James Whitcomb Riley Poems >>
A Session With Uncle Sidney

I

ONE OF HIS ANIMAL STORIES


 Now, Tudens, you sit on _this_ knee--and 'scuse
 It having no side-saddle on;--and, Jeems,
 You sit on _this_--and don't you wobble so
 And chug my old shins with your coppertoes;--
 And, all the rest of you, range round someway,--
 Ride on the rockers and hang to the arms
 Of our old-time splint-bottom carryall!--
 Do anything but _squabble_ for a place,
 Or push or shove or scrouge, or breathe _out loud_,
 Or chew wet, or knead taffy in my beard!--
 Do _any_thing almost--act _any_way,--
 Only _keep still_, so I can hear myself
 Trying to tell you "just one story more!"

 One winter afternoon my father, with
 A whistle to our dog, a shout to us--
 His two boys--six and eight years old we were,--
 Started off to the woods, a half a mile
 From home, where he was chopping wood. We raced,
 We slipped and slid; reaching, at last, the north
 Side of Tharp's corn-field.--There we struck what seemed
 To be a coon-track--so we all agreed:
 And father, who was not a hunter, to
 Our glad surprise, proposed we follow it.
 The snow was quite five inches deep; and we,
 Keen on the trail, were soon far in the woods.
 Our old dog, "Ring," ran nosing the fresh track
 With whimpering delight, far on ahead.
 After following the trail more than a mile
 To northward, through the thickest winter woods
 We boys had ever seen,--all suddenly
 He seemed to strike _another_ trail; and then
 Our joyful attention was drawn to
 Old "Ring"--leaping to this side, then to that,
 Of a big, hollow, old oak-tree, which had
 Been blown down by a storm some years before.
 There--all at once--out leapt a lean old fox
 From the black hollow of a big bent limb,--
 Hey! how he scudded!--but with our old "Ring"
 Sharp after him--and father after "Ring"--
 We after father, near as we could hold!
 And father noticed that the fox kept just
 About four feet ahead of "Ring"--just _that_--
 No farther, and no nearer! Then he said:--
 "There are young foxes in that tree back there,

 And the mother-fox is drawing 'Ring' and us
 Away from their nest there!" "Oh, le' 's go back!--
 Do le' 's go back!" we little vandals cried,--
 "Le' 's go back, quick, and find the little things--
 _Please_, father!--Yes, and take 'em home for pets--
 'Cause 'Ring' he'll kill the old fox anyway!"
 So father turned at last, and back we went,
 And father chopped a hole in the old tree
 About ten feet below the limb from which
 The old fox ran, and--Bless their little lives!--
 There, in the hollow of the old tree-trunk--
 There, on a bed of warm dry leaves and moss--
 There, snug as any bug in any rug--
 We found--one--two--three--four, and, yes-sir, _five_
 Wee, weenty-teenty baby-foxes, with
 Their eyes just barely opened--_Cute_?--my-oh!--
 _The_ cutest--the most cunning little things
 Two boys ever saw, in all their lives!
 "Raw weather for the little fellows _now_!"
 Said father, as though talking to himself,--
 "Raw weather, and no home _now_!"--And off came
 His warm old "waumus"; and in that he wrapped
 The helpless little animals, and held
 Them soft and warm against him as he could,--
 And home we happy children followed him.--
 _Old "Ring"_ did not reach home till nearly dusk:
 The mother-fox had led him a long chase--

 "Yes, and a fool's chase, too!" he seemed to say,
 And looked ashamed to hear us _praising_ him.
 But, _mother_--well, we _could not_ understand
 _Her_ acting as she did--and we so _pleased_!
 I can see yet the look of pained surprise
 And deep compassion of her troubled face
 When father very gently laid his coat,
 With the young foxes in it, on the hearth
 Beside her, as she brightened up the fire.
 She urged--for the old fox's sake and theirs--
 That they be taken back to the old tree;
 But father--for _our_ wistful sakes, no doubt--
 Said we would keep them, and would try our best
 To raise them. And at once he set about
 Building a snug home for the little things
 Out of an old big bushel-basket, with
 Its fractured handle and its stoven ribs:
 So, lining and padding this all cosily,
 He snuggled in its little tenants, and
 Called in John Wesley Thomas, our hired man,
 And gave him in full charge, with much advice
 Regarding the just care and sustenance of
 _Young_ foxes.--"John," he said, "you feed 'em _milk_--
 _Warm_ milk, John Wesley! Yes, and _keep 'em by_
 _The stove_--and keep your stove _a-roarin'_, too,
 Both night and day!--And keep 'em _covered_ up--
 Not _smothered_, John, but snug and comfortable.--

 And now, John Wesley Thomas, first and last,--
 You feed 'em _milk_--_fresh_ milk--and always _warm_--
 Say five or six or seven times a day--
 Of course we'll grade that by the way they _thrive_."
 But, for all sanguine hope, and care, as well,
 The little fellows _did not_ thrive at all.--
 Indeed, with _all_ our care and vigilance,
 By the third day of their captivity
 The last survivor of the fated five
 Squeaked, like some battered little rubber toy
 Just clean worn out.--And that's just what it was!

