The Worlds Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906. Vols. IV: American
The Old Settler
By Ed Mott
His Reasons for Thinking There is Natural Gas in Deep Rock Gully
I SEE by the papers, squire, said the Old Settler, that theyre a-findin signs o coal-ile an natral gas like sixty here an thar in deestricks not so terrible fur from here, an tht konsekently land they usety beg folks to come an take offen their hands at any price at all, is wuth a dollar now jist for a peep over the stun wall at it. The minute a feller finds signs o ile or natral gas on his plantation, he neednt lug home his supplies in a quart jug no more, but kin roll em in by the barl; fer signs o them kind is wuth more an inch thn a sartin-per-sure grass an tater farm is wuth an acre.
Guess yere huggin the truth pooty clus fer wunst, major, replied the squire, but th haint none o them signs ez likely to strike anywhar in our bailiwick ez lightnin is to kill a crow roostin on the North Pole. Theres one thing Ive alluz wanted to see, continued the squire, but natur has ben agin me an I haint never seen it, an that thing is the histin of a balloon. Th cant be no balloon histed nowhar, Im told, nless theres gas to hist it with. I spose if wed ha had gas here, a good many fellers with balloonsd ha kim round this way an showed us a balloon-raisin evry now an then. Them must be lucky deestricks thats got gas, an Id like to hev somebody strike it round here somers, jist fer the sake o havin the chance to see a balloon histin fore I turn my toes up. But thats bout ez liable to happen ez it is fer to go out an find a silver dollar rollin up hill an my name gouged in it.
Dont ye be so consarned sure o that, squire, said the Old Settler mysteriously, and with a knowing shake of his head. Ive been a-thinkin a leetle sence readin bout them signs o gas, bgosh! I haint been only thinkin, but Ive been a-recollectin, an the chances is tht me an youll see wonders yet afore we paddle over Jurdan. Im a-goin ter tell ye fer wy, but I hadnt orter, squire, an if it want fer makin ye shamed o yerself, an showin tht truth squashed in the mud is bound to git up agin if ye give her time, I wouldnt do it. Ye mowt remember tht jist ten years ago this month I kim in from a leetle bar hunt. I didnt bring in no bar, but I fotched back an up-an-up account o how I had shot one, an how th were sumpin fearful an queer an amazin in the pformances o that bar arter bein shot. Mebbe ye member me a-tellin ye that story, squire, an you a-tellin me right in my teeth tht ye knowd tht some o yer friends had took to lyin, but tht ye didnt think any of em had it so bad ez that. But I haint a-holdin no gredge, an now Ill tell ye sumpin thatll sprise ye.
Ez I tol ye at the time, squire, I got the tip ten year ago this month, tht unless somebody went up to Steve Groners hill place an poured a pound or two o lead inter a big bar tht had squatted on that farm, tht Steve wouldnt hev no live-stock left to pervide pork an beef fer his winterin over, even if he managed to keep hisself an famly theirselfs from linin the bars innards. I shouldered my gun an went up to Steves to hev some fun with bruin, an to save Steves stock and resky him an his folks from the rampagin bar.
Hes a rip-snorter, Steve says to me, wen I got thar. He dont think nuthin o luggin off a cow, he says, an ye dont wanter hev yer weather eye shet wen you an him comes together, he says.
Bars, I says to Steve, bars is nuts fer me, an the bigger an sassier they be, I says, the more I injy em, I says; an with that I clim inter the woods to show bruin tht th want room enough here below fer me an him both. Taint necessary fer me to tell o the half dozen or more lively skrimmages me an that bar had ez we follered an chased one another round an round them woods; how hed hid ahind some big tree or stumps, an ez I went by, climb onto me with all four o his feet, an yank an bite an claw an dig meat an clothes offen me till I slung him off an made him skin away to save his bacon; an how Id lay the same way fer him, an wen he come sneakin long arter me agin, pitch arter him like a mad painter, an swat an pound an choke an rassel him till his tongue hung out, till I were sorry for him, an let him git away inter the brush agin to recooperate fer the next round. Taint wuth wile fer me to say anything bout them little skrimmages cept the last un, an that un want a skrimmage, but sumpin thatd a skeert some folks dead in their tracks.
