Apicultura Wiki

This western sketch was elicited from a celebrated but idle pen, by personal friendship for the "Bee Hunter." Its great merit and originality cannot fail to be widely appreciated.

THE city of Louisville, in the fall of 1822, was visited by an epidemic, which decimated its population and converted the dwellings of its inhabitants, erewhile the abodes of pleasantness and hospitality, into houses of mourning. The records of the devastations of the fell intruder; are to be found inscribed upon the headstones that whiten the ancient graveyard of the town, wherein are deposited the bodies of those, who, whilst sojourning upon earth, dispensed the good things of this world with graceful liberality, and made a home for the wayfarer amidst a people upon whom he had no other claim than that of a stranger. The Angel of Death hovered over the devoted city in remorseless ecstasy, pointing the shafts of his exhaustless quiver in every direction, and striking down in preference, the shining objects of public consideration and regard. I was among those who felt the winnowing of his wings as he flitted past my couch in quest of nobler trophies.

All those who were not obliged to remain within the doomed precincts of the city, fled to places afar off; while such as mere necessity required to abide the pestilence, resorted to the most ingenious devices to escape its visitation. Those who were overlooked by the Destroyer in his wrath, were near being starved, as few country people dared bring marketing into the town, and those who did so, only ventured within interdicted limits at certain hours of the day, and right hastily did they retreat to their more salubrious abodes. Amid the general desolation. the incidents of woe were strangely mingled with those that cheated Death, momentarily, of his horrors.

It were a scene that might have provoked the attention of Atropos herself, and made her pause awhile in her terrible vocation, to smile upon the ludicrous means that terror invented to thwart the purposes of Destiny. The emaciated figures of the convalescent citizen, strangely contrasted with the stalwart frame of the hardy yeoman, whilst the cadaverous aspect of the former added to the grotesqueness of the besmeared faces of the latter.

The farmer, moved either by compassion or love of gain to visit the town, as he penetrated the city as far as the market-house, would use amulets and bags of sulphur, and besmeared his nose and lips with tar, to protect him in inhaling the tainted atmosphere; and whilst he exposed his poultry for sale, kept continually burning about his stall aromatic herbs, such as pennyroyal, sage and tansy, to appease or appal the dread intent of Azrael.

It was with a bounding heart, that late in September I learned that I was well enough to be removed beyond the sound of the church bell, whose daily tolling announced to me, as I lay prostrate, the death of some schoolmate, whose merry laugh would never more be heard upon the bowling-green; or the demise of some ancient crone or new comer, whose gossip or whose enterprise was the pastime of the youth, or the theme of speculation amongst the fathers of the city. The luxuriant forests had just assumed the russet garb of autumn, as I once more found myself without the city, and right speedily did the bracing country air and association with people whose hearth-stone had not been visited by pestilence, exert their influence in restoring me both to cheerfulness and strength.

My destination was Shelby county, in the neighborhood of the village of that name, where I remained until November. It was during the latter part of October that the events transpired that will form the subject of this brief history, and the character of the incident will probably excuse the digression with which it is begun; for, as will be presently seen, the epidemic had a principal agency in producing the catastrophe, which, had it not happened, would have spared me the task of an achievement in turf matters, more remarkable than the connection between pestilence and the sequel of these pages.

On the third Saturday (if I remember aright) of October, 1822, the Hon. J---- L---- called for me on his way to the Jockey Club Races, on the four-mile day. He had taken up the impression that a race would be a source of amusement and advantage to me; and in the fulfilment of a humane purpose, had brought along with him an Indian pony, that went by the euphonious name of "Boots," given as much for shortness as by reason of the color of the animal, which was an equivocation between a sandy brown and a dingy black - just that of a pair of boots, which had not received the polishing aid of the black for an indefinite period. Astride of this epitome of a horse, I made my first appearance upon a race-course. I was then only ten years of age, and the impressions made upon my mind at that time are more vivid than those of a later day, and of more important character.