 And--nights,--the cry of the mother-fox for her young
 Was heard, with awe, for long weeks afterward.
 And we boys, every night, would go to the door
 And, peering out in the darkness, listening,
 Could hear the poor fox in the black bleak woods
 Still calling for her little ones in vain.
 As, all mutely, we returned to the warm fireside,
 Mother would say: "How would you like for _me_
 To be out there, this dark night, in the cold woods,
 Calling for _my_ children?"


II

UNCLE BRIGHTENS UP--


 Uncle he says 'at 'way down in the sea
 Ever'thing's ist like it _used_ to be:--
 He says they's mermaids, an' mermens, too,
 An' little merchildern, like me an' you--
 Little merboys, with tops an' balls,
 An' little mergirls, with little merdolls.

 Uncle Sidney's vurry proud
  Of little Leslie-Janey,
 'Cause she's so smart, an' goes to school
  Clean 'way in Pennsylvany!

 She print' an' sent a postul-card
  To Uncle Sidney, telling
 How glad he'll be to hear that she
  "Toock the onners in Speling."

 Uncle he learns us to rhyme an' write
 An' all be poets an' all recite:
 His little-est poet's his little-est niece,
 An' this is her little-est poetry-piece.


III

SINGS A "WINKY-TOODEN" SONG--


 O here's a little rhyme for the Spring- or Summer-time--
  An a-ho-winky-tooden-an-a-ho!--
 Just a little bit o' tune you can twitter, May or June,
  An a-ho-winky-tooden-an-a-ho!
 It's a song that soars and sings,
 As the birds that twang their wings
 Or the katydids and things
  Thus and so, don't you know,
  An a-ho-winky-tooden-an-a-ho!

 It's a song just broken loose, with no reason or excuse--
  An a-ho-winky-tooden-an-a-ho!
 You can sing along with it--or it matters not a bit--
  An a-ho-winky-tooden-an-a-ho!
 It's a lovely little thing
 That 'most any one could sing
 With a ringle-dingle-ding,
  Soft and low, don't you know,
  An a-ho-winky-tooden-an-a-ho!


IV

AND MAKES NURSERY RHYMES

1

THE DINERS IN THE KITCHEN



 Our dog Fred
 Et the bread.



 Our dog Dash
 Et the hash.



 Our dog Pete
 Et the meat.



 Our dog Davy
 Et the gravy.



 Our dog Toffy
 Et the coffee.



 Our dog Jake
 Et the cake.



 Our dog Trip
 Et the dip.

 And--the worst,
 From the first,--



 Our dog Fido
 Et the pie-dough.


2

THE IMPERIOUS ANGLER


 Miss Medairy Dory-Ann
 Cast her line and caught a man,


 But when he looked so pleased, alack!
 She unhooked and plunked him back.--
 "I never like to catch what I can,"
 Said Miss Medairy Dory-Ann.


3

THE GATHERING OF THE CLANS


[_Voice from behind high board-fence_.]



 "Where's the crowd that dares to go
 Where I dare to lead?--you know!"



 "Well, here's _one_!"
 Shouts Ezry Dunn.



 "Count me _two_!"
 Yells Cootsy Drew.



 "Here's yer _three_!"
 Sings Babe Magee.



 "Score me _four_!"
 Roars Leech-hole Moore.



 "Tally--_five_!"
 Howls Jamesy Clive.



 "I make _six_!"
 Chirps Herbert Dix.



 "Punctchul!--_seven_!"
 Pipes Runt Replevin.



 "Mark me _eight_!"
 Grunts Mealbag Nate.



 "I'm yet _nine_!"
 Growls "Lud'rick" Stein.



 "Hi! here's _ten_!"
 Whoops Catfish Ben.



 "And now we march, in daring line,
 For the banks of Brandywine!"


4

"IT"


 A wee little worm in a hickory-nut
  Sang, happy as he could be,--



 "O I live in the heart of the whole round world,
  And it all belongs to me!"


5

THE DARING PRINCE


 A daring prince, of the realm Rangg Dhune,
 Once went up in a big balloon


 That caught and stuck on the horns of the moon,
 And he hung up there till next day noon--
 When all at once he exclaimed, "Hoot-toot!"
 And then came down in his parachute.