BROTHER RABBIT AND BROTHER BULL-FROG





Joel Chandler Harris







The day that the little boy got permission to go to mill with Uncle

Remus was to be long remembered. It was a brand-new experience

to the little city-bred child, and he enjoyed it to the utmost. It is

true that Uncle Remus didn't go to mill in the old-fashioned way,

but even if the little chap had known of the old-fashioned way, his

enjoyment would not have been less. Instead of throwing a bag

of corn on the back of a horse, and perching himself on top in an

uneasy and a precarious position, Uncle Remus placed the corn in a

spring wagon, helped the little boy to climb into the seat, clucked to

the horse, and went along as smoothly and as rapidly as though they

were going to town.



Everything was new to the lad--the road, the scenery, the mill,

and the big mill pond, and, best of all, Uncle Remus allowed him to

enjoy himself in his own way when they came to the end of the

journey. He was such a cautious and timid child, having little or

none of the spirit of adventure that is supposed to dominate the

young, that the old negro was sure he would come to no harm. Instead

of wandering about, and going to places where he had no business

to go, the little boy sat where he could see the water flowing

over the big dam. He had never seen such a sight before, and the

water seemed to him to have a personality of its own--a personality

with both purpose and feeling.



The river was not a very large one, but it was large enough to be

impressive when its waters fell and tumbled over the big dam. The

little boy watched the tumbling water as it fell over the dam and

tossed itself into foam on the rocks below; he watched it so long

and he sat so still that he was able to see things that a noisier

youngster would have missed altogether. He saw a big bull-frog

creep warily from the water and wipe his mouth and eyes with one

of his fore legs, and he saw the same frog edge himself softly toward

a white butterfly that was flitting about near the edge of the stream.

He saw the frog lean forward, and then the butterfly vanished. It

seemed like a piece of magic. The child knew that the frog had

caught the butterfly, but how? The fluttering insect was more than

a foot from the frog when it disappeared, and he was sure that the

frog had neither jumped nor snapped at the butterfly. What he saw,

he saw as plainly as you see your hand in the light of day.



And he saw another sight too that is not given to every one to

see. While he was watching the tumbling water and wondering

where it all came from and where it was going, he thought he saw

swift-moving shadows flitting from the water below up and into

the mill pond above. He never would have been able to discover

just what the shadows were if one of them had not paused a

moment while halfway to the top of the falling water. It poised

itself for one brief instant, as a humming-bird poises over a flower,

but during that fraction of time the little boy was able to see that

what he thought was a shadow was really a fish going from the

water below to the mill pond above. The child could hardly believe

his eyes, and for a little while it seemed that the whole world

was turned topsy-turvy, especially as the shadows continued to flit

from the water below to the mill pond above.



And he was still more puzzled when he reported the strange

fact to Uncle Remus, for the old negro took the information as a

matter of course. With him the phenomenon was almost as old as

his experience. The only explanation that he could give of it was

that the fish--or some kinds of fish, and he didn't know rightly

what kind it was--had a habit of falling from the bottom of the

falls to the top. The most that he knew was that it was a fact,

and that it was occurring every day in the year when the fish were

running. It was certainly wonderful, as in fact everything would be

wonderful if it were not so familiar.



"We ain't got but one way er lookin' at things," remarked Uncle

Remus, "an' ef you'll b'lieve me, honey, it's a mighty one-sided way.

Ef you could git on a perch some'rs an' see things like dey reely is,

an' not like dey seem ter us, I be boun' you'd hol' yo' breff an' shet

yo' eyes."



The old man, without intending it, was going too deep into a deep

subject for the child to follow him, and so the latter told him about

the bull-frog and the butterfly. The statement seemed to call up

pleasing reminiscences, for Uncle Remus laughed in a hearty way.

And when his laughing had subsided, he continued to chuckle until

the little boy wondered what the source of his amusement could

be. Finally he asked the old negro point blank what had caused him

to laugh at such a rate.



"Yo' pa would 'a' know'd," Uncle Remus replied, and then he

grew solemn again and sighed heavily. For a little while he seemed

to be listening to the clatter of the mill, but, finally, he turned to the

little boy. "An' so you done made de 'quaintance er ol' Brer Bull-Frog?

