150 years ago this week an interesting article was published in the May 26th issue of the Arkansas True Democrat. The article notes the recent availibility of “The Arkansas Traveler”, an Arkansas iconic painting based as shown in the right side of this column. To hear a 1916 version of the song, click here.
Following the notice of the new supply of paintings below, the editor printed a popular version on the comical Arkansas Traveler story. For those not familiar with either the song or the painting or even the story, it is well-worth the few minutes that it takes to read it. The editor of the Arkansas Toothpick has reenacted this minstrel at teacher workshops. We highly endorse the enacting of this short story in Arkansas History class. Due to the length of this article, the editor chooses not to blockquote the following due to ease of reading”[LITTLE ROCK] ARKANSAS TRUE DEMOCRAT, May 26, 1860, p. 1, c. 6-7
The Arkansaw Traveler.
The receipt, says the Memphis Enquirer, by Messrs. Cleaves and Vaden, of a new supply of this famous picture of a phase of life in Arkansas, some forty years ago, reminds us of a promise we had made to our readers, upon first noticing it, to publish the story of which this picture is the faithful and spirited illustration. To appreciate the whole thing, and enjoy it to the full, it must be seen and heard (the story, together with “the balance of that chune on the fiddle”) as rendered by Col. Sandy Faulkner, to whom the picture is dedicated, and whose life-like portrait adorns it,–and as no one but himself can render it. A sad interest has been added to this picture, of late, by the death of young Washborne, the talented, self-taught artist, a native of Arkansas, whose pencil produced it.
The picture, with the music, is to be had of Cleaves & Vaden, Main street. The following is the story.
The Arkansaw Traveler.
A lost and bewildered Arkansas traveler approaching the cabin of a squatter, about forty years ago, discovered the proprietor seated on an old whisky barrel near the door, partly sheltered by the eaves, playing a fiddle, when the following dialogue ensued—the squatter still continuing to play the same part over and over:
T.—Can I get to stay all night with you?
S.—You kin get to go to h_ll.
T.—Have you any spirits here?
S.—Lots of ’em. Sal saw one last night by that thar old holler gum and it nearly skeered her to death.
T.—You mistake my meaning—have you any liquor?
S.—Had some yesterday, but Ole Bose he got in and lapped all uv it out’n the pot.
T.—You don’t understand, I don’t mean pot liquor. I’m wet and cold, and want some whisky. Have you got any?
S.—Oh, yes,–I drank the last this morning.
T.—I’m hungry, havn’t [sic] had a thing this morning, can’t you give me something to eat?
S.—Han’t a d____d thing in the house. Not a mouthful of meat, or a dust of meal here.
T.—Well, can’t you give my horse something?
S.—Got nothin’ to feed him on.
T.—How far is it to the next house?
S.—Stranger, I don’t know. I’ve never been thar.
T.—Well, do you know who lives here?
T.—As I’m so bold then, what might your name be?
S.—It might be Dick, and it might be Tom; but it lacks a d____d sight of it.
T.—Sir! will you tell me where this road goes to?
S.—It’s never been anywhar since I’ve lived here; its always thar when I git up in the mornin.
T.—Well, how far is it to where it forks?
S.—It don’t fork at all, but it splits up like the d___l.
T.—As I’m not likely to get to any other house to-night, can’t you let me sleep in yours, and I’ll tie my horse to a tree, and do without anything to eat or drink?
S.—My house leaks; thar’s only one dry spot in it, and Sall sleeps on it. And that thar tree is the ole woman’s persimmon; you can’t tie to it, ‘cose she don’t want um shuk off. She ‘lows to make beer out’n um.
T.—Why don’t you finish covering your house and stop the leaks?
S.—It’s been raining all day.
T.—Well, why don’t you do it in dry weather?
S.—It don’t leak then.
T.—As there seems to be nothing alive about your place but children, how do you do here any how?
S.—Putty well, I thank you, how do you do yourself?
T.—I mean what do you do for a living here.
S.—Keep tavern and sell whisky.
T.—Well, I told you I wanted some whisky.
S.—Stranger, I bought a bar’l mor’n a week ago. You see me and Sall went shars. Arter we got it here we only had a drink betweenst us, and Sall, she did’nt want to use hern fust, nor me mine. You see, I had a spiggin in one eend, and she in tother. So she takes a drink out’n my eend, and pays me the bit for it; and then I’d take un out’n hern, and give her the bit. Well, we’s gitting along fust-rate, till Dick, d____d skulking skunk, he bourn a hole on the bottom to suck at, and the next time I went to buy a drink, they wurnt none thar.
T.—I’m sorry your whisky’s all gone; but, my friend, why don’t you play the balance of that tune?
S.—It’s got no balance to it.
T.—I mean you don’t play the whole of it.
S.—Stranger, can you play the fidul?
T.—Yes, a little sometimes.
S.—You don’t look like a fiddlur, but ef you think you can play any more onto that thar chune, you kin just git down and try.
(The traveler gits down and plays the whole of it.)
S.—Stranger, take a half dozen cheers and sot down. Sall, stir yourself round like a six-horse team in a mud hole. Go round in the holler, where I killed that buck this mornin’, cut off some of the best pieces, and fotch it and cook it for me and this gentleman, directly. Raise up the board under the head of the bed, and git the ole black jug I hid from Dick, and give us some whisky; I know thar’s sum left yit. Til, drive old Bose out’n the bread-tray, then clime up in the loft, and git the rag that’s got the sugar tied in it. Dick, carry the gentleman’s hoss round under the shed, give him some fodder and corn, much as he kin eat.
Til.—Dad, they ain’t knives enouff to sot the table.
S.—Whar’s big butch, little butch, ole case, cob-handle, granny’s knife and the one I handled yesterday? That’s enuff to set any gentleman’s table, without you’ve lost um. D__n me, stranger, ef you can’t stay as long as you please, and I’ll give you plenty to eat and drink. Will you have coffee for supper?
S.—I’ll be hanged ef you do tho’, we don’t have nothin’ that way here, but Grub Hyson, and I reckon its mighty good with sweetnin’. Play away, stranger, you can sleep on the dry spot to-night.
T.—(After about two hour’s fiddling.) My friend, can’t you tell me about the road I’m to travel to morrow?
S.—To morrow! Stranger, you won’t git ou’n these diggins for six weeks. But when it gits so you kin start, you see that big sloo over thar? Well, you have to git crost of that, then you take the road up the bank, and in about a mile you’ll come to a two acre and a half cornpatch, the corn’s mitely in the weeds, but you needn’t mind that, jist ride on. About a mile and a half, or two miles, from thar you’ll come to the d___dest swamp you ever struck in all your travels, its boggy enuff to mire a saddle blanket. Thar’s a first rate road about six feet under thar.
T.—How am I to get at it?
S.—You can’t git at it nary time, till the wether stiffens down sum. Well, about a mile beyant, you come to a place whar thur’s two roads. You kin take the right hand ef you want to, you’ll foller it a mile or so, and you’ll run out; you’ll then have to come back and try the left, when you git about two miles on that, you may know you are wrong, fur they ain’t any road thar. You’ll then think you are mighty lucky ef you kin find the way back to my house, whar you kin come and play on that chune as long as you please.
Mr. John E. Reardon, of this city, has this superb picture for sale.