There were then no spacious stands erected for the accommodation of visitors. Upon a mound within the circle of the track were collected, what was then considered, a vast number of carriages, containing the aristocratic beauty of the country - though perhaps some of the fair patrons of the turf might at this time, or their daughters for them, turn up their seraphic noses at the rude contrivances that rejoiced at so recent a period in the appellation. About the field were horsemen innumerable, and upon the adjacent hills were thronged the less fortunate spectators, who could muster neither wheeled vehicle nor four-footed beast for the occasion. The scene was one of animation, and to my young imagination, - of unsurpassable brilliancy.

We had not been long upon the ground before we ascertained that something was amiss. Every body wore an uneasy and fidgetty aspect, the cause of which was soon discovered. By the rules of the Jockey Club, it required three entries to make a race. There was no walking over the course, in those days. Every purse taken, had to be won gallantly of at least two competitors. Only two horses had been entered, and the sport seemed about to be broken up for want of a third. There were other nags of "lineage pure" in attendance, but their owners were afraid to start them against the celebrated Blannerhassett, and the no less celebrated Epaminondas.

In this strait the concourse of assembled people grew ill-natured, and even the ladies pouted in sore disappointment. The owners and trainers of the renowned coursers, which were held apart for want of a go-between, vaunted the performances of their respective nags and looked daggers at the judges, whose conscientious scruples would not permit the purse to be taken, but in conformity to the constitution and laws of the club.

The famous racer, J---- H---- , hopped about the track with accelerated motion, in calling the public attention to the prominent points of Blannerhassett, who was to be abated of his laurels by a rule, which he stigmatized with many epithets, having reference to eternal darkness; whilst Dr. B---- was no less industrious in extolling the merits of Epaminodas, who happened to be precisely in the same situation with his competitor.

What was to be done? The ladies were making preparation to leave, and the gentleman had begun to arrange for "scrubbing," when the Judge called out from the stand in a loud voice (trumpets were not then in vogue), "saddle your horses!" What a thrill passed through the crowd! and with what emotions did I hear these sounds.

The public, generally, was greatly overjoyed at the prospect of the race, but, nevertheless, there were many who were anxious to know upon what authority the judges had ordered the horses to be saddled; and these were, generally, the very persons who were most boisterous in abusing them for their obstinacy, when it was apprehended that there would be no sport.

Upon inquiry, it was found out that the Hon. J. L----, in conjunction with three other gentlemen viz., Hon. J. T---- , M. H---- , and R. B---- , Esqrs., had actually entered a third horse, and thereby made the race, in all respects, conformable to the rules of the club.

The strict constructionists were not satisfied, however with the announcement of the third entry; they demanded to see the animal - and I well remember the air of ruffled dignity with which the owner of "Boots" bade me get up behind him, to have the "great unknown" led up to the stand for inspection, and saddled, or rather unsaddled, for the race.

The "Boots"party had made the entry with no intention of running him. It was on their part a gratuitous subscription of the sum required, to prevent the spectators from going home in chagrin and disappointment. But when pushed to this extremity, they not only produced the nominee, but actually resolved upon making a brush for the money - as much in derision of the scruples of the malcontents, as in obedience to a certain spirit of the old Adam in them, which revolted against the uncharitable suggestions of collusion bruited about the course, when it was said, that the third entry would not exhibit himself for the contest.

Upon the threshold of his ingress into the theatre of fame, poor "Boots" met with an obstacle that well nigh nipped his prospects in the bud. The rules of the club required the pedigree of every horse entered to be stated. Alas, "Boots" had neither scutcheon nor ancestry. His age was of little consequence. His present owner had come in possession of him ten years before that time, and consequently he was set down as "aged," a term of scope and verge enough to satisfy the most fastidious. But his pedigree! There was the rub.

"Boots" was an orphan upon the paternal side from birth, and the mother's too, so far as any one could say to the contrary. He was what is called filius nullus, or nobody's child, and consequently had a right to claim any one for parent he thought fit. His owner plead to be allowed to enter him as "a charity scholar," but this could not be granted. At length a compromise was made, and "Boots" appeared upon the field under the following imposing blazon and protection.

"The Hon. J. L.---- enters bl. h. 'Boots,' aged; by 'Tar,' out of a 'Cuff ' mare, of unknown extraction."

