"On Top of Old
Smoky," #75 Swapping Stories
Harry Methvin, Hargrove Settlement,
Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana
Recorded June 30, 1990 by C. Renée Harvison.
Living here on this corner
was Bronson Dickerson. Now, Bronson had a son-in-law named Ralph Myers,
and Ralph's wife's name was Betty Lou. Ralph bought him a horse, and he
didn't have any place to keep his horse, so his father-in-law, Bronson,
agreed he could keep his horse in his pasture. And Ralph would have to
come over every afternoon and pack up the buckets of water to fill up the
number three tub with fresh water everyday.
And the horse was
getting to be more trouble than he was worth, but he loved the old horse.
The horse was named Smoky. But [Ralph] decided he was going to blow him a
water hole in the middle of Bronson's pasture. If he could get him a stick
of dynamite to blow one big hole -- and it would be full of water -- he'd
never have to water his horse again. He only needed half a stick.
So he went to -- I don't know, maybe Pete Bennett -- and he got
him a stick of dynamite, half a stick, but Pete was a generous sort, said,
"No, just take the whole stick." So he gave him a fuse, everything he
needed to blow a hole.
So on a Saturday morning, Sunday morning
maybe it was, Ralph came over to blow the water hole. And he went out to
the middle of the field, and he found a crawfish hole. He got the hoe
handle, and he kind of wallowed it out.
He said, "I'll never need
the rest of this dynamite." So he decided to use the whole stick. He stuck
a hole in the end of the dynamite. You put the fuse inside the stick of
dynamite, then you fray the ends with your pocketknife where it'll burn
better. You put the cap on the end, and you clinch it on before you put it
into the dynamite.
He did all those steps properly, stuck it into
the crawfish hole. He lit the fuse and ran for the shelter of Bronson's
barn, because dynamite is a very powerful explosive. And he got to the
barn, holding his ears, and he turned around and looked back, and his
horse, old Smoky, had gone up to find out what all that smoke was from.
And Smoky was over there smelling the smoke.
And then the dynamite
exploded, and old Smoky went probably eight-five or ninety feet into the
air and Ralph said, "Oh my God!" He ran and got there just about the time
that Smoky came back down. He thought -- and Arliss Van Winkle told me
this, I know it's true -- he thought that he had blown Smoky's guts out.
He walked over there to that limp body and he rubbed it, and it
was just mud that had blowed up all over Smoky's belly. Smoky was not
dead. Smoky was just dazed temporarily. So Ralph knelt on the ground
beside Smoky, and he rubbed his neck, and he tried to give him artificial
Finally, Smoky started to regain consciousness, and
Ralph ran to the barn and got a rope and he tied it around Smoky's neck.
Finally, he got Betty Lou out, and they managed to get Smoky up on his
feet. And Betty Lou got in the back and pushed, and Ralph got in the front
and pulled, and they got Smoky into the barn.
Smoky was still very
wobbly. He could hardly stand up. Ralph stood out there with that horse
for hours, because he loved that horse. He rubbed his neck, and he leaned
over on its back, and Smoky was beginning to get some strength back. So
Ralph just leaned across the back, rubbing [him], and Betty Lou was
holding the rope. Ralph crawled up on the back to see if Smoky could
support him, because Smoky seemed to be okay now.
sitting up on the back of old Smoky, and not thinking, Betty Lou reached
into her pocket and got out her pack of Camels. She got one of the kitchen
matches and flicked it on the back of her jeans and lit the match. When
Smoky saw that smoke, Smoky broke through the north wall of Bronson's
barn, and Ralph was hanging on around his neck! Smoky went through the
woods where Shorty Van Winkle's living room now sits. That's the last
Betty Lou saw of Ralph and Smoky.
Betty Lou was worried sick. She
was over there alone. She walked just as far as she could. She saw some
broken limbs where they had been. But she never saw Smoky and Ralph.
She finally returned home, but there was no one else, no neighbor
where she could go to that was home. She worried and worried and walked
the floor. Then she went outside and sat under the cedar tree. She had a
bushel of peas, and she went out there to shell the peas and wait on
Ralph, to hear from Ralph and Smoky. She was shelling the peas, and she
was sobbing and crying. She didn't even have to salt the peas when she
cooked them, she cried so much. All the tears, salt tears.
almost dark. She looked up, she saw a cloud of dust, and it was Earl
Talley. Earl Talley made hot tamales and [sold] peanuts. He was also the
dispatcher for the local police. Earl got out of the car, approached the
gate, and he came inside. She said, "Earl! Earl! Something terrible has
happened to Ralph!"
And Earl said, "Betty Lou, relax, I got some
news from Ralph." She said, "Tell me, tell me! Please tell me! Where is
He said, "I don't know any details, Betty Lou. All I can
tell you is what I wrote down when Ralph called." He said, "Ralph called
and said to tell you he's in Rosepine. That he is okay. They tried to stop
him for speeding in Singer, but they couldn't catch him. They put up a
road block in Rosepine, and they finally got old Smoky stopped! He said to
tell you that as soon as he hung up the phone with me, he was going to get
back on old Smoky, and there was some guy there that was going to light a
cigarette for him. He said to open the barn doors, and put on supper
because, he thinks he'll be home by dark!"
And sure enough, it all
worked to perfection because just about dark, right after supper was
ready, here come Ralph and old Smoky right as they had gone, right through
the north door of the barn. Ralph came in looking not much worse for the
wear, and he visited with Betty Lou a while and told her about his
exploits and what Rosepine was like because they'd never been to Rosepine.
They started to get ready for bed. Ralph said, "Betty Lou, I've
been thinking. In the morning, soon as I wake up, I'm going to go out
there and put the harness on old Smoky." Except he called him Dynamite.
He'd changed his name from Smoky to Dynamite.
He said, "I"m going
to put the harness on Dynamite." Said, "I want you to load up all the
kids. Put them in the back of the wagon." Said, "You know that cigar I got
in my dresser drawer?" Said, "I want you to get that cigar, and I'm not
going to ask you to do this anymore." He said, "When you get the kids
loaded, and I'm sitting in that seat," said, "I want you to just stand in
front of Smoky." He said, "Take one puff on that cigar because I want to
go see my brother in Shreveport!"
That's true, too. He did blow up
the horse with dynamite. That part is true.
For more information about
this and related tales, refer to the book Swapping Stories: Folktales
from Louisiana, published by University Press of