Is you take notice whedder he had a tail er no?"



"Why, of course he didn't have a tail!" exclaimed the child.

"Neither toad-frogs nor bull-frogs have tails. I thought everybody

knew that."



"Oh, well, ef dat de way you feel 'bout um, 'taint no use fer ter

pester wid um. It done got so now dat folks don't b'lieve nothin'

but what dey kin see, an' mo' dan half un um won't b'lieve what dey

see less'n dey kin feel un it too. But dat ain't de way wid dem

what's ol' 'nough fer ter know. Ef I'd 'a' tol' you 'bout de fishes

swimmin' ag'in fallin' water, you wouldn't 'a' b'lieved me, would

you? No, you wouldn't--an' yet, dar 'twuz right 'fo' yo' face an'

eyes. Dar dey wuz a-skeetin' fum de bottom er de dam right up in

de mill pon', an' you settin' dar lookin' at um. S'posin' you wuz ter

say dat you won't b'lieve um less'n you kin feel um; does you speck

de fish gwineter hang dar in de fallin' water an' wait twel you kin

wade 'cross de slipp'y rocks an' put yo' han' on um? Did you look

right close, fer ter see ef de bull-frog what you seed is got a tail

er no?"



The little boy admitted that he had not. He knew as well as

anybody that no kind of a frog has a tail unless it is the Texas frog,

which is only a horned lizard, for he saw one once in Atlanta, and

it was nothing but a rusty-back lizard with a horn on his head.



"I ain't 'sputin' what you say, honey," said Uncle Remus, "but

de creetur what you seed mought 'a' been a frog an' you not know

it. One thing I does know is dat in times gone by de bull-frog had

a tail, kaze I hear de ol folks sesso, an' mo' dan dat, dey know'd

des how he los' it--de whar, an' de when an' de which-away. Fer

all I know it wuz right here at dish yer identual mill pon'. I ain't

gwine inter court an' make no affledave on it, but ef anybody wuz

ter walk up an' p'int der finger at me, an' say dat dis is de place

where ol' Brer Bull-Frog lose his tail, I'd up and 'low, 'Yasser, it

mus' be de place, kaze it look might'ly like de place what I been

hear tell 'bout.' An' den I'd set my eyes an' see ef I can't git it

straight in my dreams."



Uncle Remus paused and pretended to be counting a handful of

red grains of corn that he had found somewhere in the mill. Seeing

that he showed no disposition to tell how Brother Bull-Frog had

lost his tail, the little boy reminded him of it. But the old man

laughed. "Ef Brer Bull-Frog ain't never had no tail," he said,

"how de name er goodness he gwineter lose un? Ef he yever is had

a tail, why den dat's a gray boss uv an'er color. Dey's a tale 'bout

'im havin' a tail an' losin' it, but how kin dey be a tale when dey

ain't no tail?"



Well, the little boy didn't know at all, and he looked so disconsolate

and so confused that the old negro relented. "Now, den,"

he remarked, "ef ol' Brer Bull-Frog had a tail an' he ain't got none

now, dey must 'a' been sump'n happen. In dem times--de times

what all deze tales tells you 'bout--Brer Bull-Frog stayed in an'

aroun' still water des like he do now. De bad col' dat he had in

dem days, he's got it yit--de same pop-eyes, and de same bal'

head. Den, ez now, dey wa'n't a bunch er ha'r on it dat you could

pull out wid a pa'r er tweezers. Ez he bellers now, des dat a-way

he bellered den, mo' speshually at night. An' talk 'bout settin' up

late--why, ol' Brer Bull-Frog could beat dem what fust got in de

habits er settin' up late.



"Dey's one thing dat you'll hatter gi' 'im credit fer, an' dat wuz

keepin' his face an' han's clean, an' in takin' keer er his cloze. Nobody,

not even his mammy, had ter patch his britches er tack buttons

on his coat. See 'im whar you may an' when you mought, he wuz

allers lookin' spick an' span des like he done come right out'n a ban'-box.

