aanuary, 1926 Southern Mountain Life and
Work Page 17
fell promptly to work, talking but little, for the experienced woodman wastes little energy in conversation when his axe is in play, and waked many an echo as tree after tree was thrown, scored and hewn into shapely logs. On that first day more than thirty logs were made ready, and by the end of the third day every log had been hewn and "snaked out" to the place where the new church was to be founded upon the rock.
Then came the house raising. All the men and boys in the surrounding country-save those who lived far down on Chinkypin-came bringing saws, axes, augers and other tools to assist in the work. They came early, for the pioneer's work day was not a matter of hours; it lasted from dawn till dark. Zach Finley "carried up" one corner, and three other experienced men attended to the other corners. While the crowd worked they laughed and jested with one another keeping a stream of good-natured raillery flowing all the time. Old Osborne moved about among the workers giving a lift here, a bit of advice there, engaging some neighbor in good-neighborly banter, but never for a moment compromising his position as leader of the enterprise.
One incident occurred which shocked the group and gave the whole neighborhood a fireside story to tell from that hour to the present day. Abe Land, a noisy, blustering wag, much given to playing rough jokes on his neighbors, had gone with a little group of men a short way into the woods to cut a skid-pole. While searching for a suitable tree he chanced upon a huge rattlesnake. Abe, who invariably insisted on doing the unusual thing, caught the serpent and carried it in his bare hands back to the group of workers. For a time he annoyed the men and boys by thrusting the snake close up to their faces while they were at work, whereupon the workers promptly dropped their tools and retreated. He continued this disturbing sport until the men grew tired of it.
"Abe," said Zach Finley, "now you've acted a blasted fool with that there snake long enough. You're a -goin' a -keep on foolin' with it tell it bites you or someone else, an' then maybe you'll quit. Now you take it away
from here an' kill it, or I be dadblasted if I dont."
"All right, then; here it is!"-And Abe attempted to throw it at the speaker. But as he turned loose of its neck its folds held to his arm, and before he could seize its neck again it struck out and bit him on the side of the neck, burying its fangs deep in the flesh near a large vein. Whereupon he three it violently to the ground where it was promptly killed by the other men, and began calling for help. A jug containing whiskey was brought, for in those days a jug was always present at a house-raising even though the house might be a church, and a full quart or more was promptly administered to the sufferer. He lay down on some leaves and shavings and in a short time passed into a drunken stupor from which he never recovered. The effects of the snake poison and the alcohol combined were too much for him to resist, so he died a few hours afterwards.
Everyone looked upon the incident as a direct pouring out of divine wrath upon Abe Land for playing pranks on his neighbors, and it was used by both fathers and mothers for more than a generation to frighten their adventurous children away from "snakey" places. Some of the men looked upon it as an evil omen for the church and the neighborhood. Others viewed it as unmistakably evidence that the Lord would smite the wicked who might attempt to interpose obstacles in the way of the growth of the church. But Brother Pete Greer of Sinai church was loud in proclaiming it a manifestation of the divine wrath aroused by the erection of another church in opposition to his own. And in this belief he had many followers.
But Aunt Lucinda told of one of the "sisters in the Lord" who was outspoken in her conviction that "The Lord didn't have miry thing to do with that triflin', good-fur-nothin' Abe Land, any never had had. It was jest his bodacious devilment that got 'im in trouble, for he never was fitten to live with respectable folks. If he hadn't a-had holt of the snake an' been afoolin' with it he wouldn't a-been bit; an' that's all there wuz to it." Other women of the neighborhood shared her opinion.
In two days the church was ready for the