Gateway to the Classics: Nights with Uncle Remus by Joel Chandler Harris
Nights with Uncle Remus by  Joel Chandler Harris

Brer Fox's Fish-Trap

The little boy wanted Uncle Remus to sing some more; but before the old man could either consent or refuse, the notes of a horn were heard in the distance. Uncle Remus lifted his hand to command silence, and bent his head in an attitude of attention.

"Des listen at dat!" he exclaimed, with some show of indignation. "Dat ain't nothin' in de roun' worl' but ole man Plato wid dat tin hawn er his'n, en I boun' you he's a-drivin' de six mule waggin, en de waggin full er niggers fum de River place, en let 'lone dat, I boun' you deyer niggers strung out behime de waggin fer mo'n a mile, en deyer all er comin' yer fer ter eat us all out'n house en home, des 'kaze dey year folks say Chris'mus mos' yer. Hit's mighty kuse unter me dat ole man Plato ain't done toot dat hawn full er holes long 'fo' dis.

"Yit I ain't blamin' um," Uncle Remus went on, with a sigh, after a little pause. "Dem ar niggers bin livin' 'way off dar on de River place whar dey ain't no w'ite folks twel dey er done in about run'd wil'. I ain't a-blamin' um, dat I ain't."

Plato's horn—a long tin bugle—was by no means unmusical. Its range was limited, but in Plato's hands its few notes were both powerful and sweet. Presently the wagon arrived, and for a few minutes all was confusion, the negroes on the Home place running to greet the new-comers, who were mostly their relatives. A stranger hearing the shouts and outcries of these people would have been at a loss to account for the commotion.

Even Uncle Remus went to his cabin door, and, with the little boy by his side, looked out upon the scene,—a tumult lit up by torches of resinous pine. The old man and the child were recognized, and for a few moments the air was filled with cries of:—

"Howdy, Unk Remus! Howdy, little Marster!"

After a while Uncle Remus closed his door, laid away his tools, and drew his chair in front of the wide hearth. The child went and stood beside him, leaning his head against the old negro's shoulder, and the two—old age and youth, one living in the Past and the other looking forward only to the Future—gazed into the bed of glowing embers illuminated by a thin, flickering flame. Probably they saw nothing there, each being busy with his own simple thoughts; but their shadows, enlarged out of all proportion, and looking over their shoulders from the wall behind them, must have seen something, for, clinging together, they kept up a most incessant pantomime; and Plato's horn, which sounded again to call the negroes to supper after their journey, though it aroused Uncle Remus and the child from the contemplation of the fire, had no perceptible effect upon the Shadows.

"Dar go de vittles!" said Uncle Remus, straightening himself. "Dey tells me dat dem ar niggers on de River place got appetite same ez a mule. Let 'lone de vittles w'at dey gits from Mars John, dey eats oodles en oodles er fish. Ole man Plato say dat de nigger on de River place w'at ain't got a fish-baskit in de river er some intruss in a fish-trap ain't no 'count w'atsomever."

Here Uncle Remus suddenly slapped himself upon the leg, and laughed uproariously; and when the little boy asked him what the matter was, he cried out:—

"Well, sir! Ef I ain't de fergittenest ole nigger twix' dis en Phillimerdelphy! Yer 't is mos' Chris'mus en I ain't tell you 'bout how Brer Rabbit do Brer Fox w'ence dey bofe un um live on de river. I dunner w'at de name er sense gittin' de marter 'long wid me."

Of course the little boy wanted to know all about it, and Uncle Remus proceeded:—

"One time Brer Fox en Brer Rabbit live de on river. Atter dey bin livin' dar so long a time, Brer Fox 'low dat he got a mighty hankerin' atter sump'n' 'sides fresh meat, en he say he b'leeve he make 'im a fish-trap. Brer Rabbit say he wish Brer Fox mighty well, but he ain't honin' atter fish hisse'f, en ef he is he ain't got no time fer ter make no fish-trap.

"No marter fer dat, Brer Fox, he tuck'n got 'im out some timber, he did, en he wuk nights fer ter make dat trap. Den w'en he git it done, he tuck'n hunt 'im a good place fer ter set it, en de way he sweat over dat ar trap wuz a sin—dat 't wuz.

