SKETCHES BY B. FLAT==NO 7. piece in the Chatham Courier, May 13, 1896

The Chatham Courier.

May 13, 1896


"During one of my summer vacations I was induced to take a trip to Red Rock. see the race from whence many of my friends had degenerated."



Being a True and Concise Account of my Experiences in that Teeming Mart of Trade Known as Red Rock, Where I had the Honor Some Years Ago to Become Acquainted with Several Oracles who Have been Land Marks at that Place Since the Beginning of Time.

During one of my summer vacations I was induced to take a trip to Red Rock. I had always heard much of this ancient town and of great men who had once abided there. It was with eagerness that I accepted the invitation to observe for myself the ancestors of great men, and to see the race from whence many of my friends had degenerated. Town from whence all trout streams flow, place where all great fishermen go. Truly it hath been said there are no flies on the inhabitants of Red Rock—except trout flies.

We hired a horse for a small sum of money and set out upon our journey. It was quite a long trip as our horse was not of the highest breed, for it was wind broken and persisted in cutting over-toe with its hind feet. Our carriage was a little ancient, having been made directly after the flood when the wood was green and wet, and since its construction it had shrunk, the spokes rattling like a set of false teeth in a hurricane.

After a time—that is by and by we reached the summit of the hill which overlooks this hamlet, and stopped to take in the view. The little village lies nestled among the hills and reminds one of a Russian settlement. The thin blue smoke was curling up from the chimneys, a death like silence reigned over all, and nothing denoted that the place was inbabited except the occasional bark of a dog, while the savory smell of fried sausage floated serenely up the road.

We came into town at a fair rate of speed, the old carriage rocking and rattling and squeaking, while the old horse added to the unique appearance by trying to kick a fly off its stomach and walk on three legs at the same time. The spectacle caused people to run to the windows and look out, while dogs barked and boys ran out to throw stones at the fly on the aforesaid horse. The grocery oracle crawled down from a pile of boxes in front of the store, and exclaimed “Gosh,” as he looked after us.

The houses in this place are very old and some of them undoubtedly date back to the year one, at least they look so. I had heard much of the red rock after which the village had been named and had longed to see it. Shortly we came in sight of a huge rock by the side of the road surmounted by a white stone monument which bears on it the inscription that the monument was erected in 1860, and the town was settled in 1760 or something to that effect, for I took no note of it while there. The large rock on which this monument stands is on the left of the road as you go from the village, and its of a dark red color; some say it is painted others say it grew so, I am inclined to think it a little of both.

On our return we made a short call at the village store, the haven of rustics in small country villages; as I entered the store I noticed the usual assortment of goods found in a small store; cloth, eggs, coffee, flour, sugar, canned goods, etc., were ranged about the store in rustic profusion and no one but the proprietor could find anything. On soap box at the back of the store sat an individual with a fiddle, engaged in playing the “Devil’s Dream” a weird, fantastic piece calculated to terrorize the bravest man. Near the back of the store stood a stove, and back of this sat an individual with his feet hooked into the rounds of a chair and propping himself up with a cane. His hat was on the back of his head, and in front of him was a semi-circle of tobacco juice. As we entered the store the oracle shifted his quid of tobacco and got a new brace against the stove leg with his cane. My friend bought some trifling articles while I busied myself with reading auction posters, circus announcements and ancient time tables pertaining to running of the Brick Steamer. We hung around for some time, and finally succeeded in getting the oracle entangled in conversation.

He used to know when Chatham was a small place, everybody knew that at one time, and he remembered “before the war” when the recruits used to have rifle practice down near the creek, using a pancake griddle for a bull’s eye. He used to be a great shot with a rifle, and from his stories I judged that Kit Karson or Buffalo Bill had to take a back seat when he was around. He was great on cradling rye too, but he never said anything about it until the winter frosts had throttled all the rye crops. He caught a whole car load of trout once, that is, “before people got to fishing the creeks to death.” He knew the difference between a foot ball and a balloon, and when he was a boy could pitch a base ball so swift that the batter would fall into the vacuum and kill himself. He was authority on clam bakes, horse races, prize fights and politics, besides being somewhat of a naturalist. Before we left he called me to him and confidentially asked if I didn’t have a “chaw ‘o terbacker.”

It has long been a mystery to me how these oracles become established. They seem to spring up, for every town is supplied with its share; who have seen much of the world, and have worn several wooden bottoms out of the store chairs in telling about it.

I happened to be reading one day when I came across a poem which I give as exactly describing the man I saw, and in fact it will fit, to advantage, almost any member of the Never Sweats,

The Grocery Oracle.

Oh, I’ve heard Daniel Webster, an’ he spouted like a good 'un.
An the rippin’, ravin’, snortin'; of the slam bang Rufus Choate.
But fer untiluted elerkence an’ intellechual pudd’n
Sam Pickering at Blancoms store jest gethers in my vote.
With jollogy an’ gogerfy an’ -rifentick ho rastles,
He grabs the cyclopedy an’ slings it fair an’ flat,
An’ he rips up all the sciences an’ flings 'em 'round in passels
For the reservoy of wisdom spouts from jest beneath his hat.
He knows the presidents messages, from Washington to Grover.
'An the eighteen-ninety census, he can say the hull thing over
The Congressional reports lies packed inside his brain
An then jest turn it back'ards an' say it once again.
'An we all gether 'round to get the drippin’s of his knowledge
'Taint no good to go to high school, or to waste four years in college.
Or to take the County papers, for Sam Pickering knows it all

When you go into a country store again just look behind the stove and you will find Sam Pickering, leaning back aginst a line with auction posters and bills hung on it. He is a high bercher of the town, never works, don’t want to work, and belongs to the Independent Order of Never Sweats.


Transcribed from the Chatham Courier, May 13, 1896