You know what de riddle say 'bout 'im: when he stan' up he

sets down, an' when he walks he hops. He'd 'a' been mighty well

thunk un, ef it hadn't but 'a' been fer his habits. He holler so

much at night dat de yuther creeturs can't git no sleep. He'd holler

an' holler, an' 'bout de time you think he bleeze ter be 'shame' er

hollerin' so much, he'd up an' holler 'gi'n. It got so dat de creeturs

hatter go 'way off some'rs ef dey wanter git any sleep, an' it

seem like dey can't git so fur off but what Brer Bull-Frog would wake

um up time dey git ter dozin' good.



"He'd raise up an' low, _'Here I is! Here I is! Wharbouts is

you? Wharbouts is you? Come along! Come along!'_ It 'uz

des dat a-way de whole blessed night, an' de yuther creeturs, dey say

dat it sholy was a shame dat anybody would set right flat-footed an'

ruin der good name. Look like he pestered ev'ybody but ol' Brer

Rabbit, an' de reason dat he liked it wuz kaze it worried de yuther

creeturs. He'd set an' lissen, ol' Brer Rabbit would, an' den he'd

laugh fit ter kill kaze he ain't a-keerin' whedder er no he git any sleep

or not. Ef dey's anybody what kin set up twel de las' day in de

mornin' an' not git red-eyed an' heavy-headed, it's ol' Brer Rabbit.

When he wanter sleep, he'd des shet one eye an' sleep, an' when he

wanter stay 'wake, he'd des open bofe eyes, an' dar he wuz wid all

his foots under 'im, an' a-chawin' his terbacker same ez ef dey

wa'n't no Brer Bull-Frog in de whole Nunited State er Georgy.



"It went on dis way fer I dunner how long--ol' Brer Bull-Frog

a-bellerin' all night long an' keepin' de yuther creeturs 'wake, an'

Brer Rabbit a-laughin'. But, bimeby, de time come when Brer

Rabbit hatter lay in some mo' calamus root, ag'in de time when 't

would be too col' ter dig it, an' when he went fer ter hunt fer it,

his way led 'im down todes de mill pon' whar Brer Bull-Frog live

at. Dey wuz calamus root a-plenty down dar, an' Brer Rabbit, atter

lookin' de groun' over, promise hisse'f dat he'd fetch a basket de nex'

time he come, an' make one trip do fer two. He ain't been dar long

'fo' he had a good chance fer ter hear Brer Bull-Frog at close range.

He hear him, he did, an' he shake his head an' say dat a mighty

little bit er dat music would go a long ways, kaze dey ain't nobody

what kin stan' flat-footed an' say dat Brer Bull-Frog is a better singer

dan de mockin'-bird.



"Well, whiles Brer Rabbit wuz pirootin' roun' fer ter see what

mought be seed, he git de idee dat he kin hear thunder way off yander.

He lissen ag'in, an' he hear Brer Bull-Frog mumblin' an' grumblin'

ter hisse'f, an' he must 'a' had a mighty bad col', kaze his talk soun'

des like a bummil-eye bee been kotch in a sugar-barrel an' can't git

out. An' dat creetur must 'a' know'd dat Brer Rabbit wuz down in

dem neighborhoods, kaze, atter while, he 'gun to talk louder, an' yit

mo' louder. He say, _'Whar you gwine? Whar you gwine?'_ an'

den, '_Don't go too fur--don't go too fur!_' an', atter so long a

time, '_Come back--come back! Come back soon!_' Brer Rabbit, he

sot dar, he did, an' work his nose an' wiggle his mouf, an' wait fer

ter see what gwineter happen nex'.



"Whiles Brer Rabbit settin' dar, Brer Bull-Frog fall ter mumblin'

ag'in an' it look like he 'bout ter drap off ter sleep, but bimeby

he talk louder, '_Be my frien'--be my frien'! Oh, be my frien'!_'

Brer Rabbit wunk one eye an' smole a smile, kaze he done hear a

heap er talk like dat. He wipe his face an' eyes wid his pocket-hankcher,

an' sot so still dat you'd 'a' thunk he wa'n't nothin' but a

chunk er wood. But Brer Bull-Frog, he know'd how ter stay still

hisse'f, an' he ain't so much ez bubble a bubble. But atter whiles,

when Brer Rabbit can't stay still no mo,' he got up fum whar he wuz

settin' at an' mosied out by de mill-race whar de grass is fresh an' de

trees is green.



