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James Whitcomb Riley

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

The Loehrs And The Hammonds


'Hey, Bud! O Bud!' rang out a gleeful call,--
'_The Loehrs is come to your house!_' And a small
But very much elated little chap,
In snowy linen-suit and tasseled cap,
Leaped from the back-fence just across the street
From Bixlers', and came galloping to meet
His equally delighted little pair
Of playmates, hurrying out to join him there--
'_The Loehrs is come!--The Loehrs is come!_' his glee
Augmented to a pitch of ecstasy
Communicated wildly, till the cry
'_The Loehrs is come!_' in chorus quavered high
And thrilling as some paean of challenge or
Soul-stirring chant of armied conqueror.
And who this _avant courier_ of 'the Loehrs'?--
This happiest of all boys out-o'-doors--
Who but Will Pierson, with his heart's excess
Of summer-warmth and light and breeziness!
'From our front winder I 'uz first to see
'Em all a-drivin' into town!' bragged he--
'An' seen 'em turnin' up the alley where
_Your_ folks lives at. An' John an' Jake wuz there
Both in the wagon;--yes, an' Willy, too;
An' Mary--Yes, an' Edith--with bran-new
An' purtiest-trimmed hats 'at ever wuz!--
An' Susan, an' Janey.--An' the _Hammonds-uz_
In their fine buggy 'at they're ridin' roun'
So much, all over an' aroun' the town
An' _ever_'wheres,--them _city_-people who's
A-visutin' at Loehrs-uz!'

Glorious news!--
Even more glorious when verified
In the boys' welcoming eyes of love and pride,
As one by one they greeted their old friends
And neighbors.--Nor until their earth-life ends
Will that bright memory become less bright
Or dimmed indeed.

... Again, at candle-light,
The faces all are gathered. And how glad
The Mother's features, knowing that she had
Her dear, sweet Mary Loehr back again.--
She always was so proud of her; and then
The dear girl, in return, was happy, too,
And with a heart as loving, kind and true
As that maturer one which seemed to blend
As one the love of mother and of friend.
From time to time, as hand-in-hand they sat,
The fair girl whispered something low, whereat
A tender, wistful look would gather in
The mother-eyes; and then there would begin
A sudden cheerier talk, directed to
The stranger guests--the man and woman who,
It was explained, were coming now to make
Their temporary home in town for sake
Of the wife's somewhat failing health. Yes, they
Were city-people, seeking rest this way,
The man said, answering a query made
By some well meaning neighbor--with a shade
Of apprehension in the answer.... No,--
They had no _children_. As he answered so,
The man's arm went about his wife, and she
Leant toward him, with her eyes lit prayerfully:
Then she arose--he following--and bent
Above the little sleeping innocent
Within the cradle at the mother's side--
He patting her, all silent, as she cried.--
Though, haply, in the silence that ensued,
His musings made melodious interlude.

In the warm, health-giving weather
My poor pale wife and I
Drive up and down the little town
And the pleasant roads thereby:
Out in the wholesome country
We wind, from the main highway,
In through the wood's green solitudes--
Fair as the Lord's own Day.

We have lived so long together.
And joyed and mourned as one,
That each with each, with a look for speech,
Or a touch, may talk as none
But Love's elect may comprehend--
Why, the touch of her hand on mine
Speaks volume-wise, and the smile of her eyes,
To me, is a song divine.

There are many places that lure us:--
'The Old Wood Bridge' just west
Of town we know--and the creek below,
And the banks the boys love best:
And 'Beech Grove,' too, on the hill-top;
And 'The Haunted House' beyond,
With its roof half off, and its old pump-trough
Adrift in the roadside pond.

We find our way to 'The Marshes'--
At least where they used to be;
And 'The Old Camp Grounds'; and 'The Indian Mounds,'
And the trunk of 'The Council Tree:'
We have crunched and splashed through 'Flint-bed Ford';
And at 'Old Big Bee-gum Spring'
We have stayed the cup, half lifted up.
Hearing the redbird sing.

And then, there is 'Wesley Chapel,'
With its little graveyard, lone
At the crossroads there, though the sun sets fair
On wild-rose, mound and stone ...
A wee bed under the willows--
My wife's hand on my own--
And our horse stops, too ... And we hear the coo
Of a dove in undertone.

The dusk, the dew, and the silence.
'Old Charley' turns his head
Homeward then by the pike again,
Though never a word is said--
One more stop, and a lingering one--
After the fields and farms,--
At the old Toll Gate, with the woman await
With a little girl in her arms.


The silence sank--Floretty came to call
The children in the kitchen, where they all
Went helter-skeltering with shout and din
Enough to drown most sanguine silence in,--
For well indeed they knew that summons meant
Taffy and popcorn--so with cheers they went.

Submitted: Friday, April 09, 2010

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