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Jake Hinkle's Failings by Jonathan F. Kelley

 

In the village of Washington, Fayette Co., Ohio, there was a transient sort of a personage, a kind of floating farmer, named Hinkle,—Jacob Hinkle,—commonly called Old Jake Hinkle. Jake was, originally, a Dutchman, a Pennsylvania, Lancaster County Dutchman; and that was about as Dutch as Holland and Sour Krout could well make a human “critter.” Well, Jake Hinkle owned, or had squatted on, a small patch of land, just beyond old Mother Rodger's “bottom,” that is, about a mile east of the “Rattle Snake Fork” of Paint Creek, which, every thundering fool out West knows, empties itself into—“Big Paint,” which finally rolls out into the Muskingum, and thence into the Ohio. Very well, having settled the geographical position of Jake Hinkle, let me go on to state what kind of a critter Jake was, and how it came about that he was pronounced dead, one cold morning, and how he came up to town and denied the assertion.

Jake Hinkle loved corn, lived on it, as most people do in the interior of Ohio and Kentucky; he loved corn, but loved corn whiskey more, and this love, many a time, brought Jake up to “the Court House” of Washington, through rain, hail and snow, to get a nipper, fill his jug, and go home. Now, in the West it is a custom more honored in the breach than in the observance, perhaps, for grog shops of the village to play all sorts of fantastic tricks upon old codgers who come up to town, or down to town, hitch their horses to the fence, and there let the “critters” stand, from 10 A. M. to 12 P. M., more or less, and longer. The most popular dodge is, to shave the horse's tail, turn it loose, and let it go home. Of course, that horse is not soon seen in the village again, as a horse with a shored tail is about the meanest thing to look at, except a singed possum, or a dandy—you ever did see.

One very cold night, in January, '39, Jake Hinkle came down to the “Court House,” hitched his horse to the Court Square fence, and made a straight bend for Sanders' “Grocery,” and began to “wood up.” Old Jake's tongue was a perfect bell-clapper, and when well oiled with corn juice, could rip into the high and low Dutch like a nor'easter into a field of broom corn. Jake talked and talked, and drank and talked, and about midnight, the cocks crowing, the stars winking and blinking, and the wind nipping and whistling around the grocery, Sanders notified Jake and others that he was going to shut up the concern, and the crowd must be “putting out.” Jake made a break for his nag, but she was gone. “Why,” says Jake, “she's broke der pridle and gone home, and by skure I shall walk,”—and off Jake put, through the cold and mud.

Next morning, when the Circleville stage came along between old Marm Rodger's “bottom,” and the Rattle Snake Fork of Paint, the driver discovered poor old Jake laid out, stiff and cold as a wedge! Alas, poor old Jake! Gone! Quite a gloom hung over the “grocery;” Jake was an inoffensive, good old fellow, nobody denied that, and certain young “fellers” who had shaved the tail of Jake's mare the night previous, and set her loose, now felt sort of sorry for the deed. The editor of the “Argus of Freedom” came down to the “grocery,” to get his morning “nip,” heard the news, went back to his office, “set up” Jake's obituary notice, pitched in a few sorrowful phrases, and then put his paper to press; that afternoon, the whole edition, of some two hundred copies, were distributed around among the subscribers and “dead heads,” and Jake Hinkle was pronounced stone dead—pegged out!

Two or three days afterwards, a man covered with mud and sweat, came rushing into Washington. He paused not, nor turned not right or left, until he found the office of the “Argus of Freedom,” where he rushed in, and confronting the editor, he spluttered forth:—

“You der printer of dish paper,—der noosh paper?”

“Yes,” says the 'responsible,' “I am the man,” looking a little wild.

“Vell, bine de great Jehosaphat, what for you'n make me deat?”

“Me? Make you dead?” says the no little astonished editor.

“Yaas!” bawled old Jake, for it was he—“You'n tell de people I diet; it's a lie! And do you neber do it again, and fool de peeples, witout you git a written order from me!

That editor, ever afterwards, insisted on seeing the funeral before he recorded an obituary notice.

 
 
 

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