Nancy Byrd Turner Poems >>

The June house wasn't a house at all,
  But a level and leafy place,
  Where a gypsy scamp had pitched his camp--
  A gypsy merry of face.
  He welcomed J. M. and Amos and Ann,
  And gave them some savory stew,
  Piping hot from a big black pot--
  And all of them ate it, too!

It was so cool and delightful at the June house that at first the
travelers didn't have much to say--they simply sat and rested and looked
around. But presently Ann began to feel lively again.

"No clocks here, anyway!" she exclaimed.

The gypsy rolled his black eyes. He had a clock, he said, but it ran too
fast. "In fact it ran down," he added.

"Where is it?" asked little Ann.

"How can I tell?" returned the gypsy chap. "It ran down, you know--down
into the woods. And since it runs so fast, I didn't even try to overtake

"But a clock has no feet," cried Amos.

"It has hands, though," retorted the gypsy. "Will you deny that?"

Then he pointed his funny brown finger at Ann. "You can make a rhyme
without a clock striking, you know," he said. "Make one, this minute,

Ann was alarmed. "What shall I make it about?" she said in a flustered

"Anything," the gypsy answered. "Hats will do."

"Hats?" echoed Ann. "However in the world can I make a poem about hats?"

But all at once she did begin to make one; it ran along as smoothly as A B

  "If hats were made of flowers,
  I think my party bonnet
  Would be a satin tulip
  With a touch of green upon it.

  "I'd wear for fun and frolic
  A crinkled daffodil,
  With a crown quite comfortable
  And a flaring yellow frill.

  "I'd choose for church a beauty:
  The sweetest flower that grows
  Would be my Sunday bonnet--
  A soft, pink, ruffled rose.

  "A daisy crisp and snowy
  Would be the choice for school;
  A fresh hat every morning,
  With scallops starched and cool.

  "For picnics and for rambles
  A polished buttercup.
  If hats were made of flowers,
  How people would dress up!"

Just as Ann said the last word of her poem, an inquisitive thousand-leg
worm scuttled along the ground about a yard away, and she almost turned a

"He wouldn't think of hurting you," said the gypsy chap. "Speaking of
hats, little Ann--did you ever hear the tale of the centipede lady and her

Then he told it.

  "Little Miss Centipede
   Went out to shop,
  And at Shoofly & Company's
   Made her first stop.
  Mr. Shoofly came forward,
   All beaming and gay:
  'And what can I do for you,
   Madam, to-day?'
  He bowed and he beckoned;
   He showed her a seat;
  But the poor clerks turned pale
   When she put out her feet.
  'How many?' they faltered.
   'As many as these,'
  She replied very sweetly,
   'And hurry up, please.'

  "So they hurried and scurried,
   The ten Shoofly clerks,
  All hustling together
   And working like Turks.
  They cleared all the counters;
   They emptied the shelves;
  They made, in their haste,
   Perfect slaves of themselves.
  They laced and they buttoned,
   They pushed and they squeezed,
  Miss Centipede watching,
   Quite placid and pleased;
  They used a short ladder
   To fit her top feet,
  And never drew breath
   Till the job was complete.

  "And here's what they sold her--
   Now count if you choose:
  A pair of cloth gaiters,
   A pair of tan shoes,
  A pair of black pumps,
   And a pair of tan ties,
  Two pairs of galoshes
   And boots, ladies' size;
  Five pairs of silk slippers
   For thin evening wear--
  Rose, green, red, and buff,
   And a rich purple pair;
  And soft bedroom slippers
   Of crimson and gray;
  And a pair of bootees,
   By red tassels made gay;

  "And five sets of sandals,
   Two basket-ball shoes,
  And two pairs for lounging--
   Pale pinks and pale blues;
  And six pairs for walking,
   And six pairs for snow,
  And six pairs to hunt in--
   Though what, I don't know;
  And two pairs of goatskin,
   And two pairs of duck,
  And four pairs of kid--
   And on all of them stuck
  The daintiest rubbers.
   Indeed, she looked sweet,
  Miss Centipede did,
   As she tripped down the street!"

By this time they had finished their stew. The Journeying Man rose and
picked up his staff. "That was good soup," he said.

The gypsy looked gratified. "Maybe," he answered, "it had some of
Contrary Mary's truck in it, and maybe it didn't. I'm not saying as to

Amos and Ann were filled with curiosity. They wanted to know what
"Contrary Mary's truck" might be.

"You tell them," the gypsy said to the Journeying Man. And J. M. did.

  "You ask why Mary was called contrary?
  Well, this is why, my dear:
  She planted the most outlandish things
  In her garden every year;
  She was always sowing the queerest seed,
  And when advised to stop,
  Her answer was merely, 'No, indeed--
  Just wait till you see the crop!'

  "And here are some of the crops, my child
  (Although not nearly all):
  Bananarcissus and cucumberries,
  And violettuce small;
  Potatomatoes, melonions rare,
  And rhubarberries round,
  With porcupineapples prickly-rough
  On a little bush close to the ground.

  "She gathered the stuff in mid-July
  And sent it away to sell--
  And now you'll see how she earned her name,
  And how she earned it well.
  Were the crops hauled off in a farmer's cart?
  No, not by any means,
  But in little June-buggies and automobeetles
  And dragonflying-machines!"