Abraham Lincoln reference site established 2005

Nancy's Boy Baby

by Dennis Hanks

Dennis Hanks, of course, is Abraham Lincoln's cousin--Nancy Hanks Lincoln being Abraham's mother. This is his recollection of growing up with Lincoln. Try reading this text out loud and have fun with the phonetics!

Tom an' Nancy lived on a farm about two miles from us, when Abe was born. I ricollect Tom comin' over to our house one cold mornin' in Feb'uary an' sayin' kind o' slow, "Nancy's got a boy baby."

Mother got flustered an' hurried up 'er work to go over to look after the little feller, but I didn't have nothin' to wait fur, so I cut an' run the hull two mile to see my new cousin.

You bet I was tickled to death. Babies wasn't as common as blackberries in the woods o' Kaintucky. Mother come over and washed him an' put a yaller flannen petticoat on him, an' cooked some dried berries with wild honey fur Nancy, an' slicked things up an' went home. An' that's all the nuss'n either of 'em got.

I rolled up in a b'ar skin an' slep' by the fire-place that night, so's I could see the little feller when he cried and Tom had to get up an' tend to him. Nancy let me hold him purty soon. Folks often ask me if Abe was a good-lookin' baby. Well, now, he looked just like any other baby, at fust--like red cherry pulp squeezed dry. An' he didn't improve none as he growed older. Abe never was much fur looks. I ricollect how Tom joked about Abe's long legs when he was toddlin' round the cabin. He growed out o' his clothes faster 'n Nancy could make 'em.

But he was mighty good comp'ny, solemn as a papoose, but interested in everything. An' he always did have fits o' cuttin' up. I've seen him when he was a little feller, settin' on a stool, starin' at a visitor. All of a sudden he'd bust out laughin' fit to kill. If he told us what he was laughin' at, half the time we couldn't see no joke....

Abe never give Nancy no trouble after he could walk excep' to keep him in clothes. Most o' the time we went bar'foot. Ever wear a wet buckskin glove? Them moccasins wasn't no putection ag'inst the wet. Birch bark with hickory bark soles, strapped on over yarn socks, beat buckskin all holler, fur snow. Abe 'n' me got purty handy contrivin' things that way. An' Abe was right out in the woods, about as soon's he was weaned, fishin' in the crick, settin' traps fur rabbits an' muskrats, goin' on follerin' up bees to find bee trees, an drappin corn fur his pappy. Mighty interestin' life fur a boy, but thar was a good many chances he wouldn't live to grow up.

 

source: Atkinson, Eleanor. "Lincoln's Boyhood" from the American Magazine, Volume 65, February 1908, Story-Life of Lincoln, edited by Wayne Whipple, Philadelphia: The John Winston Company, 1908, pp. 23-24.


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