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Spring Comes To Thumping Dick
by [?]

When the ordinary American who “does things”–atrocious phrase, symbol of our unrecking materialism that does not consider the value of the things done–wants to give a place a name, he affixes his own, or that of his sister-in-law or the congressman from his district. Thus our noblest North American mountain is called McKinley, though it already bore a beautiful Indian name–Denali, “The Great One”; and thus in Glacier Park we find a Lake McDermott, a Lake McDonald, and a Mount Jackson, to contrast painfully with such beautiful titles as Going-to-the-Sun Mountain, Rising Wolf Mountain, and Morning Eagle Falls. The Indians expressed their poetry in their names. The pioneers and the colonial rural Americans expressed, if not poetry, at least a fine, spicy flavor of the local tradition; their names grew out of the place. In the corner of New England where I was born we had a Slab City, a Tearbreeches Hill, a Puddin’ P’int–well-flavored names, all of them, descriptive and significant, even the last, which strangers mispronounced Pudding Point. Even in old New York there were once such names rich in historical association as Long Acre Square, now reduced to Times Square to please the vanity or cupidity of a newspaper. But, save the Indians, no body of people on this continent, not even the old-time cowboys and prospectors with their Bright Angel Trail, have ever rivaled the southern highlanders, the mountain folk of the Blue Ridge, the Great Smokies and the Cumberlands, in the bestowal of picturesque titles. It is hard, sometimes, to say whether the southern mountaineers are poets or humorists or realists; they may be one or the other, or all three at once. But they never fail with the inevitable appellation. Not Flaubert with his one right word, not the school “gang” with its nicknames, can equal them.

Thumping Dick Hollow, Milk-sick Hollow, Little Fiery Gizzard Creek, Falling Water Cove, Maniac’s Hell, Lost Creek Cove, Jump Off Point, Rainbow Hollow, Slaughterpen Hollow–they come back to me in picturesque array, and with them come back the memories of the gray cabins, the clear bright water on the race, the silent forests, the billows of laurel, the song of the brown thrashers, the shy children in a dusky doorway, the lean pigs not shy at all, the bloodroot underfoot, the soft, hazy sky overhead, the sense that here life was always as it is, and always will be, with no change but the changing seasons. I remember once more how I met the Spring at Thumping Dick, like a dryad dancing through the wood, caught her in the very act of climbing up from the cove below to find a road to take her north. So we loitered together for one whole, blissful day, and when I came back to the college campus I wore her violets in my hat.

But first I must tell you how Thumping Dick Hollow got its name. That is more important even than knowing where it is. Many, many years ago, so long ago that all traces of his cabin have disappeared, a man called Dick dwelt beside the little brown brook which flows through a slight hollow on its way to the cove below. Now, this Dick was averse to over-much effort, unless it were effort connected with the pursuit of bears or panther, and being of an ingenious turn of mind he invented a labor-saving device to pound his corn. (Unfortunately, he still had to grow it himself.) He took a hollow log and pivoted it across the brook, at a little fall, in such a way that the upper end would rest in the water while the lower end projected over the rocks below the falls. Then he fastened a board across the lower half of this lower opening, and underneath the log, also at the lower end, he fixed a pestle. He then placed his mortar on a stone directly beneath. The water, flowing into the hollow log, ran to the lower end and piled up against the board till there was weight enough to tip the entire log down. Then enough ran out to tilt the log back again. Of course, each time the lower end of the log descended the pestle struck a blow in the mortar. All Dick had to do was now and then to empty out his pounded grain and put in a fresh supply. The log kept at its solemn seesaw night and day, its dull thumps resounding through the woods. So Thumping Dick Hollow it is to this day, and being close to Sewanee, Tennessee, instead of New York City, Thumping Dick Hollow it will remain, instead of becoming the Pratt Street section of Elmhurst Manor.