on. Brer Rabbit, he sat on the bank and wipe the damp out of his face and eyes, and then he hollered for the man what run the ferry.
He hollered and hollered, and by and by, he hear someone answer him, and he looked a little closer, and there was the man, which his name was Jerry, way up in the top limbs of a tree; and he looked still closer, and he seed that Jerry had company, 'cause there was old Brer Bear sitting at the foot of the tree, waiting for Jerry for to come down so he can tell him howdy.
Well, sir, Brer Rabbit took notice that there was something more than dampness 'twixt 'em, and he start in to holler again, and he hollered so loud, and he hollered so long, that he woke up old Brer Alligator. Now, it ain't make old Brer Alligator feel good for to be wokened up at that hour, 'cause he'd just had a nice supper of pine-knots and sweet taters, and he was laying out at full length on his mud bed.
He allow to hisself, he did, "Who in the nation is this trying for to holler the bottom out of the creek?" He listen, and then he turn over and listen again. He shut one eye, and then he shut the other one, but there ain't no sleeping in that neighborhood.
Jerry in the tree, he holler back, "Can't come—got company!"
Brer Alligator, he hear this, and he say to hisself that if nobody can't come, he can, and he riz to the top with no more fuss than a feather-bed makes when you let it alone. He riz, he did, and his two eyes look just perexactly like two bullets floating on the water. He riz and wunk his eye, and ask Brer Rabbit howdy, and more specially how is his daughter.
Brer Rabbit, he say that there ain't no telling how his daughter is, 'cause when he left home her head was a-swelling. He say that some of the neighbors' chillun come by and flung rocks at her and one of 'em it her on top of the head right where the cow-lick is, and he had to run after the doctor.
Brer Alligator allow, "You don't tell me, Brer Rabbit, that it's come to this! Your chillun getting chunked by your neighbors' chillun! Well, well, well! I wish you'd tell me whereabouts it's all a-going to end at. Why, it'll get so after while that there ain't no peace anywhere's excepting at my house in the bed of the creek."
Brer Rabbit say, "Ain't it the truth? And not only does Brer Fox chillun chunk my chillun on their cow-licks, but no sooner is I gone after the doctor than here come the creek a-rising. I may be wrong, but I ain't scared to say that it beats anything I ever is lay eyes on. Over yonder in the far woods is what my daughter is laying with the headache, and here's her pa, and 'twixt us is the boiling creek. If I was to try to wade, ten to one the water would be over my head, and if not that bad, all the pills what the doctor give me would melt in my pocket. And they might poison me, 'cause the doctor ain't say they was to be took outside."
Old Brer Alligator float on the water like he ain't weigh no more than one of these here postage stamps, and he try to drop a tear. He groan, he did, and float backwards and forwards like a tired canoe. He say, "Brer Rabbit, if theyre ever was a rover you is one. Up you come and off you go, and there ain't no more keeping up with you than if you had wings. If you think you can stay in one place long enough, I'll try to put you 'cross the creek."
Brer Rabbit kind of rub his chin whiles he wiggle his nose. He allow, says he, "Brer Gator, how deep is that water what you floating in?"
Brer Alligator say, says he, "Brer Rabbit, if me and my old woman was to join heads, and I was to stand on the tip-end my tail, they'll still be room enough for all of my chillun 'fore we touch bottom."
Brer Rabbit, he fell back like he going to faint. He allow, "Brer Gator, you don't tell me! You surely don't mean them last words! Why, you make me feel like I'm further from home and them what's done lost for good! How the name of goodness you going to put me 'cross this slippery water?"
Brer Alligator, he blow a bubble or two out of his nose, and then he say, says he, "If you can stay still in one place long enough, I'm going to take you across on my back. You needn't to say thanky, yet I want you to know that I ain't everybody's water-horse."
Brer Rabbit he allow, says he, "I can well believe that, Brer Gator, but somehow, I kind of got a notion that your tail mighty limber. I hear old folks say that you can knock a chip from the back of you head with the tip-end of your tail and never half try."
