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Part III.

Megan Grumbling University of North Texas Press PDF

III.

By Piece

A haystack find—he’d once dug, heaved through straw for something old to yank out; now, he ascends ladder and eaves to show me how these four warped planks of pine, inked with thin sepia scraps of script, once held. And though time’s split syntax and grain, we’ll fit it back together, moved to salvage writ from splinter, riddling in time lapse, trial and error as we mistake how seams link characters. Align all knowns: That haystack was the place where Trafton Hatch once manned the High

Pine Railroad. Roadmaster, his sign once said. And will again, once piece by piece of Hatch’s slats, we’ve hitched up letters, traces of a seal, crate strapping—maybe held a pig once, something else even before

Hatch brushed it off, penned claim. Hmm—switch that ton and Hatch, d Mas and Roa and Ahh—the words, refrained, sunlit.

Soon we’ll return them to the dark hold of the pole barn, but the glow is something, as we keep time, mark it. Proud as Hatch inking his own name on a pigless slat, we’ve solved this one. Warm minutes now, it’s whole.

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Part IV.

Megan Grumbling University of North Texas Press PDF

IV.

Rigging

The pumpkin plot, autumn

Now, that thing’s gonna fall six inches, fast, he warns. I peer heavenward, nod. So don’t get nervous. Twenty feet above us, lashed with cables, yellow nylon slings, steel cords, a hundred-fifty pounds of harvest, one big gourd. Just having grown the thing is trick enough, and now he’s raised it, acumen and apex, such a grace—this scheme he’s rigged up harnesses a physics I can scarce grasp, let alone take down. Ready? It’s moved from rest to midair, cleared the mesh wire fence, and slowly lands, eases to bed. This fruit is more than most might reasonably hope to hoist. I’d do heights, if I knew these ropes.

57

Age of Iron

Inside his scavenged railroad tanks, things keep against the rust, so all old iron tends to end up here. Inside one concrete tank are fifteen kinds of hammers, farmsteads’ worth of work. He dreams back to their day: As time dulled heads, the old people would heat them up to redden and rework each weary edge, though bang too hard, or soon, they’d break the form.

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Part I.

Megan Grumbling University of North Texas Press PDF

I.

Some Kind of Hunter

He coaxed a pregnant woman right across the river, and it weren’t no easy bridge.

A cousin of an in-law, broke as dirt, she come up visiting from Vermont too poor to buy a license. Booker paid it, set a rifle in her hands, and took her up to Perkinstown, the brook side, where they come upon this bridge, just beams and cables, rough.

Full six months big, a borrowed gun; to her, that span, it looked like one hell of a stunt when Booker brought her up to it, said, Look, you’ve gotta cross that river on them wires.

Now, Booker’s gone these routes, matters of course, for quite a while, and spares no care or feat— hauls moose out of the woods in split canoes, checks hoofprints in the gravel pit’s pale sand most every morning, seeing where they cross.

A deer makes no more noise than shadow does, he told his novice kin, and knows the sound by going over into silence, deep, and back, more than a couple times. So when he led this woman, large with child, up to the bridge, and she replied, Oh no—I can’t do that, he tried to make her see the other side.

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Part II.

Megan Grumbling University of North Texas Press PDF

II.

Stuff

You come to call on Booker, ring his bell:

Draw back the hammer hanging there and bang square, hear—the secondary crusher jaw he scavenged of the quarry’s graveyard scrap.

An iron lock once thrust down through the top and oscillated, moved just half an inch to crush the rocks that fell down in between.

But makes a good bell, too. As loud as hell.

He lets me in on matter here at Ell

Pond’s pell-mell thing museum, naming the source, the use, the quirk: The etching of a fox, its mouth rue-full of tail-feathers, he snatched from Morrow’s farm; the axe poised pine-beam high once cracked ice blocks; and frozen in this jug’s pale blue, old air’s still there. He taps the glass:

A ring comes, short but clear, safe in the well.

This monster crock he bought unseen, he tells me, holds just tinder now, not scalding pigs, but in the turning over, use to use, something is struck, an echo, sundry deals, the four of everything he’s got in here.

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Old Hay-Mow, The

James Whitcomb Riley Indiana University Press ePub

THE Old Hay-mow’s the place to play

Fer boys, when it’s a rainy day!

I good-’eal ruther be up there

Than down in town, er anywhere!

When I play in our stable-loft,

The good old hay’s so dry an’ soft,

An’ feels so fine, an’ smells so sweet,

I ’most ferget to go an’ eat.

An’ one time wunst I did ferget

To go ’tel dinner was all et,—

An’ they had short-cake—an’—Bud he

Hogged up the piece Ma saved fer me!

Nen I won’t let him play no more

In our hay-mow where I keep store

An’ got hen-eggs to sell,—an’ shoo

The cackle-un old hen out, too!

