Wednesday, December 19, 2018

C173. Brother Rabbit's Bear Hunt

1: Brother Rabbit's Bear Hunt. Text Source: Uncle Remus Returns by Joel Chandler Harris. Online at Hathi Trust. I have removed the frame material and standardized the spelling; click here for notes to the story.


You want to know how come Brer Rabbit can outdo the other critters when he ain't got no tooths nor no claws and not much strength. Well, that's the very identual thing that the tales is all about. Look like he was born little so he can cut up capers and play pranks no matter whereabouts you put him at. What he can't do with his foots he can do with his head, and when his head get him in trouble that's deeper than what he counted on, he puts his dependence in his foots, 'cause there's where he keeps his lippity-clip and his blickety-blick.

It ain't been more than a good half hour ago that I was laughing fit to kill about the way Brer Rabbit done when he went bear-hunting. He sure had his fun, no matter if he went hunting or fishing, but when he took a notion for to go a-hunting old Brer Bear, he had more fun than you can shake a stick at. Some folks might not have liked that kind of fun what you can have when you go bear-hunting, but Brer Rabbit was monstrous fond of it, 'cause the kind of hunting what he done was a mighty queer kind, and the fun what he get out of it was the kind what make him laugh till he can't stand up no more than a week-old baby.

There was one time when the critters had laid by their crops, and they ain't got nothing for to do but sit down on a log and chew their tobacco and tell all they knowed and lots more besides. One day Brer Rabbit was going down the road, just to be a-going, when who should he meet but Brer Fox and Brer Wolf. They was ambling and a-rambling along together, just as chummy as you please, laughing and talking, and old Brer Rabbit joined in with 'em. After a while they sat down by the side of the road, and got to talking about their neighbors and about the dull times in general.

Brer Fox say there ain't nothing at all going on, no parties, no picnics, and no barbecues.

Brer Wolf say he's a old settled man, and he ain't caring much for parties and them kind of doings, but he like for to see young folks enjoy theyself whiles they are young and supple.

Brer Rabbit he up and allow that there ain't no dull times with him, 'cause it look he got something or another for to do every minute of the day whether he's at home or whether he's abroad.

Brer Wolf, he ask, "What you doing right now?" and then he look at Brer Fox and wunk one eye. He wunk mighty quick, but not quick enough for to keep Brer Rabbit from catching a glimpse in it.

Brer Rabbit wipe his mouth sort of slow life, and look up at the clouds floating by. He allow, he did, "Well, friends, if I hadn't have seed you all, I'd have been well on my way for to look at my fish-traps, and, that done, I'd have come 'roun' by my turkey blin'. I ain't got too much time, nohow you can fix it, an' when I does sit down, it's a thrip to a ginger-cake that I drops to sleep 'fo' anybody can head me off."

Brer Wolf say, "With me, it's different. When I lay by my crop, I always take a little recess, an' pass the time of day with my neighbors."

Brer Rabbit allow, "That's what make me stop here a little minute. When I gets home my ol' woman is sure to ask me who I seed an' what they say, an' how was their folks an' their fam'lies. You know how the women is - they'll tantalize the life out of you till you tells 'em who you seed an' what they had on. But me! I ain't got time for to tarry. I'm fixin' up for to go on a big bear-hunt tomorrow, an' it's a-goin' to take up all my time for to get good an' ready. My ol' woman been beggin' me not to go; she say she's all of a tremble, she so scared I'll get hurted somehow or somewhere. But that's the way with women; they make out they are monstrous scary, but when you fetch the game home, they always ready for to clean an' scald it, an' fix it up for the table."

When Brer Rabbit say this, Brer Rox and Brer Wolf flung back their heads and laugh fit to kill.

Brer Rabbit, he allow, "Friends, what's the joke? Be sociable an' let me laugh with you."

Says Brer Wolf, says he, "We are laughin', Brer Rabbit, 'cause you say you goin' bear-huntin'. You know mighty well that you ain't big 'nough for to catch no bear. Why, I'm lots bigger than what you is, an' I'd think twice 'fo' I started out for to hunt Brer Bear."

Brer Rabbit, he kind of smole one of his old time smiles. He allow, he did, "Yes, Brer Wolf, you are lots bigger than what I is; but will you an' Brer Fox head him off if I get him on the run?"

Brer Fox, he up and respond, says he, "You get him on the run, Brer Rabbit, an' we'll head him off; I'll promise you that much - we'll head him off if you get him on the run."

Brer Rabbit allow, "It's a bargain, then, an' we'll shake hands on it." 

It was a law among the critters that when they make a bargain and shook hands on it, there wasn't no way of getting 'round it; and so when Brer Rabbit made 'em shake hands with him, Brer Wolf and Brer Fox both know that if they was any bear-hunt, they'd have to be on hand for to head him off when Brer Rabbit got him on the run. They shook hands, but they ain't give Brer Rabbit as hard a grip as they might, 'cause they ain't had no notion of getting in a sure enough bear-hunt. That was one of the kind of things what they wasn't in the habits of doing. They kind of had the idea that Brer Rabbit was just a bragging, but when he make 'em shake hands, they begun to feel sort of skittish, yet they wasn't no getting 'round a bargain what they done shook hands on. 

