Classic and Contemporary Poetry
WHAT CHRI'MAS FETCHED THE WIGGINSES, by JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY Poet's Biography
First Line: Winter-time, er summertime
Last Line: "n' take the town o' chinkypin!"
Alternate Author Name(s): Johnson Of Boone, Benj. F.
Subject(s): Christmas; Churches; Summer; Winter; Nativity, The; Cathedrals
WINTER-TIME, er Summertime,
Of late years I notice I'm,
Kind o' like, more subjec' to
What the weather is. Now, you
Folks 'at lives in town, I s'pose,
Thinks it's bully when it snows;
But the chap 'at chops and hauls
Yer wood fer ye, and then stalls,
And snapps tuggs and swingletrees,
And then has to walk er freeze,
Hain't so much "stuck on" the snow
As stuck in it -- Bless ye, no! --
When it's packed, and sleighin' 's good,
And church in the neighberhood,
Them 'at's got their girls, I guess,
Takes 'em, likely, more er less.
Tell the plain fac's o' the case,
No men-folks about our place
On'y me and Pap -- and he
'Lows 'at young folks' company
Allus made him sick! So I
Jes' don't want, and jes' don't try!
Chinkypin, the dad-burn town,
'S too fur off to loaf aroun'
Eether day er night -- and no
Law compellin' me to go! --
'Less'n some Old-Settlers' Day,
Er big-doin's thataway --
Then, to tell the p'inted fac',
I've went more so's to come back
By old Guthrie's still-house, where
Minors has got licker there --
That's pervidin' we could show 'em
Old folks sent fer it from home!
Visit roun' the neighbers some,
When the boys wants me to come. --
Coon-hunt with 'em; er set traps
Fer mussrats; er jes', perhaps,
Lay in roun' the stove, you know,
And parch corn, and let her snow!
Mostly, nights like these, you'll be
(Ef you' got a writ fer me)
Ap' to skeer me up, I guess,
In about the Wigginses'.
Nothin' roun' our place to keep
Me at home -- with Pap asleep
'Fore it's dark; and Mother in
Mango pickles to her chin;
And the girls, all still as death,
Piecin' quilts. -- Sence I drawed breath
Twenty year' ago, and heerd
Some girls whisper'n' so's it 'peared
Like they had a row o' pins
In their mouth -- right there begins
My first rickollections, built
On that-air blame' old piece-quilt!
Summer-time, it's jes' the same --
'Cause I've noticed, -- and I claim,
As I said afore, I'm more
Subjec' to the weather, shore,
'Proachin' my majority,
Than I ever ust to be!
Callin' back last Summer, say, --
Don't seem hardly past away --
With night closin' in, and all
S' lonesome-like in the dewfall:
Bats -- ad-drat their ugly muggs! --
Flicker'n by; and lightnin'-bugs
Huckster'n roun' the airly night
Little sickly gasps o' light; --
Whippoorwills, like all possess'd,
Moanin' out their mournfullest; --
Frogs and katydids and things
Jes' clubs in and sings and sings
Their ding-dangdest! -- Stock's all fed,
And Pap's warshed his feet fer bed; --
Mother and the girls all down
At the milk-shed, foolin' roun' --
No wunder 'at I git blue,
And lite out -- and so would you!
I cain't stay aroun' no place
Whur they hain't no livin' face: --
'Crost the fields and thue the gaps
Of the hills they's friends, perhaps,
Waitin' somers, 'at kin be
Kind o' comfertin' to me!
Neighbers all is plenty good,
Scattered thue this neighberhood;
Yit, of all, I like to jes'
Drap in on the Wigginses. --
Old man, and old lady too,
'Pear-like, makes so much o' you --
Least, they've allus pampered me
Like one of the fambily. --
The boys, too, 's all thataway --
Want you jes' to come and stay; --
Price, and Chape, and Mandaville,
Poke, Chasteen, and "Catfish Bill" --
Poke's the runt of all the rest,
But he's jes' the beatin'est
Little schemer, fer fourteen,
Anybody ever seen! --
"Like his namesake," old man claims,
"Jeems K. Poke, the first o' names!
Full o' tricks and jokes -- and you
Never know what Poke's go' do!"
Genius, too, that-air boy is,
With them awk'ard hands o' his:
Gits this blame' pokeberry-juice,
Er some stuff, fer ink -- and goose-
Quill pen-p'ints: And then he'll draw
Dogdest pictures yevver saw! --
Jes' make deers and eagles good
As a writin' teacher could!