These preliminaries settled, the thorough breds were saddled, and the saddle was taken off of "Boots" for the contest. A negro lad who had ridden him as far as the house where I resided, and who was allowed by his master to go to the races, as he had to wait till they were over to take him home, was mounted upon him. Great was the laughter of the crowd when the horses were about starting. The pawing impatience of the over-trained racers, attracted little attention. The gaze of the multitude was upon the black pony. "Blannerhassett" neighed, and "Epaminondas" snorted, - but all to no purpose. No one cared to look at them. "Boots "was like a Merry Andrew in a deep tragedy - he had completely upset the gravity of the audience, whose powers of composing themselves to the thoughtful mood becoming the occasion, seemed gone for ever, to the great chagrin of J. H----, and Dr. B----, who cavorted about in their anger, as much as their horses.

FIRST HEAT - There was great difficulty in starting the horses. several? false "get offs" were made. The star actors in the drama pirouetted most provokingly, whilst the rider of "Boots" made him toe the line, where he waited with meekness and humility for the word "go," and even after that was given manifested little anxiety to change his position.

The thorough-breds went at it, pell-mell. The undue share of attention given to "Boots" by the crowd, had first nettled their owners and afterwards their jockeys. Away they went like twin bullets, leaving "Boots" so far behind, that before the first mile was done he was lost sight of. When they entered the quarter stretch of the close of the second mile, "Boots" was for the first time passing the judges' stand. On they went with resistless fury.

In the beginning of the third mile "Boots," was seen about a hundred yards in advance. This somewhat startled the spectators, who in the closeness of the running between "Blannerhassett " and "Epaminodas" had for a moment forgotten all about him. There he was though, in front, and pegging away with hearty good will-ahead it is true in point of position, but actually a mile behind. In a moment they were upon him.

"Boots" strove for about six feet to keep his position in advance, but they swept by him, and after they had gone out of sight the good old horse had all his running to himself, and cut out the work to his own liking.

The fourth mile of the race was run under whip and spur; first "Blan" and then "Pam" (as the spectators abreviated their learned names) was ahead; the feeling of the multitude was intense. In entering the quarter stretch the last mile "Boots" was once more discernible, and nothing daunted by the clatter of hoofs, or dispirited by the gibes of such as happened to catch a glimpse of him, was maintaining his accustomed gait steadily, and just rounded the turn, as the "two bloods" swept by the stand - a dead lock.

According to the rules of the club, a dead heat was regarded as though none had been run. The Boots party contended that their horse was not distanced, and to this view of the case, the judges unanimously inclined. Upon examination the rules were positive upon the subject, and had "Boots"bolted, or had he not run a foot much less two miles of the four, he would be entitled to start a second time. Indeed, no objection was made by any one, none could be made, and accordingly it was determined to put him again in the field the fact of the matter being, that his owner perceiving that the old horse looked better for his exertion, was inclined to see the day out, just for the fun of the thing.

If the extra exercise of the race improved "Boots," it had quite a contrary effect upon the others. They were sadly blown, and manifested growing symptoms of distress. In those days, the business of training a horse for a four-mile race was beyond the skill of Western jockeys, or at least of many of them, and the art of riding in a manner to keep a horse together, and husband him for after heats, was known to but few. In the present case, the horses were both over-trained, and over-worked in the race.

As soon as the heat was done, innumerable boys and grown-up men were rubbing them down, scraping the foam off of them with great industry and perseverance. Covers of brightest colors were put over them, and such pains as few invalids get, were bestowed upon them; whilst his rider hitched "Boots" to a post, and quietly sauntered off to a booth, to comfort himself with gingerbread and a glass of cider.