Brer Rabbit ain't stay so mighty long after that; he say he got to go and make all his arrangements for to bag the game and to barbecue it afterwards. He flipped Brer Wolf and Brer Fox his so-long, and ask 'em for to meet him at the same place the next day. "Meet me right here, friends," says old Brer Rabbit, says he, "an' I'll show you somethin' that'll kind of stir you up and make you feel like that there's somethin' goin' on roun' here same as what there is in the adjoinin' county, where they hunt bear every day in the year 'cept Sunday." 

They say they'd be there, if nothing don't happen, and they ask Brer Rabbit what must they fetch for to help him out, and he respond that all he want 'em to do is to head Brer Bear off when he get him on the run. "I'll show you where to take yo' stan'," says old Brer Rabbit, says he, "an' all in the roun' worl' you got to do is to stan' yo' groun' and not get scared when you see him comin', and make a little fuss like you goin' to catch him. But you don't have to put yo' han' on him; I'll do all the catchin' that's goin' to be done. All I ask you is to stan' where I'll show you and make out you going to help me. All you got to do is exactly what you say you'll do — head him off when you see him comin'." 

Brer Rabbit went on down the road, singing one of the old time tunes, and Brer Wolf and Brer Fox sat where he left 'em and look at one another. 

After while, old Brer Wolf say, says he, "What the name of goodness you reckon he's up to?"

Brer Wolf grinned one of them there grins what make cold chills run up and down your back. He allow, he did, "He just tryin' for to fool us; he done got the idea that we are scared. If we go there, he'll say he mighty sorry that he ain't find Brer Bear, and if we don't go there, he'll laugh and tell it everywhere that we was feared for to stan' up to our part of the bargain."

Old Brer Fox grinned his kind of grin, and say, says he, "We'll be there, sure!"

Well, sir, Brer Rabbit went down the road a piece, and got off in the bushes, and lay down and just rolled over and over with laughing.

By and by he lay right still, and a little bird, sitting up in the tree, holler out, "Run here! Run here!"

Another bird say, "What the matter? What the matter?" 

The first bird make answer, "Brer Rabbit dead! Brer Rabbit dead!"

The other bird say, "Don't you believe it! Don't you believe it!" 

Brer Rabbit lay there, he did, till he got good and rested, and by and by he jump up and crack his heels together, and put out for home like the boogie-man was after him.

He went home, he did, and split up some kindling for his old woman for to get supper with, and flail out four, five of his chilluns, and then he sat in the shade and smoke his cigar. After he done et supper, he comb his hair, and took down his walking-cane, and put out through the woods, for to go to the place where Brer Bear live at. 

He got there, after so long a time, and helloed the house, and old Brer Bear come shuffling out and ask him in. Old Miss Bear set out the chairs, after dusting 'em with her apron, and Brer Bear and old Brer Rabbit sat there and confabbed just like two old cronies. 

After a while, Brer Rabbit ask Brer Bear is he hear the latest news, and Brer Bear say he don't expect he is, 'cause he ain't went out much, he been so busy cleaning the grass out of his roasting-ear patch.

Brer Rabbit pull his mustaches, and look at Brer Bear right hard. He allow, he did, "Well, sir, there's big news floatin' roun'. Brer Wolf and Brer Fox, they say someone been gettin' in their roastin'-ear patch, and they say they done seed some tracks in there what look mighty s'picious, mo' 'specially when they got on their for-seeing specs." 

Old Brer Bear sort of shuffle his foots and cross his legs. He say, "What did they do then? Whyn't they follow up these here tracks what they seed so plain?"

Brer Rabbit allow, says he, "It seem like they know'd pretty well where the tracks was goin' to lead 'em, and they was feared for to follow 'em, 'less they had mo' comp'ny for to come with 'em." 

Old Brer Bear lean down he did, and knock the ashes out of his pipe, and then he look at Brer Rabbit and grin till his mouth look red and hot. He say, "Feared for to follow the tracks, was they? Well, you can't blame 'em much, mo' 'specially if they know'd the tracks. What they gonna do 'bout it? They ain't goin' to just set down and let their roastin'-ears walk off down the lane, is they?"

Brer Rabbit kind of held his head on one side, and look at Brer Bear. He allow, says he, "I was just coming to that, Brer Bear, when you broke in on me. The news what I hear is that Brer Wolf an' Brer Fox is going to have a big bear-hunt. They done sent their invites to some of the neighbors, and the neighbors will do the drivin', whiles they does the catchin'. They asked me if I wouldn't help do the drivin' an' I tol' 'em that I'd be mo' than glad."

Brer Bear look hard at Brer Rabbit and Brer Rabbit look in the fireplace. "You said that? You said you'd be mo' than glad?" says old Brer Bear, says he. 

