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"Brer Rabbit Gets Brer Fox's Dinner"

If you ain't never heard about Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox, you might get the idea from these stories that they are enemies. Well, that ain't the way it is. On the other hand, they weren't friends either.

Brer Rabbit was Brer Rabbit, which meant he couldn't help it if he woke up some mornings and the first thing he thought about was creating devilment.

And Brer Fox was Brer Fox. Wasn't his fault if he woke up thinking about the same thing. So they weren't enemies and they weren't friends. They were who they were. Another way of putting it is: They ain't who they wasn't. Now that that's all clear let's get on with the story.

Not having anything better or worse to do one day, Brer Rabbit decided to see what Brer Fox was up to. As he got close to Brer Fox's house, he heard a lot of hammering. When he got there, he saw Brer Fox on the roof nailing shingles as fast as he could.
Well, Brer Rabbit treated work like he did his mamma, and he wouldn't hit his mamma a lick. So he looked around to see what else he could see, and there by the fence post was Brer Fox's dinner pail. Brer Rabbit knew there was more food in it than there was in his stomach. That didn't seem right. How was he going to get Brer Fox's dinner from where it wasn't doing no good to where it would do a whole lot of good?

"Brer Fox! How you doing today?" Brer Rabbit called up.

"Busy. Ain't got time to be flapping gums with you."

"What you doing up there?"

"Putting on a new roof before winter comes."

"You need some help?"

"I do, but where am I going to get it at?"

"I'm a powerful man with a hammer, Brer Fox. I'll give you a hand."

Brer Rabbit climbed up to the roof and set to work. Pretty soon he was out-hammering Brer Fox. He was putting roofing on like winter was on the outskirts of town. He nailed and nailed and nailed until he was right up to Brer Fox's tail.

Brer Fox and Brer Rabbit on the RoofBrer Rabbit pushed the tail to one side, but, a tail being a tail, it just swished right back.

"Don't know how come some folks got to have such long tails," Brer Rabbit mumbled to himself.

He brushed the tail aside again and resumed nailing. He nailed under Brer Fox. He nailed around Brer Fox. He nailed beside Brer Fox. He nailed and he nailed until all of a sudden Brer Fox dropped his hammer and let out a yell, "Ow! Brer Rabbit. You done nailed my tail!"

Brer Rabbit looked at him, eyes big. "I done what? You got to be joking, Brer Fox. Don't be accusing me of something I ain't done."

Brer Fox hollered and squalled and kicked and squealed. "Have mercy Brer Rabbit; Unnail my tail! Unnail my tail!"

Brer Rabbit started down the ladder, shaking his head. "I must be losing my aim, my stroke or something. Maybe my eyes is getting weak. I ain't never nailed nobody's tail before. Doing something like that upsets me. Doing something like that upsets me so much, it makes me hungry."

All the while Brer Fox is hollering and screaming and squalling.

Brer Rabbit climbed down the ladder, still muttering to himself about how getting upset was making him hungry. He opened up Brer Fox's dinner pail and helped himself to the fried chicken, corn and biscuits inside. When he finished, he wiped his mouth on his coattail, belched a time or two, and went on down the road, hoping he hadn't done no permanent damage to Brer Fox's long, pretty tail.

From More Tales of Uncle Remus written by Julius Lester, based on the original stories by Joel Chandler Harris.

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December 18, 2001.