WHY BRER DOG IS TAME
Old Brer Dog was even about like he is these days, scratching for fleas, and growling over his vittles instead of saying grace, and burying the bones when he had one too many. He was just like he is now, excepting that he was wild. He galloped with Brer Fox, and loped with Brer Wolf, and cantered with Brer Coon. He went all the gaits, and he had just as good a time as any of 'em, and just as bad a time.
Now, one day, somewheres 'twixt Monday morning and Saturday night, he was sitting in the shade scratching hisself, and he was tooken with a spell of thinking. He'd just come through a mighty hard winter with the other critters, and he up and say to hisself that if he had to do like that one more season, it'd be the end of him and his family. You could count his ribs, and his hip-bones stuck out like the horns on a hat-rack.
Whiles he was sitting there, scratching and studying, and studying and scratching, who should come meandering down the big road but old Brer Wolf; and it was "Hello, Brer Dog! You look like you ain't seed the inside of a smokehouse for quite a while. I ain't saying that I got much for to brag on, 'cause I ain't in no better fix than what you is. The colder it gets, the scarcer the vittles grows." And then he ask Brer Dog where he going and how soon he going to get there.
Brer Dog make answer that it don't make no difference where he go if he don't find dinner ready.
Brer Wolf allow that the way to get dinner is to make a fire, 'cause it ain't no use for to try to eat if they don't do that. If they don't get nothing for to cook, they'll have a place where they can keep warm.
Brer Dog say he see where Brer Wolf is dead right, but where they going get a fire?
Brer Wolf say the quickest way is to borrow a chunk from Mr. Man or his old woman. But when it come to saying who going after it, they both kind of hung back, 'cause they knowed that Mr. Man had a walking-cane what he can point at anybody and snap a cap on it and blow the light right out.
But by and by, Brer Dog say'll go after the chunk of fire, and he ain't no more than say that, 'fore off he put, and he travel so pert, that it weren't long 'fore he come to Mr. Man's house. When he got to the gate he sat down and done some more studying, and if the gate had've been shut, he'd've turned right round and went back like he come; but some of the chillun had been playing out in the yard, and they left the gate open, and so there it was. Study as he might, he can't find no excuse for going back without the chunk of fire. And in he went.
Well, talk about folks being humble; you ain't seed no humble-come-tumble till you see Brer Dog when he went in that gate. He ain't take time for to look round, he so scared. He hear hogs a-grunting and pigs a-squealing, he hear hens a-cackling and roosters crowing, but he ain't turn his head. He had sense enough not to go in the house by the front way. He went round the back way where the kitchen was, and when he got there he afraid to go any further. He went to the door, he did, and he afraid to knock. He hear chillun laughing and playing in there, and for the first time in all his born days, he begun to feel lonesome.
By and by, someone open the door and then shut it right quick. But Brer Dog ain't see nobody; he was too humble-come-tumble for that. He was looking at the ground, and wondering what was going to happen next. It must've been one of the chillun what open the door, 'cause it weren't long 'fore here come Mr. Man with the walking-cane what had fire in it. He come to the door, he did, and he say, "What you want here?"
Brer Dog was too scared for to talk; all he can do is to just wag his tail.
Mr. Man, he allow, "You in the wrong house, and you better go on where you got some business."
Brer Dog, he crouch down close to the ground, and wag his tail. Mr. Man, he look at him, and he ain't know whether for to turn loose his gun or not, but his old woman, she hear him talking, and she come to the door, and see Brer Dog crouching there, humbler than the humblest, and she say, "Poor fellow! You ain't going to hurt nobody, is you?"
And Brer Dog allow, "No, ma'am, I ain't; I just come for to borrow a chunk of fire."
And she say, "What in the name of goodness does you want with fire? Is you going to burn us out of house and home?"
Brer Dog allow, "No, ma'am! That I ain't; I just want to get warm."
hen the woman say, "I clean forgot about the cold weather—come in the kitchen here and warm yourself much as you want to."
That was mighty good news for Brer Dog, and in he went. There was a nice big fire on the hearth, and the chillun was sitting all round eating their dinner. They make room for Brer Dog, and down he sat in a warm corner, and it weren't long 'fore he was feeling right splimmy-splammy.
But he was mighty hungry. He sat there, he did, and watch the chillun eating their ashcake and buttermilk, and his eyeballs'd follow every mouthful they et. The woman, she notice this, and she went to the cupboard and got a piece of warm ashcake, and put it down on the hearth.
Brer Dog ain't need no second invite—he just gobble up the ashcake 'fore you can say Jack Robertson with you mouth shut. He ain't had nigh enough, but he knowed better than to show what his appetites was. He begun to feel good, and then he got down on his hunkers, and lay his head down on his forepaws, and make like he going to sleep.
After while, he smell Brer Wolf, and he raise his head and look towards the door. Mr. Man he took notice, and he say he believe there's someone sneaking round. Brer Dog raise his head, and snuff towards the door, and growl to hisself.
So Mr. Man took down his gun from over the fireplace, and went out. The first thing he see when he get out in the yard was Brer Wolf running out the gate, and he up with his gun—bang!—and he hear Brer Wolf holler. All he got was a handful of hair, but he come mighty nigh getting the whole hide.
Well, after that, Mr. Man find out that Brer Dog could do him a heap of good, first one way and then another. He could head the cows off when they make a break through the woods, he could take care of the sheep, and he could warn Mr. Man when some of the other critters was prowling round. And then he was some company when Mr. Man went hunting. He could trail the game, and he could find his way home from anywheres; and he could play with the chillun just like he was one of 'em.
It weren't long 'fore he got fat, and one day when he was ambling in the woods, he meet up with Brer Wolf. He howdied at him, he did, but Brer Wolf won't scarcely look at him.
After while he say, "Brer Dog, why ain't you come back that day when you went after fire?"
Brer Dog point to the collar on his neck. He allow, "You see this? Well, it'll tell you lots better than what I can."
Brer Wolf say, "You mighty fat. Why can't I come there and do like you does?"
Brer Dog allow, "There ain't nothing for to hinder you."
So the next morning, bright and early, Brer Wolf knock at Mr. Man's door. Mr. Man peep out and see who it is, and took down his gun and went out.
Brer Wolf try to be polite, and he smile. But when he smile he showed all his tooths, and this kind of scare Mr. Man.
He say, "What you doing sneaking round here?"
Brer Wolf try to be more politer than ever, and he grin from ear to ear. This show all his tooths, and Mr. Man lammed a-loose at him. And that was the last time that Brer Wolf ever try to live with Mr. Man, and from that time on down to this day, it was war 'twixt Brer Wolf and Brer Dog.