Brer Rabbit, he allow, "I mos' surely did. I tol' 'em that I'd get you started, and then they can do the catchin'."

Old Brer Bear laugh, and when he do that, it sound like thunder a-grumbling way out in the hills. He say, says he, "How much of a fam'ly is they got, Brer Rabbit?'

And Brer Rabbit, he respond, says he, "I can't tell you, Brer Bear, 'cause I ain't neighbored with 'em for the longest. I don't like 'em, an' they don't like me — an' that's the reason that I come for to tell you the news. I had the idea that maybe you'd like for to take part in this big bear-hunt that they going to have."

Brer Bear kind of scratch his head and lick his paw for to slick over the place. He say, says he, "It seems like I'm pleased to be there, 'cause if I ain't, they won't be no fun 't'all."

Well, they sat there, they did, and lay their plans, and laugh fit to kill at the old jokes that they swapped with one another, and the old tales they told. They sat there, they did, till old Miss Bear have to come in and tell 'em for goodness' sakes to go to bed, 'cause if they sat up and went on that away, there won't be no sleeping for her and the chilluns.

Brer Rabbit jump up when he hear this, and tell 'em all good night, and put out for home, and when he get there he can't get to bed for laughing.

Old Miss Rabbit, she stuck her head out from under the cover, and allow, "What the name of goodness is the matter? You surely have heard somethin' audacious in yo' rambles, an' now that you done woke me up, you just as well to tell me 'bout it."

But old Brer Rabbit, he's that tickled that he can't fish up words for to tell her; all he can do is to laugh and cough, and wheeze and sneeze, and keep this up till it look like he pleased to strangle or get suffocated.

But you better believe that old Miss Rabbit sat up with him till she find out all about it. And she ain't laugh when he tell her; she shook 'er head and allow, "You'll keep on with yo' foolishness till some of them other critters will catch you in yo' own trap — and then what me and the chilluns goin' to do?"

Old Brer Rabbit laugh and say that there's been widows and orphans ever since the world begun to roll.

Now, Brer Rabbit done tell Brer Wolf and Brer Fox that the bear-hunt was going to come off bright and early, and that they must be there where he left 'em at, and, sure enough, when he went down the road, there they was. He know'd that they'd been talking about him, 'cause they look right sheepish when he come up behind 'em. He ask 'em is they ready, and they say they is, and he tell 'em for to come on, 'cause they ain't got no time for to lose if they going to get any bear meat that day. they went along, they did, but when they get to where the bushes was thick and the shadows black, Brer Wolf and Brer Fox kind of hung back. Brer Rabbit see this, and he say he hope they ain't noways bashful, 'cause if they going to help him catch the bear, they got to stand up like they're well and not be droopy like they're sick.

By and by they come to the place where there was a blind path running through the woods, and Brer Rabbit, he say that he want 'em to stand right there, and if the bear come by they was to help him catch him. Says old Brer Rabbit, says he, "I'm a-hopin' that I'll catch him 'fo' he gets this far, and if I does, I'll holler; but if he's too quick for me — if he gets the idea that I'm after him, and starts to run 'fo' I gets my han' on him, mo' than likely he'll come this way. If he do, just stan' yo' groun', 'cause I'll be right behind him; just make out you goin' to grab him and hol' on to him till I can get him, and then our day's work will be done."

Brer Wolf and Brer Fox say they'll do just like Brer Rabbit tell 'em, and they took their places. With that, Brer Rabbit went loping through the woods just as gaily as a race-horse.

The place where Brer Rabbit make 'em take their stand wasn't so mighty far from the place where old Brer Bear live at, and it wasn't scarcely no time before Brer Bear was on the run, with Brer Rabbit close behind him. Brer Fox and Brer Wolf hear a mighty racket going on in the woods just like a hurricane was a-churning up the leaves and the trash, and, most before they know it, here comes Brer Bear, with Brer Rabbit close behind him. They'd have got out of the way, but they hear Brer Rabbit holler, "Head him off, there! Head him off! Hol' him till I get there!"

Old Brer Bear was a-coming like a pot a- boiling. His mouth was wide open and his tongue hanging out, and the blue smoke rised from him every time he fetched a pant. Brer Wolf and Brer Fox stood their ground, 'cause they feared that Brer Rabbit would have the laugh on 'em if they broke and run. They stood there, they did, and do like they was going to catch Brer Bear.

He come on with his head down, and his breath coming, hot, and as he run, he fetched Brer Wolf a swipe with one hand and Brer Fox a wipe with the other hand. The swipe that Brer Bear fetched 'em come mighty nigh taking out their vitals, and if you never is hear hollering before, you might have heard it then.

But Brer Bear, he kept on a-running, with Brer Rabbit after him, and as they run, they laugh fit to kill; and from that day to this, Brer Wolf and Brer Fox been giving old Brer Bear all the elbow room that he needs by day or by night. Brer Bear ripped open their hides from ear-socket to tailhold. For the time being they was mighty nigh ruined.

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