>HERE I WAS BORN
L^ 7 A-L-t^^C^. ^^ eX-Li
WHERE I WAS BORN
STORIES of OLD WICKFORD
W. C. B.
TOLD IN RHYME
S. M. B.
HELEN MASON GROSE
PASADENA . CALIFORNIA
fef/ f\ N !
Preface . 11
The Town Where I Was Born 13 J^ A- I A i
Hen n Me 14
Joy Ridin in the Hearse 18
The Lonesome Man 19
In the Woodshed 25
Gettin Religion... 27
A Sufficient Reason 28
Theft of a Church 29
Jest Like Ma 30
Plenty to Do 32
Joe Perkinses Lad 38
Parson Jim s Dilemma 39
When the Jail Burned Down 41
The Village Fool 42
Sandy versus Summer 44
The Village Liar... 46
The Hearth Motto 51
The Whistlin Poet 53
Chums Yet 56
Memorial Day . 58
List of Illustrations
In the Woodshed 24
"A Lonely House Stands Keeping Its Memories of
Vanished Days" 34
"In the Dusk of Summer Evenings We Sat on the
Latticed Porch".... 50
As when a school boy turns his pockets out
Finding new pleasure in forgotten things
A copper penny to make bright,
Tops, marbles, fish hooks, bits of strings,
So, fumbling in the corners of my mind
Old memories like re-discovered treasure
Full of Life s trivial happenings
Awake to bring forth pain and pleasure.
The Town Where I Was Born
Its just a quiet little town
The town where I was born,
With great elms shading the long streets
And grimy wharves where fishing fleets
Go forth at break of dawn.
And simple folk dwell in the town
The town where I was born,
Sea-faring men with faces brown
Whistling as they go up and down
Make music in the morn.
And in and out around the town
This town where I was born,
The bay slips up through reedy creeks
Where many a tired wild fowl seeks
Rest from its flight forlorn.
Up on the hill in this old town
The town where I was born,
The Cademy is standing still,
And on its fence the whippoorwill
Still chants his note of scorn.
Oh, happy days in the old town
The town where I was born,
Then every neighbor was a friend,
My heart will cherish to the end
These leaves from memory torn.
Hen n Me
Onct on a time long while ago
When I wuz jest a kid,
I gotter skeer and say, you know,
I hollered some I did.
Hen Gardner n me wuz settin round
Old Uncle Asa s store,
A listening to the tales they told
Them old sea cap ns four.
Cap n Jim n Cap n Ben
An Cap n Hardy too
Wuz sorter clustered roun the fire
Talkin to Cap n Blue.
We kinder hoped ef we fussed round
Old Uncle Asa d say
"Here boys, jest take these pepmint sticks
An then git out the way."
So sure enuf when it got dark
He looked at us an said
"Come boys you d better git along,
Time youngsters wuz in bed."
Hen Gardner he piped up an said
Please gimme a stick o candy,
An Billy here thinks one of them
Jawbreakers d come in handy."
Well Uncle Asa laughed an lit
The one old whale oil lamp,
It shone right on a puddle when
We stepped out in the damp.
N Hen says "Aw, don t let s go home,
Let s hide behind the boxes,"
So we crept in at the back door
Ez sly ez little foxes.
The folks wuz talkin about ha nts
An how they wuz deceiving
But Uncle Asa said fer him
Why seein wuz believin .
N Cap n Hardy lowed ez how
He d seen a ship load of em,
With inky blackness all around
An fiery skies above em.
He said ez you could almost hear
The men an women screamin,
Cos pirates hed the ship, an all
The decks with blood wuz streamin.
Twus over in Long Island Sound
This dretful sight he seen,
An all the neighbors far and near
Called it the "Palatine."
Well, Hen n me begun to feel
Not quite up to the mark,
We d liked to skin out but wuz skeered
To go home in the dark.
So there we set, an Cap n Jim
Said that wuz jest a pleasure
Beside the story HE could tell
Of huntin fer Kidd s treasure.
He said ez how one stormy night
Blind Jerry Wells an he
Went over to Plum Island beach
To dig for gold monee.
For everybody knew twas there,
An how old Cap n Kfdd
Had cut three Injuns head right off
An laid em on the lid
Of the strong box that held the gold,
And if you made a sound,
Them Injuns would rise up an run
To seize what you had found.
So he n Jerry dug away
N pretty soon they struck it,
They started in to lift the box
But jest before they tuck it
Blind Jerry swore because in haste
He hit his knee an stumbled,
The very instant that he spoke
The chest to dust bed crumbled.
