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Page 0 of Mountain Life & Work vol. 17 no. 3 Fall, 1941

Part of Mountain Life and Work

MOUNTAIN LIFE AND WORK NUMBER 3 VOLUME XVII "Come Friday for the sorghum making," JI*mp Buckheart sent word to me by Father. "Come to the stir-off party, and take a night." Father chuckled as he told, knowing I had never stayed away from home. Father said, "Hit's time you larnt other folks' ways. Now, Old Gid Buckheart's family lives fat as horse traders. He's got five boys, tough as whang leather, though nary a one's a match to Gid himself; and he's the pappy o' four girls who're picture-pieces." He teased as he whittled a molassy spoon for me. "Mind you're not captured by one o' Gid's daughters. They're all pretty, short or tall, every rung o' the ladder." He teased enough to rag his tongue. I grunted scornfully, but I was tickled to go. I'd heard Jimp had a flying-finny, and kept a ferret. Jimp met me before noon at their land boundary. Since last I'd seen him he had grown; and he jerked his knees walking and cocked his head birdwise, imping his father. He was Old Gid Buckheart over again. He didn't stand stranger. "Kin you keep secrets?" he asked. "Hold things and not let out?" I nodded. Jimp said, "My pap's going to die death hearing Plumey's marrying Rant Branders tonight at the stir-off. Pap'll never give up to her picking such a weaky looking feller." His face brightened with pride. "I'm the only one knows. Rant aims to hammer me a pair o' brass knuckles if I play hush-mouth, a pair my size. He swore to it." "Hit's not honest to fight with knucks unless a feller's bigger'n you," I said. "I'm laying for my brother Bailus," Jimp explained. "He older'n me, and anus tricking, and trying to borrow or steal my ferret. I'd give my beastie to Bit him ducked in the sorghum hole." "I long to see your ferret," I said. "I'm bound to ride the fly-finny." "Bailus wants to sick my ferret into rabbit nests," Jimp complained. "Hit's a ferret's nature FALL, 1941 THE STIR-OFF, A Story JAMES STILL to skin alive. Ere I'd let Bailus borrow, I'd crack its neck. Ruther to see it dead. We walked a spell. Roosters crowed midday. We topped a knob and afar in a hollow stood the Buckhearts' great log house, and beyond under gilly trees was the sorghum gin. Jimp pointed. "Peep Eye's minding hornets off the juice barrel, and I reckon everybody else's eating. We've made two runs o' sirup already, dipped enough green skims to nigh fill the sorghum hole, and cane's milled for the last." Hounds raced to meet us. We halted a moment by the becgums. On bowed heads of sunflowers redbirds were cracking seeds. Jimp gazed curiously at me, cocking his chin. "You and me's never fit," he said. "Fellers don't make good buddies t*11 they prove which can out-do." i I We waded the hounds to the kitchen, spying through the door. Jimp's father and brothers were eating and his mother and three of his sisters passed serving dishes; and in the company chair sat Squire Letcher, making balls of his bread, and cutting eyes at the girls. Jimp told me their names. The squire I knew already; 1 knew he was the Law, and a widow-man. "Hardhead at the end o' the bench is Bailus," Jimp said. "Plumcy's standing behind Pap-the one's got a beauty spot." Plumey was fairest of the three girls, fair as a queeny blossom. Her cheek bore a mole speck, like a spider with tucked legs; and a born mole it was, not one stuck on for pretty's sake. Jimp told me all of the names, then said, "I wonder what that law-square's a-doing here?" We clumped inside. Old Gid spoke a loud howdy-do, asking after my folks, and Mrs. Buckheart tipped the cowlick on my head. A chair was drawn for me, and victuals brought to heap my plate. Bailus leaned to block Jimp's way to his seat on the bench, so Jimp had to crawl under the table. He stuck his head up, mad-faced, grit

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