My dear friend, Kurt Freitag brought me a lovely present while working the Magic Castle this week, a book on Southern Folklore. In it I discovered an interesting selection from a book about the early frontier, telling a tale of Daniel Boone using sleight of hand to get out of trouble:
“Boone, according to James Jall, was once resting in the woods with a small number of his followers, when a large party of Indians came suddenly upon them and halted–neither party having discovered the other until they came in contact. The whites were eating, and the savages, with the ready tact for which they are famous, sat down with perfect composure, and also commenced eating. It was obvious they wished to lull the suspicions of the white men, and seize a favorable opportunity for rushing upon them. Boone affected a careless inattention, but, in an undertone, quietly admonished his men to keep their hands upon their rifles. He then strutted towards the reddies unarmed and leisurely picking the meat from a bone. The Indian leader, who was somewhat similarly employed, arose to meet him.
“Boone saluted him, and then requested to look at the knife with which the Indian was cutting his meat. The chief handed it to him without hesitation, and our pioneer, who, with his other traits, possessed considerable expertness at sleight of hand, deliberately opened his mouth and affected to swallow the long knife, which, at the same instant, he threw adroitly into his sleeve. The Indians were astonished. Boone gulped, rubbed his throat, stroked his body, and then, with apparent satisfaction, pronounced the horrid mouthful to be very good.
“Having enjoyed the surprise of the spectators for a few moments, he made another contortion, and drawing forth the knife, as they supposed, from his body, coolly returned it to the chief. The latter took the point cautiously between his thumb and finger, as if fearful of being contaminated by touching the weapon, and threw it from him into the bushes. The pioneer sauntered back to his party, and the Indians, instantly dispatching their meal, marched off, desiring no further intercourse with a man who could sallow a scalping knife.”
–From Our Western Border, Its Life, Combats, Adventures, Forays, Massacres, Captivities, Scouts, Red Chiefs, Pioneer Women One Hundred Years Ago…carefully written and compiled by Charles McKNight, pp 289-290. Philadelphia: J. C. McCurdy and Co. 1876.
This section quoted in “A Treasury of Southern Folklore,” edited by B. A. Botkin copyright MCMXLIX
“Daniel Boone (November 2, 1734 [O.S. October 22] – September 26, 1820) was anAmerican pioneer, explorer, and frontiersman whose frontier exploits made him one of the first folk heroes of the United States. Boone is most famous for his exploration and settlement of what is now Kentucky, which was then part of Virginia but on the other side of the mountains from the settled areas. Despite some resistance from American Indian tribes such as the Shawnee, in 1775 Boone blazed his Wilderness Road through the Cumberland Gap in the Appalachian Mountains from North Carolinaand Tennessee into Kentucky. There he founded the village of Boonesborough, Kentucky, one of the first American settlements west of the Appalachians. Before the end of the 18th century, more than 200,000 European people migrated to Kentucky/Virginia by following the route marked by Boone.
“Boone was a militia officer during the Revolutionary War (1775–83), which in Kentucky was fought primarily between the American settlers and the British-aidedNative Americans. Boone was captured by Shawnee warriors in 1778, who after a while adopted him into their tribe. Later, he left the Indians and returned to Boonesborough to help defend the European settlements in Kentucky/Virginia.
“Boone was elected to the first of his three terms in the Virginia General Assemblyduring the Revolutionary War, and fought in the Battle of Blue Licks in 1782. Blue Lick was one of the last battles of the Revolutionary War, coming after the main fighting ended in October 1781.”