Plantation Stories by Grace MacGowan Cooke
I.—MRS. PRAIRIE-DOG’S BOARDERS
Texas is a near-by land to the dwellers in the
Southern States. Many of the poorer white
people go there to mend their fortunes; and not
a few of them come back from its plains, homesick
for the mountains, and with these fortunes
unmended. Daddy Laban, the half-breed, son
of an Indian father and a negro mother, who
sometimes visited Broadlands plantation, had
been a wanderer; and his travels had carried
him as far afield as the plains of southwestern
Texas. The Randolph children liked, almost
better than any others, the stories he brought
home from these extensive travels.
“De prairie-dog a mighty cur’ous somebody,”
he began one day, when they asked him for a
tale. “Hit lives in de ground, more samer dan
a ground-hog. But dey ain’t come out for wood
nor water; an’ some folks thinks dey goes plumb
down to de springs what feeds wells. I has
knowed dem what say dey go fur enough down
to find a place to warm dey hands—but dat
ain’t de tale I’m tellin’.
“A long time ago, dey was a prairie-dog
what was left a widder, an’ she had a big fambly
to keep up. ‘Oh, landy!’ she say to dem dat
come to visit her in her ’fliction, ‘what I gwine
do to feed my chillen?’
“De most o’ de varmints tell Miz. Prairie-Dog
dat de onliest way for her to git along was
to keep boarders. ‘You got a good home, an’
you is a good manager,’ dey say; ‘you bound
to do well wid a boardin’-house.’
“Well, Miz. Prairie-Dog done sent out de
runners to run, de fliers to fly, de crawlers to
crawl, an’ tell each an’ every dat she sot up a
boardin’-house. She say she got room for one
crawler and one flier, an’ dat she could take in
a whole passel o’ runners.
“Well, now you knows a flier ’s a bird—or
hit mought be a bat. Ef you was lookin’ for
little folks, hit mought be a butterfly. Miz.
Prairie-Dog ain’t find no fliers what wants to
live un’neath de ground. But crawlers—bugs
an’ worms an’ sich-like—dey mostly does live
un’neath de ground, anyhow, an’ de fust pusson
what come seekin’ house-room with Miz.
Prairie-Dog was Brother Rattlesnake.
“‘I dest been flooded out o’ my own house,’
Mr. Rattlesnake say; ‘an’ I like to look at your
rooms an’ see ef dey suits me.’
“‘I show you de rooms,’ Miz. Prairie-Dog
tell ’im. ‘I bound you gwine like ’em. I got
room for one crawler, an’ you could be him;
“Miz. Prairie-Dog look at her chillen. She
ain’t say no more—dest look at dem prairie-dog
gals an’ boys, an’ say no more.
“Mr. Rattlesnake ain’t like bein’ called a
crawler so very well; but he looks at dem
rooms, an’ ’low he’ll take ’em. Miz. Prairie-Dog
got somethin’ on her mind, an’ ’fore de
snake git away dat somethin’ come out. ‘I’s
shore an’ certain dat you an’ me can git along,’
she say, ‘ef—ef—ef you vow an’ promish not
to bite my chillen. I’ll have yo’ meals reg’lar,
so dat you won’t be tempted.’
“Old Mr. Rattlesnake’ powerful high-tempered—yas,
law, he sho’ a mighty quick somebody
on de trigger. Zip! he go off, dest like
dat—zip! Br-r-r! ‘Tempted!’ he hiss at de
prairie-dog woman. He look at dem prairie-dog
boys an’ gals what been makin’ mud cakes
all mornin’ (an’ dest about as dirty as you-all
is after you do de same). ‘Tempted,’ he say.
‘I should hope not.’
“For, mind you, Brother Rattlesnake is a
genterman, an’ belongs to de quality. He feels
hisself a heap too biggity to bite prairie-dogs.
So dat turned out all right.
“De next what come to Miz. Prairie-Dog
was a flier.”
“A bird?” asked Patricia Randolph.
“Yes, little mistis,” returned the old Indian.
“One dese-hyer little, round, brown squinch-owls,
what allers quakes an’ quivers in dey
speech an’ walk. ‘I gits so dizzy—izzy—wizzy!
up in de top o’ de trees,’ de little brown
owl say, as she swivel an’ shake. ‘An’ I
wanted to git me a home down on de ground,
so dat I could be sure, an’ double sure, dat I
wouldn’t fall. But dey is dem dat says ef I
was down on de ground I might fall down a
hole. Dat make me want to live in yo’ house.
Hit’s down in de ground, ain’t hit? Ef I git
down in yo’ house dey hain’t no place for me to
fall off of, an’ fall down to, is dey?’ she ax.
“i wanted to git me a home down on de ground,
so dat i could be sure, an’ double sure,
dat i wouldn’t fall,” says miz. brown owl
“Miz. Prairie-Dog been in de way o’ fallin’
down-stairs all her life; dat de onliest way
she ever go inter her house—she fling up her
hands an’ laugh as you pass her by, and she
drap back in de hole. But she tell de little
brown owl dat dey ain’t no place you could fall
ef you go to de bottom eend o’ her house. So,
what wid a flier an’ a crawler, an’ de oldest
prairie-dog boy workin’ out, she manage to
make tongue and buckle meet. I’s went by a
many a prairie-dog hole an’ seen de owl an’ de
rattlesnake what boards wid Miz. Prairie-Dog.
Ef you was to go to Texas you’d see de same.
