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"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 respiration.

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.

Ralph was 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.

It was 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 Ralph?"

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 Mississippi.

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