An Cap n Jim he saw the ghosts
Of those three Injun braves,
Rise up n snatch their gory heads
From out their sandy graves.
But jest ez he got to that part
Hen let out such a shriek
That all hands jumped n Cap n Blue,
Why he swore a blue streak.
But we wuz blubbering then you bet,
An Uncle Asa told us
That jest to calm us down a mite
He d set a spell an hold us.
So when he d got us straightened out
We started home agin,
Hen lived right across the street,
So he got safely in.
An then I started down the road
Ez fast ez you could fiddle,
Aunt Sukey Brown wuz comin up,
I hit her in the middle,
My ! how she yelled ! an ez for me
I up and gave her room quick,
For I wuz sure she wuz a witch
A ridin on a broom-stick.
An when I got to my back door,
I tell you I wuz hummin ;
I jest hung blubbering on the latch,
But Ma she heard me comin;
An so she takes me in an shuts
The kitchen door behind me,
An wraps her apron round me so
The bogie man can t find me.
An then she laughed n said I wuz
A precious little silly.
I kinder liked it when she called
Me "blessed little Billy."
Joy Ridin in the Hearse
There wuz jest one hearse in the hull town
An so, lackin in competition,
It grew kinder rusty an run down
Till it wan t in reel good condition.
In the school house shed it useter stand
Lookin so big an so black an grand
With its pampas plumes a-wavin ,
Thet most folks felt a sort of awe
An all the girls would say "Oh law!
No ride in thet am I cravin ."
But us boys useter take it out,
Plumb up to the top o the hill,
An then with youngsters thin an stout
The corpse s place we would fill,
Then "let her go Gallighar," lickety cut;
The plaguey old door it would never stay shut
An the axles went a creakin ,
But over the bumpers we rattled an shook,
An all of the neighbors would run out to look
When they heard us come a shriekin .
I bet ef the fellers who took their last ride
In thet cart we sent a spinnin ,
Could hev seen us a reelin from side to side
Thet they would a died a grinnin .
An when we got to the foot of the hill
There wuz apt to be a bit of a spill,
Bruises, but nothing worse,
I ve hed excitement sence in my day,
But nothin to equal thet far away
Joy Ridin in the Hearse!
The Lonesome Man
A lonesome man once came to town
(This by his own confession)
He was a carpenter by trade,
A preacher by profession.
Such was his zeal he preached in air
While sawing wood on Monday
And sawed in air while preaching to
Good folks in church on Sunday.
At "firstly", off his necktie came,
At "secondly" his collar,
"Thirdly" removed his coat and vest
And he began to holler.
But neither work nor piety
Sufficed his soul to fill,
This preacher man was lonesome,
So he courted with a will.
Now Rhody Baker was the maid
On whom his yearnings tarried,
But she had vowed a solemn vow
She never would get married.
He hoped that he could change her mind,
So sought her dwelling daily,
But if she heard him at the door
She d run away most gaily.
Her rocking chair still swaying showed
She d left it but a minute,
But he could never chance to find
The chair with Rhody in it.
Now between whiles this preacher man
Was building him a dory,
And he bethought him that it s name
Might help to tell the story.
So in big letters on the stern
He painted "Rhody" boldly,
That very day he caught the lass,
But she received him coldly.
And when he asked her to be his
She said she really couldn t,
Back to his boat he went again
And named it "Rhody wouldn t."
When Mother pulled the table out
And fetched the gilt-edged china,
We children thought no royal feast
Could possibly look finer.
Then all the house was fragrant with
The swell of turkey cooking;
Aunt Betsy told us not to peek,
But we kept on a looking.
For oh, the pantry was a sight
Most luscious to discover,
With cakes and pies and tarts both ways
With, and without a cover.
Benny cracked nuts, and Abby rubbed
Red apples till they shone,
I whipped up cream so white and stiff
That it could stand alone.
And when at last both young and old
Were gathered round the table,
Each girl and boy resolved to eat
As much as they were able.
Then Father stood up at the head
With gentle, smiling face,
To ask that all the bounty spread
Might have the dear Lord s grace.
The way he said "Our Father"
Made me feel when I was seven,
That he meant Grand-Pa who had died
And gone to live in Heaven.
So near and close the presence came
Through words that he let fall
"Dear Father, bless us every one,
The little ones and all."
How often through the years now gone,
At banquets grand and fine,
I ve heard those words and longed once more
For days of "Auld Lang Syne."
In the Wood Shed
Ma gen ly calls me her little Billy,
But tonight it s dest old Bill,
An she left me here in er shed alone
An told me I gotter stay still.
