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  Eleben years ago, though it seems like 'lebenty 'leben, when I got my first computer, a 64K Osborne, I wrote Willy Legate a letter using the justified right hand margin feature of Word Star. He sent a typewritten letter back, justifying his own margins with word selection. This seemed like a challenge, so, not to be outdone, I wrote Raggedy Remus, justifying margins and rhyming, and sent it back. I took a few liberties with the language and puctuation to pull it off. It was my first experience with the odd phenomenon of letting absurd restrictions determine the course of a story, culminating in "Dog Moon." Raggedy Remus is, by the way, a disturbing story - as are many of those not so innocent tales of Joel Chandler Harris, creator of Uncle Remus.


Strictly two step Raggedy Remus
Undeniably a fault filled blues
Broken down in the usual places
Brimming with neighborhood news

Full of I don't know but I been
Full of the old familiar flavor
Full of the good high time feel
Full of natchul rabbit behavior

Full of the "Hi Brother Weasel"
Full indeed of the "Yes Indeed"
Other than that it's got nothin
Any tame person would ever heed

Other than that it's a two step
Like many other two step before
No more talkin about it brother
No more beating around its door

Every bad impulse you can think
Of, many that you can't besides
Inside the undauntable heart of
Brer Rabbit comfortably resides

Flick a soft summer switchblade
Shaft in the heartache surprise
Sort of a maniac running around
On the town with pink dead eyes

Mama quick call a policeman now
He cut the cow down in the corn
With a thirty six dumdum bullet
I swears it as sure as I'm born

Go fetch Raggedy Remus, my girl
Fetch him here quick as you can
He's the only one ever did cool
Brer Rabbit, or so I unnerstand

Adalee ran to the swampside hut
To old Remus's five sided shack
He had two front doors but just
One Welcome mat around the back     

She knocked twice on the window
Three of four rings of the bell
If old Remus was in or gone out
Little Adalee could hardly tell

She pushed hard on the latchkey
The door swung wide and creaked
He must not of oiled the hinges
For ninety nine years if a week

Inside was only a dampish gloom
The cobwebs were never so thick
A wicked smell of muck and mold
Made little Adalee near to sick

Her eye was never accustomed to
Judge another's state of repair
But still she did have to admit
Some reign of disorder in there

The terminal kind of untidiness    
Like a legal search and seizure
Though not torn up in no moment
This here was a mess of leisure

But old Raggedy Remus could not 
Be found in his pitch dark room
As Adalee saw, or could not see
For the frightful shadowy gloom

"O Remus," Ad cried tentatively
And the next thing she knew BAM
Brer Rabbit hop from the shadow
The same as never gave one damn

Adalee tried to scream but Brer
Rabbit slapped a paw on her jaw
Knocked her hard onto the floor
Then proceeded to break the law

Speaking of a spit in the ocean
Ringantebellum Rhythm and Blues
Brer Fox arrive about High Noon
Jes lookin to collect his booze

"I load 16 tons and what I get?
Lookit Brer Rabbit he havin fun
I'm gone bash his brains out fo
Him, drill his lil ol sugarbun"

Ring this curtain on that scene
Justice got served of some kind 
Not the sort dispensed at court
More of the kind called "blind"

Where was Raggedy Remus himself
Who might have sorted this lot?
Well he was over in Baton Rouge
With a gal name of Polly DuBoit

"Ain't no sense in the language     
Of love" she told Raggedy Remus
In French, "So don't dig up old
Promises, it's over between us"

"Goddamnit to hell Polly, don't
Try to find me when you realize
How wrong you is to toss me out
And starts cryin out your eyes"

"C'est ne pas likely m'veilleux
Cherie," said Polly as he swore
"Sacre Bleu, pauvre Remus, s'il
Vous plait alors shut the door"

Raggedy Remus, he never learned
To let light brown ladies alone
They got too much fight in them
Yes, too much mind of their own

He took that lonesome road back
Home and arrived about the time
The Fox was skinnin Brer Rabbit
Alive, squeezing him into slime

Meantime Adalee escaped and hid     
Watching from behind a sycamore
Saw Raggedy Remus give the boys
A good old fashioned "what for"

She ran home and told her Pappy
The thing that had come to pass
Pappy looked sour as hell, said
"I gonna fix that Rabbit's ass"

He loaded a shotgun with powder
Rocksalt, staples'n brass tacks
"Gonna shoot his prop off Pap?"
"Daughter you don't hafta axsk"

Remus didn't know that a matter
Of a high sensitivity went down
Just thought he caught critters
Up to their tricks jivin around

"Tell us about the time Brer Ox
Got set loose in the China Shop
Tell us about how old Brer Bear
Once... tell us and never stop"

"Well sir, well sir, well sir,"
Oh tell us please what happened 
When Adalee's Pappy went huntin
Brer Rabbit! "Well that depend"

Ragged Remus you son of a bitch      
Got more heart and soul to till
Than common sense, the way them
Children come to hear you spill

"Well sir, I reckon that rabbit
Ain't countin on no mo children 
Than what he's already got born
I spect elebenty leben and ten"

Elebenty leben and eleben Remus     
If what we been hearing is true
That's what we wanta know about
What none would know except you

"Well sir, I don't quite cotton 
To the point your question lead
You hafta tell me how you meant
Or I can't tell you all I seed"

Don't beat about the bush Remus
Only makes it the worse for him
Why you want to protect him and
Put your own self up on a limb?

"Jim, that you? Didn't rec'nize 
Your big black face in the dark
How you happen to show up here?
Ain't seen you since Hyde Park"

I'd rather not get into that if
You don't mind Remus old friend
I'm assigned to investigate the
Sad matter of Adalee to the end  

Brer Rabbit is your creation if      
I'm not mistaken? That's right?
"Sho as shootin Mr Northern Law
Still tryin to pass for white?"

