James Whitcomb Riley

(7 October 1849 - 22 July 1916 / Greenfield, Indiana)

Grandfather Squeers - Poem by James Whitcomb Riley

'My grandfather Squeers,' said The Raggedy Man,
As he solemnly lighted his pipe and began--

'The most indestructible man, for his years,
And the grandest on earth, was my grandfather Squeers!

'He said, when he rounded his three-score-and-ten,
'I've the hang of it now and can do it again!'

'He had frozen his heels so repeatedly, he
Could tell by them just what the weather would be;

'And would laugh and declare, 'while the _Almanac_ would
Most falsely prognosticate, _he_ never could!'

'Such a hale constitution had grandfather Squeers
That, 'though he'd used '_navy_' for sixty odd years,

'He still chewed a dime's-worth six days of the week,
While the seventh he passed with a chew in each cheek:

'Then my grandfather Squeers had a singular knack
Of sitting around on the small of his back,

'With his legs like a letter Y stretched o'er the grate
Wherein 'twas his custom to ex-pec-tor-ate.

'He was fond of tobacco in _manifold_ ways,
And would sit on the door-step, of sunshiny days,

'And smoke leaf-tobacco he'd raised strictly for
The pipe he'd used all through The Mexican War.'

And The Raggedy Man said, refilling the bowl
Of his own pipe and leisurely picking a coal

From the stove with his finger and thumb, 'You can see
What a tee-nacious habit he's fastened on me!

'And my grandfather Squeers took a special delight
In pruning his corns every Saturday night

'With a horn-handled razor, whose edge he excused
By saying 'twas one that his grandfather used;

'And, though deeply etched in the haft of the same
Was the ever-euphonious Wostenholm's name,

''Twas my grandfather's custom to boast of the blade
As 'A Seth Thomas razor--the best ever made!'

'No Old Settlers' Meeting, or Pioneers' Fair,
Was complete without grandfather Squeers in the chair

'To lead off the programme by telling folks how
'He used to shoot deer where the Court-House stands now'--

'How 'he felt, of a truth, to live over the past,
When the country was wild and unbroken and vast,

''That the little log cabin was just plenty fine
For himself, his companion, and fambly of nine!--

''When they didn't have even a pump, or a tin,
But drunk surface-water, year out and year in,

''From the old-fashioned gourd that was sweeter, by odds,
Than the goblets of gold at the lips of the gods!''

Then The Raggedy Man paused to plaintively say
It was clockin' along to'rds the close of the day--

And he'd _ought_ to get back to his work on the lawn,--
Then dreamily blubbered his pipe and went on:

'His teeth were imperfect--my grandfather owned
That he couldn't eat oysters unless they were 'boned';

'And his eyes were so weak, and so feeble of sight,
He couldn't sleep with them unless, every night,

'He put on his spectacles--all he possessed,--
Three pairs--with his goggles on top of the rest.

'And my grandfather always, retiring at night,
Blew down the lamp-chimney to put out the light;

'Then he'd curl up on edge like a shaving, in bed,
And puff and smoke pipes in his sleep, it is said:

'And would snore oftentimes as the legends relate,
Till his folks were wrought up to a terrible state,--

'Then he'd snort, and rear up, and roll over; and there,
In the subsequent hush they could hear him chew air.

'And so glaringly bald was the top of his head
That many's the time he has musingly said,

'As his eyes journeyed o'er its reflex in the glass,--
'I must set out a few signs of _Keep Off the Grass!_'

'So remarkably deaf was my grandfather Squeers
That he had to wear lightning-rods over his ears

'To even hear thunder--and oftentimes then
He was forced to request it to thunder again.'

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Poem Submitted: Friday, April 9, 2010

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