Tennessee Mountain Stories

When God and The Devil Divided up the Dead


In ‘Pon my Honor, Carrie Melton attributes this story to the Knoxville News-Sentinel but gives no further citation.  I tried to search their website for it without success.

As I said in last week’s post I’m not prone to telling stories of haints but your response to The Logston Tide was overwhelming so I thought I’d share another of Mrs. Melton’s stories from the section “I Wouldn’t A-Believed Hit if I Hadn’t Seen Hit Myself”

Once there was this here old man who was all crippled up with rheumatism.  Fact is, he hadn’t hardly walked a step in years, and the only way he had of getting around was having his boy carry him.  The boy wasn’t grown yet, but he could get his pa up on his back and tote him around the place anywhere the old man wanted to go.  The old man was an ornery old cuss, just as cross and crabby with his old woman and the young’uns as he could be.  His old woman would get so put out with him sometimes that she’s just out and tell him that he was so mean that when he died God wouldn’t have him and the devil wouldn’t want him even if he did have to take him.

Come one fall and it was powerful hot weather…hot and dry.  The old man got mighty tired of just setting in his chair all day long, doing nothing but sweating and cussing the flies and the heat.  So, he got in the habit of having his boy tote him to different places around about in the cool of the evening.

Now, not far from where he lived there was a graveyard.  It was off down in the woods like, and a lonesome place even in broad daylight.  The boy didn’t much fancy taking his pa there after dark, but for pure devilment on these hot, dry days the old man would make the boy tote him down to the graveyard might nigh ever evening.

It was powerful hot one day…much hotter than usual.  The old man could hardly wait for dusky-dark to come and the air to cool off.  It did seem like the graveyard was the coolest place to be found in such weather.  And, too, it did pleasure the old man a sight to go set among the graves of his friends and kinfolks and to watch the starts and the lightning bugs come out.  So, this time as soon as the old woman got supper on the table, the old man rushed the boy through eating so he could pack his pappy out to the graveyard.  Much against his wishes, the boy got his pappy on his back and started off down the road to the graveyard.  They had to go down the big road a-piece, then off to the right in the scope of woods.

It just happened that two of the neighbor boys had been pawpaw hunting that evening, and had stayed out later than they meant to, so dark had caught them on the way home.  They decided to set down and divide their pawpaws there at the graveyard, for the road forked just beyond, and one went one way and the other went the other way.


As they went in the graveyard one boy was carrying the sack of pawpaws and the other one had his pockets full.  Just to be a-doin’, the boy with his pockets full stopped and laid a pawpaw on each gate post as he went in.  Then the two boys walked on down in the graveyard a-piece and set down by two headstones that were close together.  Then they started to divide up the pawpaws.

Now, the boy had toted his pa down to the graveyard gate, and since it was a right smart piece and the boy was tired, they stopped to rest.  The boy set the old man down by one gate post while he leaned up against the other one.  It was while they were resting that they heard talking coming from the graveyard.  They were all ears, and this is what they heard.

“You take this ‘un, and I’ll take that ‘un.  You take this ‘un, and I’ll that that ‘un.”  Then another voice said out loud and as plain as day, “Yes, and there’s two down by the gate posts.  You take one, and I’ll take the othern.”

At this the boy started over to pick up his pa and get out of there quick, but the old man beat him to it.  He jumped up, shoved the boy out of his way and said, “Iffen you can’t run, move over and let somebody run that can.”  And with that he took off down the road so fast that his shirt-tail fairly stood out in the wind behind him.  He beat the boy home by a long shot, and purt night scared his old woman to death.  She hadn’t seen her old man walk a step in years, let alone run!

“Lord-a-mercy! What’s the matter?” she yelled, thinking that the world was coming to an end.

“Hide me! Hide me quick, old woman,” begged the old man.  “We’ve just been down to the graveyard, and we heard God and the devil down there dividing up the dead.  I plain as day heard the devil say that there was two down by the gate posts, and that he’d take one and God could have the othern.  And, old woman, you know…good and well which one the devil was atter!”