Arter havin a half a dozen or so o rassels with this big bar, jist fer fun, I made up my mind, ez twere gettin late, an ez Steve Groners folks was mebbe feelin anxious to hear which was goin ter run the farm, them or the bar, tht the next heat with bruin would be for keeps. I guess the ol feller had made up his mind the same way, fer wen I run agin him the las time, he were riz up on his hind legs right on the edge o Deep Rock Gully, and were waitin fer me with his jaws wide open. I unslung my gun, an takin aim at one o the bars forepaws, thought Id wing him an make him come away from the edge o the gully fore I tackled him. The ball hit the paw, an the bar throwd em both up. But he throwd em up too fur, an he fell over backrd, an went head foremost inter the gully. Deep Rock Gully aint an inch lessn fifty foot from top to bottom, an the walls is ez steep ez the side of a house. I went up to the edge an looked over. There were the bar layin on his face at the bottom, whar them queer cracks is in the ground, an he were a-howlin like a hurricane and kickin like a mule. There he laid, and he want able to rise up. Th want no way o gettin down to him cept by tumblin down ez he hed, an if ever anybody were poppin mad I were, ez I see my meat a-layin at the bottom o that gully, an the crows a-getherin to hev a picnic with it. The more I kep my eyes on that bar the madder I got, an I were jist about to roll and tumble an slide down the side o that gully rather than go back home an say tht Id let the crows steal a bar away from me, wen I see a funny change comin over the bar. He didnt howl so much, an his kicks want so vicious. Then his hind parts began to lift themsefs up offen the ground in a curous sort o way, and swung an bobbed in the air. They kep raisin higher an higher, till the bar were actally standin on his head, an swayin to and fro ez if a wind were blowin him an he couldnt help it. The sight was so oncommon out o the reglar way bars has o actin that it seemed skeery, an I felt ez if Id rather be home diggin my taters. But I kep on gazin at the bar a-circusin at the bottom o the gully, and twant long fore the hull big carcass begun to rise right up offen the ground an come a-floatin up outen the gully, fer all the world ez if twant moren a feather. The bar come upard tail foremost, an I noticed tht he looked considable puffed out like, makin him seem lik a barl sailin in the air. Ez the bar kim a-floatin out o the deps I could feel my eyes begin to bulge, an my knees to shake like a jumpin-jacks. But I couldnt move no moren a stun wall kin, an thar I stood on the edge o the gully, starin at the bar ez it sailed on up tord me. The bar were making a desperate effort to git itself back to its natral psition on all fours, but th want no use, an up he sailed, tail foremost, an lookin ez if he were goin ter bust the next minute, he were swelled out so. Ez the bar bobbed up and passed by me I could ha reached out an grabbed him by the paw, an I think he wanted me to, the way he acted, but I couldnt ha made a move to stop him, not if hed ben my granmother. The bar sailed on above me, an th were a look in his eyes tht I wont never fergit. It was a skeert look, an a look that seemed to say tht it were all my fault, an tht Id be sorry fer it some time. The bar squirmed an struggled agin comin to setch an onheerd-on end, but upard he went, tail foremost, tord the clouds.
I stood thar parlyzed, wile the bar went upard. The crows that had been settlin round in the trees, expectin to hev a bully meal, went to flyin an scootin around the onfortnit bar, an yelled till I were durn nigh deef. It want until the bar had floated up nigh onto a hundred yards in the air, an begun to look like a flyin cub, that my senses kim back to me. Quick ez a flash I rammed a load inter my rifle, wrappin the ball with a big piece o dry linen, not havin time to tear it to the right size. Then I took aim an let her go. Fast ez that ball went, I could see that the linen round it had been sot on fire by the powder. The ball overtook the bar and bored a hole in his side. Then the funniest thing of all happened. A streak of fire a yard long shot out o the bars side where the bullet had gone in, an ez long ez that poor bewitched bar were in sightfer o course I thort at the time tht the bar were bewitchedI could see that streak o fire sailin along in the sky till it went out at last like a shootin star. I never knowed wat become o the bar, an the hull thing were a startlin mystry to me; but I kim home, squire, an tol ye the story, jest ez Ive tol ye now, an ye were so durn polite tht ye said I were a liar. But sence, Ive been a-thinkin an recollectin. Squire, I dont hold no gredge. The mystrys plain ez day, now. We dont want no better signs o gas thn that, do we, squire?
Than what! exclaimed the Old Settler. Than that bar, o course! Thats wat ailed him. Its plain enough tht theres natral gas on the Groner place, an tht it leaks outen the ground in Deep Rock Gully. Wen that bar tumbled to the bottom that day, he fell on his face. He were hurt so tht he couldnt get up. O course the gas didnt shut itself off, but kep on a-leakin, an shot up inter the bars mouth and down his throat. The onfortnit bar couldnt help hisself, an bimeby he were filled with gas like a balloon, till he had to float, an away he sailed, up an up an up. Wen I fired at the bar, ez he was floatin toard the clouds, the linen on the bullet carried fire with it, and wen the bullet tapped the bars side the burnin linen sot it on fire, showin tht th cant be no doubt bout it bein gas tht the bar swallered in Deep Rock Gully. So ye see, squire, I want no liar, an the chances is all in favor o your seein a balloon histed from gas right in yer own bailiwick afore ye turn up yer toes.