An’ nen, when Aunty she was here

A-visitun from Rensselaer,

An’ bringed my little cousin,—he

Can come up there an’ play with me.

But, after while—when Bud he bets

’At I can’t turn no summersetts,—

I let him come up, ef he can

Ac’ ha’f-way like a gentleman!

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Grandfather Squeers

James Whitcomb Riley Indiana University Press ePub

“MY grandfather Squeers,” said The Raggedy Man,

As he solemnly lighted his pipe and began—

“The most indestructible man, for his years,

And the grandest on earth, was my grandfather Squeers!

“He said, when he rounded his three-score-and-ten,

‘I’ve the hang of it now and can do it again!’

“He had frozen his heels so repeatedly, he

Could tell by them just what the weather would be;

“And would laugh and declare, ‘while the Almanac would

Most falsely prognosticate, he never could!’

“Such a hale constitution had grandfather Squeers

That, ’though he’d used ‘navy’ for sixty odd years,

“He still chewed a dime’s-worth six days of the week,

While the seventh he passed with a chew in each cheek:

“Then my grandfather Squeers had a singular knack

Of sitting around on the small of his back,

“With his legs like a letter Y stretched o’er the grate

Wherein ’twas his custom to ex-pec-tor-ate.

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Old Tramp, The

James Whitcomb Riley Indiana University Press ePub

A OLD Tramp slep’ in our stable wunst,

An’ The Raggedy Man he caught

An’ roust him up, an’ chased him off

Clean out through our back lot!

An’ th’ Old Tramp hollered back an’ said,—

“You’re a purty man!—You air!—

With a pair o’ eyes like two fried eggs,

An’ a nose like a Bartlutt pear!”

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Funny Little Fellow, The

James Whitcomb Riley Indiana University Press ePub

’TWAS a Funny Little Fellow

Of the very purest type,

For he had a heart as mellow

As an apple over-ripe;

And the brightest little twinkle

When a funny thing occurred,

And the lightest little tinkle

Of a laugh you ever heard!

His smile was like the glitter

Of the sun in tropic lands,

And his talk a sweeter twitter

Than the swallow understands;

Hear him sing—and tell a story—

Snap a joke—ignite a pun,—

’Twas a capture—rapture—glory,

And explosion—all in one!

Though he hadn’t any money—

That condiment which tends

To make a fellow “honey”

For the palate of his friends;—

Sweet simples he compounded—

Sovereign antidotes for sin

Or taint,—a faith unbounded

That his friends were genuine.

He wasn’t honored, may be—

For his songs of praise were slim,—

Yet I never knew a baby

That wouldn’t crow for him;

I never knew a mother

But urged a kindly claim

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Bumblebee, The

James Whitcomb Riley Indiana University Press ePub

YOU better not fool with a Bumblebee!—

Ef you don’t think they can sting—you’ll see!

They’re lazy to look at, an’ kindo’ go

Buzzin’ an’ bummin’ aroun’ so slow,

An’ ac’ so slouchy an’ all fagged out,

Danglin’ their legs as they drone about

The hollyhawks ’at they can’t climb in

’Ithout ist a-tumble-un out agin!

Wunst I watched one climb clean ’way

In a jim’son-blossom, I did, one day,—

An’ I ist grabbed it—an’ nen let go—

An’ “Ooh-ooh! Honey! I told ye so!”

Says The Raggedy Man; an’ he ist run

An’ pullt out the stinger, an’ don’t laugh none,

An’ says: “They has ben folks, I guess,

’At thought I wuz predjudust, more er less,—

Yit I still muntain ’at a Bumblebee

Wears out his welcome too quick fer me!”

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Squirtgun Uncle Maked Me, The

James Whitcomb Riley Indiana University Press ePub

UNCLE Sidney, when he wuz here,

Maked me a squirtgun out o’ some

Elder-bushes ’at growed out near

Where wuz the brickyard—’way out clear

To where the toll-gate come!

So when we walked back home again,

He maked it, out in our woodhouse where

Wuz the old workbench, an’ the old jack-plane,

An’ the old ’pokeshave, an’ the tools all lay’n’

Ist like he wants ’em there.

He sawed it first with the old hand-saw;

An’ nen he peeled off the bark, an’ got

Some glass an’ scraped it; an’ told ’bout Pa,

When he wuz a boy an’ fooled his Ma,

An’ the whippin’ ’at he caught.

Nen Uncle Sidney, he took an’ filed

A’ old arn ramrod; an’ one o’ the ends

He screwed fast into the vise; an’ smiled,

Thinkin’, he said, o’ when he wuz a child,

’Fore him an’ Pa wuz mens.

He punched out the peth, an’ nen he put

A plug in the end with a hole notched through;

Nen took the old drawey-knife an’ cut

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Little Coat, The

James Whitcomb Riley Indiana University Press ePub

HERE’S his ragged “roundabout”

Turn the pockets inside out:

See; his pen-knife, lost to use,

Rusted shut with apple-juice;

Here, with marbles, top and string,

Is his deadly “devil-sling,”

With its rubber, limp at last

As the sparrows of the past!

