Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Pluck 'Em In and the Trickiest Trickster of Them All

Continuing with the river access discussion from thing we could do is put in upstream of, and paddle past, where we took out last year.  The DRW access list shows a put-in called "Pluck 'Em In" two miles above Leatherwood Bridge.  It is right by the Natchez Trace, basically behind the Ser Sta Gro we stopped at in Shady Grove. 

This one:

That would make the float a couple miles longer and could work, depending on where the good gravel bars are.   The disadvantage is that we would be repeating some of last year's trip, which we don't like to do, and it's not a very easy put-in because it requires a carry and has steep banks at the river.  Here's what the trip would look like though:


Having said all that, it would certainly be proper for us to start a trip at the Pluck' Em In.   According to "The History of Hickman County, Tennessee", written in 1900 but sounding eerily like a Pete Feldman blog, it has been "the scene of many a revel":

Rufus Coleman was the best fiddler to be found in Hickman County in the early days. He clerked for William Coleman and Powhattan Gordon, who, about 1830, had a store situated on the south bank of Duck River near the old ferry landing . . near Gordon camp.  At Coleman's store, Ben Wilson, of Leatherwood, sold whiskey; and just above, on the lands of George Church, were two race courses, one a half mile in length, the other a mile. This section bore the suggestive name of "Pluck-'em-in," and was the scene of many a revel in the 1820's and 1830's.

In 1825 John Skipper had a stillhouse on Jackson's Branch. Richard Smith was probably the first to sell whisky in the village of Shady Grove, but this was long after the notorious "Pluck-'em-in" had gone out of existence. George Grimes had a saloon at Shady Grove in 1854. The laws were not then so stringent, and men, while under the influence of whisky, seemed to have less of the brute in their nature than has the average drunken man of the present day. Men did not then fill up on mean whisky in order to prepare themselves to make murderous assaults upon their fellow-men as they do in this day of higher civilization.

During the existence of "Pluck-'em-in," one of its frequenters was Robert White, a note gambler. One day there came to George Church's race course a stranger riding an ugly, "slab-sided," bobtailed bay horse, with mane roached, like a mule. The stranger was shabbily dressed, and the questions he asked about the horses and horse racing showed him to be entirely unfamiliar with the sport then in progress. He drank some and was very anxious to buy cattle, of which he was in search. He learned that there would be in a few days a big horse race on Josiah Shipp's track near Centerville. By going there he could see cattle owners from all over the county, and, in addition to this, he was told that he could see a very lively horse race. For this latter he did not care, but, although an additional twenty miles' ride would be rather hard on his horse, he concluded to go on to Centerville in order to buy cattle, of which he was in great need. He went to Centerville the night before the day on which the races were to be run.

The next morning he was one of the large crowd at the track; but by the demon, Drink, the quiet, inoffensive cattle buyer had been transformed into a swaggering drunkard, who wanted to bet on the race money which his appearance showed he could ill afford to lose. His condition was such that he could scarcely walk, and his faculties were so overclouded that he did not care which horse he backed. He just wanted to bet. He had seen other people bet at Church's track, and, so he said, he had as much money as anybody. His own old horse was hitched near by, and, mounting it, he, continuing his boasting, announced that it could beat anything on the ground. Remonstrances were in vain, and he, continuing to wave his money, soon found takers. He was, in race-course parlance, "an easy thing," and soon there was a mad rush for his money. Having come for the purpose of buying cattle, he had money to cover all money offered him, and, in addition to this, was soon betting money against watches, pistols, overcoats, etc.

When the horses lined up for the start, some of the more observant noticed that the stranger seemed to have become strangely sober in a short time. When three-fourths of the track had been gone over and the stranger and his horse were still well up in the bunch, it was remembered that nobody had seen him take a drink. When the stranger's horse won with ease, beating Grinder's horse, the pride of Hickman County, it gradually dawned upon those who had bet with the stranger that they had been victimized.

The stranger was Shilo True, the trickiest trickster of them all, and the missionary work that he did that day produced lasting good. Many saw the error of their way and never bet again. Many who that day bet with the professional gambler, Shilo True, afterwards became the most prominent citizens of the county. Two of his converts were Emmons Church and his father Abram Church, who riding back to Shady Grove without their overcoats, agreed that they would gamble no more. For years, whenever people saw the appearance of fraud, a cheat, or a swindle, or when they wanted to halloo, "Enough!" they simply said, "Shilo!" and were understood.

1 comment:

Mike Meridian said...

I was in that area yesterday, looking for new water to fish out of my kayak. I seen the market but was not sure of the put in, so I went to the bridge a Leatherwood Creek. Good article, knowing the history of the area is nice, something to think about when the fish aren't biting.