Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Cub of the Panther: A Hunter Legend of the ''Old North State'' >> Chapter Nine: The Chinquapin Hunt >> Page 90

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Novel (Romance) | The University of Arkansas Press | 1997
Transcription 90 THE CUB OF THE PANTHER
opens in winter, when the fruit is quite ripe, parting, in sections, some-
what in the manner of the cotton boll when matured. The time for gath-
ering it, in the mountains, is at the beginning of winter. In the middle
country of the South, it ripens late in September. It is a native peculiar to
the Southern States, and when quite matured and somewhat dry, it is
superior in flavour and sweetness to the chestnut.
But the Chinquapin is not so much sought, because of its fruit as
fruit, because of the appetite which it provokes and gratifies, as
because of the rustic frolics of which it is made the agent and excuse.
The young people turn out, accordingly, at the proper season, in par-
ties of ten, twenty, thirty or more, equally of both sexes, and these, in
pairs, or groups, more or less numerous, will scatter themselves over
the region which the tree delights in. This region is usually one of infe-
rior soil, and the chinquapin is considered an indication of poor land.
Such, indeed, was the general character of Rose Dale farm.
The hunters sometimes divide into two parties, equally made up of
both sexes, and pick for a wager. In this way, they will consume the day,
from sunrise to sunset. Each family carries with it a supply-of creature
comforts, which, at a given hour, are spread out in some pleasant place
of rendezvous, along the hillside, and near some sparkling fountain, or
falling water. It is the pique pique of the Mountain Country, and very
popular. A sufficient number of couples being collected, the gathering
and the frolicking begin. The Hunt is by no means laboriously pursued,
sufficient time being always allowed for sport, for racing and chacing,
for the dance, and even for telling stories; pleasure, and not toil, being
the avowed object of the gathering.
To promote these pleasures, several pretty little children-games
ensue, some of which are of old English origin, and were played with
the chestnut.
"Hull-Gull," cries the damsel, holding up a hand which is more or
less filled with the nuts.
"Hand full!" replies the young fellow.
"Pass on;" or "Pass on! How many?" is the next question, and the
guess follows. If wrong, and over the number carried in her hand, he is
to reconcile the inequality, by giving her the requisite number. If under
the mark, he must make it up to the number which she shows. If he
guesses rightly, she forfeits all, and the winner, if not miserably bash-
ful, exacts a kiss by way of additional penalty.
The counting of the nuts, in the damsel's hand, affords grateful
opportunities, of which the experienced hunter usually avails himself.