Then they's two twin boys they've riz
Of old Coonrod Wigginses
'At's deceast -- and glad of it,
'Cause his widder's livin' yit!
'Course the boys is mostly jes'
Why I go to Wigginses'. --
Though Melviney, sometimes, she
Gits her slate and algebry
And jes' sets there cipher'n' thue
Sums old Ray hisse'f cain't do! --
Jes' sets there, and tilts her chair
Forreds tel, 'pear-like, her hair
Jes' spills in her lap -- and then
She jes' dips it up again
With her hands, as white, I swan,
As the apern she's got on!
Talk o' hospitality! --
Go to Wigginses' with me --
Overhet, or froze plum thue,
You'll find welcome waitin' you: --
Th'ow out yer tobacker 'fore
You set foot acrost that floor, --
"Got to eat whatever's set --
Got to drink whatever's wet!"
Old man's sentimuns -- them's his --
And means jes' the best they is!
Then he lights his pipe; and she,
The old lady, presen'ly
She lights hern; and Chape and Poke. --
I hain't got none, ner don't smoke, --
(In the crick afore their door --
Sort o' so's 'at I'd be shore --
Drownded mine one night and says
"I won't smoke at Wiggenses'!")
Price he's mostly talkin' 'bout
Politics, and "thieves turned out" --
What he's go' to be, ef he
Ever "gits there" -- and "we'll see!" --
Poke he 'lows they's blame' few men
Go' to hold their breath tel then!
Then Melviney smiles, as she
Goes on with her algebry,
And the clouds clear, and the room's
(That Melviney, she's got some
Most surprisin' ways, i gum! --
Don't 'pear-like she ever says
Nothin', yit you'll listen jes'
Like she was a-talkin', and
Half-way seem to understand,
But not quite, -- Poke does, I know,
'Cause he good as told me so, --
Poke's her favo-rite; and he --
That is, confidentially --
He's my favo-rite -- and I
Got my whurfore and my why!)
I hain't never be'n no hand
Much at talkin', understand,
But they's thoughts o' mine 'at's jes'
Jealous o' them Wigginses! --
Gift o' talkin' 's what they' got,
Whuther they want to er not. --
F'r instunce, start the old man on
Huntin'-scrapes, 'fore game was gone,
'Way back in the Forties, when
Bears stold pigs right out the pen,
Er went waltzin' 'crost the farm
With a beehive on their arm! --
And -- sir, ping! the old man's gun
Has plumped over many a one,
Firin' at him from afore
That-air very cabin door!
Yes -- and painters, prowlin' 'bout,
Allus darkest nights. -- Lay out
Clost yet cattle. -- Great, big red
Eyes a-blazin' in their head,
Glitter'n' 'long the timber-line --
Shine out some and then un-shine,
And shine back -- Then, stiddy! whizz!
'N' there yer Mr. Painter is
With a hole bored spang between
Them-air eyes! . . . Er start Chasteen,
Say, on blooded racin'-stock,
Ef you want to hear him talk;
Er tobacker -- how to raise,
Store, and k-yore it, so's she pays. . . .
The old lady -- and she'll cote
Scriptur' tel she'll git yer vote!
Prove to you 'at wrong is right,
Jes' as plain as black is white:
Prove when you're asleep in bed
You're a-standin' on yer head,
And yer train 'at's goin' West,
'S goin' East its level best;
And when bees dies, it's their wings
Wears out -- And a thousan' things!
And the boys is "chips," you know,
"Off the old block" -- So I go
To the Wigginses', 'cause -- jes'
'Cause I like the Wigginses --
Even ef Melviney she
Hardly 'pears to notice me!
Rid to Chinkypin this week --
Yisterd'y. -- No snow to speak
Of, and didn't have no sleigh
Anyhow; so, as I say,
I rid in -- and froze one ear
And both heels -- and I don't keer! --
"Mother and the girls kin jes'
Bother 'bout their Chris'mases
Next time fer theirse'v's, i jack!"
Thinks-says-I, a-startin' back, --
Whole durn meal-bag full of things
Wropped in paper sacks, and strings
Liable to snap their holt
Jes' at any little jolt!
