An Arkansas Planter

Opie Read
An Arkansas Planter, by Opie
Percival Read

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Title: An Arkansas Planter
Author: Opie Percival Read
Release Date: August 23, 2006 [EBook #19107]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ASCII

Produced by David Garcia, Stacy Brown and the Online Distributed
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An Arkansas Planter
"A Yankee from the West," "The Waters of Caney Fork," "Mrs. Annie
Green," "Up Terrapin River."

Lying along the Arkansas River, a few miles below Little Rock, there is
a broad strip of country that was once the domain of a lordly race of
men. They were not lordly in the sense of conquest; no rusting armor
hung upon their walls; no ancient blood-stains blotched their
stairways--there were no skeletons in dungeons deep beneath the
banquet hall. But in their own opinion they were just as great as if they
had possessed these gracious marks of medieval distinction. Their
country was comparatively new, but their fathers came mostly from
Virginia and their whisky came wholly from Kentucky. Their cotton
brought a high price in the Liverpool market, their daughters were
celebrated for beauty, and their sons could hold their own with the
poker players that traveled up and down the Mississippi River. The
slave trade had been abolished, and, therefore, what remained of
slavery was right; and in proof of it the pulpit contributed its argument.
Negro preachers with wives scattered throughout the community urged
their fellow bondsmen to drop upon their knees and thank God for the
privilege of following a mule in a Christian land. The merciless work

of driving the negroes to their tasks was performed by men from the
North. Many a son of New England, who, with emotion, had listened to
Phillips and to Garrison, had afterward hired his harsh energies to the
slave owner. And it was this hard driving that taught the negro vaguely
to despise the abolitionist. But as a class the slaves were not unhappy.
They were ignorant, but the happiest song is sometimes sung by
ignorance. They believed the Bible as read to them by the preachers,
and the Bible told them that God had made them slaves; so, at evening,
they twanged rude strings and danced the "buck" under the boughs of
the cottonwood tree.
On the vine-shaded veranda the typical old planter was wont to sit,
looking up and down the road, watching for a friend or a stranger--any
one worthy to drink a gentleman's liquor, sir. His library was stocked
with romances. He knew English history as handed down to him by the
sentimentalist. He hated the name of king, but revered an aristocracy.
No business was transacted under his roof; the affairs of his estate were
administered in a small office, situated at the corner of the yard. His
wife and daughters, arrayed in imported finery, drove about in a
carriage. New Orleans was his social center, and he had been known to
pay as much as a thousand dollars for a family ticket to a ball at the St.
Charles hotel. His hospitality was known everywhere. He was slow to
anger, except when his honor was touched upon, and then he demanded
an apology or forced a fight. He was humorous, and yet the
consciousness of his own dignity often restrained his enjoyment of the
ludicrous. When the cotton was in bloom his possessions were
beautiful. On a knoll he could stand and imagine that the world was a
sea of purple.
That was the Arkansas planter years ago, before the great sentimental
storm swept down upon him, before an evening's tea-table talk in
Massachusetts became a tornado of iron in Virginia. When ragged and
heart-sore he returned from the army, from as brave a fight as man ever
engaged in, he sat down to dream over his vanished greatness. But his
dream was short. He went to work, not to re-establish his former
condition of ease--for that hope was beyond him--but to make a living
for his family.

On a knoll overlooking the Arkansas River stood the Cranceford
homestead. The site was settled in 1832, by Captain Luke Cranceford,
who had distinguished himself in an Indian war. And here, not long
afterward, was born John Cranceford, who
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