I came across the strangest story titled, Mike Hankins, in a December 2, 1906 – The Tennessean (Nashville) newspaper. The cleverly written piece was first published in The Hartsville Times newspaper in 1906. Composed in somewhat riddle form, it took some deciphering on my part to figure things out. All-in-all, the reporter was giving Mike Hankins a fond farewell, while at the same time delivering a literal rebuke of sorts. It seems Mr. Hankins was one of the ringleaders where town gossip was concerned in Hartsville. Honey-Run evidently relates to gossip flowing freely amongst a certain group of citizens. At the end of the story is the saying, “Sugar in the gourd.” Those words refer to simple lyrics from an old square dance tune going back to the late 1700’s. Sugar was placed in gourds during pioneer days and oftentimes it was hard to get out. The metaphor in using this term relates to gossip being contained within a container, instead of allowing it to seep out. This story was copied verbatim.
Mike Hankins, the blacksmith at “Honey Run,” left with his family Monday for Lake County, west Tennessee. Mike is a good fellow, and will be missed very much from “Honey Run.”
So Mike has gone west, at last. He heard it was better further on, and often talked of moving out into the world and trying his fortune among strangers. Not that he was unappreciated in his old home, for everybody in the county knows Mike, and all wish him mighty well.
But he is “a good fellow,” and fun and poverty seem to have chosen him for boon companion and running mate. He is capable in his line, but he would rather joke than work.
He knows as much scripture as the circuit rider, is conversant with the fine points and literal quotations concerning baptism, also the exact formulate for foreordination, and the final perseverance of the saints, but his convictions are not deep enough to root the turnip seed of truth. Day after day he will argue, ever sticking to the literal word.
Leaving his eldest hopeful and the striker to run the shop, he frequently foregathers at the village post office with the congenial spirits to sample the gossip of the countryside that the rural carriers have brought like honey to the hive, to discuss the candidates and the issues of the most important campaign since Sherman marched with fire and sword to the sea.
There is never real want at his house, but there are times when the wife and children feel that they would rather do without than ask the grocer to “charge it.” Mr. Grocer has not yet lost anything to Mike, but the quid pro quo sometimes comes on crutches; and besides, a man with a trade, and a family, and at his time of life, ought to have a home of his own and should have achieved a secure standing in the church that would enable him to read his title clear to “mansions in the skies” on the slightest provocation.
But nothing sticks to Mike, for Mike will not stick to anything more than three days in succession. “Mike is a good fellow.” He has done nobody harm, except himself and those for whom he would gladly lay down his life in an emergency.
He is as ready to sit up all night and keep an ice towel on the fevered brow of a friend as he is to grab a horn and away to the meadow and the woodland on a moonlight night, following the melody-making hounds as they give on the hot trail of “that old red fox.”
The smithy fires have glowed and the cheerful anvil rung till late; many a night to accommodate the emergency of an energetic neighbor, whos team must be afield ere dawn.
Because of these characteristics, he “will be missed very much.” His quaint sayings and curious riddles will be repeated again and again as the boys gather to settle the momentous matters of state and fix with unerring certainty the destiny of aspiring genius.
His crude philosophy, crystalized into provincial epigrams, will be the familiar tongue of generations yet to come. Yes, Mike Hankins is gone from “Honey-Run.” It is not worth while to wish that his tribe may increase, for there will be Hankinses in every settlement when the bones in the valleys begin and the seas give up their dead.
So, let us the rather trust that his new post office is “Sugar-in-the-Gourd.”