Milking a tale for all it’s worth
In the 1930s and ‘40s, my uncle, Henry Davidson, owned the general store in Swannanoa, located near what is now Buncombe Community School. He carried the usual fare of a small town store, from a tantalizing array of penny candy to kitchen and farm needs. The store’s real importance, however, lay in the fact that it was where the locals gathered to top one another with “yarns,” which had begun with shreds of truth. By the time they had been enlarged and embellished, they were great stories, but the event itself hardly recognizable. Uncle Henry himself was a storyteller of note.
A Mr. Patton owned several acres across the road from the store and had given Uncle Henry permission to hunt for squirrels on his property at any time. One Autumn day, business was slow (nonexistent), and Uncle Henry took his rifle, locked the store and crossed the road to try and shoot a squirrel or two for dinner. He began to climb the hill, looking ahead all the while to see if he could spot any unsuspecting squirrels in the trees or on fallen logs.
Part way up the hill he saw movement on the side of a tree, slightly hidden by bushes growing close by. It appeared to be a squirrel’s tail so he fired away at what he assumed was the owner of the tail. It fell, so he went to collect his prey. Imagine his surprise when, instead of a squirrel, he found Mr. Patton’s prized milk cow lying dead.
The pain of paying for the cow was eclipsed by the enjoyment of his “friends” as they gathered at the store and offered their own versions of the event. There was a barber and wit in Swannanoa, a Mr. Henry who wrote a poem, commemorating the squirrel hunting event. We found the original years later in a farmhouse that stood for over a hundred years on Bee Tree Road.
“An Ode To A Nimrod” or “The Sage Of Silver Ridge”
Dear Uncle Henry this letter we send/and sincerely hope you’ll be able to attend/our cow-hunting party, on opening day.
As I write you this invitation with pride and pleasure,/I’ll throw in some poetry for damn good measure./When Autumn leaves are turning brown and/frisky squirrels will frisk around/in all the trees both far and near/and they don’t resemble an old cow’s ear.
Squirrel tails are bushy/and their heads are round/and none of them weigh Six Hundred Pound!
So, all of you hunters with pride and skill/will please stay away from Patton Hill./Tis whispered now throughout the land/of a mighty feat of a certain man/who came one day to Patton Hill/a bush-tailed squirrel for to kill.
But when the smoke had cleared away/a spotted moo cow he had slay./The squirrel sighed with much relief/for Uncle Henry had shot the beef.
Uncle Henry was a mighty fine gent,/and for others’ good his life was spent/but his big mistake we all know now/was when he shot that spotted cow.
P.S. This material for this poem of mine/was all created in thirty-nine./When Uncle Henry’s span on earth has passed/just put that on his epitaph...