The Goophered Grapevine

A short story

“W’en dey tole 'im 'bout do gopher on do grapevimes, he 'uz dat tarrified dat he turn pale, en look des like he gwine ter die right in his tracks. De obersoah come up en axed w'at 'uz dd matter; en w'en dey tole 'im Henry be’n eatin' er de scuppernon's, en got dd goopher on 'im, he gin Henry a big drink er w'iskey, en 'low dat de nex' rainy day he take ‘im ober for Aun' Peggy's, en see ef she would it' take de goopher off'n him, seein' ez he did n' know nuffin erbout it tel he done et de grapes.

"Sho nuff, it rain de nex' day, en de oberseah went ober ter Ann' Peggy's wid Henry. En Aun' Peggy say dat bein' ez Henry did n' know 'bout de goopher, en et de grapes in ign'ance er de quinsecones, she reckon she mought be able fer ter take de goopher off'n him. So she fotch out er bottle wid some cunjuh medicine in it, en po'd some out in a go'd fer Henry ter drink. He manage ter git it down; he say it tas'e like whiskey wid sump'n bitter in it. She 'lowed dat 'ud keep do goopher off'n hint tel do spring; but w'en de sap begin ter rise in de grapevimes be ha' ter come en see her agin, en she toil him w'at e's ter do.

“Nex spring, w’en de sap commence' tar rise in do scuppernon' vime, Henry tuk a ham one night. Whar 'd he git de ham? I doan know; dey wa'nt no hams on do plantation 'cep'n' w'at 'uz in de smokehouse, but I never see Henry 'bout de smoke-house. But ez I wuz a-sayin', he tuk de ham ober ter Aun' Peggy's; en Aun' Peggy tole 'im dat w'en Mars Dugal' begin ter prume de grapevimes, he mus' go en take 'n scrape off de sap whar it ooze out'n de cut een's er de vimes, en 'n'int his ball head wid it; en ef he do dat once't a year de goopher would n' wuk agin 'im long or he done it. En bein' ez he fetch her do ham, she fix' it so be kin eat all de scuppernon' he want.

"So Henry 'nint his head wid de sap out'n do big grapevime des ha'f way 'twix' de quarters en de big house, en de goopher nebber wuk agin him dat summer. But de beatenes' thing you eber see happen ter Henry. Up ter dat time he wuz ez ball cx a sweeten' 'tater, but des ez soon ez de young leaves begun ter come out on do grapevines do ha’r begun to grow out on Henry's head, en by de middle er de summer he had de bigges' head or ha'r on de plantation. Befo' dat, Henry had tol'able good ha'r 'roun' do aidges, but soon ez de young grapes begun ter come Henry's ha'r begun ter quirl all up in little balls, des like dis yer reg'lar grapy ha'r, en by de time de grapes got ripe his head look des like a bunch er grapes. Combin' it did n' do no good; he wuk at it ha’f de night wid or Jim Crow, en think he git it straighten' out, but in de mawnin' de grapes 'ud be dere des de same. So he gin it up, en tried ter keep de grapes down by havin' his ha'r cut sho't,

"But dat wa'nt de quares' thing 'bout do goopher. When Henry come ter dr plantation, he wuz gittin' a little ole an stiff in do j'ints. But dat summer he got des ez spry en libely ez any young nigger on de plantation; fac’ he got so biggity dat Mars Jackson, de oberseah, ha' ter th'eaten ter whip 'im, ef he did n’ stop cuttin' up his didos in behave hisse'f. But de mos’ cur'ouses' thing happen’ in de fall, when de begin ter go down in de grapevime. Fus', when de grapes 'uz gethered, de knots begun ter straighten out'n Henry's har’; en w'en de leaves begin ter fall, Henry's ha'r begin ter drop out; en w’en de vimes 'uz b’ar. Henry's head was baller 'n it wuz in de spring, en he begin in git ole en stiff in de j'ints ag'in, on paid no me' tention icr do gals thitin' or do whole winter. En nex' spring, w'en he rub de sap on ag'in, he got young ag'in en so soop1 en libely dat none er de young niggers on de plantation could n' jump, ner dance, ner hoe es much cotton ez Henry. But in de fall er de year his grapes begun let straighten out, en his j'ints ter git stiff, en his ha’r drap off, en de rheumatiz begin ter wrastle wid 'im.

Now, ef you'd a knowel ole Mars Dugal' McAdoo, you'd a knowed dat it ha' ter be a mighty rainy day when de could n' line sump'n for his nigger ter do, en it ha' er be a mighty little hole he could n' crawl thoo, en ha' ter be a monst'us cloudy night w'en a dollar git by him in de dahkness; en w'en he see how Henry, git young in de spring en ole in do fall, he 'lowed ter hisse'f ez how he could make mo' money outen Henry dun by wukkin' him in do cotton feil. 'Long de nex' spring, atter de sap commence' ter rise, en Henry 'n'int 'is head en commence fre ter git young en soopl. Mars Dugal' up 'n tuk Henry ter town, en sole ’im fer fifteen hunder' dollars. Co'se de man w'at bought Henry did n’ know nuffin 'bout de goopher, en Mars Dugul' did a' see no casion fer ter tell 'im. Long to'ds de fall, w'en do sap went down, Henry begin ter git ole again same ex yuzhal, en his noo marster begin ter git skeered les'n he gwine ter lose his fifteen-hunder’-dollar nigger. He sent fer a mighty fine doctor, but de med'cine did n' 'pear ter do no good; de goopher had a good holt. Henry tole de doctor 'bout de goopher, but do doctor des laff' at 'im.

"One day in de winter Mars Dugal' went ter town, en wuz santerin' 'long de Main Street, when who should he meet but Henry's noo marster. Dey said 'Hoddy,' en Mars Dugal' ax 'im tot hab a seegyar; en atter dey run on awhile 'bout de craps en de weather, Mars Dugal' ax 'im, sorter keerless, like es ef he des thought of it, -

"'How you like de nigger I sole you las' spring?'

"Henry's marster shuck his head en knock de ashes off'n his seegyar.

“ ‘Spec' I made a had bahgin when I bought dat nigger. Henry done good wuk all do summer, but sence de fall set in he 'pears ter be sorter pinin' away. Dey ain’ nuffin pertickler de matter wid’ 'im - leastways de doctor say so 'cep'n' a tech er de rheumatiz; but his ha'r is all fell out, en ef he don't pick up his strenk mighty soon, I spec' I 'm gwine ter lose 'im.'

"Dey smoked on awhile, en bimeby ole mars say, 'Well, a bahgin 's a bahgin, but you en me is good fren's, en I doan wan' ter see you lose all de money you paid fer dat digger; en ef w'at you say is so, en I ain't 'sputin' it, he ain't wuf much now. I spec's you wukked him too ha'd dis summer, or e'se de swamps down here don't agree wid de san'-hill. nigger. So you dest lemme know, en ef he gits any wusser I’ll be willin' ter gib yet five hund'ed dollars fer 'im, en take my chances on his livin'.’

"Sho nuff, when Henry begun ter draw up wid de rheumatiz en it look like he gwine ter die fer sho, his noo manter sen’ fer Mars Dugal', en Mars Dugal' gin him what he promus, en brung Henry home ag'in. He tuk good keer uv 'im dyoin' er de winter, - give 'im w'iskey ter rub his rheumatiz, en terbacker ter smoke, en all he want ter eat, -'caze a nigger w'at he could make a thousan' dollars a year off’n did it' grow on eve'y huckleberry bush.

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