Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Consarnit, I Cain't Unnerstand A Durn Thang He's A-Sayin'!

At the time the United States was putting a man on the moon, the nation's television networks were undertaking a purge of nearly everything rural on television. Between 1969 and 1972, shows like Hee-Haw, The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres, Petticoat Junction, and even Hogan's Heroes, as the nation's airwaves flipped from a heavy emphasis on programs in rural settings to those in urban settings -- including the venerable All in the Family and The Jeffersons and flopperoos like Maude and Good Times.

Pat Buttram, who played Mr. Haney on Green Acres, bitterly recounted "It was the year CBS killed everything with a tree in it."

Now, I remember some of those shows with fondness. I remember some of the replacement, urban shows with fondness as well. But after reading Edward Noyes Westcott's "David Harum's Horse Trade," I'd have to say that if it were on the television and I were an executive, I'd be killing everything with a tree in it as well.

The story is fine enough, but suffers from an overdose of dialect. There were several times I had to stop and re-read and read again what the characters were saying -- and boy howdy did they say a lot -- to understand what the consarn they were saying. It's a dialectical treatment better left for radio -- and indeed, David Harum was the focus of a long-lasting radio show in the early half of the 20th century -- than for a book. It was also filmed twice, notably in 1935, in an adaptation that starred Will Rogers.

The dialogue kinda felt a lot like this, except not nearly as entertaining. And nothing got blowed up real good.

Here's a slab of text for you to sample. Those of you who like rural babbling, go here for the whole story.

"Wa'al, three four days after the shower, an' the story 'd got aroun' some—as you say, the deakin is consid'able of a talker—I got holt of[Pg 21] Dick—I've done him some favors an' he natur'ly expects more—an' I says to him: 'Dick,' I says, 'I hear 't Deakin Perkins has got a hoss that don't jest suit him—hain't got knee-action enough at times,' I says, 'an' mebbe he'll sell him reasonable.' 'I've heerd somethin' about it,' says Dick, laughin'. 'One of them kind o' hosses 't you don't like to git ketched out in the rain with,' he says. 'Jes' so,' I says. 'Now,' I says, 'I've got a notion 't I'd like to own that hoss at a price, an' that mebbe I c'd git him home even if it did rain. Here's a hunderd an' ten,' I says, 'an' I want you to see how fur it'll go to buyin' him. If you git me the hoss you needn't bring none on't back. Want to try?' I says. 'All right,' he says, an' took the money. 'But,' he says, 'won't the deakin suspicion that it comes from you?' 'Wa'al,' I says, 'my portrit ain't on none o' the bills, an' I reckon you won't tell him so, out an' out,' an' off he went. Yistidy he come in, an' I says, 'Wa'al, done anythin'?' 'The hoss is in your barn,' he says. 'Good fer you!' I says. 'Did you make anythin'?' 'I'm satisfied,' he says. 'I made a ten-dollar note.' An' that's the net results on't," concluded David, "that I've got the hoss, an' he's cost me jest thirty-five dollars."

For the curious, here's "Sunbonnet Sue," theme song for the old David Harum radio program. Enjoy.

No comments:

Post a Comment