Tain t fair! I wuz tryin to be good,
An spechully perlite
To all ze sewin circle folks,
Wen old Miss Susan White
Sez "Willy, wat you thinkin bout,
Sittin so quiet there?"
An everybody stopped to look
At me in my small chair.
An I sez orfully perlite,
"I m wishin hard, Miss Sue,
When I grow up zat I can have
A moustache dest like you."
An all ze sewin ladies laughed
An shook zemselves until
Ze tears rolled down into zere laps,
But Ma she called me Bill,
An said I d gotter have my tea
Along er colored Mabel,
Ze hired girl, and couldn t come
To eat at ze first table.
An zeres chicken n ham n five kinds o cake,
An biscuit n chocolate n tea,
An everybody s eatin now,
Everybody but me.
An I feel all gone in my insides,
Cause I ain t et nothin since noon
Cept three slices er bread n a piece er pie.
I guess I shall die pretty soon.
But all zose mean folks eatin zere
Zat chicken wat Ma is carvin
Are dest so cruel Zey don t care a bit
For a poor little boy who is starvin .
But when zey finds me deaded up,
I kinder guess Ma will
Be orful sorry she acted so
An zat she called me Bill.
All the folks are gettin religion
Because salvation s free;
But things that I don t pay for
Ain t much use to me.
The other night in meetin ,
Follerin his natteral bent,
Old Bascom shouted "Come git grace,
T wont cost a single cent."
An I riz up and answered,
"Lord, save your stingy soul,
Your kind o grace ain t fit to tech,
Not with a ten foot pole.
"Our Christ sweat blood," sez I, "to earn
The right to say Amen,
Thy will, not mine, oh Lord, be done.
Grace came not easy then."
"The peace o God," sez I, "don t come
Through prayer and idle sittin ,
But doin what we think is right.
What s worth havin s worth the gittin ."
No! I ain t got religion,
Though nearly all my days
I ve done the very best I could
To f oiler in His ways.
A Sufficient Reason
Joe Perkins had more children
Than any man in town,
He likewise had less money
And his house was tumbling down.
The neighbors held some sewing bees
To make his children clothing;
For ragged, dirty imps they were,
Objects of righteous loathing.
Fourteen there were by careful count,
And likely to be more;
He had not chairs enough for all,
So some sat on the floor.
Not one of them could read or write,
And work they simply wouldn t;
They didn t do a thing they should,
But everything they shouldn t.
Old Doctor Shaw once said to Joe,
"Why have so many of em?"
Joe scratched his head and made reply,
"B gosh, because I love em!"
The Theft of a Church
There have been strange thefts since the world began,
An apple once caused the fall of man,
And all of Greece and Troy
Was plunged into war because Paris stole
The beautiful woman who pleased his soul
And filled his life with joy.
The diamond necklace of a Queen
Was a robbery bold as ever was seen,
But though history you search,
Who ever heard of a thing so queer,
Look where you will both far and near,
As the theft of a country church.
But it happened once in the early days,
That the people who came from various ways
To a church of some repute
To hear Berkeley preach and McSparren pray,
Soon found to their infinite dismay,
Themselves in hot dispute.
The withdrawing Elders, stern and strong,
Decided to take the church along,
No matter what others might say.
So they carted it off up hill and down,
Till they landed it safe in the old town,
Where it stands at the present day.
For all the brethren who were left
Of a place for worship thus bereft,
Much sympathy we feel;
But we chuckle at those who took the toll,
Each praying there with impenitent soul
In the church he had helped to steal.
Jest Like Ma
Ma Allen lived at the foot of the hill,
She knew when a neighbor chanced to be ill
And what made the babies cry;
And everything she didn t know
She sort of suspicioned might be so,
Cause she was lonesome and sat all day
Rocking and knitting and talking away,
Dressed up in her black lace mitts.
She had a cat, but he roamed afar,
Some chickens, too and then she had Pa
But Pa had fits.
Of course poor Pa was quite a care,
For he had his fits most anywhere,
And his wits were never about him;
Ma used to weep and say it was true
He wore on her but what could she do
And so she sat and rocked away,
Talking to Pa the livelong day
Of all the town affairs;
How Sairy Hull s new dress was blue
And Eben Proughty s Cousin Sue
Hed put on airs.