That in front o' me, and wind
With nicks in it, 'at jes' skinned
Me alive! -- I'm here to say
Nine mile' hossback thataway
Would 'a' walked my log! But, as
Somepin' allus comes to pass,
As I topped old Guthrie's hill,
Saw a buggy, front the Still,
P'inted home'ards, and a thin
Little chap jes' climbin' in.
Six more minutes I were there
On the groun's! -- And 'course it were --
It were little Poke -- and he
Nearly fainted to see me! --
"You be'n in to Chinky, too?"
"Yes; and go' ride back with you,"
I-says-I. He he'pped me find
Room fer my things in behind --
Stript my hoss's reins down, and
Putt his mitt' on the right hand
So's to lead -- "Pile in!" says he,
"But you've struck pore company!"
Noticed he was pale -- looked sick,
Kind o' like, and had a quick
Way o' flickin' them-air eyes
O' his roun' 'at didn't size
Up right with his usual style --
S' I, "You well?" He tried to smile,
But his chin shuck and tears come. --
"I've run 'Viney 'way from home!"
Don't know jes' what all occurred
Next ten seconds -- Nary word,
But my heart jes' drapt, stobbed thue,
And whirlt over and come to. --
Wrenched a big quart-bottle from
That fool-boy! -- and cut my thumb
On his little fiste-teeth -- helt
Him snug in one arm, and felt
That-air little heart o' his
Churn the blood o' Wigginses
Into that old bead 'at spun
Roun' her, spilt at Lexington!
His k'niptions, like enough,
He'pped us both, -- though it was rough --
Rough on him, and rougher on
Me when, last his nerve was gone
And he laid there still, his face
Fishin' fer some hidin'-place
Jes' a leetle lower down
In my breast than he'd yit foun'!
Last I kind o' soothed him, so's
He could talk. -- And what you s'pose
Them-air revelations of
Poke's was? . . . He'd be'n writin' love-
Letters to Melviney, and
Givin' her to understand
They was from "a young man who
Loved her," and -- "the violet's blue
'N' sugar's sweet" -- and Lord knows what!
Tel, 'peared-like, Melviney got
S'interested in "the young
Man," Poke he says, 'at she brung
A' answer onc't fer him to take,
Statin' "she'd die fer his sake,"
And writ fifty x's "fer
Love-kisses fer him from her!" . . .
I was standin' in the road
By the buggy, all I knowed
When Poke got that fur. -- "That's why,"
Poke says, "I 'fessed up the lie --
Had to -- 'cause I see," says he,
"'Viney was in airnest -- she
Cried, too, when I told her. -- Then
She swore me, and smiled again,
And got Pap and Mother to
Let me hitch and drive her thue
Into Chinkypin, to be
At Aunt 'Rindy's Chris'mas-tree --
That's to-night." Says I, "Poke -- durn
Your lyin' soul! -- 's that beau o' hern --
That -- she -- loves -- Does he live in
That hell-hole o' Chinkypin?"
"No," says Poke, "er 'Viney would
Went some other neighberhood."
"Who is the blame' whelp?" says I.
"Promised 'Viney, hope I'd die
Ef I ever told!" says Poke,
Pittiful and jes' heartbroke' --
"'Sides that's why she left the place, --
She cain't look him in the face
Now no more on earth!' she says." --
And the child broke down and jes'
Sobbed! . . . Says I, "Poke, I p'tend
T' be your friend, and your Pap's friend,
And your Mother's friend, and all
The boys' friend, little, large and small --
The whole fambily's friend -- and you
know that means Melviney, too. --
Now -- you hursh yer troublin'! -- I'm
Go' to he'p friends ever' time --
On'y in this case, you got
To he'p me -- and, like as not,
I kin he'p Melviney then,
And we'll have her home again.
And now, Poke, with your consent,
I'm go' go to that-air gent
She's in love with, and confer
With him on his views o' her! --
Blast him! give the man some show. --
Who is he? -- I'm go' to know!"
Somepin' struck the little chap
Funny, 'peared-like. -- Give a slap
On his leg -- laughed thue the dew
In his eyes, and says: "It's you!"
Yes, and -- 'cordin' to the last
Love-letters of ours 'at passed
Thue his hands -- we was to be
Married Chris'mas. -- "Gee-mun-nee!
Poke," says I, "it's suddent -- yit
We kin make it! You're to git
Up to-morry, say, 'bout three --
Tell your folks you're go' with me: --
We'll hitch up, and jes' drive in
'N' take the town o' Chinkypin!"
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