During the summers of my teen years, I would camp with my youth group at Carolina Hemlocks Campground. Our church’s beloved pastor grew up in the area, and he loved reading a collection of mountain tales collected by Richard Chase, titled, Grandfather Tales. One of the stories that was a particular favorite was a “hunting story” titled, “Skookin’ Huntin.” Hunting stories, like fishing stories, are themselves “tall” tales.
After college, I worked as a middle school drama teacher. (Yes, there’s always drama in middle school). I taught these in a unit with language arts and North Carolina history teachers. In fact, I told these stories in dialect so much that I would get marks on my teacher evaluations for my poor pronunciation. Or as I mighta said then, ‘proNOUNtsiashun.
November 28’s November Poem a Day Challenge is “nonsense.” I’ve taken “Skookin’ Huntin'” and worked it into a poem. This particular hunting story is a nonsense story because it is all backwards.
You may listen to me read the poem via the player below.
I’ve travelled this world all over: House to barn, down to the gate, Upstairs, downstairs like a rover Until true love changed my fate. Rode my mare to a valley town That sat way up on a hill Where little roast pigs ran around Squealing, “Who’ll eat me? Who will?” Come to a house made of cornbread— Its sides, shingled with flapjacks, Knocked on the woman with my head The door swung and knocked me back. That mean old woman offered me A glass of bread and a penny. “No thank you Ma’am, if you please” Told her, “I just had any!” Went and looked for my brother’s place; A house that’s easy to find, Sits alone in an empty space With fifty like it beside. A house high up, there down below, A log cabin made o’ brick, Where in a field he’d scratch and hoe The corn he’d fished from the crick. That’s when I saw Jenny, my love, I knew she must of missed me. Nailed the door down and windows up; So I strowed in through the chimney. Directly, I throw’d my hat on the fire, Thoughtfully stirred up the bed, I sat right close, her eyes admire s’Far from her as I could get. We played cards (some say it’s a sin). She drawed hearts, me diamond’s love ‘Bout that time her old man come in, And he drawed himself a club. So I run’d home, run’d out a there, Said, “I won’t see you never; The old grey mare that’s mine, is yours; I’ll be back for it forever.” That very day life changed for me The girl I’d chased ‘round the bend? One I thought I was chasing? She? Finally, caught me in the end.
after “Skookin’ Huntin’, Richard Chase, Grandfather Tales: American-English Folk Tales (1948) (Richard Chase, February 15, 1904 – February 1988). Alt. Randall Edwards 2021