But nobody in dat neck o’ woods ever knowed
how dese folks come to live in one house.”
“Who told you, Daddy Laban?” asked Pate
“My Injun gran’mammy,” returned the old
man. “She told me a many a tale, when I
lived wid my daddy’s people on de Cherokee
Res’vation. Sometime I gwine tell you ’bout
de little fawn what her daddy ketched for
her when she ’s a little gal. But run home
now, honey chillens, or yo’ mammy done think
Daddy Laban stole you an’ carried you plumb
II.—SONNY BUNNY RABBIT’S GRANNY
Of all the animal stories which America,
the nurse-girl, told to the children of Broadlands
plantation, they liked best those about Sonny
“You listen now, Marse Pate an’ Miss Patty
an’ my baby child, an’ I gwine tell you de best
tale yit, ’bout de rabbit,” she said, one lazy
summer afternoon when they were tired of playing
marbles with china-berries.
“You see, de fox he mighty hongry all de
time for rabbit meat; yit, at de same time, he
’fraid to buck up ’gainst a old rabbit, an’ he
always pesterin’ after de young ones.
“Sonny Bunny Rabbit’ granny was sick, an’
Sonny Bunny Rabbit’ mammy want to send
her a mess o’ sallet. She put it in a poke, an’
hang de poke round de little rabbit boy’s neck.
“‘whar you puttin’ out for? an’ who all is you
gwine see on t’ other side de hill?’” ax mr. fox
“‘Now, my son,’ she says, ‘you tote dis sallet
to yo’ granny, an’ don’t stop to play wid none
o’ dey critters in de Big Woods.’
“‘Yassum, mammy,’ say Sonny Bunny Rabbit.
“‘Don’t you pass de time o’ day wid no
foxes,’ say Mammy Rabbit.
“‘Yassum, mammy,’ say Sonny Bunny Rabbit.
“Dest as he was passin’ some thick chinkapin
bushes, up hop a big red fox an’ told him
“‘Howdy,’ say Sonny Bunny Rabbit. He
ain’t study ’bout what his mammy tell him now.
He ’bleege to stop an’ make a miration at bein’
noticed by sech a fine pusson as Mr. Fox.
‘Hit’s a fine day—an’ mighty growin’
weather, Mr. Fox.’
“‘Hit am dat,’ say de fox. ‘Yaas, suh, hit
sho’ly am dat. An’ whar you puttin’ out for,
ef I mought ax?’ he say, mighty slick an’ easy.
“Now right dar,” said America, impressively,
“am whar dat little rabbit boy fergit his teachin’.
He act like he ain’t know nothin’—an
ain’t know dat right good. ’Stead o’ sayin’,
‘I’s gwine whar I’s gwine—an’ dat’s whar
I’s gwine,’ he answer right back: ‘Dest ’cross
de hill, suh. Won’t you walk wid me, suh?
Proud to have yo’ company, suh.’
“‘come back hyer, you rabbit trash, an’ he’p me
out o’ dis trouble!’” he holler
“‘An’ who-all is you gwine see on t’ other
side de hill?’ ax Mr. Fox.
“‘My granny,’ answer Sonny Bunny Rabbit.
‘I totin’ dis sallet to her.’
“‘Is yo’ granny big?’ ax de fox. ‘Is yo’
granny old?’ he say. ‘Is yo’ granny mighty
pore? Is yo’ granny tough?’ An’ he ain’t
been nigh so slick an’ sof’ an’ easy any mo’ by
dis time—he gittin’ mighty hongry an’ greedy.
“Right den an dere Sonny Bunny Rabbit
wake up. Yaas, law! He come to he senses.
He know mighty well an’ good dat a pusson
de size o’ Mr. Fox ain’t got no reason to ax ef
he granny tough, less’n he want to git he teef in
her. By dat he recomember what his mammy
done told him. He look all ’bout. He ain’t
see no he’p nowhars. Den hit come in Sonny
Bunny Rabbit’ mind dat de boys on de farm
done sot a trap down by de pastur’ fence. Ef
he kin git Mr. Fox to jump inter dat trap, his
life done save.
“‘Oh, my granny mighty big,’ he say; ‘but
dat ’s ’ca’se she so fat she cain’t run. She
hain’t so mighty old, but she sleep all de time;
an’ I ain’t know is she tough or not—you
dest better come on an’ find out,’ he holler.
Den he start off on er long, keen jump.
“Sonny Bunny Rabbit run as hard as he
could. De fox run after, most nippin’ his heels.
Sonny Bunny Rabbit run by de place whar de
fox-trap done sot, an’ all kivered wid leaves
an’ trash, an’ dar he le’p high in the air—an’
over it. Mr. Fox ain’t know dey ary trap in
de grass; an’, blam! he stuck he foot squar’
“‘Oh-ow-ow! Hi-hi-hi! Hi-yi! Yi-yi-yi!’
bark de fox. ‘Come back hyer, you rabbit
trash, an’ he’p me out o’ dis trouble!’ he
“‘Dat ain’t no trouble,’ say Sonny Bunny
Rabbit, jumping high in de grass. ‘Dat my
granny, what I done told you ’bout. Ain’t I
say she so fat she cain’t run? She dest love
company so powerful well, dat I ’spect she
holdin’ on to you to hear you talk.’
“An’ de fox talk,” America giggled, as she
looked about on her small audience.
mr. snowbird spends christmas day
with br’er rabbit