Earlier this week I saw the sad news that Winnie Wood, widow of one-time N.C. gubernatorial candidate George Wood of Camden County, had died. Mrs. Wood was an accomplished woman with a wide array of interests in education, the arts, history, children, politics, the Democratic Party and the Presbyterian church. She served her state and her country well, as did her husband, a former legislator, farmer and education leader in North Carolina.
And yet I had heard the following story for many years -- first printed, I believe, decades ago in Richard Walser's book "Tar Heel Laughter." I always thought the Mrs. George Wood referred to in the story was Winnie Wood, but that couldn't be, as the story has her being deceased years ago, while our Winnie Wood lived to be 85 and died just last week.
Still, I can't help but pass along this story about Horace the mule, a certain hunting bugle, a misplaced dose of medicine and a bridgetender on the Intracoastal Waterway whose hopes for a political career ended on strange afternoon. It features a woman, sometimes referred in story-telling as Fan Lamb, proprietess of Greenfield Plantation. Perhaps "Fanilamb," as she was sometimes known, was married to another George Wood of nearby Chowan County. I don't know.
But I do know the story -- reprinted in newspapers all over the Carolinas and Georgia for many years -- goes this way:
Mrs. George Wood, now deceased, of Chowan County, had a mule who was
named Horace. On Christmas Eve, she called up Dr. Satterfield in Edenton
and said to him, “Doctor, Horace is sick, and I wish you would come
take a look at him.”
Dr. Satterfield said, “Oh, Fanilamb, its
after 6 o’clock and I’m eating my Christmas Eve dinner. Give Horace a
dose of mineral oil and if he isn’t all right in the morning, phone me
and I’ll come out and take a look at him.”
“How’ll I give it to him?” she inquired.
“Through a funnel,” replied the good doctor.
“He might bite me!” she protested.
“Oh, Fanilamb — you’re a farm woman, and you know about these things. Give it to him through the other end.”
So Fanilamb went out to the barn, and there stood Horace, with his head held down, just moaning and groaning.
looked around for a funnel, but the nearest thing she could see to one
was her Uncle Bill’s fox-hunting horn, hanging on the wall, a
gold-plated instrument with gold tassels hanging from it.
She took the horn and affixed it properly. Horace turned his head, but paid no attention.
she reached up on the shelf where medicines for the farm animals were
kept. But instead of picking up the mineral oil, she picked up a bottle
of turpentine and poured a liberal dose into the horn.
raised his head with a sudden jerk. He let out a yell that could have
been heard a mile away. He reared up on his hind legs, brought his front
legs down, knocked out the side of the barn, jumped a five-foot fence
and started down the road at a mad gallop.
Now Horace was in
pain, so every few jumps he made, that horn would blow. All the dogs in
the neighborhood knew that when that horn was blowing it meant that
Uncle Bill was going fox hunting. So down the highway they went, close
on Horace’s heels.
It was a marvelous sight! First, Horace —
running at top speed; the horn, in a most unusual position, the mellow
notes issuing therefrom; the tassels waving; and the dogs, barking
They passed by the home of Old Man Harvey Hogan, who
was sitting on his front porch, well “into the cups” as they say down
east. He hadn’t drawn a sober breath in 15 years, and he gazed in
fascinated amazement at the sight that unfolded itself before his eyes.
Incidentally, Harvey is now head man of Alcoholics Anonymous in the Albemarle section of the state.
this time it was good and dark. Horace and the dogs were approaching
the Chowan River Bridge. The bridge-tender heard the horn blowing and
figured a boat was approaching. So he hurriedly went out and uncranked
Horace went over the edge, straight into the river
and was drowned. The dogs jumped into the water after him, but they
could swim and climbed out without much difficulty.
Now, it so
happened that the bridge-tender was running for the office of Sheriff of
Chowan County, but he managed to get only seven votes. The people
figured that any man who didn’t know the difference between a mule with a
horn up his rear and a boat coming down the Intracoastal Waterway
wasn’t fit to hold any public office in Chowan County.