Make it easy on yourself, Remus
After all I got work to perform
It is my line of duty, you know
And my trail ain't exactly warm

Heard only one part of the tale
Much obliged if you will supply
A couple of odd missing details
Or at least provide us an alibi

"On the Lebenteenth of November
I was shacked up in Baton Rouge
With a gal name of Polly Beloit
Which I can quite easily prove"

As a matter of fact it was upon
That date the trouble broke out
Now Remus I been checkin on you
There's more you can tell about

"Why what you mean? Whatever it
Was I didn't do, or see who did
Matter of fact, don't even know
What you're talkin about I bid"

Don't go too far, Raggedy Remus
Go flauntin yourself at the law
We got ways to find information
The like of which you never saw

"How can you accuse me of those
Intentions, you a pupil of mine
Puts me amind of that time Brer
Bear went to spy a yoohoo mine"

I don't remember that one Remus
"Listen, I'll refresh your mind
Throw that oak limb on the fire
Now the Rabbit he was in a bind

"Course that ain't very unusual
He's trouble from the old getgo
Always was prob'ly still is too
A cunning critter you well know

"Well sir, here's what happened     
He was out on Echo Mountain jes
Floppin around in that sunshine
Wastin time and feelin his best

"The way a natchul critter does
What don't ask nothin from life
Except a fair share of sunshine
And a freedom from undue strife

"Yes sir, that's the way it was
Mindin his own, without no care
When all of a sudden out behind 
A rock pop Brer Fox an the Bear 

"Gotcha, no matter how hard you
Plead you ain't never goin free  
Says Brer Fox and Old Brer Bear
Says "jest hand him over to me"

"Brer Fox say: No, last time he 
Fooled you right got clean away
Dat ain't what I call copasetic
This time we gwine make him pay

"Well sir, Brer Fox tied him up     
Told Brer Bear to hang in chere
Keep an eye peeled, make double
Damn sure them knots was secure

"While he went to find kindling
To prepare a hare roasting fire
Last thing he say: Don't listen
To him, he's such a clever liar

"Soon's the Fox he out of sight
Brer Rabbit up and says nothin!
Brer Bear he feel ready for any
Old trick long as it's somethin

"Nothin, he don't figger and it
Makes him kind of suspicious so
He say: Hey Rabbit, why doesn't
Ya try foolin me to let you go?

"Because" Brer Rabbit say while
He test the knot with his thumb
"I done lost my Hoo an I dasn't
Say a word or it come out dumb"

"Hunh? You done lost your what?     
Not my WHAT Stupid, lost my HOO
Now who you callin stupid, Brer
Rabbit? He say "I'm callin you"

"If you think about it a minute
That's a pretty stupid thing to
Do, happens every time I das to
Speak since I lost my old Hoo!"  

Well sir, pretty soon Brer Bear
Starts thinkin how everytime he
Talk it jes sorta come out dumb
& onders where his Hoo might be

More he thinks, the likelier it 
Seems to Bear he must have lost
His own Hoo somewhere along the
Way so he say: What's one cost?

Now, Rabbit keeps his trap shut
For once in his life so Bear he
Figgers there must be something
To it, right sure there must be

"Now you tell me Brer Rabbit at     
Once where you get some of that
Hoo before I beat you over your
Head and choke de sass out you"

"Brer Rabbit do nothin until he
Choke nearly blue, then he toss
His head in a way to say let me
Live and I'll say anything boss

Brer Rabbit, he throws back his
Head and lets out a big YOOHOO!
And about fifteen seconds later
It come right back out the blue

"YOOHOO - Now you hear that Hoo
Brer Bear?  It's about one mile
Away from here and you can tell
Whose Hoo is whose by its style

"Mine for instance, sounds just
Like me, hear? Now you have at"
"YOOHOO" sez Bear. "Well I swan
Hey now, whatcha make of that?"

"Sound like you got a Hoo down    
There in the Hoo mine too Brer
Bear, course I ain't smart nuf
To know fer sure so take care" 

"Well I reckon you're too dumb     
To git outa that tieup so I'll
Jest zip on over to that there
Hoo mine an be back in awhile"

Brer Rabbit, he waved so long,
Had his left paw loose already 
Brer Bear took off goin YOOHOO
Brer Fox kept on workin steady

Pretty soon, Fox shows up with
A big fat sack of kindlin wood
Wondering what all that YOOHOO 
Was, figgered it boded no good

Well sir, Brer Fox had to work 
Awhile to crack into that nut,
With no help from the Bear who
Decided to keep his mouth shut

Because he didn't find his Hoo
And didn't want to make a dope
Of himself sayin anything dumb
Til he caught it. He had hope,

Which is more'n can be said of     
You comin 'round to hassle old
Remus who never did nothin but
Tell the tale you wanted told!

"Tell you how I figures, Remus
Only one of two things applies
Either you're just an innocent
Fool or lyin through your eyes

"This thing I know for certain 
Don't deny it I know I'm right
Someone was hiding Brer Rabbit
An whoever that is ain't white

"It ain't such a bad rap Remus
Pay your debt and forget, rest
I'll come back around tomorrow 
Take your own time but confess

"Seems you want to lay trouble
On me to skin the Rabbit twice
Look over your shoulder, there
he hangs, take your own advice

"Don't expect I did that thing
No, Pappy's shotgun stepped in
But I didn't try to prevent it
And it was me as took the skin

"Along side is Brer Fox's pelt 
He tried to stop the shot took
That first barrel his own self
That you won't find in no book

"Other than that it's a 2 step     
Like many other shuffle before
Got our own laws in this swamp
Now get out and shut the door"

Robert Hunter 1986


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