Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, PA MCCABE, by HAYDEN CARRUTH

Poetry Explorer

Classic and Contemporary Poetry

PA MCCABE, by                 Poet's Biography
First Line: You tell these young spratasses around here
Last Line: I had a small one once, borrowed / off marshal
Subject(s): Life

You tell these young spratasses around here
you got a ram down in the brook, they'll look
at you like you was talking the Mongolian
jabberfizzy, they ain't never heard of any such
a thing. Even if you say it's a hydraulic
ram, it don't mean nothing to them. Maybe
it don't to you. Well, a ram is a kind of a pump,
see? It works without any power except the force
of the water itself. How? You're thinking I'm
off my rocker? Ok. You got an inlet pipe
that's four to five times the diameter of the
outlet, and you set that inlet far enough up
the brook so it makes a fall of maybe two to
three feet, so the incoming water will hit
with force. What happens is it hits a little
weighted valve and pushes it upwards so most
of the water sprays out and goes back to the brook.
But then the valve falls closed again from its
own weight, and that pushes a little water up
into the dome, and of course that creates pressure
same as you got in any pump, and the pressure
will drive some of the water into the outlet.
Ingenious, ain't it? Of course it ain't what you
guys would call efficient; you only get out
about 10 to 15 percent of the incoming water. But
it don't cost nothing! Nothing! No electricity,
no gasoline. Once you got that pump going, it'll
run forever.
I had a small one once, borrowed
off Marshall, and I set it up in the brook on a rock
so it would pump a stream of water about the size
of a pencil up to the garden. It worked fine. All
night long I could hear that little valve going
tap, tap, tap down there in the brook, working
away for nothing but the pure joy of working,
and that's something, if you take my meaning. Still
a pencil of water don't spread itself around much,
so I figured I needed a reservoir to catch it. Then
I could fill my bucket from the reservoir instead
of climbing down to the brook and back again,
and spread that water even, where I needed it. I
went up the road to see Pa McCabe. "You got any
kind of a drum," I said, "maybe forty gallon
or so." Pa looked sidewise and pulled his ear.
"Why," he says, "I got a old paint barrel holds
60 gallon. Trouble is it's still coated with
paint on the inside." "I can burn it off with my
torch," I said. "Yes, you could do that," he says.
"What do you want for it?" I says. He turned his
gaze up toward the mountaintop. "Why," he says,
"how about three dollars?" I damn near exploded.
Three dollars? I wouldn't have give three whole
dollars for a copper dog that laid brass turds.
But I seen that wan't the right approach, so to
speak. "Done," I says. And I handed him three
So I had that barrel in the back
of my pickup just outside the barn door, and I
begin to put her in gear, when Pa hollers at me,
"Hold on a minute, hold on," and he runs in the
house -- the kind of running you do when you're
seventy-nine and three-and-a-half feet wide --
and in a couple of owlblinks he comes out
waving a half-gallon of syrup, worth a good
six-fifty at the going rate in them years.
"Here," he says, "take this home to your wife
and tell her it's from her hot old honey up in
the hill section."
It were the onliest time I ever
seen old Pa so downright ashamed of himself.
I'm using that barrel yet. But of course
we drunk up the syrup. Syrup don't last long.

Used with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P.O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA
98368-0271, www.cc.press.org

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