Immerse yourself in the world of Hobo Bill & Kristin with these charming stories. From retellings of childhood memories to traditional tales, there's something for everyone.
Old Pap: A Story by Bill Morris
When I was about fifteen years old. My friend Jimmy and I went into the quail raising business. We found a nest of Bobwhite Quail eggs, took them home put them in an incubator we made out of a Boy Scout book, and hatched them.
We raised the chicks in a little pigeon coop until my mom said I had to get rid of them. Well I didn't want to just take them out and let them go. We got to asking around and found a hunting preserve down in Marshall, NC that would buy quail.
Quail are game birds and you need to obtain a Propagator's license from the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission in order to raise or sell them. We got our license and soon were entrepreneurs.
We took the first batch to Marshall near a place called Walnut Mountain. The people that ran the place were Andersons; Clyde Anderson, the old man they called Pap, and his son Quinton. There were others but I can't remember their names.
What they would do was release the quail on the property and feed them at various places so they would stay. Then people would bring dogs and pay to hunt them.
We began going down there pretty regular and got pretty friendly with Quinton; in fact, he was a banjo picker so we hit it off pretty well.
One day while I was there, some people came down there to hunt but they didn't have any dogs and wanted to know if they could rent some. Quinton said they didn't have any dogs either but Pap could find quail pretty good and he would be glad to go along with them. Well I had to see this so I went along on the hunt. Sure enough Pap could find quail and stand still and point just like a bird dog. When the hunters gave the sign he would jump around and wave his hands and flush the birds as good as any bird dog I've ever seen.
We were in the quail business for about 2 or 3 years I guess, until the Andersons went out of business.
We went to make a delivery one day and met Quinton at the door, he really was down in the mouth; in fact the whole place had a somber feeling. I asked what was going on and he told me Pap had been killed a couple of weeks ago in a freak accident. Of course first I thought some careless hunter had shot him, but Quinton said it wasn't like that at all. He said that Pap had been making pretty good money pointing quail for people, and he thought he'd expand his operation so he started chasing rabbits. That way they would have some income after quail season. Well Pap got to where he could run and bark just like a beagle. It worked out perfect there for a while. Then things took a turn for the worse. He began acting real strange and started chasing squirrels and cats, almost any thing that would run from him. He even started sleeping out under the porch. He got to chasing granny's chickens so bad that they almost quit laying. Granny swore that she was going to shoot him and ran him out of the yard with her shotgun. After that things got real bad, he started going down to the highway and chasing cars and about a month ago he was down there at Beacham's curve and got run over by a truck.
Long, long ago, the grandmothers told this story, and all the grandmothers knew it too. In the time of the ancients, when the animals talked like people, when the trees could sing and when the earth was still soft black mud, the people had no corn. They had no crops at all. People and animals lived on fruits and on nuts and on roots they could find in Cloud Forest. No one knew about the golden secret hidden under the gray lumpy rock cliff called Sustenance Mountain. No one, that is, except the black leaf-cutter ants. These razor-jawed ones had found a secret way through a tiny crack in the very bottom boulder. With their strong ant jaws, they would bring golden corn, kernel by kernel, out from under the mountain to feed the ant children.
Well, the people saw this new food the ants were carrying. They talked and talked and talked together. "Please,"they begged the black leaf-cutter ants, "let us taste this golden fruit." But the pale nuggets were like no other fruit or nut in Cloud Forest. The people couldn't chew such hard kernels. And to swallow them whole gave one the bent-over bellyache. Hungry, they asked Woodpecker what he would do. He, afterall, was an expert at breaking open the hardest wood to find food. Woodpecker, no fool, decided it best to seek the wisest one in Cloud Forest - Ketzal, the plumed dragon -- to ask for his help.
Woodpecker found Ketzal high in a tree. The lord's long plumes of royal green wafted around him in the breezes. Woodpecker told of the ants' new food that no one but the ants could eat. After dreaming a while, Ketzal opened his eyes and told Woodpecker that the people first should take water from the limestone pools on Sustenance Mountain, and they should soak the kernels in this magic water for a day. But that was not all. The people then should grind the softened kernels between two rocks into a mush they could cook.
"But with so few kernels the ants have given us," asked Woodpecker, "how are we to get enough corn for even all the children to taste?" Ketzal thought some more. "Wait here, Woodpecker," he said. He dreamed himself into a black ant, and crawling quickly down the tree and to the edge of Cloud Forest, he found the secret way under the tiny crack in the very bottom boulder of Sustenance Mountain.
Inside, Ketzal saw huge piles upon piles of corn -- enough corn to plant in the soft earth to feed all the people in the world and the animals, too. Meanwhile, Woodpecker waited, not at all patient. Absentmindedly, he began tapping his beak again and again against the tree, wishing the feathered dragon would hurry.
Just then, the great lord woke with a shiver, gave a joyous leap into the sunlight and came flying, down through the treetops with all those long, green feathers and white feathers swirling behind. Lord Ketzal called out to Woodpecker, "I will throw my great thunderbolt at the mountain and break the great gray rock. All the people and animals of the world will have the corn. But first, Woodpecker, you must tap the rock for me to see where it sounds the thinnest." Woodpecker flew to Sustenance Mountain.
He tapped all over the rock and hoped Ketzal could tell where it was thinnest, because all he discovered was that he was getting a ferocious headache.
Soon, Ketzal gathered his rain clouds in the sky and stirred up a great wind. He danced high over the trees. He dived way down, hissing and spitting, and his rain shook every leaf. Ketzal soared again, up and up in the sky, till he drew a mighty breath and spewed out a dazzling thunderbolt. Woodpecker hid behind the last tree at the edge of Cloud Forest.
"WWWAAAACKA!" The mountain cracked open. Woodpecker, in stunned admiration at such a tremendous tap, stuck up his head to see. A shard of flying rock grazed his forehead, and blood came running out. That's why the woodpecker's head has a crest of red.
When they heard Woodpecker's screeching in pain, they came running. They saw a sea of corn spilling from the mountain like sunlight. They were so excited that only much later was it discovered that Ketzal's thunderbolt had burnt some of the corn. Some of the yellow kernels were purple, brown and red - and have been so ever since.
In time, after so many handfuls of kernels had been dropped in the soft earth, the corn plants grew up tall and green. The gracefully bending leaves of the corn plant looked just like Ketzal's sacred green feathers - and they have looked so ever since.
Although Lord Ketzal has long since dreamed himself away and into the skies, where he reigns as Fiery Morning Star, some day he will return. Every year, just before the rainy season, the quetzal bird dances in Cloud Forest so the people will not forget to treasure his gift.
Just as the sun's first rays kiss the tops of the giant trees in Cloud Forest, a flash of color streaks upward into the sunlight - fiery green, bright red and gleaming white. One after another, the sacred birds spiral into the sky, crying "Wacka-wacka-wacka," up and up until each is just a tiny speck. Then they dive straight down again into the treetops. The dancing quetzal bird is how the grandmothers remember the way Ketzal brought corn to feed the people of the world and the animals, too.
All the grandmothers remember this and have said so ever since. Now you, too, must not forget.