"Brer Bull-Frog holla, '_Jug-er-rum--jug-er-rum! Wade in

here--I'll gi' you some!_' Now der nothin' dat ol' Brer Rabbit

like better dan a little bit er dram fer de stomach-ache, an' his mouf

'gun ter water right den an' dar. He went a little closer ter de mill

pon', an' Brer Bull-Frog keep on a-talkin' 'bout de jug er rum,

an' what he gwine do ef Brer Rabbit'will wade in dar. He look at

de water, an' it look mighty col'; he look ag'in an' it look mighty

deep. It say, 'Lap-lap!' an' it look like it's a-creepin' higher.

Brer Rabbit drawed back wid a shiver, an' he wish mighty much dat

he'd a fotch his overcoat.



"Brer Bull-Frog say, '_Knee deep--knee deep! Wade in--

wade in!_' an' he make de water bubble des like he takin' a dram.

Den an' dar, sump'n n'er happen, an' how it come ter happen Brer

Rabbit never kin tell; but he peeped in de pon' fer ter see ef he kin

ketch a glimp er de jug, an' in he went--_kerchug!_ He ain't never

know whedder he fall in, er slip in, er ef he was pushed in, but

dar he wuz! He come mighty nigh not gittin' out; but he scramble

an' he scuffle twel he git back ter de bank whar he kin clim' out,

an' he stood dar, he did, an' kinder shuck hisse'f, kaze he mighty

glad fer ter fin' dat he's in de worl' once mo'. He know'd dat a

lettel mo' an' he'd 'a' been gone fer good, kaze when he drapped in,

er jumped in, er fell in, he wuz over his head an' years, an' he

hatter do a sight er kickin' an' scufflin' an' swallerin' water 'fo' he kin

git whar he kin grab de grass on de bank.



"He sneeze an' snoze, an' wheeze an' whoze, twel it look like he'd

drown right whar he wuz stan'in' anyway you kin fix it. He say ter

hisse'f dat he ain't never gwineter git de tas'e er river water outer

his mouf an' nose, an' he wonder how in de worl' dat plain water

kin be so watery. Ol' Brer Bull-Frog, he laugh like a bull in de

pastur', an' Brer Rabbit gi' a sidelong look dat oughter tol' 'im ez

much ez a map kin tell one er deze yer school scholars. Brer Rabbit

look at 'im, but he ain't say narry a word. He des shuck hisse'f

once mo', an' put out fer home whar he kin set in front er de fire

an' git dry.



"Atter dat day, Brer Rabbit riz mighty soon an' went ter bed late,

an' he watch Brer Bull-Frog so close dat dey wa'n't nothin' he kin do

but what Brer Rabbit know' 'bout it time it 'uz done; an' one

thing he know'd better dan all--he know' dat when de winter time

come Brer Bull-Frog would have ter pack up his duds an' move over

in de bog whar de water don't git friz up. Dat much he know'd, an'

when dat time come, he laid off fer ter make Brer Bull-Frog's journey,

short ez it wuz, ez full er hap'nin's ez de day when de ol' cow

went dry. He tuck an' move his bed an' board ter de big holler

poplar, not fur fum de mill pon', an' dar he stayed an' keep one eye

on Brer Bull-Frog bofe night an' day. He ain't lose no flesh whiles

he waitin', kaze he ain't one er deze yer kin' what mopes an' gits

sollumcolly; he wuz all de time betwixt a grin an' a giggle.



"He know'd mighty well--none better--dat time goes by turns

in deze low groun's, an' he wait fer de day when Brer Bull-Frog

gwineter move his belongin's fum pon' ter bog. An' bimeby dat

time come, an' when it come, Brer Bull-Frog is done fergit off'n his

mind all 'bout Brer Rabbit an' his splashification. He rig hisse'f

out in his Sunday best, an' he look kerscrumptious ter dem what like

dat kinder doin's. He had on a little sojer hat wid green an' white

speckles all over it, an' a long green coat, an' satin britches, an'

a white silk wescut, an' shoes wid silver buckles. Mo' dan dat, he

had a green umbrell fer ter keep fum havin' freckles, an' his long

spotted tail wuz done up in de umbrell kivver so dat it won't drag on

de groun'."