"Yit atter so long a time, he got 'er sot, en den he tuck'n wash he face en han's en go home. All de time he 'uz fixin' un it up, Brer Rabbit 'uz settin' on de bank watchin' 'im. He sot dar, he did, en play in de water, en cut switches fer ter w'ip at de snake-doctors, en all dat time Brer Fox, he pull en haul en tote rocks fer ter hol' dat trap endurin' a freshet.

"Brer Fox went home en res' hisse'f, en bimeby he go down fer ter see ef dey any fish in he trap. He sorter fear'd er snakes, but he feel 'roun' en he feel 'roun', yit he ain't feel no fish. Den he go off.

"Bimeby, 'long todes de las' er de week, he go down en feel 'roun' 'g'in, yit he ain't feel no fish. Hit keep on dis a-way twel Brer Fox git sorter fag out. He go en he feel, but dey ain't no fish dar. Atter w'ile, one day, he see de signs whar somebody bin robbin' he trap, en he 'low ter hisse'f dat he'll des in 'bout watch en fine out who de somebody is.

"Den he tuck'n got in he boat en paddle und' de bushes on de bank en watch he fish-trap. He watch all de mornin'; nobody ain't come. He watch all endurin' er atter dinner; nobody ain't come. 'Long todes night, w'en he des 'bout makin' ready fer ter paddle off home, he year fuss on t'er side de river, en lo en beholes, yer come Brer Rabbit polin' a boat right todes Brer Fox fish-trap.

"Look lak he dunner how to use a paddle, en he des had 'im a long pole, en he'd stan' up in de behime part er he boat, en put de een' er de pole 'gin' de bottom, en shove 'er right ahead.

"Brer Fox git mighty mad w'en he see dis, but he watch en wait. He 'low ter hisse'f, he did, dat he kin paddle a boat pearter dan anybody kin pole um, en he say he sho'ly gwine ketch Brer Rabbit dis time.

"Brer Rabbit pole up ter de fish-trap, en feel 'roun' en pull out a great big mud-cat; den he retch in en pull out 'n'er big mud-cat; den he pull out a big blue cat, en it keep on dis a-way twel he git de finest mess er fish you mos' ever laid yo' eyes on.

"Des 'bout dat time, Brer Fox paddle out fum und' de bushes, en make todes Brer Rabbit, en he holler out:—

" 'Ah-yi! Youer de man w'at bin robbin' my fish-trap dis long time! I got you dis time! Oh, you nee'nter try ter run! I got you dis time sho'!'

"No sooner said dan no sooner done. Brer Rabbit fling he fish in he boat en grab up de pole en push off, en he had mo' fun gittin' 'way fum dar dan he y-ever had befo' in all he born days put terge'er."

"Why did n't Brother Fox catch him, Uncle Remus?" asked the little boy.

"Shoo!  Honey, you sho'ly done lose yo' min' 'bout Brer Rabbit."

"Well, I don't see how he could get away."


"He git de finest mess er fish
you mos' ever laid yo' eyes on"

"Ef you'd er bin dar you'd er seed it, dat you would. Brer Fox, he wuz dar, en he seed it, en Brer Rabbit, he seed it, en e'en down ter ole Brer Bull-frog, a-settin' on de bank, he seed it. Now, den," continued Uncle Remus, spreading out the palm of his left hand like a map and pointing at it with the forefinger of his right, "w'en Brer Rabbit pole he boat, he  bleedz ter set in de behime een', en w'en Brer Fox paddle he boat, he bleedz ter set in de behime een'. Dat bein' de state er de condition, how Brer Fox gwine ketch 'im? I ain't 'sputin' but w'at he kin paddle pearter dan Brer Rabbit, but de long en de shorts un it is, de pearter Brer Fox paddle de pearter Brer Rabbit go."

The little boy looked puzzled. "Well, I don't see how," he exclaimed.

"Well, sir!" continued Uncle Remus, "w'en de nose er Brer Fox boat git close ter Brer Rabbit boat all Brer Rabbit got ter do in de roun' worl' is ter take he pole en put it 'gin' Brer Fox boat en push hisse'f out de way. De harder he push Brer Fox boat back, de pearter he push he own boat forrerd. Hit look mighty easy ter ole Brer Bull-frog settin' on de bank, en all Brer Fox kin do is ter shake he fist en grit he toof, w'iles Brer Rabbit sail off wid de fish."

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