Brer Alligator smack his mouth, and say, says he, "Limber my tail may be, Brer Rabbit, and far-reaching, but don't blame me. It was that a-way when it was begiven to me. It's all jointed up according to nature."
Brer Rabbit, he study and study, and the more he study, the worse he like it. But he pleased to go home—there weren't no two ways about that—and he allow, says he, "I expect what you say is somewheres in the neighborhoods of the truth, Brer Gator, and more than that, I believe I'll go along with you. If you'll ride up a little closer, I'll make up my mind so I won't keep you waiting."
Brer Alligator, he float by the side of the bank same as a cork out of a pickle bottle. He ain't do like he in a hurry, 'cause he dropped a word or two about the weather, and he say that the water was mighty cold down there in the slushes. But Brer Rabbit took notice that when he smiled one of his smiles, he showed up a double row of tooths, that look like they'd do mighty good work in a saw-mill.
Brer Rabbit, he begun to shake like he having a chill; he allow, "I feel that damp, Brer Gator, that I might just as well be in water up to my chin!"
Brer Alligator ain't say nothing, but he can't hide his tooths. Brer Rabbit look up, he look down, and he look all around. He ain't scarcely know what to do. He allow, "Brer Gator, you back mighty roughening; how I going to ride on it?"
Brer Alligator say, says he, "The roughening will help you to hold on, 'cause you'll have to ride straddle. You can just fit you foots on the bumps and kind of brace yourself when you think you see a log floating at us. You can just sit up there same as if you was sitting at home in you rocking-chair."
Brer Rabbit shook his head, but he got on, he did, and he ain't no sooner get on than he wish mighty hard he was off. Brer Alligator say, says he. "You can pant if you want to, Brer Rabbit, but I'll do the paddling," and then he slip through the water just like he greased.
Brer Rabbit sure was scared but he keep his eye open, and by and by he took notice that Brer Alligator weren't making for the place where the landing's at, and he up and say so. He allow, "Brer Gator, if I ain't mighty much mistooken, you ain't heading for the landing."
Brer Alligator say, says he, "You sure is got mighty good eyes, Brer Rabbit. I been waiting for you a long time, and I'm the worst kind of waiter. I most know you ain't forget that day in the stubble, when you say you going to show me old man Trouble. Well, you ain't only show him to me, but you made me shake hands with him. You set the dry grass afire, and burn me scandalous. That the reason my back so rough, and that the reason my hide so tough. Well, I been a-waiting since that time, and now here you is. You burn me till I had to squench the burning in the big quagmire."
Brer Alligator laugh, but he had the laugh all on his side, 'cause that was one of the times when Brer Rabbit ain't feel like giggling. He sat there a-shaking and a-shivering. By and by he allow, says he, "What you gonna do, Brer Gator?"
Brer Alligator, say, says he, "It look like to me that since you set the dry grass afire, I been having symptoms. That what the doctor say. He look at my tongue, and feel of my pulse, and shake his head. He say that beings he's my friend, he don't mind telling me that my symptoms is getting more worser than what they been, and if I don't take something I'll be falling into one these here inclines what make folks flabby and weak."
Brer Rabbit, he shook and he shiver'd. He allow, says he, "What else the doctor say, Brer Gator?"
Brer Alligator keep on a-slipping along; he say, says he, "The doctor ain't only look at my tongue—he measured my breath, and he hit me on my bosom—tip-tap-tap!—and he say there ain't but one thing that'll cure me. I ask him what that is, and he say it's Rabbit gizzard."
Brer Alligator slip and slide along, and wait for to see what Brer Rabbit going to say to that. He ain't had to wait long, 'cause Brer Rabbit done his thinking like one of these here machines what got lightning in it. He allow, says he, "It's a mighty good thing you struck up with me this day, Brer Gator, 'cause I got just perexactly the kind of physic what you looking for. All the neighbors say I'm mighty queer and I expect I is, but queer or not queer, I'm long been looking for the gizzard-eater."
Brer Alligator ain't say nothing; he just slide through the water, and listen to what Brer Rabbit saying.