Beeswax—buckles—leather straps—

Bullets, and a box of caps,—

Not a thing of all, I guess,

But betrays some waywardness—

E’en these tickets, blue and red,

For the Bible-verses said—

Such as this his mem’ry kept—

“Jesus wept.”

Here’s a fishing hook-and-line,

Tangled up with wire and twine,

And dead angle-worms, and some

Slugs of lead and chewing-gum,

Blent with scents that can but come

From the oil of rhodium.

Here—a soiled, yet dainty note,

That some little sweetheart wrote,

Dotting,—“Vine grows round the stump,”

And—“My sweetest sugar lump!”

Wrapped in this—a padlock key

Where he’s filed a touch-hole—see!

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South Wind and the Sun, The

James Whitcomb Riley Indiana University Press ePub

O THE South Wind and the Sun

How each loved the other one—

Full of fancy—full of folly—

Full of jollity and fun!

How they romped and ran about,

Like two boys when school is out,

With glowing face, and lisping lip,

Low laugh, and lifted shout!

And the South Wind—he was dressed

With a ribbon round his breast

That floated, flapped and fluttered

In a riotous unrest,

And a drapery of mist

From the shoulder and the wrist

Flowing backward with the motion

Of the waving hand he kissed.

And the Sun had on a crown

Wrought of gilded thistledown,

And a scarf of velvet vapor,

And a raveled-rainbow gown;

And his tinsel-tangled hair,

Tossed and lost upon the air,

Was glossier and flossier

Than any anywhere.

And the South Wind’s eyes were two

Little dancing drops of dew,

As he puffed his cheeks, and pursed his lips,

And blew and blew and blew!

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At Aunty’s House

James Whitcomb Riley Indiana University Press ePub

ONE time, when we’z at Aunty’s house—

’Way in the country!—where

They’s ist but woods—an’ pigs, an’ cows—

An’ all’s out-doors an’ air!—

An’ orchurd-swing; an’ churry-trees—

An’ churries in ’em!—Yes, an’ these-

Here red-head birds steals all they please,

An’ tetch ’em ef you dare!—

W’y, wunst, one time, when we wuz there,

We et out on the porch!

Wite where the cellar-door wuz shut

The table wuz; an’ I

Let Aunty set by me an’ cut

My vittuls up—an’ pie.

’Tuz awful funny!—I could see

The red-heads in the churry-tree;

An’ bee-hives, where you got to be

So keerful, goin’ by;—

An’ “Comp’ny” there an’ all!—an’ we—

We et out on the porch!

An’ I ist et p’surves an’ things

’At Ma don’t ’low me to—

An’ chickun-gizzurds—(don’t like wings

Like Parunts does! do you?)

An’ all the time, the wind blowed there,

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Curly Locks

James Whitcomb Riley Indiana University Press ePub

CURLY Locks! Curly Locks! wilt thou be mine?

Thou shalt not wash the dishes, nor yet feed the swine,—

But sit on a cushion and sew a fine seam,

And feast upon strawberries, sugar and cream.

Curly Locks! Curly Locks! wilt thou be mine?

The throb of my heart is in every line,

And the pulse of a passion as airy and glad

In its musical beat as the little Prince had!

Thou shalt not wash the dishes, nor yet feed the swine!—

O I’ll dapple thy hands with these kisses of mine

Till the pink of the nail of each finger shall be

As a little pet blush in full blossom for me.

But sit on a cushion and sew a fine seam,

And thou shalt have fabric as fair as a dream,—

The red of my veins, and the white of my love,

And the gold of my joy for the braiding thereof.

And feast upon strawberries, sugar and cream

From a service of silver, with jewels agleam,—

At thy feet will I bide, at thy beck will I rise,

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Days Gone By, The

James Whitcomb Riley Indiana University Press ePub

O THE days gone by! O the days gone by!

The apples in the orchard, and the pathway through the rye;

The chirrup of the robin, and the whistle of the quail

As he piped across the meadows sweet as any nightingale;

When the bloom was on the clover, and the blue was in the sky,

And my happy heart brimmed over, in the days gone by.

In the days gone by, when my naked feet were tripped

By the honeysuckle tangles where the water-lilies dipped,

And the ripples of the river lipped the moss along the brink,

Where the placid-eyed and lazy-footed cattle came to drink,

And the tilting snipe stood fearless of the truant’s wayward cry

And the splashing of the swimmer, in the days gone by.

O the days gone by! O the days gone by!

The music of the laughing lip, the lustre of the eye;

The childish faith in fairies, and Aladdin’s magic ring—

The simple, soul-reposing, glad belief in everything,—

When life was like a story, holding neither sob nor sigh,

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