Seeking religion under Difficulties.
was the wickedest man in all Shockley's Bend, by at least a length.--There was no deviltry that he was not up to and into, and no frolic that he did not manage to have a finger in. Whether it was drinking, fighting, gambling, or any other amusement, he was a scholar, and he who went ahead of him at either game had to rise very early in the morning.
There was a logrolling at old Squire Templar
's, and, after the work was done, the crowd adjourned to the spring for ‘"refreshments"’--one of a two-gallon jug. Seating himself on the ground, with the jug between his knees and arm cup in his hand, Mike looked around very solemnly and remarked:
‘"Boys, I cum mighty nigh getting religion once!"’
The ‘"boys,"’ who well knew Mike's character for ungodliness, shouted at the remark, and the grave manner in which it was delivered.
‘"You needn't larf, drot ye!"’ he growled, "It's a fact, drot of it ain't!
‘"Tell us about it, Mike, there's a good fellow,"’ said one.
"Yes, you're desprit anxious to hear it now; but jes now you larfed like ye thought I was a fool.
I've a mighty good notion not to tell a mite of it,
‘"Ah, Mike do tell it!"’ plead several.
‘"Well, of you'll promise not to interrupt me more'n twenty minutes, I'll spin it out, "’ said he.
The promise was readily given, and the old sinner prepared to relate his experience.
His preparations consisted in pouring a cup-full of whiskey, half of which he drank and held the remainder in his hand as a reserve.
Then he stowed a huge chunk of ‘"nigger- head"’ into the most open portion of his countenance, and began:
"When I was about twenty-five years old, boys, I was an awful hard case, thar's no doubt of it. Old age, hard times, an' hard drink has nilly made a Christian of me, though, drot of they haint!
But when I was young, over in Walton county
, Jorgy, thar warn't a man, boy, nor nigger, in the settlement that could smell my track at rascality an' gin' ral wickedness.
I was the terror of chil'un, the pest of men, an the bomination of female wimmin.
The old men made me the pint of all thar leeturs to thar boys, telling 'em of they didn't mind they'd be as mean as Murrel, Mike Tupper
, or the devil.
The old wimmin pinted me out to thar gals as an institution of onmixed villainy, an' them as had young chil'un, threatened 'em wi' me of they got anyways rambunctions.--Little chaps would run under the bed when they seed me a cummin', as of I war a grand carryvan, an' even the dogs refused to bark at me!
Ah! I war a hard case, an' no mistake in the ticket!
"Well, while I war thus making myself a name among the inhabitants of the yearth, thar happened a big, double-jinted pertracted meetin close to my house, an' to it I went, as might he expected, for I allers went whar thar war a crowd, jest cos I knowed nobody wanted me thar, an' for the further reason that I usually found a chance to drink, gamble, an have a good time gin' rally.
On that 'casion I was more'n ever disposed to have some fun, an pitched on one of the preachers for my subject.
He was an awful lookin' chap, he was an' his looks an' my karacter would a started the boss devil of all into a first-class business.
He was ni'ly as long as a fence rail, an' not much bigger, with a face as sharp as a meat-axe, an' a voice twice as sharp as his face.
how that feller could sing, an pray, an' preach, an' convert!
Thar warn't a preacher in the country that could hold him a candle at prayin', drinkin' red-eye whiskey, or eatin' fried chicken.
Ef it hadn't been fur the whiskey an' chicken, though, he'd a resigned his commission, fur he was amazin' fond of 'em.
Boys, he loved whiskey an' chicken.
"They was holdin' the meetin' under a arbor, kivered with bresh, an', as soon as it was dark up I clamb on top of the concern, with the intention o' given old hatchet-face a lift with his sermon, an' managed to place myself right over head without bein' diskivered.
I'd bought a whole passel o' fire-crackers an' tied 'em round a ole barl hoop, an' fixed a string to it so's I could let it down through the bresh.--Lights war very skase, enyhow, and the preacher, in rippin' round, had put out the only candle about the pulpit, which left him in the dark, in more ways than one!
"Well, he'd got in a big way, an' jest as he'd got to rippin' an' rantin about death an' the devil, an' brimstun, an' sich other foolery, I put fire to the crackers, an' let the hoop down so that the thing hung to his head, with the crackers a poppin' and fizzin' about him like a swarm o' fiery sarpents.
Boys, it was rich!
That preacher jest made one big effort, like a cat jumpin' out'n a barl, an' went over that pulpit with a yell like a Mohawk Ingin.
He lit atop of a ole woman what weighed bout half a thousan', an she fainted as easy as a young gal in a harrycane, while her husban't run up an' give him a jerk that nearly broke him off at the waist.
He run agin a big fractions brother, an' he hit him just in the ribs, knocking him about a rod, an' nearly bringing his two ends together.