Uncle Remus paused to see what the little boy would say to this

last statement, but the child's training prevented the asking of many

questions, and so he only laughed at the idea of a frog with a tail,

and the tail done up in the cover of a green umbrella. The laughter

of the youngster was hearty enough to satisfy the old negro, and he

went on with the story.



"Whiles all dis goin' on, honey, you better b'lieve dat Brer Rabbit

wa'n't so mighty fur fum dar. When Brer Bull-Frog come out

an' start fer ter promenade ter de bog, Brer Rabbit show hisse'f an'

make like he skeered. He broke an' run, an' den he stop fer ter see

what 'tis--an' den he run a leetle ways an' stop ag'in, an' he keep on

dodgin' an' runnin' twel he fool Brer Bull-Frog inter b'lievin' dat he

wuz skeer'd mighty nigh ter death.



"You know how folks does when dey git de idee dat somebody's

feared un um--ef you don't you'll fin' out long 'fo' yo' whiskers gits

ter hangin' to yo' knees. When folks take up dis idee, dey gits

biggity, an' dey ain't no stayin' in de same country wid um.



"Well, Brer Bull-Frog, he git de idee dat Brer Rabbit wuz 'fear'd

un 'im, an' he shuck his umbrell like he mad, an' he beller: 'Whar

my gun?' Brer Rabbit flung up bofe han's like he wuz skeer'd er

gittin' a load er shot in his vitals, an' den he broke an' run ez hard

ez he kin. Brer Bull-Frog holler out, 'Come yer, you vilyun, an'

le' me' gi' you de frailin' what I done promise you!' but ol' Brer

Rabbit, he keep on a-gwine. Brer Bull-Frog went hoppin' atter,

but he ain't make much headway, kaze all de time he wuz hoppin'

he wuz tryin' to strut.



"'Twuz e'en about ez much ez Brer Rabbit kin do ter keep fum

laughin', but he led Brer Bull-Frog ter de holler poplar, whar he

had his hatchet hid. Ez he went in' he 'low, 'You can't git me!'

He went in, he did, an' out he popped on t'er side. By dat time

Brer Bull-Frog wuz mighty certain an' sho dat Brer Rabbit wuz

skeer'd ez he kin be, an' inter de holler he went, widout so much ez

takin' de trouble ter shet up his umbrell. When he got in de holler,

in co'se he ain't see hide ner ha'r er Brer Rabbit, an' he beller out,

'Whar is you? You may hide, but I'll fin' you, an' when I does

--when I does!' He ain't say all he wanter say, kaze by dat time

Brer Rabbit wuz lammin' on de tree wid his hatchet. He hit it some

mighty heavy whacks, an' Brer Bull-Frog git de idee dat somebody

wuz cuttin' it down.



"Dat kinder skeer'd 'im, kaze he know dat ef de tree fell while he

in de holler, it'd be all-night Isom wid him. But when he make a

move fer ter turn roun' in dar fer ter come out, Brer Rabbit run

roun' ter whar he wuz, an' chop his tail off right smick-smack-smoove."



The veteran story-teller paused, and looked at the clouds that

were gathering in the sky. "'Twouldn't 'stonish me none," he

remarked dryly, "ef we wuz ter have some fallin' wedder."



"But, Uncle Remus, what happened when Brother Rabbit cut off

the Bull-Frog's tail?" inquired the little boy.



The old man sighed heavily, and looked around, as if he were

hunting for some way of escape. "Why, honey, when de Frog tail

wuz cut off, it stayed off, but dey tells me dat it kep' on a wigglin'

plum twel de sun went down. Dis much I does know, dat sence

dat day, none er de Frog fambly has been troubled wid tails. Ef

you don't believe me you kin ketch um an' see."





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