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FIFTEEN years ago, a Kentucky fish-fry was one of the occasions to date from. Like the New England clam bakes, they were characteristic local scenes, in which you saw more of the heart of the people in a few hours, than you might, under other circumstances, in years.

We had other out-door festivals, to be sure, which were equally characteristic of time, place and people, but they were more public and miscellaneous—such as the barbecue, which was usually given in honor of some political person or event, and to which all classes were invited to join in festivities on a grand scale, and when oxen were roasted whole.

Then there was the bran dance, which—commencing with the barbacued feast-wound up with a grand dance upon the rolled earth, sprinkled with bran beneath the arbors—and in which everybody, high or low, participated with a reckless abandon of jollity. The confused jumble of all classes in this rude festival, made it more an occasion for roystering fun than refined enjoyment, and although forty years ago they were participated in by our ladies, and I remember well hearing my aunt and mother tell, many times, of dancing with the young Harry Clay at the bran dance, yet they gradually fell into disuse by the more refined.


By the way, I shall never forget the first picture of Mr. Clay at one of these dances, as drawn by my mother to my eager and boyish questioning. He was then, for the first time, a candidate for the Legislature, and, of course, very youthful, and “ dressed like a young demagogue,” as she laughingly used to say, in the home-made jeans cloth woven by the wives of the farmers of Kentucky.

It was considered that this dress was to propitiate the stout dames and ruddy-cheeked daughters of his constituents; and as the gentlemen of that day were excessively fastidious in their dress, and wore it of English cloth, and much more ornate and rich than now-a-days, the plainness of Mr. Clay's garb was laughed at among the young people of his own class, as an affectation. Nothing regardful of their sneers, the youthful politician, with his tall, thin figure, his graceful bow and fascinating smile, glided among the people, triumphantly winning everywhere the frank suffrages of simple and honest hearts.

They laughed, but he won—and a suit of that same Kentucky jeans has, since, consistently graced many a high position and noble circle, proudly worn by the older “demagogue” (perhaps ?) in testimonial of his respect for that homely and honest constituency. It was, then, something of a sharp joke among the social peers of the rising politician, to accuse him of playing the demagogue in this earliest and manly expression of his preference for that home protective policy, which has now become one of the chiefest and most honorable distinctions of the great statesman's reputation.

While these more important festivals had all a political or public end, the fish-fry was entirely a social affair; a gathering of friends and equals for the purposes of out-door enjoyment. The event was usually talked of for a week or so, and, on one occasion which I particularly remember, the invitations to attend had been circulated by a sort of freemasonry, known among the elect, the responsible source of



which it would have been difficult to trace directly, though the fact that a large spring near the plantation of one of our well-known, hospitable, country gentlemen, had been selected as the scene of the festival, was quite endorsement enough on that score.

Before the arrival of the important day, all the minor preparations of gallantry had been made, the various parties of young men and girls having paired off, for the ride out to the spring—which was seven miles distant—and satisfactorily adjusted all other preliminaries, for the occasion. The gentry of both sexes from the town, and from the principal plantations for miles around, commenced gathering from every direction, and at an early hour on the auspicious morning, moved towards the place of meeting.

The party of which I made one, consisted of four or five of the gayest and handsomest girls of our town of Hwith gallants "to match”—if I may be permitted the modest insinuation! Most of us were mounted on the dashing and spirited saddle-horses peculiar to our State, and, with the fearless command of accustomed riders, we gave way to our hilarious mood, and kept them up to their metal. Our girls usually ride with a boldness and a skill approached only by the daughters of the English country gentlemen. Those who preferred a more staid gait, fell back with the rear guard of the party, which consisted, principally, of elderly gentlemen, the fathers of these young girls, and other gray-haired citizens who yet loved fun and good things.

It was a delicious spring morning, and our hearts bounded merrily with the elastic movement of our horses. Our road was literally over flowers, for the “barrens," through which we swept, form the richest natural gardens in the world-far more varied and chastely beautiful than the prairies. The feet of our horses were stained at every stride with the red juice of wild strawberries, that crouched in luscious clusters beneath the tinted shadows of the over-hanging flowers, and the fresh, soft breeze bore up to us the delicate aroma of the crushed fruit mingled with the sweet forgiveness of their meek guardians, we thus rudely trampled in a doubly perfumed death. The sense was intoxicated in this delicious air, until we laughed, and sang, and said, we knew not what -shouted and screamed, and bounded our snorting horses wildly over and through these scented glories of the freshened earth, in a sort of delirious joy, which their game and high-bred natures could fully share. Other parties joined us on the way, and, together, we formed a noisy company that mellow morning as we darted, one after another, into the bridle-path that led to the spring, beneath a grove upon the banks of a little river.

Here we were greeted with shouts of welcome, as we burst in view of a pretty basin, overhung by a huge mossy rock, and shaded with tall trees, beneath which, and around the

pring, were gathered some ten or twelve of the party who had arrived before us. The gentlemanly planter came forward with a hearty greeting for each, and all was for a few moments the bustle of dismountings, of salutations, &c.

My lady cared for—the horses delivered to the charge of the grinning and delighted slaves of the plantation, we had time to look around. It was a lovely spot that had been chosen, everything about it looked as wild as when the thirsty Indian, in undisputed lordship here, had come to lie down by the cold waters for his noonday draught.

The plantation was several miles distant; but our active host had already commenced preparations for our reception, as the blazing fire, the implements of cookery, the great baskets with mysterious covers, scattered around, most plainly showed. A droll-looking old mulatto, with shirt sleeves rolled up and knife in hand, proclaimed himself, by his authoritative demeanor, the chief cook and master of culinary ceremonies for the day. This was for him a glorious occasion; an event of mighty import; and he demeaned himself accordingly. Group after group arrived and dismounted, amidst a gay clatter of tongues, and now some thirty persons had collected. The ladies very soon rid themselves of their now superfluous bonnets, shawls, gloves, &c., while we, their unfortunate gallants, were permitted but little time to congratulate them upon the comforts of this disembarrassment, and their promised repose in the cool shade, for the jovial voice of our host promptly recalled us to a sense of service imposed upon us for the morning by the usage of the occasion.

“Come, boys! The girls can take care of themselves now. The seine's all ready down at the mill. Mount! Mount !"

This imperative summons was not very promptly obeyed, for young men would, naturally, after such a ride, be in no great hurry to exchange the exhilaration which deliciously lingered under the warm glances of their fair companions, for a cold plunge into the river to drag the seine for fish. This was our duty, and the young girls teazingly assured us that they would not touch or serve up a single mouthful for our dinners, if we did not drag the seine and catch the fish ourselves. But we managed to find consolation in the fact, that, if we were compelled to catch the fish, they had to cook them under old Jim's supervision, and wait on us at dinner too.

With abundant jokes and laughter at this quaint exchange of labor and offices, which usage exacted for the day, we tore ourselves reluctantly away at last, as our impatient host shouted, amidst peals of laughter

“Come, boys, come! You are worse than Pagans for they were willing to meet death with the hope of being served by Houries in the other world, while you are afraid to meet a little ducking, with the same prospect of being waited upon by them at dinner time in this !"

“Ha! ha! that will do! Let us be off, as we are Christians !" Off we were at a sharp gallop, led by the Planter, who, in about fifteen minutes, wheeled into a country road, which soop led us down the steep bank to a ford below

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