Henderson County, Kentucky



Buddies not amused by host's suppertime surprise

The dozen or so Henderson County men who received the neatly printed and sweetly scented invitations to Sam ALLISON'S bachelor dinner in that summer of 1835 were amused at the wording on the fine stationery.

ALLISON, one of the town's most eligible and popular bachelors, seemed to be having a fit of humility. The meal to which he invited his unmarried friends - who regularly gathered for these "bachelor dinners" - was going to be "a supper, if nothing more than a dog supper."

Dog supper, indeed, the card-playing cronies no doubt laughed. They were certain that, given the ALLISON'S standing in the community, the spread would be a generous one with a saddle of venison, good wine and all the trimmings topped off with fat cigars and whiskey.

No one suspected anything amiss - least of all "Judge" Sam SHALLOW, a magistrate who preferred the grander title and who, because of his gullibility, often was the target for practical jokes.

On the appointed evening, the guests gathered at the ALLISON house, where Uncle Sam JOHNSON, the community's "connoisseur of the culinary art," had prepared the meat to perfection and elaborately served it on a decorated platter.

According to "STARLING'S History," and other accounts written about this event - which reportedly was told and retold all over the country - the smells were mouth-watering and the diners were starving.

Foregoing appetizers, they prepared to dive into the dinner and were stopped only when ALLISON rose to his feet with his glass of wine and offered a toast.

"Here's that you may all have good and strong appetites for the dog supper," he intoned, adding "to the memory of all dogs in general - hoping that they may live as long, grow as fat, and die as glorious a death as 'Old Watch.'"

The men, delighted at ALLISON'S sense of humor, responded with cheers that shook the neighborhood.

Old Watch, they all knew, was the obese and waddling canine whose name was itself a joke. Far from being a watch dog, he was said to have snoozed 75 percent of the time and stuffed himself the other 25 percent.

Standing with carving knife in hand, ALLISON urged his guests to "fall to and never cry 'Hold!' 'Enough!' until dog and wine can no longer be forced down your gullets. Sam ALLISON never begrudges his victuals so long as his friends are satisfied with dog."

Addressing the naïve "Judge" SHALLOW, he reportedly offered, "Shall I help you to a slice of this canine dish?"

To that, the merry magistrate replied, "Ay! Ay! By blood, send me down a lion's portion of the venison, or dog, as you choose to call it. I can hide as much of a brown roast in my slim body as jolly FALSTAFF dare do in his palmist days."

ALLISON'S brothers, Young and William, were kept busy helping heap the plates of the feasters, who praised the meat for its unusual flavor.

At last, the bones were picked nearly clean and even Judge SHALLOW was full. Pushing back their chairs, they patted their stomachs and generally expressed their great satisfaction with the "dog supper."

That's when ALLISON revealed that the roast they'd so enjoyed was, indeed, the departed Old Watch.

At first the diners nervously chuckled, sure that their sly host was merely teasing them when he talked about the various dishes that some cultures consider incredibly tasty while other cultures are repulsed at the idea of consuming them.

Dog, ALLISON said, was such a dish.

At last it became obvious that he wasn't kidding. The diners - especially Judge SHALLOW, who'd eaten the most - turned green and became deathly ill. They lost their dinner much more quickly than they'd consumed it, and all had tears rolling down their faces from the effort.

The story has it that Judge SHALLOW at last reached his home, convinced that the worst of the retching was over. But then his faithful house dog "By Bloods" came running up to greet him and the magistrate was seized with a new round of heaving and moaning.

Possibly in time, the fellows spoke to Sam ALLISON again. But it's highly unlikely any of them ever accepted another invitation to dine high on the hog - or dog, as the case may be - at the ALLISON table.

Reprinted with permission from
The Progress Edition, The Gleaner, Henderson, KY, Saturday, March 30, 1996.
Written by Judy Jenkins

Contributed by Netta Mullin, HCH&GS
Copyright 2002 HCH&GS