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

Danforth Marble

The Hoosier and the Salt-Pile

“I’M sorry,” says Dan, as he knocked the ashes from his regalia, as he sat in a small crowd over a glass of sherry at Florence’s, New York, one evening, “I’m sorry that the stages are disappearing so rapidly; I never enjoyed traveling so well as in the slow coaches. I’ve made a good many passages over the Alleghanies, and across Ohio, from Cleveland to Columbus and Cincinnati, all over the South, down East, and up North, in stages, and I generally had a good time.

“When I passed over from Cleveland to Cincinnati, the last time, in a stage, I met a queer crowd—such a corps, such a time you never did see. I never was better amused in my life. We had a good team—spanking horses, fine coaches, and one of them drivers you read of. Well, there was nine ‘insiders,’ and I don’t believe there ever was a stageful of Christians ever started before so chuck-full of music.

“There was a beautiful young lady going to one of the Cincinnati academies; next to her sat a Jew pedler—for Cowes and a market; wedging him in was a dandy blackleg, with jewelry and chains around about his breast and neck—enough to hang him. There was myself and an old gentleman with large spectacles, gold-headed cane, and a jolly, soldering-iron-looking nose; by him was a circus-rider whose breath was enough to breed yaller fever, and could be felt just as easy as cotton velvet! A cross old woman came next, and whose look would have given any reasonable man the double-breasted blues before breakfast; alongside of her was a rale backwoods preacher, with the biggest and ugliest mouth ever got up since the flood. He was flanked by the low comedian of the party, an Indiana Hoosier, ‘gwine down to Orleans to get an army contract’ to supply the forces then in Mexico with beef.

“We rolled along for some time; nobody seemed inclined to ‘open.’ The old aunty sot bolt upright, looking crab-apples and persimmons at the Hoosier and the preacher; the young lady dropped the green curtain of her bonnet over her pretty face, and leaned back in her seat to nod and dream over japonicas and jumbles, pantalets and poetry; the old gentleman, proprietor of the Bardolph ‘nose,’ looked out at the ‘corduroy’ and swashes; the gambler fell off into a doze, and the circus covey followed suit, leaving the preacher and me vis-à-vis and saying nothing to nobody. ‘Indianny,’ he stuck his mug out at the window and criticized the cattle we now and then passed. I was wishing somebody would give the conversation a start, when ‘Indianny’ made a break:

“‘This ain’t no great stock country,’ says he to the old gentleman with the cane.

“‘No, sir,’ was the reply. ‘There’s very little grazing here; the range is nearly wore out.’

“Then there was nothing said again for some time. Bimeby the Hoosier opened again:

“‘It’s the d——dest place for ’simmon trees and turkey buzzards I ever did see!’

“The old gentleman with the cane didn’t say nothing, and the preacher gave a long groan. The young lady smiled through her veil, and the old lady snapped her eyes and looked sideways at the speaker.

“‘Don’t make much beef here, I reckon,’ says the Hoosier.

“‘No,’ says the gentleman.

“‘Well, I don’t see how in h—ll they all manage to get along in a country whar thar ain’t no ranges and they don’t make no beef. A man ain’t considered worth a cuss in Indianny what hasn’t got his brand on a hundred head.’

“‘Yours is a great beef country, I believe,’ says the old gentleman.

“‘Well, sir, it ain’t anything else. A man that’s got sense enuff to foller his own cow-bell with us ain’t in no danger of starvin’. I’m gwine down to Orleans to see if I can’t git a contract out of Uncle Sam to feed the boys what’s been lickin’ them infernal Mexicans so bad. I s’pose you’ve seed them cussed lies what’s been in the papers about the Indianny boys at Bony Visty.’

“‘I’ve read some accounts of the battle,’ says the old gentleman, ‘that didn’t give a very flattering account of the conduct of some of our troops.’

“With that the Indianny man went into a full explanation of the affair, and, gittin’ warmed up as he went along, begun to cuss and swear like he’d been through a dozen campaigns himself. The old preacher listened to him with evident signs of displeasure, twistin’ and groanin’ till he couldn’t stand it no longer.

“‘My friend,’ says he, ‘you must excuse me, but your conversation would be a great deal more interesting to me—and I’m sure would please the company much better—if you wouldn’t swear so terribly. It’s very wrong to swear, and I hope you’ll have respect for our feelin’s, if you hain’t no respect for your Maker.’

“If the Hoosier had been struck with thunder and lightnin’ he couldn’t have been more completely tuck aback. He shut his mouth right in the middle of what he was sayin’ and looked at the preacher, while his face got as red as fire.

“‘Swearin’,’ says the preacher, ‘is a terrible bad practise, and there ain’t no use in it nohow. The Bible says, “Swear not at all,” and I s’pose you know the commandments about swearin’?’

“The old lady sort of brightened up—the preacher was her ‘duck of a man’; the old fellow with the ‘nose’ and cane let off a few ‘umph, ah! umphs.’ But ‘Indianny’ kept shady; he appeared to be cowed down.

“‘I know,’ says the preacher, ‘that a great many people swear without thinkin’, and some people don’t b’lieve the Bible.’

“And then he went on to preach a regular sermon agin swearing, and to quote Scripture like he had the whole Bible by heart. In the course of his argument he undertook to prove the Scriptures to be true, and told us all about the miracles and propheces and their fulfilment. The old gentleman with the cane took a part in the conversation, and the Hoosier listened without ever opening his head.

“‘I’ve just heard of a gentleman,’ says the preacher, ‘that’s been to the Holy Land and went over the Bible country. It’s astonishin’ to hear what wonderful things he has seen. He was at Sodom and Gomorrow, and seen the place whar Lot’s wife fell!’

“‘Ah,’ says the old gentleman with the cane.

“‘Yes,’ says the preacher, ‘he went to the very spot; and what’s the remarkablest thing of all, he seen the pillar of salt what she was turned into!’

“‘Is it possible!’ says the old gentleman.

“‘Yes, sir; he seen the salt, standin’ thar to this day.’

“‘What!’ says the Hoosier, ‘real genewine, good salt?’

“‘Yes, sir; a pillar of salt, jest as it was when that wicked woman was punished for her disobedience.’

“All but the gambler, who was snoozing in the corner of the coach, looked at the preacher—the Hoosier with an expression of countenance that plainly told that his mind was powerfully convicted of an important fact.

“‘Right out in the open air?’ he asked.

“‘Yes, standin’ right in the open field, whar she fell.’

“‘Well, sir,’ says ‘Indianny,’ ‘all I’ve got to say is, if she’d dropped in our parts, the cattle would have licked her up afore sundown!’

“The preacher raised both his hands at such an irreverent remark, and the old gentleman laughed himself into a fit of asthmatics, what he didn’t get over till he came to the next change of horses. The Hoosier had played the mischief with the gravity of the whole party; even the old maid had to put her handkerchief to her face, and the young lady’s eyes were filled with tears for half an hour afterward. The old preacher hadn’t another word to say on the subject; but whenever we came to any place or met anybody on the road, the circus man nursed the thing along by asking what was the price of salt.”