At last, as often happens, Ma
Got worn out taking care of Pa,
And so at sixty-seven,
Although she never meant to flout him,
She found that she could live without him
Pa grieved so when she went away
That a good neighbor came one day
And brought him in a Parrot,
A beautiful bird of green and red
With a hooked beak and a ruffled head
And dear me how that bird could chatter,
But talking didn t seem to matter,
It sounded good to Pa;
Twas just as if a friend he d found,
He d smile and say "Now don t that sound
Jest like Ma?"
Plenty to Do
City feller here the other day,
Sailing with me across the bay.
"Cap n," sez he, "it s surely prime
Down here in the good old summer time,
But when the wintry breezes blow
Pears like it must be doocid slow.
Cap n," sez he, "now tell me true,
What do you do?"
"Young feller," sez I, "to tell ye true,
Thar s jest two things I allus do,
Perhaps it mought seem rayther slow
To folks as allus wants to go,
But while you fellers air eatin an* drinkin ,
An givin an gettin ,
I m settin an thinkin ,
Waal, sometimes jest settin ."
Grey as the mist that comes creeping
In from the far distant bays,
A lonely house stands, keeping
Its memories of vanished days.
Murmuring like an empty shell
Held close to the listening ear,
Its brooding walls might softly tell
The secret of many a year.
And the story which lingers and echoes there
Is of Hannah s love and Hannah s despair.
Hannah, the pride of counties three ;
Hannah, the darling of her sire,
No maid in all the South Countrie
Rode gaily in such rich attire.
When she tripped down the oaken stair
In silk and lace, with jeweled fan,
A rosebud glowing against her hair,
She stirred the heart of many a man.
And her own proud wilful heart was set
On the man her father bade her forget.
The lilacs yet stand whose purple bloom
Bent fragrant and wet above her
When she crept one night through the misty gloom
To meet her Tory lover.
Next morning she rode through the swinging gate,
Eyeing her groom with haughty air;
At a turn in the road she bade him wait
Till she should return to find him there.
Then alone she galloped up hill and down,
To wed her lover in Boston town.
All summer the Squire sat alone
In the house now grown so strangely still,
While crickets in dreary monotone
Chirped "Hannah" back to the Whip-poor-will.
All winter beside the great hearth fire
He waited in vain for a voice at the door,
His restless feet that knew no tire,
Went back and forth on the creaking floor.
And the north wind shaking the window pane
Shrieked "Hannah, Hannah," far down the lane.
The air grew soft with promise of Spring,
And the lilacs shed their perfume sweet
Over one who crouched, a broken thing,
Ragged of dress and weary of feet.
With lips a-quiver and heart aflame,
Her father bent over her there,
Murmuring her well beloved name,
He bore her up the winding stair
To the dainty room of rose and grey,
Whose mullioned windows looked toward the bay.
Woefully sad was the story told
While she tossed and moaned with fevered brain,
And her father s face grew grey and old
As she called her lover again and again.
With promises fair he had sailed away
To his English home beyond the sea.
She had waited in vain a year and a day
Ere she sought again the old roof-tree.
Ah, faithless lover who never came!
Her s was the sorrow and your s the shame!
Then she who had ridden forth in pride
On that fair morn one year before,
Came back on foot through the country side,
Begging her way from door to door.
Still hoping and loving with loyal trust,
She cried aloud as her end drew nigh,
"I know he will come, but if die I must,
Under the lilacs, oh let me lie.
Some day he will ride from out the mist
And I shall be there to keep the tryst."
Grey as the mist that comes creeping
In from the far distant bays,
The lonely house stands keeping
Its memories of vanished days.
And whenever the fields awaken,
When lilacs bloom in the lane,
By that grave so long forsaken,
The story is told again.
Then children and lovers whispering there,
Tell of Hannah s love and Hannah s despair.
Joe Perkinses Lad
Betcher can t guess what I got
Nor who twas give it ter me.
Taint any old knife nor a pup
Yesterday noon I wuz down
On the dock n Cap n Ben
Came in on his sloop and when
He seed me, sez he,
"Ain t you Joe Perkinses lad?"
An he give this ter me.
He s the grandest man in town,
An the best friend I ever had.
It s a whole new dollar bill,
An I m goin ter keep it until
I git three or four,
Nuff ter set up a store,
An then I ll git rich
An mebby, some day,
Cap n Ben he ll be poor,
An I ll hitch up a sleigh
To drive ter his door
Full o good things to eat,
Lots of flour an meat,
An he ll be all trimbly and old
Standin there at the door in the cold,
An he ll be s prised an say
"Now who be you anyway?"
