When I saw his shoulders sink, I knew right then that I had won

Posted by | March 11, 2010

Annie Taylor could get away with anything she pleased at school. Her father Champ was feared in Catawba Falls, NC by every teacher who had ever tried to rein her in; he’d threatened to kill several, and had literally run one out of town. Then Annie crossed swords with Miss Daintry Graham one day in class, and got the whipping of her life. It wasn’t long before Champ came in search of Miss Graham:

“I got me a piece of chicken wire and went out into the river to wade, because that was the most defiant thing I could think of. There was a fish in that river that I’d tried for days and days to catch, and couldn’t. I decided to seine him up; and I did. I know now, and I didn’t then, that he was a big-mouth bass and that he would have weighed approximately seven pounds. He was a whale of a fish. I strung him onto a forked alder stick.

“Then I heard Champ Taylor coming down that river, cursing at the top of his voice: ‘Git in that road and git to running, I’m a coming and I’m a-going to cut you into shoestrings and strew ‘em from here to Old Fort. Come out from under that bed and git to running.’ I just calmly waded along, because I had buckled on a .38 by the side of me before I went into that river and I made up my mind that if that man bothered me I was not going to waste a bullet; that I was going to shoot about the third button of his shirt. I knew that I could hit it, too, because I’m that kind of a marksman.

“Anyway, he was raising Cain until he came down and got even with me. There were alder bushes along the creek and he couldn’t see me till he got right even.

“I said, ‘Oh, wait a minute, wait a minute, I want to show you my fish.’

“Well, I had decided when I got that fish what I was going to do, and I’d put a nice little bullet hole right through between its eyes. I held it up: ‘Look, see my fish. This river makes so much noise, I’ve got to come further out.’

rural one-room NC school, 1903Rural One-Room School, P. R. Young and pupils, Transylvania County, NC, 1903, left half of photo.

“So I waded out nearer to him, and all the time my mind was going two ways. I was talking like somebody that had no sense, but my mind was saying: ‘Don’t shoot him unless he takes his hands off of that saddle. As long as he holds that pommel of that saddle, don’t shoot. Don’t shoot till he tries to come down; watch his hands, then aim for the third button on his shirt and just let one bullet do it all.’

“But I was talking. I said, ‘Look at my fish. I had to put a bullet between his eyes, but I got him. Didn’t take but one bullet. I got me five more in here,’ and I waved the gun out and sashayed it around. I said, ‘I’ve got five more shots in here, all ready, and I think I’ve got six more in my pocket. Yep, I can re-load if I want to.’

“You see, what I was doing was letting him know that I could blow him off of that mule if I wanted to. And I was letting him know that he’d better ‘tend to his own business, but I was doing it in a very gentle way.

“I was giving it time for the idea to soak into his weak mind. Well, he didn’t know what to do, for the last thing he expected was to see the teacher in a short dress, wading in the water, with a fish in one hand and a gun in the other hand.

“And the last thing he expected was one that could talk in a calm voice and that was just like a little girl so excited over a fish.

“Directly, when I saw that old Adam’s apple begin to jump up and down in his old long throat; it began to go up and down before he could. . . he didn’t know what to say, and I knew he was up a tree, and when I saw his shoulders sink, I knew right then that I had won. When his shoulders slumped, I knew right then that the day was mine.

“I said, ‘Oh, you’ll have to excuse me for being so enthusiastic over a fish. I’ve got to tell you something: you’re the very man I wanted see.’ I said, ‘You know something, I had to whip your daughter today, because she went through these woods down here to meet those old wagon drivers, and I know that you and your wife want to raise decent children and you don’t want any unexpected grand-children, and the proper procedure is to just keep those girls out of that road, and I told them I’d switch ‘em if they went down there and they did, and I switched them.

“‘More than that, I’ve got another supply of switches on hand, and if they don’t mind me, I’m going to switch ‘em again.’

“‘That’s right, Miss Graham, put the wood to ‘em, and if you can’t do it, just report it to me.’

“Big change in attitude, I mean. I wasn’t letting him know that I’d heard all that cursing coming down the road. I was making him think that that water made too much noise, and that I couldn’t hear him.

After that, I had no trouble.”

Daintry [Graham] Allison
(b. 1896 in Old Fort, NC)
Interviewed July 24, 1975
Southern Highlands Research Center
Louis D. Silveri Oral History Collection,
D. H. Ramsey Library Special Collections,
University of North Carolina at Asheville

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