"O’ be careful little mouth what you say.
O’ be careful little mouth what you say.
For the Father up above is looking down in love.
O’ be careful little mouth what you say.”
This is an old refrain from my days in Sunday School that was loved by all who chirped its lines. This exhortation was and still is a warning for young and old.A tongue-lashing with honor is a rare deed that is not practiced today. Yet, in its’ day, this exploit was known as a “good cussin.” I found this tidbit which came out of an article dated February 2, 1896, from the Wheeling Sunday Register, in Wheeling, West Virginia. This article shows a great commentary on how our society has digressed on the honor of our words and the maliciousness we may have in heart.
One of its’ participants was an authentic historical character from the Ozarks, Captain Uzza “Uz” Finley.
Captain Finley was a member of the Confederate States Army and fought in Ford's Battalion, Missouri Cavalry, Company A. Before the Civil War, he lived in Izard County, Arkansas. He is also the father-in-law to my great, great uncle, Stephen J. Wayland. Their comradery must have fared well for Stephen to marry the Captain’s daughter, Aseneth M. Finley. Uz Finley was also a friend to my great, great grandfather, Thompson Henderson Wayland.
Gravestones of my great, great uncle & aunt, Stephen J. Wayland & Aseneth M. Finley Wayland, at the Amos Cemetery in Lakeview, Arkansas.
Thompson Henderson Wayland
Member of J.R. Shaler's Regiment
Capt. R.C. Matthews' Company
Confederate States Army
Now....to the Cussin.
“Cussin’ out” used to be one of the ways of settling controversies in the Ozark country. It originated with old Uz Finley and John Carter. The Finley’s came from Georgia. Old Finley took a great interest in politics, and wherever he went he was followed by a venerable negro named Bosen, whose duty it was to steer his master home when he needed help. At one of the earlier elections old Uz and John Carter became very angry with each other. It looked as if nothing but a fight could settle the issue between them, when suddenly old Uz shouted, “Mr. Carter, stand and be cussed.”
Carter removed his hat, walked out about ten paces from the crowd, and told old Uz to go ahead. Finley removed his hat and walked out in front of Carter and said, with deliberation and emphasis.
“Mr. Carter, if this earth was one parchment and the son one basin of ink and every quill upon earth was one quill and I had the power to use that quill that parchment and that ink would fall short of being able to describe of your old heart, sir!”
Carter said never a word but stood with uncovered head until Uz was through. Then he said.
“Mr. Finley, stand sir, until I cuss you.” Old Uz bowed his head and Carter said.
"Mr. Finley had I all the talent ever produced in Europe and America combined in solid phalanx and was to undertake to speak to you, then I would fall short of describing the corruption of your old heart, sir.”
This settled their difficulty. The two men resumed friendly relations. The custom of “cussin out” was thus introduced to the Ozark country.
The Downhill Side of the Other Side
The Downhill Side of the Other Side
Lastly, there is a difference Cussin with Honor and Swearing with Disgust. Here two more excerpts from newspapers concerning the “Tale of the Tongue.”
The Baltimore Sun
November 24, 1893 Page: 6 A Crusade Against Profanity
The Bismarck Tribune
November 25, 1893
Indicted for Swearing
“A Crusade Against Profanity.” Baltimore Sun (24 Nov. 1893): 6: Access Newspaper Archive Access. Baxter County Library, Mountain Home, AR. 12 Dec. 2009 <http://access.newspaperarchive.com/>.
“Indicted for Swearing.” Bismarck Tribune (25 Nov. 1893): 1: Access Newspaper Archive Access. Baxter County Library, Mountain Home, AR. 12 Dec. 2009 <http://access.newspaperarchive.com/>.
“Word Duels.” Wheeling Sunday Register 33.198 (2 Feb. 1896): 6. Access Newspaper Archive Access. Baxter County Library, Mountain Home, AR. 12 Dec. 2009 <http://access.newspaperarchive.com/>.