The Traveler and the Squatter in Dialog
"Halloo, stranger." "Hello, yourself"
Thus begins the Arkansas Traveler dialog. Conversation between two dissimilar individuals is a long-recognized element of the folk tradition. The Arkansas Traveler contrasts a sophisticated Traveler with a Squatter living in humble circumstances.
The Traveler tradition in Arkansas began in 1840, when Sandford Faulkner of Little Rock turned his experience asking directions of a country settler into an entertaining narrative, complete with musical accompaniment. Faulkner became regionally famous for telling the story and fiddling the tune.
One can see in the minstrel shows and the school of Southwestern humor maturing in the 1840s the kind of interaction that Faulkner and others performed in the Traveler. The delight of the story is reconciliation through the language of music, as the Traveler plays "the turn of the tune" (the second half of the music) and receives all the hospitality that the Squatter can muster.
In a way, Faulkner’s story chronicles the end of the frontier in Arkansas, the Squatter being a frontier character of declining numbers as the state’s population grew and matured.
Arkansas Traveller text as performed by Sandy Faulkner
Arkansas Traveller text as performed by Sandy Faulkner
- Traveller – Halloo stranger.
- Squatter – Hello yourself. (fiddling the first part of a tune.)
- T. – Can I get to stay all night with you?
- S. – No, sir, you can’t git to –
- T. – Have you any spirits here?
- S. – Lots uv ‘em; Sal seen one last night by that ar ole hollar gum, and it nearly skeered her to death.
- T. – You mistake my meaning; have you any liquour?
- S. – Had some yesterday, but Old Bose he got in and lapped all uv it out’n the pot.
- T. – You don’t understand: I don’t mean pot liquor. I’m wet and cold and want some whiskey. Have you got any?
- S. – Oh yes, I drunk the last this mornin.
- T. – I’m hungary; havn’t had a thing since morning; can’t you give me something to eat?
- S. – Haint’t a durned thing in the house. Not a mouffull uv meat, nor a dust uv meal here.
- T. – Well, can’t you give my horse something?
- S. – Got nothin’ to feed him on.
- T. – How far is it to the next house?
- S. – Stranger! I do not know. I’ve never been thar.
- T. – Do you know who lives here?
- S. – Yes zir!
- T. – As I’m so bold then, what might your name be?
- S. – It might be Dick and it might be Tom; but it lacks right smart uv it.
- T. – Sir! Will you tell me where this road goes to?
- S. – It’s never gone any whar since I lived here; It’s always thar when I git up in the mornin’.
- T. – Well, how far is it to where it forks?
- S. – It don’t fork at all; but it splits up like the devil.
- T. – As I’m not likely to get to any other house to night, can’t you let me sleep in yours; and I’ll tie my horse to a tree, and do without anything, no eat or drink?
- S. – My house leaks. Thar’s only one dry spot in it, and me and Sal sleeps on it. And that thar tree is the ole woman’s persimmon; you can’t tie to it, ‘caze she don’t want ‘em shuk off. She ‘lows to make beer out’n um.
- T. – Hey don’t you finish covering your house and stop the leaks?
- S. – It’s been rainin’ all day.
- T. – Well, why don’t you do it in dry weather?
- S. – It don’t leak then.
- T. – As there seems nothing alive about your place but children, how do you do here anyhow?
- S. – Putty well, I thank you, how do you do yourself?
- T. – I mean what do you do for a living here?
- S. – Keep tavern and sell whisky.
- T. – Well, I told you I wanted some whisky.
- S. – Stranger, I bought a bar’l more’n a week ago. You see, me and Sal went shars. After we got it here, we only had a bit betweenst us, and Sal she dind’t want to use hern fust, nor me mine. You see I had a spiggin in one eend, and she in tother. So she takes a drink out’n my eend, and pays me the bit for it; then I’d take one out’n hern and give her the bit. Well, we’s getting long fust-rate, till Dick, durned skulking skunk, he born a hole on the bottom to suck at, and the next time I went to buy a drink, they wont none thar.
- T. – I’m sorry your whisky’s all gone; but, my friend, why don’t you play the balance of that tune?
- S. – It’s got no balance to it.
- T. – I mean you don’t play the whole of it.
- S. – Stranger, can you play the fiddul?
- T. – Yes, a little, sometimes.
- S. – You don’t look like a fiddlur, but ef you think you can play any more onto that thar tune, you kin just try it.
- (The Traveler takes the fiddle from the squatter and plays the whole of it.)
- S. – Stranger, tuck a half a duzen cheers and sot down. Sal, stir yourself round like a six-horse team in a mud hold. Go round in the hollar whar I killed that buck this mornin’, cut off some of the best pieces, and fotch it and cook it for me and this gentleman, d’rectly. Raise up the board under the head of the bed, and got the ole black jug I hid from Dick, and gin us some whisky; I know thar’s some left yit. Til, drive ole Bose out’n the bread-tray, then climb up in the loft, and git the rag that’s got the sugar tied in it. Dick, carry the gentleman’s hoss round under the shead, give him so fodder and corn; much as he kin eat. Til. – Dad, they ain’t knives enuff for to sot the table.
- S. – Whar’s big butch, little butch, ole case, cob-handle, granny’s knife, and the one I handled yesterday! That’s nuff to sot any gentleman’s table, outer you’ve lost um. Durn me, stranger, ef you can’t stay as long as you please, and I’ll give you plenty to eat and to drink. Will you have coffey for supper?
- T. – Yes, sir.
- S. – I’ll be hanged if you do, tho’, we don’t have nothin’ that way here, but Grub Hyson, and I reckon it’s mighty good with sweetnin’. Play away, stranger, you kin sleep on the dry spot to-night.
- T. – (after about two hours of fiddling) My friend, can’t you tell me about the road I’m to travel on to-morrow?
- S. – To-morrow! Stranger, you won’t git out’n these diggins for six weeks. But when it gits so you kin start, you see that big sloo over thar? Well, you have to git crost that, then you take the road up the bank, and in about a mile you’ll come to a two-acre-and-a-half corn-patch. The corn’s mityly in the weeds, but you needn’t mind that; jist ride on. About a mile and a half or two miles from thar, you’ll cum to the damdest swamp you ever struck in all your travels; it’s boggy enouff to mire a saddle-blanket. Thar’s a fust rate road about six feet under thar.
- T. – How am I to get at it?
- S. – You can’t git at it nary time, till the weather stiffens down sum. Well, about a mile beyant, you come to a place whar thars no roads. You kin take the right hand ef you want to; you’ll foller it a mile or so, and you’ll find its run out; you’ll then have to come back and try the left; when you git about two miles on that, you may know you’re wrong, fur they ain’t any road thar. You’ll then think you’re mity lucky ef you kin find the way back to my house, whar you kin cum and play on thara’r tune as long as you please.