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The Ants
by David Norris


[Note from the author: The enclosed piece was written while I was in graduate school. I was taking a linguistics course and we were studying dialects. The class discussions centered on the genuine and true tragedy that dialects are disappearing from our society. I went into the Blue Ridge Mountains and interviewed four old mountain men. Their names were Buck Walton, Dewey Fridley, James Martin and Charles Woodson Bennet. To me and everyone else, Old Charley (the speaker in this piece) was a kind and gentle man. He lived on the side of a mountain in a tarpaper shack that he "built in a week of hard work." This is one of Charley's tales. Hopefully, you will be able to meet the other gentlemen that I mention above. They are all dead now, and their voices will not be heard again.]

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Evrything likes to live its life out; nothing wants to die. Evrything has got a way of knowing.

Now you take these old ants that crawls around out in the yard. Well, in the fall of the year, they got a certain time that they go in. And them ants goes in now, and they won't come out no more 'til spring. Now in March, they won't come out. In April, they'll come out. And they'll stay out 'til fall; and then fall, a certain time in the fall, they'll go back in.

Well, I was splitting a block of wood open out there last winter. I split this block of wood open, and a whole bunch of them great big, old black ants rolled out of it on the ground. And them things was froze! There wasn't a bit of life! You couldn't see a bit of life in 'em.

I thinks, well, I'm not gonna destroy them poor old ants. They went in there for pertection, went in there for a winter home; and here I cut the tree down, cut it up in wood. I'm gonna pertect 'em!

So I took a tin can out there now, and I picked up evry one of them ants! Got ever one of them out of the old block of wood that they was in! Picked 'em evry one up in that tin can, and I brought 'em in here, and I set 'em over there in the corner by the heater where they'd get warm.

Heh! Them rascals got warm; and they got warm, and you ought to of seen 'em coming up out of that can! They come up out of that can just as happy as they could be.

Well, they went back in the corner there and went in 'em a place, and I'd throw bread back in there during the winter. And they wouldn't come out though, and eat that bread. They went in that warm place back there and they stayed.

Well, in the spring then, you could see 'em coming out of there in a gang, and going out that door outside, where they could go out there and get what they wanted.

And so: they didn't come back in this year.

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Well now, that's funny about that thing. Another thing was funny.

There's an old toad frawg that stays in here in the wintertime. He knows it's warm in here, and he's been in here for the last five years staying in here.

Well, this fall he was out in the yard there at night; and I aimed to come in the house. And when I aimed to come in the house, why he'd hopped up on the porch!

So he got right up there in that door now; and when I opened that door, he jumped inside! And he ain't been back out since. He come in for the winter. He was watching his chance all the time to get back in here for the winter where it was warm.

So you see how that stuff works: evrything got sense; got a good mind.


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David Norris has lived in Asia since 1985. He currently resides in Seoul, Korea, where he lectures in writing and literature for the University of Maryland University College Asia. His work has appeared in The Chariton Review, Taproot Literary Review, Poetry San Francisco, and The Dan River Anthology. David was born in the small town of Covington, Virginia, way up in the Alleghany Mountains. He left when he was 20 and has been traveling ever since.

Write David at dnorris@hanafos.com


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