Copyright
Sam Elmore

PAPA ‘EXPLAINS' A PERSIMMON BUSH


To increase the usable acreage on our farm, we cleared several adjoining acres of timber and underbrush. We called the cleared place ‘new-ground.' After cutting the timber, sawing up the usable wood for the fireplace and cook-stove, we piled the limbs and underbrush so it would dry. After the first hard frost, we'd set fire to the brush piles and burn them. Later, the ashes would be spread acrost the fields and tilled in with gang-discs.

Considerable effort was necessary to break up the new-ground, using middle-buster plows. Following that, a gang-disc was run over the rough-turned soil several times, to get it into tillable condition. Afterwards, the ‘new ground' lay fallow through the winter. As soon as the ground was dry enough in the spring, "cricket" plows (half of a middle-buster) were used to make the rows for planting.

On that first spring morning, when the big brothers and Papa got ready to plow the new-ground, the three of us younger boys, too little to do much of anything worthwhile except tote water, went along to watch.

We young-'uns were surprised to find that the entire field was grown over with young persimmon bushes, almost two feet tall. I suppose we'd expected to find the soil still freshly tilled, as it had been when we'd seen it last fall. So, I asked Papa how come there was so many persimmon bushes.

I must have caught him in the right mood, because he took out his pocketknife, cut a limb from a bush, and commenced to whittle it up into tiny shavings. The three of us boys drew close, as he began his explanation.

"You boys ‘member that ol' black and tan dawg we used to have? the one that run off and never come back?"

"Yessir."

"Wa'al, that ol' dog is the prime reason we got so many ‘simmon bushes this spring; you c'n bet ye' bottom dollar on it."

"Uh Papa, how can a dog--", I tried to ask, but ran out of steam trying to mentally connect that old dog with a field full of ‘simmon bushes.

"Wa'al, boys--it's like this", Papa said; as he paused to take a dip of (what he called) "skeetin' Garrett" snuff.

"Y'all know I trained that dog to hunt rabbits--trained him good, too."

"Yessir", we chorused.

"Wa'al, last winter I reck'n it was, whilst you boys was in school, I was rabbit huntin' and that dog got to chasing a big ol' cane-cutter rabbit."

"Yessir?", we urged.

"It would-a been all right, I reck'n, if the dawg'd done like I trained him--but, nawwww; he had to go and try to ketch the dern thang, ‘stead of chasin' him ‘round in a circle so it'd come back past me where I could shoot it."

Papa paused and spat amber, then hollered at the big brothers, who were unloading the equipment from the wagon:

"You boys be dubious of them sharp plow points, now. I don't want any of y'all gettin' hurt this early in the spring. We got a lot of plowin' to do."

When it was obvious that they were paying him little or no heed, Papa went on with his explanation about the new crop of ‘simmon bushes.

"That blame dawg got so hot on the tail of that cane-cutter, he didn't see that brand-new bob-wire fence we'd just got through puttin' up. When he hit that bottom strand of bob-wire, he must-a been doin' sixty, ‘cause it cut him bad bad."

It was a little difficult for me to understand why, if the dog was hurt so bad, Papa had a hint of a grin on his face, and was having trouble tryin' not to show it.

"He didn't DIE, did he Papa?", asked Baucum ("the baby"), who was hanging on every word Papa said.

"Naw, son; but if I hadn't of done what I done, as quick as I done it, he would-a died fer sure."

"What'd you do, Papa?", I asked.

"Wa'al, that bob-wire plumb cut off his right hind leg--I mean, it-uz a goner. I took and wropped him up in some old toe-sacks, poured coal-oil on it, and he got all right after a while--'cept for being three-legged."

"What happened then, Papa?"

"Wa'al, I got to figgerin'--he wouldn't be worth a durn as a rabbit dog, with jest three legs. So, I cut a slab off of a persimmon tree and whittled him a hind leg. I stropped it on him real good and, after while, he got to be a pretty fair rabbit dog ag'in. We hunted rabbits right here in the new ground last winter, and the dog done pretty good, except--" (Papa paused.)

"‘Cept what, Papa?", asked big brother Todd.

"Wa'al, be-durned if I hadn't made a mistake. I should-a used a cured persimmon slab to whittle that leg out of, ‘cause with that green slab leg, ever' time that leg'd hit the ground, he planted a new ‘simmon sprout."

As he walked off smilin' (leavin' us boys completely ‘had') he hollered: "you big-un's watch out for ‘em sharp plow-points now--ye' hear?"