Brer Rabbit allow, says he, "The last time I was tooken sick, the doctor come in a hurry, and he sat up with me all night—not a wink of sleep did that man get. He say he can tell by the way I was going on, rolling and tossing, and moaning and groaning, that there weren't no physic going to do me no good. I ain't never see no doctor scratch his head like that doctor did; he done like he was stumped, he sure did. He say he ain't never see nobody with my kind of trouble, and he went off and call in one of his brother doctors, and the two knock their heads together, and say my trouble all come from having a double gizzard. When my old woman hear that, she just flung her apron over her head, and fell back in a dead faint, and a little more and I'd've had to pay a doctor bill on her accounts. When she squalled, some of my chillun got scared and took to the woods, and they ain't all got back when I left home last night."
Brer Alligator, he just went a-slipping long through the water; he listen, but he ain't saying nothing.
Brer Rabbit, he allow, says he, "It's the fatal truth, all this that I'm a-telling you. The doctor, he flewed round till he fetch my old woman to, and then he say there ain't no needs to be skittish on accounts of my having a double gizzard, 'cause all I had to do was to be kind of careful with my chewings and gnawings, and my comings and goings. He say that I'd have to suffer with it till I find the gizzard-eater. I ask him whereabouts is he, and he say that I'd know him when I seed him, and if I fail to know him, he'll make hisself beknown to me. This kind of irritate me, 'cause when a man's a doctor, and is got the idea of curing anybody, there ain't no needs to deal in no riddles. But he say that it ain't no use for to tell all you know, specially 'fore dinner."
Brer Alligator went a-sliding long through the water; he listen and smack his mouth, but he ain't saying nothing.
Brer Rabbit, he talk on; he allow, says he, "And there was one thing he told me more plainer than all the rest. He say that when anybody was afflicted with the double gizzard, they dares not cross water with it, 'cause if there's anything that a double gizzard won't stand it's the smell of water."
Brer Alligator went slipping long through the water, but he feel like the time done come when he pleased to say something. He say, says he, "How come you are crossing water now, if the doctor tell you that?"
This make Brer Rabbit laugh; he allow, "Maybe I oughtn't to tell you, but 'fore I can cross water that double gizzard got to come out. The doctor done told me that if she ever smell water, they'll be such a swelling up that my skin won't hold me; and no longer than last night, 'fore I come to this creek—it was a creek then, whatsomever you may call it now—I took out my double gizzard and hid it in a hickory hollow. And if you are the gizzard-eater, now is your chance, 'cause if you put it off, you may rue the day. If you are in the notion, I'll take you right there and show you the stump where I hid it at—or if you want to be lonesome about it, I'll let you go by yourself and I'll stay right here."
Brer Alligator, he slip and slide through the water. He say, says he, "Where'd you say you'd stay?"
Brer Rabbit allow, says he, "I'll stay right here, Brer Gator, or anywhere's else you may choosen; I don't care much where I stays or what I does, so long as I get rid of that double gizzard what's been a-terrifying me. You better go by yourself, 'cause bad as that double gizzard is done me, I got a kind of tendersome feeling for it, and I'm feared if I was to go along with you, and see you grab it, they'd be some boo-hooing done. If you go by yourself, just rap on the stump and say—If you are ready, I'm ready and a little more so, and you won't have no trouble with her. She's hid right in them woods yonder, and the hollow hickory stump ain't so mighty far from where the bank of the creek ought to be."
Brer Gator ain't got much more sense than what it'd take for to climb a fence after somebody done pulled it down, and so he kind of slewed hisself around, and steered for the woods—the same woods where there's so many trees, and where old Sis Owl starts all the whirlwinds by fanning her wings. Brer Alligator swum and steered, till he come close to land, and when he done that Brer Rabbit make a big jump and land on solid ground.
He might've got his feet wet, but if he did it was as much. He allow, says he—
You poor old Gator, if you knowed A from Izzard,
You'd know mighty well that I'd keep my Gizzard.
And with that, he was done gone—done clean gone!”