When the time allowed for rest had elapsed, the three horses were again brought to the post-but this time the thorough-brads had become quite subdued, either through fatigue, or from an admiration of the sober deportment of the strange competitor who stood beside them. At the word "go," they all three "got off" cleverly together for the

SECOND HEAT - "Boots" took a position close up, which, by the help of such coaxing as was inherent in a stout cane used by Jesse (the black boy who rode him), he maintained with wonderful precision The cracks went off at a slow gallop; both riders being ordered to go gently along. In this way they ran the first mile. The second mile was done in the same manner, and now for the first time was heard the exhortation, "go it, Boots," as the little black kept closely up The pace did not improve the third mile, both Dr. B---- and J. H---- knowing that neither horse had more than a short brush in him. Upon the fourth mile the speed did not quicken, until Jesse, taking heart from his closeness to the leading horses, actually challenged the hindermost one for the front. Such a shout as went up upon this rally, was never before heard upon that field.

"Go it, Boots," burst from every mouth, and even the ladies moved their 'kerchiefs and murmured soft applause. But chivalrous as the effort was, it came near costing "Boots" the laurels that were wreathing for his brow. The push was made too soon. The jockeys became cognizant of the proximity of the unheralded scrub, and went off at the top of the speed of their respective horses. "Boots" was fast falling into the rear; but as good luck would have it, they could not quite distance him, but in attempting to do so, they completely used up the "cracks."

Epaminondas won this heat by a neck. The stable boys again got around the descendants of Godolphin, who indeed required their attention more than ever - for though they had not run more than half a mile of the heat, that was enough to worst them terribly in their jaded condition. And "Boots," too, fared better than before. He was getting to be a feature in the race, and a circumstance attending the betting made him now an object of the greatest interest.

After the dead heat, the betting began. The result of that heat proved the horses to be so nearly of equal speed and spirit, that great confidence was placed in the representations of their owners, and parties betted as they were partial to the one or the other of them

It so happened that no one seemed to take "Boots" into the account in making bets, and by that very means he had as much money depending upon him as either of the other horses.

Every one who proposed a wager, betted that either Dr. B----'s "Pam" or J. H---- 's "Blan" would win the purse.

Now the takers of such offers were of course "fielders;" for they in fact betted, that the horse named would not take their money, and consequently, if "Boots" won it, they were as much gainers as though the nag they relied upon had won it. Hence every bet taken was, in technical term, upon "the field," though the party that took it, might have forgotten at the time that there was such a horse as "Boots."

It will be seen that a tissue of accidents first brought the little black upon the field, enabled him to start for the second hens, procured for him a vast number of unconscious backers, and made him, at the present stage of the race, quite a topic of speculation.

As a matter of course, his comfort came to be provided for; and an assiduous groom ventured to scrape down with a thin lath. Whereupon "Boots," who had never been known to perspire since the last war, when he was taken in Canada by the person of whom his present owner purchased hill looked around, and not being able to recognize the fellow, or diving what on earth he was up to, kicked out his left hind leg in evident disgust.

This was the only token of concern in the proceedings going on, that the pony had given during the day, but that, slight as it was. gave great hope to the "fielders," for the other horses, albeit so spry in the beginning, had got beyond the kicking point; and submitted to the manipulation of their trainers with commendable, but ominous docility.

When the interval of rest between the heats had expired, "Boots" alone, seemed qualified for a repetition of the preceding exercises. He first made his appearance at the post, in consequence of his not requiring time for saddling. He stood for some moments quietly, as usual, with his nose on a parallel with the judges' stand; but as the trainer brought up Epaminondas and Blannerhassett he turned his head sideways, looked wistfully for a moment upon them, and exhaled a long deep sigh - whether of pity at the dejected aspect and distressed condition of the whilom gallant steeds, or on account of some faint notion of the business he was engaged in, then for the first time penetrating the integuments of his simple understanding, has not been satisfactorily explained.

Had he been aware that money was staked upon him, - that he was in fact accessory to gambling, - it is a question if he would not have sulked outright; for "Boots," although bred in a savage country, had kept moral society for many years; and must have imbibed serious, and temperance ideas. But the word "go" was given, and they were all three off for the

THIRD HEAT. - For the first time time the little black was ahead, both in point of fact and position. He went off just as at the commencement of the race, with perhaps a trifle more alacrity from practice.

