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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

GREASING BOOTS IN VERMONT, by                     Poet's Biography
First Line: To keep a feller's boots in trim
Last Line: When settled weather struck your boots.
Subject(s): Animals; Cows; Farm Life; Fields; Labor & Laborers; Vermont; Agriculture; Farmers; Pastures; Meadows; Leas; Work; Workers


TO keep a feller's boots in trim,
In former days was up to him;
No valet with his lasts and trees
Was 'round to put your feet at ease;
Each boy was taught a-what to do
To make his cowhides winter through;
Each grown-up knew by head and heart
The gentle leather-softening art,
And life, aside from small disputes,
Was largely passed in greasing boots.

The grease pail of that elder day
Was kept inside the sullerway,
Up near the unburnt brick and corks
With which you scoured the knives and forks;
You took a pail of common tin,
And put ten parts of taller in,
Then three of hens' oil, no; 'twas two,
And then a little lampblack, Whew!—
Behold the stuff that constitutes
The massage cream of cowhide boots.

The night you saw a ribald hue
Around the taps, a-coming through,
You got your bootjack mighty quick,
Before your boots begun to stick,
Removed your boots, but left your feet,
And set the grease pail on to heat;
A-next you looked your cowhides o'er,
Then spread a paper on the floor,
And then fell to—for action suits
The soul that broods o'er ungreased boots.

The while your left hand went inside
The leg, your right the stuff applied;
You give 'em first a priming coat,
The same as you would paint a boat;
It struck in quick and then you went
Around again like fish in Lent,
And when you set 'em down to dry,
If you was young, you heaved a sigh
And thought of shows and turkey shoots,
Or anything but greasing boots.

Then if you saw a little rose,
Or red, around the taps and toes,
You slapped some further ointment on
And rubbed until your strength was gone,
Then looked 'em over good once more,
To see if they was twelve by four,
Then slammed 'em down beside the stove
And let your boyish fancy rove
To lands of sun and flowers and fruits,
Where there was neither grease nor boots.

And then you used to clean your hand
Two kinds of soap and three of sand;
Some ashes, emery, grit and lye,
And pumice stone, if handy by;
But one thing pleased you, anyway,
You only oiled but once a day,
And through the Summer into Fall
You scarcely had to oil at all:
You felt as free as gulls and coots
When settled weather struck your boots.





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