All this time the wimmin was a screamin' an' hollerin' 'Glory!' an' the men was groanin' an' prayin, an' the boys whoopin' an' cussin', an' everything was havin' a rale jolly time of it. After a while the preacher broke through the crowd an' tuck to the woods, whar he had a right smart chance o' fun, all to hisself.
He jumped up an' down faster'n a cat with hickry nut hulls on his feet, an' danced round like he war tryin' his awfulest to go distracted.
He finally managed to git shet of the thing, an' then he sneaked off to his tent, an' had so more to say that night.
"In the meantime I tried to get off'n the arbor; but instead o' gettin' down like any other fool, I tumbled off, neck and heel, right on top of a whole raft o' niggers, who was standin' with thar mouths open wide enough to swaller a corn-sheller
was hollerin' worth talkin' about.
I don't know whether they took me for Gabriel or the devil; but they tuck on like I was a little o' both.
This raised another uproar among the wimmin, and for a few moments thar was a sound like heaven an' yerth war comin' together.
Artir a while they cooled down, while I sneaked off and got as drunk as a biled owl, thinkin' I orter be doin' somethin' to wind up the occasion in a proper manner.
As good luck would have it, nobody didn't know who I was, an' as I didn't feel like it was my duty to enlighten 'em, they broke up the meetin' for that night, some thinkin' it war a angel, an' some thinkin' it war the devil.
"I spent the rest o' the night drinkin' licker an' playin' old sledge, an' next day I felt meaner'n forty cent whiskey.
I lay bout the woods an' slep' nearly all day, an' when the night meetin' commenced, I sidied down to the stand, feelin' rale solemn an' bad, I tell you. --Party soon the excitement got up, an' they commenced cuttin' up powerfully.
Thar was a young, good-lookin' preacher thar that could beat all creation convertin' wimmen an' gals.
He warn't as smart as old hatchet-face, but he roared it out in sich big style, an' flung out so
many three-cornered words, an' dressed so fine, that the female portion of the flock tuck to him like a piny woods pig to a tater patch.
Thar was a little gal in the crowd that I loved, harder'n a forty year old sinner could cus, though I'd never offered to speak to her, for fear she'd knock my brains out wi' something.
While I was standin' thar listenin' at the young preacher gettin' up in the top story of the preachin' business, the gal screamed out-- 'Glor-e-e!' and tumbled right down in the alter, among a whole crowd o' men an' wimmen.
That sorter in'treated me, an' the first thing I know'd, boys, may I be drot ef. I warn't right down thar, too, kickin' up as much racket as the best of 'em!
The preacher know'd me very well, an when he seen me go down, he bawled out, 'Glory to God!
brethren, we've got the vilest sinner in the whole lot!' That riled me a little, an' ef I'd a had him out I'd made him seen more fire than ole hatchet-face did the night afore.
But I didn't have them wicked thoughts long, for, to tell the truth, I felt rale solemn, an' was gettin' converted as fast as ever you seen a man.
Well, the wimmin hollered, an' the men groaned, an' the preacher converted a while longer, an' then they broke, up. But, afore they made a final close, the preacher cum 'round an' talked to we mourners, an' told me to go right out into the woods, whar nobody could see me, an' pray for myself.
So off I put, an' went right straight to a thicket whar I'd played cards the night afore, an' whar I thought nobody couldn't see me. It wasn't very dark, but I allers was as cowardly in the night as a mean nigger, an' ef I hadn't been so intent on gettin' religion, I wouldn't a went into that place for the best hoss on the ground; but, as it was, I marched right inter the bushes an' got down on my bones.
Boys, do ye think I could think of any word to say ? Drot ef I could!
But I warn't long without somethin' to do. Thar was an ole he goat about that place that made a business o' buttin' everything that come in reach o' him, an' he happened to be in that identical thicket.
I didn't know whether he was tryin' to get religion or no, but he didn't act much like it.--When he seen me git down on my knees an raise my hands, he thought a fight war 'bout to begin, and, with a big roar, he cum at me like a thunder gust.
He didn't quite git me, though, for I just tumbled over back-ards, an' got up a running an' kep a goin' wusser'n a greyhoun with a tin pan to his tail.
I run over more logs an' agin more trees an' saplins than I thought was in the country, an' hollered every jump, for I was shore the old chap of all was arter me. The first tent I got to I pitched into it, tumblin' right among about a cart load of wimmen, hollerin' all the time that the devil had me. The wimmen skreamed, an' I cussed, an' in a little time here cum a crowd o' men, an' then I recken the devil did
They manled me into a poultice, an' finished the job by kickin' me out into the dark to look out for myself.
Ef a friend hadn't carried me off I'd a died, between the skeer I had on an' the maulin' I got.
‘"Boys,"’ continued Mike, draining the cup, "that spree gin me a distance to religion, an' I ain't never tried to get none sence.
Thar's none for me, drot ef thar is!