Jesse, who had been lectured upon the impropriety of his brush in the second heat, so soon as the last half of the fourth mile, imagined that he had done wrong in taking the lead, and set about holding the pony up until the others passed by; but "Boots," to the sore mortification of his rider would not be held up. He had got a taste of the boy's bludgeon and not liking its savor, pushed on, despite the most obstinate endeavors to restrain his impetuosity.

The thorough-breds this time, not only could endure the black's proximity, but absolutely trailed him the whole of the first mile. On entering the second, either through mortified pride, or more positive malice, both the jockeys were ordered to go ahead of the scrub.Spurs were put in requisition, and the flagged and worn horses got by the pony before they came into the back stretch. After shaking off their ignoble competitor, they relapsed into the stinted stride they set out with. But Jesse now had become enamored of the front, and on he urged the pony, who, nothing loth, crawled up to them, and came round the quarter stretch neck and neck with the foremost.

In the straight work, first one and then the other glided by him. But these fits and starts in running could not avail against a steady pace. "Boots" would come up with them, and at every subsequent attempt it was becoming palpably more difficult to part company with him.

On entering the third mile, Epimanondas was evidently lame, and when he tried to widen the distance between him and "Boots" on the back stretch, gave up: the little black went by him for good, and a shout of applause arose, that had well nigh made old Entellus's sceptre tremble in his grasp.

The contest was now narrowed down to "Boots" and Blannerhassett, - and neither of them had won a heat.

The four gentlemen who entered the pony, immediately galloped in every direction over the field, encouraging Jesse to get the descendant of Cuff along; straight ahead, the little black held the even terror of his way, whilst "Blan" would first leave him a rod, and then drop back to him, in flickering fits of "game and gravel."

At the beginning of the fourth mile, "Boots" was well up; on going round the turn he passed "Blan" a neck. (Immense cheering.) In the straight running "Blan" again sloped by the pony, but remained satisfied with getting ahead the least bit imaginable. This position was maintained to the turn, when "Boots" came alongside, and before entering the quarter stretch, drew out a full length in advance, amid deafening shouts of "go it, Boots," "go it, darkey," "pop him, sooty," "give him Jesse;" and such like exclamations of disparaging signification, but used in the most laudatory sense of approbation.

Jesse, unfortunately, in his eagerness to win the heat; used his cudgel carelessly, and accidentally gave the black a clip on the head, which so "disgentled" him that be turned almost entirely around before he could be checked. In this way, he lost his advantage just as he reached the distance stand, and it was well for him that he had got that far, as "Boots" showed the most implacable resentment to such treatment, and tried to run in every direction but the right one.

Indeed he had not before exhibited such spirit; he actually reared up, and wasted enough energy in expostulating against any such phrenological experiments being made upon him, to have won the heat, had it been properly directed. He could not be induced to resume operations until "Blan" had passed the judges' stand, and was pronounced winner of the heat.

At the termination of this heat, the nature of the betting was fully developed. The "Blan" party upon claiming their stakes Epaminondas being distanced - discovered that "Boots" stood between them and the spoils. They had raised a feeble shout upon the issue of the heat, futile enough; for they assumed to consider a triumph over "Boots" as a sorry affair, but when they understood that the pony was entitled to start a fourth time, even that faint ejaculation, melted down to a dubious mutter.

The rules of the club required a horse to win one of the three first heats to enable him to creep upon the track. Strange to say there was greater doubt concerning this last mile than there was respecting "Boots" being distanced the first heat. The judges had great trouble in deciding the difficulty. Three heats had been run, and "Boots" had won neither; but then the first was declared null and void, ergo, only two had been, in law, accomplished.

The Epaminondas party here stepped in, as much for the principle, as the interest of the thing, and declared that "Boots" had a right to run a fourth heat.

Dr. B---- , who, now that his horse was distanced, would give his left hand to see J.H---- 's nag done the same by, declared openly for the pony and the judges "being sufficiently advised," decided that way. This was the most reasonable, as well as the most popular judgment; for one half of those who betted on "Blan," being, in sporting terms, "fielders," and who, consequently, could not lose, were vociferous for the continuance of the sport.