An I ll say "I m Joe Perkinses lad
An you re the best friend ever I had. 1
Parson Jim s Dilemma
The old church wanted a parson bad,
But it seemed as if there was none to be had;
For the salary certainly wasn t big,
Fifty dollars a year with a cow and a pig,
And a tumble down house, deny it who can,
Is little enough for the average man.
And yet they expected for folks are so queer,
Much learning and virtue for fifty a year.
So if into debt he would keep from falling,
The man who was called must have other calling
And so when a godly blacksmith was found
Who made the old church s rafters resound
As he pounded his fist on the pulpit s rim,
The call and election was surely for him.
There wasn t much that he couldn t do
From driving a horse to mending a shoe.
He could sail, he could fish, he could lay a stone wall,
And he knew the whole truth about old Adam s fall.
Had a beautiful manner, so soft and polite,
Kind spoken to children the ladies delight.
But two things came hard to good Parson Jim,
They were writing a sermon and singing a hymn.
At the singing he surely put up a good bluff,
Kept working his mouth, and looked solemn enough
To be Bispham himself or Enrico Caruso
When he hoisted his chest and pompously blew so,
But sermons he certainly could not write,
Though he studied the Bible and worked all night;
So like a wise fellow he borrowed his text,
His discourse as well, from one week to the next.
Sometimes it was Spurgeon and sometimes twas Beecher,
He read straight from every eloquent preacher,
And never concealed the fact that he took
His sermon from some quite neatly bound book.
But one of the deacons begrudged him his glory
And thought that he ought to preach extempore;
Said "twant orthodox, preachin thet sort of way,
Nor scriptural nuther, if he had his way,
Direct inspiration wuz what he should ask for,
An the minister ought to be taken to task for
Readin them sermons as wasn t his own,
Let Spurgeon be hanged and Beecher be blown."
But Parson Jim serenely kept the tenor of his ways,
Till rising once in church to lead an hour of prayer and
His gaze upon the deacon fell who sat there full in view,
Holding the Boston Herald up and reading in his pew.
The Parson coughed ahem ! and whispered "Brother Snow,
Please put that worldly paper up, it is not seemly so."
No answer from the Deacon came, and flustered Parson
Forsook the text and said ahem ! they d sing another hymn.
The hymn was sung, but still old Snow
Rustled his paper to and fro.
The Parson, leaning from his perch,
Said "Brother, please not read in church."
The Deacon shouted from his pew,
"Why can t I read as well as you?"
When the Jail Burned Down
The biggest excitement ever in town
Was when the old wooden jail burned down;
Twas along in the fall a frosty night
And there wasn t a living soul in sight,
For the boys were all at a fancy ball
That the Lodge was giving in Woodman s Hall.
Sol Smith, the chief of the fire brigade,
Was dancing there with an Indian maid.
He was dressed like Old Nick with horns and a tail,
And a parcel of imps like a covey of quail
Was prancing and squealing around him there
When the clangor of fire bells filled the air.
Sol started away with the imps at his heel,
Leaving right in the midst of Virginia Reel.
It didn t take long to reach the jail,
Seize hook and ladder and iron pail
And work like the Devil he looked to be,
For nobody ever was quicker than he.
Now it chanced that the fire was set by a lamp
Overturned in his sleep by a drunken tramp
Who woke to find his cell in a blaze,
And saw, to his horrified amaze,
The devil himself in the midst of flame
With attendant imps whom he called by name.
"The Old Boy has got me," he cried with a yell,
"At last I have died and gone to" well,
It doesn t matter what else he said,
For much that he uttered shouldn t be read.
But it s worth recording that after that fright
He never got drunk again at night.
The Village Fool
When the slow Spring came down to town,
Touching the grass to quicker green,
When buds swelled on the Elm trees brown
And Johnny Jump Ups heads were seen.
Then busy house-wives flung the windows wide
To thrust out Winter and let in the May,
Small blame to husbands if the ebbing tide
Made good excuse for ling ring on the Bay.
Attic and cellar yielded up their stores
Of ancient feather beds and musty tins,
Carpets were lifted from the painted floors
And ashes carted from the dusty bins.
Then fields were ploughed, and anxious men
Toiled through the day with dreary eyes
That saw the clods, but knew not when
They missed the glory of the skies.
What though the Springtime called and Robins sang!
One ear alone in all the busy town
Heard the glad summons that through dim woods rang,
And caught the echoes as they floated down.
One only had the wisdom then
To turn his back on sordid care
And sing aloud through wood and glen
With joy because the day was fair.
Shambling through lanes and roaming far afield,
The Village Idiot went straying,
He knew the healing that each herb might yield,
He knew where speckled trout were playing.