Campfire

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“Devil Take the Skillet” from “Stiff as a Poker” by Vance Randolph. Told by Mr. Sam McDaniels, Jane, MO., December 1928. He heard it about 1910, from old settlers in the neighborhood.

One time an old fellow was camped on Sugar Creek, a-trying to cook him a mess of fish. He built his little fire under a ledge, because it was a-raining. The wood all got wet, and there wasn’t enough grease, and the fryin’ pan broke so the handle had to be wired on. The old man was pretty hungry, and smoke got in his eyes, and it seemed like every thing went wrong. Finally the handle on the skillet come loose, and most of his grease spilled out in the fire. The old fellow belonged to the Pentecostal Church that don’t believe in cussing, but when the handle slipped he says, “Devil take it!“ Just then he looked up and there stood the Devil a-grinning through the smoke.

The Devil didn’t speak no regular words but he growled like a big dog and swung his tail around. There was three sharp prongs on the end of the tail. Then he opened his mouth big as a bear trap and walked right through the fire. The old man was scared pretty near to death, but he stood up with the fryin’ pan in his hand. All of a sudden he throwed pan, grease, fish, and all right into the Devil’s mouth.

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Old Scratch yelled so loud it shook the whole country and blowed sparks fifty foot high, and tore down saplings all the way to the creek. When he hit the water the steam misted up the whole valley like a July fog. The old man was down on his knees a-praying by this time, and the Devil went plumb out of sight. The skillet was gone too, and nobody ever did find it.

When the old man told the folks what happened most of them just kind of snickered, because they figured the old fellow must have dreamed it. But he showed ‘em something that stopped their giggling mighty sudden. About twenty foot back from the fire stood an ironwood tree, and there was a kind of horn stuck plumb through it. The thing was thin and black, sharp on both sides like a double-edged knife. It was pretty near two foot long. The folks looked at the horn mighty close, but nary one of ‘em touched it.

The old man swore it was one of the prongs off the Devil’s tail, and maybe it was. There ain’t no animal in this country has got such a horn as that. Like the old man says, if it didn’t come off’n the Devil’s tail, where did it come from?