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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Edgar Wilson (Bill) Nye (1850–1896)

In the South

From “Bill Nye’s Sparks”

ASHEVILLE, N. C., December 9.
THERE is no place in the United States, so far as I know, where the cow is more versatile or ambidextrous, if I may be allowed the use of a term that is far above my station in life, than here in the mountains of North Carolina, where the obese ’possum and the anonymous distiller have their homes.

Not only is the Tar-heel cow the author of a pale but athletic style of butter, but in her leisure hours she aids in tilling the perpendicular farm on the hillside, or draws the products to market. In this way she contrives to put in her time to the best advantage, and when she dies it casts a gloom over the community in which she has resided.

The life of a North Carolina cow is indeed fraught with various changes, and saturated with a zeal which is praiseworthy in the extreme. From the sunny days when she gambols through the beautiful valleys, inserting her black, retroussé and perspiration-dotted nose into the blue grass from ear to ear, until at life’s close, when every part and portion of her overworked system is turned into food, raiment, or overcoat buttons, the life of the Tar-heel cow is one of intense activity.

Her girlhood is short, and almost before we have deemed her emancipated from calfhood herself we find her in the capacity of a mother. With the cares of maternity other demands are quickly made upon her. She is obliged to ostracize herself from society, and enter into the prosaic details of producing small, pallid globules of butter, the very pallor of which so thoroughly belies its lusty strength.

The butter she turns out rapidly until it begins to be worth something, when she suddenly suspends publication and begins to haul wood to market. In this great work she is assisted by the pearl-gray or ecru-colored jackass of the tepid South. This animal has been referred to in the newspapers throughout the country, and yet he never ceases to be an object of the greatest interest.

Jackasses in the South are of two kinds, viz., male and female. Much as has been said of the jackass pro and con, I do not remember ever to have seen the above statement in print before, and yet it is as trite as it is incontrovertible. In the Rocky Mountains we call this animal the burro. There he packs bacon, flour, and salt to the miners. The miners eat the bacon and flour, and with the salt they are enabled to successfully salt the mines.

The burro has a low, contralto voice, which ought to have some machine oil on it. The voice of this animal is not unpleasant if he would pull some of the pathos out of it and make it more joyous.

Here the jackass at times becomes a coworker with the cow in hauling tobacco and other necessaries of life into town, but he goes no further in the matter of assistance. He compels her to tread the cheese-press alone, and contributes nothing whatever in the way of assistance for the butter industry.

The North Carolina cow is frequently seen here driven double or single by means of a small rope line attached to a tall, emaciated gentleman, who is generally clothed with the divine right of suffrage, to which he adds a small pair of ear-bods during the holidays.

The cow is attached to each shaft and a small single tree, or swingletree, by means of a broad strap harness. She also wears a breeching, in which respect she frequently has the advantage of her escort.

I think I have never witnessed a sadder sight than that of a new milch cow, torn away from home and friends and kindred dear, descending a steep mountain road at a rapid rate and striving in her poor, weak manner to keep out of the way of a small Jackson democratic wagon loaded with a big hogshead full of tobacco. It seems to me so totally foreign to the nature of the cow to enter into the tobacco traffic, a line of business for which she can have no sympathy, and in which she certainly can feel very little interest.

Tobacco of the very finest kind is produced here, and is used mainly for smoking purposes. It is the highest-priced tobacco produced in this country. A tobacco broker here yesterday showed me a large quantity of what he called export tobacco. It looks very much like other tobacco while growing.

He says that foreigners use a great deal of this kind. I am learning all about the tobacco industry while here, and as fast as I get hold of any new facts I will communicate them to the press. The newspapers of this country have done much for me, not only by publishing many pleasant things about me, but by refraining from publishing other things about me, and so I am glad to be able, now and then, to repay this kindness by furnishing information and facts for which I have no use myself, but which may be of incalculable value to the press.

As I write these lines I am informed that the snow is twenty-six inches deep here, and four feet deep at High Point in this State. People who did not bring in their pomegranates last evening are bitterly bewailing their thoughtlessness to-day.

A great many people come here from various parts of the world, for the climate. When they have remained here for one winter, however, they decide to leave it where it is.

It is said that the climate here is very much like that of Turin. But I did not intend to go to Turin even before I heard about that.

Please send my paper to the same address, and if some one who knows a good remedy for chilblains will contribute it to the Sabbath Globe, I shall watch for it with great interest. Yours as here-2-4.


P. S.—I should have said relative to the cows of this State that if the owners would work their butter more and their cows less, they would confer a great boon on the consumer of both.

B. N.