Wednesday, December 19, 2018

C182. Brer Rabbit's Eating Contest

Seven Tales of Uncle Remus, 4: Brother Rabbit's Barbecue or How Brother Bear Exposed Brother Rabbit at the Barbecue The story was published in Dixie (April 1892), and that text was republished in Chase. I have removed the frame material and standardized the spelling; click here for notes to the story.

One Saturday when the critters was done through with the week's work and whiles they was a-sitting around in the sun, whittling sticks and talking politics, they got to disputing about which of them can eat the most. If you ask me how the dispute arose, I'm never is to tell you. They was going on talking and first news they knowed they was disputing about their appetite.

Brag breeds brag, and it weren't long 'fore they was a-jawing and a-contending just like you hear the white folks do. Brer Wolf say he never is see the day when he had enough to eat. Brer Bear allowed he believed he can eat a horse if he had salt for to go with it. Brer Fox say he can eat just as much as the next man.

All had their say-so, and then they look at Brer Rabbit. Brer Rabbit he sat back he did and chewed his tobacco, crossed his legs, and shut his eyes slow, like he done sent his mind off somewheres. Then he sort of laughed. This kind of fret the other critters and they begun to make game of him.

Then Brer Rabbit allowed says he that if the other critters will just come to time he'll show 'em what eating is. "Just gimme a show," says he, "and I'll eat more than all put together, let alone one of you. If I don't do it, you can have my hat says he."

So they all had a confab and they give it out that they was going to have a barbecue. Then they got up the barbecue they did and I hear tell it was a mighty nice one. They had shote, and they had sheep, and gravy. They got it good and ready and put it on the long table and then they ask where was Brer Rabbit. They been so busy they ain't miss him. They look for him and they call him but they ain't find him. The barbecue smell so good that the critters fairly dribble at the mouth.

And just about the time that they was going to whirl in and wipe it up, they see Brer Rabbit coming across the hill. He had on a long cloak, and he walk with a cane, slow, like you see old folks do. When Brer Rabbit come up, the critters ask him what the matter.

"Sick, mighty sick," says he; "a little more and I'd've never got this far in the round world."

Then all of 'em ask, "What the matter, Brer Rabbit, what the matter?"

Brer Rabbit allow, says he, "Don't holler so; I got the headache. Don't you run up against me; I got the backache. I went down in the swamp after some calamus root, and got my foots wet," says he. 'That give me a bad cold and the cold flewed to my head, and spread out on my back, and dropped down in my legs, and if I don't be laid up with the pleurisy I'd like to know the reason."

Well, then, there they was - Brer Rabbit with his long cloak on, and his neck all tied up, and feeling mighty weak and bad, and all the other critters feeling mighty hungry. When a man get sure enough hungry, he mighty apt to be mad. Same way with the critters. They was mad. More than that they all had their suspicions of Brer Rabbit. First and last there weren't none of 'em but what he'd played his pranks on, and then they seed him walking around with a cane and all wrapped up, they begun to jower at him. They ask him what he make 'em get up all this great to-do if he gonna git sick, and if he sick, how he beat 'em all a-eating?

Brer Rabbit allow, says he, that he surely is feeling mighty bad, his pulse running high, and he ain't got no appetite, but rather than be outdone he come spite of his sickness. If he can't beat 'em eating, well and good; if he can, so much the better.

This make the critters feel some better, and it weren't long 'fore they took their stand at the table and made ready for the trial. The vittles was put in piles, and the pile at the place where they made Brer Rabbit stand was the biggest of all. The meat in that pile was in hunks. They fix it that way so Brer Rabbit can't chew it fast. He look at it, he did, and allow, says he, "The bet is bones and all."

The critters looked at one another like they was took down, but they pleased to agree.

Brer Rabbit allow, says he, "Bones and all! Give the word!"

So they give the word, and then there was a scramble and a scuffle. Most 'fore you can turn 'round, Brer Rabbit holler out, says he, "Fetch on your vittles! Give me a showing!"

The critters look at him, and they seed that Brer Rabbit is done wallop up his pile of vittles, and was a-reaching out for more. They fetch him some more, and he wiped that up, but whiles Bre Bear was gnawing on a bone he kept one eye on Brer Rabbit, and he seed him drop the meat down in his cloak.

Brer Bear ain't say nothing; he just wait, and when there weren't no more vittles in sight, he say he expect they'll have to agree that Brer Rabbit had done 'em all. Then Bear Bear make out he want to shake Brer Rabbit by he hand, but he caught hold of the cloak, he did, and jerked it off, and there they saw a great big bag what had been hid behind it. Brer Rabbit give himself a flirt and shook loose from the bag and made for the bushes with all the critters in full cry after him. They might out-eat him, but I be blessed if they can catch him.

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