The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

The Horse Trade

By Wm. Axley Allen © 1983-2012

Issue: September, 1983

“Fast talking trading like fast drinking can pull a high toll.” (Uncle Ben)

There’s three kinds of traders, the ones who do it for fun, the ones who do it for profit and the ones that are addicted, like my Uncle Charlie was. Uncle Charlie was a trader’s dream come true ‘cause once he decided to trade for something there was no backing down. He became a man possessed and his better judgment got churned like butter into a blind optimistic faith that a little more boot would work the deal.

The best example I know of this addiction was the time he decided to trade the horses. This is a more or less true account of what happens to a trading addict consumed with “have to have it fever.”

Uncle Ben sat with his elbows propped on the kitchen table. His brother-in-law, my Uncle Charlie, was leaning over the back of an old straight chair that he was sitting backwards on. They were at Uncle Ben’s house and Uncle Charlie was trying to trade Uncle Ben out of a horse.

First off, Ben told Charlie that he, “Didn’t much want to get rid of that horse,” but Uncle Charlie only became more set on trading. He offered his horse and five dollars to boot for Uncle Ben’s horse. Uncle Ben just sat there, staring Uncle Charlie in the eye, without speaking.

Uncle Charlie said, “Come on, Ben, name you a price. I tell you what, I’ll throw in another five dollars boot.” (In those days, five dollars was a pile of money and the ten dollars that Uncle Charlie was offering as boot on the trade was many days wages.) Still Uncle Ben just sat staring at him without opening his mouth.

Finally, Uncle Charlie couldn’t wait any longer and he said, “Ben, you old cuss, you drive a hard bargain, but I’ll tell you what I’ll do. You see this here knife?” he asked as he pulled a pearl handled knife out of his pocket. “This here’s a genuine Barlow and you’ve been wanting this knife ever since you first seen it. I’ll throw my knife in too. What do you say, Ben, we got a deal?” Ben never answered. He only sit there like a piece of granite and stared at Uncle Charlie.

Uncle Charlie couldn’t take the silence and finally he said, “Now look here Ben, I’ll give you my horse, ten dollars cash money, my genuine Barlow knife and I’ll even throw in that blue-tick gyp I got. You know she’s one of the best ‘possum’ dogs in these parts. Now I ask you, Ben, aint that a good deal for you?”

Uncle Charlie developed a look of shocked disbelief. He couldn’t believe that Uncle Ben wasn’t jumping at such a deal. But Ben never moved a muscle or batted an eye.

By this time, Uncle Charlie had the determination of a Baptist preacher with a sinner to save. Ben’s not saying anything was making him more determined to trade, regardless of the price.

“OK, Ben, I know what you’re wanting and I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll give you my horse, ten dollars cash money, my genuine Barlow knife, my blue-tick gyp and I’ll throw in my saddle as boot. You know that’s the best sitting saddle you’ve ever seen, said so yourself not two weeks ago. That’s my final offer, Ben, you can take it or leave it! You sit here and think it over. I’m going to the outhouse.”

He got up and went out the door. Uncle Ben sat there without moving or speaking a word for a good while after Uncle Charlie went out. Then in his slow drawl he said, “I wuz gonna take his first offer but he wouldn’t let me have time to say it. Guess I better tell him it’s a deal a’fore he throws in his young’uns to boot.”

(Authors note: Would anyone care to trade for a good Tennessee Walking Mule? He’s got one good eye and I have it on the word of the man that I got him from that he’s the last of a great line of “Walking Mules”.) Alas, I am afraid that my personality derived in part from my uncles.