This question settled, betters were puzzled how to lay out their money. Blannerhassett had yet friends who would not hedge. They could not realize the possibility of his being beat by a scrub like "Boots," and J. H---- taking courage from the pony's strange freak at the end of the last heat, vaunted his nag's prowess anew, as well to assure his friends, as to brag off the "Boots'" people.

Strange rumors were circulated respecting the condition of each horse. The trainer of "Blan" kept the people, as far as possible, from inspecting the state of his charge, whilst every man, woman and child in the field, that chose to do so, was allowed to look on "Boots," and get upon his back too, as to that matter.

The old pony looked none the worse for wear, and how to account for his fantastic behavior, was perplexing enough. Some said he sulked, others that he had given way internally, - one or two insinuated foul dealings. None, however, divined the real cause, except Jesse, who kept it to himself, not even venturing to inform his master that the faithful creature he bestrode had only paused in his career to remonstrate against an unintentional, yet serious and glaring personal injury.

What with the fear of a repetition of the pony's caprices, and the well-founded belief that Blannerhassett was used up, the public were in equipoise in regard to the result. Betting was going on pretty freely, when the horses were summoned to the

LAST HEAT - The pony showed little change since he last "toed the mark," unless perhaps a dogged air, arising as much from a sense of wrong, as an internal speculation as to whether the affair was ever coming to an end.

Blannerhassett looked worse than his namesake did when charged with high treason The high-bred steed was in no mood to take on airs. He came up panting and faint, and in his distress took no notice whatever of 'Boots," who, as soon as the boy mounted him, manifested a strange anxiety to push on. In his eagerness to get his head out of the way of Jesse's stick, he actually made a false start, and had to be called back.

When the word was given, "Boots" got greatly the start. It was enough that Jesse held his cudgel so as to remind him that it was in readiness; away he scampered, regardless alike of the shouts of the multitude, and the abuse of the Blannerhassetts, whose horse was quite stiff at the go off, and lost ground considerably for the first half mile. On getting a little warm, he went better but the pony was in no humor to wait for him.

At the close of the first mile, "Boots" was two hundred yards ahead, and pegging away as if the devil was behind him, and a phantom corn heap in front.

Blannerhassett's jockey now used whip and spur to overtake the flying imp it was in vain. His horse responded to the steel and lash for a few strides, and then gave out; fatigued, - lamed, - and broken down.

Meanwhile "Boots," not having the reputation of Blannerhassett before his eyes, but the dread of the cudgel behind him, was rattling it off at a merry pace. Upon entering the third mile of the heat Jesse came in view of his antagonist, pretty near the spot where he was overtaken himself, in the beginning of the day. The boy could not for a time comprehend how "Blan" got before him, and was evidently becoming bewildered with the phenomenon, when the Hon. J. L---- told him to push on, and beat the blooded stock, as far as he had been beaten.

The darkey understanding now that he had gained a mile, showed his ivory to the spectators and his cudgel to "Boots," and swept by the done-up nag, like a ball fired out of a cannon charged with slow matches.

I will make no attempt to describe the shouts of the people at the issue, until I can dip my pen in electricity to write in thunder drops, - or in the prism, to depict the eye of beauty as it flashed applause, to the unheralded champion.

This feat achieved, - there was no competitor for "Boots" but the sun. Jesse made it his ambition to finish the race by the light of his rays, and he was as proud as a sceptred monarch, when looking over the heads of the throng that gathered around the victorious "Boots" upon the conclusion of the heat, he saw the glorious orb yet above the horizon, and looking gladly upon him as though he would bless him before he went to bed.

"Boots" was near sharing the fate of the Grecian, who was smothered to death in the theatre, by wreaths and shawls showered down upon him in glorification. He could scarcely breathe, for the multitudes that pressed upon him in one way or another, to do him honor. And Jesse, too, got a large share of plaudits and dimes conformably; and even I came in for gleanings of regard, as I rode home upon the pony after the jubilation.

There were no cattle-painters there, nor lithographers, nor daguerreotypists; else "Boots" and his rider would have been transmitted to posterity in their lineaments of that day. It has fallen upon feeble hands to preserve some faint remembrance of them in this account, which is as inferior to the merits of the theme, as the snuffed candle is to the brilliant orb of day.