James Whitcomb Riley

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

What Chris'mas Fetched The Wigginses


Wintertime, er Summertime,
Of late years I notice I'm,
Kindo'-like, more subjec' to
What the _weather_ is. Now, you
Folks 'at lives in town, I s'pose,
Thinks its bully when it snows;
But the chap 'at chops and hauls
Yer wood fer ye, and then stalls,
And snapps tuggs and swingletrees,
And then has to walk er freeze,
Haint so much 'stuck on' the snow
As stuck _in_ it--Bless ye, no!--
When its packed, and sleighin's good,
And _church_ in the neighborhood,
Them 'at's _got_ their girls, I guess,
Takes 'em, likely, more er less,
Tell the plain facts o' the case,
No men-folks about our place
On'y me and Pap--and he
'Lows 'at young folks' company
Allus made him sick! So I
Jes don't want, and jes don't try!
Chinkypin, the dad-burn town,
'S too fur off to loaf aroun'
Either day er night--and no
Law compellin' me to go!--
'Less 'n some Old-Settlers' Day,
Er big-doin's thataway--
_Then_, to tell the p'inted fac',
I've went more so's to come back
By old Guthrie's 'still-house, where
Minors _has_ got licker there--
That's pervidin' we could show 'em
Old folks sent fer it from home!
Visit roun' the neighbors some,
When the boys wants me to come.--
Coon-hunt with 'em; er set traps
Fer mussrats; er jes, perhaps,
Lay in roun' the stove, you know,
And parch corn, and let her snow!
Mostly, nights like these, you'll be
(Ef you' got a writ fer _me_)
Ap' to skeer me up, I guess,
In about the Wigginses.
Nothin' roun' _our_ place to keep
Me at home--with Pap asleep
'Fore it's dark; and Mother in
Mango pickles to her chin;
And the girls, all still as death,
Piecin' quilts.--Sence I drawed breath
Twenty year' ago, and heerd
Some girls whispern' so's it 'peared
Like they had a row o' pins
In their mouth--right there begins
My first rickollections, built
On that-air blame old piece-quilt!

Summertime, it's jes the same--
'Cause I've noticed,--and I claim,
As I said afore, I'm more
Subjec' to the weather, _shore_,
'Proachin' my majority,
Than I ever ust to be!
Callin' back _last_ Summer, say,--
Don't seem hardly past away--
With night closin' in, and all
S' lonesome-like in the dew-fail:
Bats--ad-drat their ugly muggs!--
Flickern' by; and lightnin'-bugs
Huckstern' roun' the airly night
Little sickly gasps o' light;--
Whip-poor-wills, like all possessed,
Moanin' out their mournfullest;--
Frogs and katydids and things
Jes clubs in and sings and sings
Their _ding-dangdest_!--Stock's all fed,
And Pap's washed his feet fer bed;--
Mother and the girls all down
At the milk-shed, foolin' roun'--
No wunder 'at I git blue,
And lite out--and so would you!
I caint stay aroun' no place
Whur they haint no livin' face:--
'Crost the fields and thue the gaps
Of the hills they's friends, perhaps,
Waitin' somers, 'at kin be
Kindo' comfertin' to me!

Neighbors all 'is plenty good,
Scattered thue this neighberhood;
Yit, of all, I like to jes
Drap in on the Wigginses.--
Old man, and old lady too,
'Pear-like, makes so much o' you--,
Least, they've allus pampered me
Like one of the fambily.--
The boys, too, 's all thataway--
Want you jes to come and stay;--
Price, and Chape, and Mandaville,
Poke, Chasteen, and 'Catfish Bill'--
Poke's the runt of all the rest,
But he's jes the beatinest
Little schemer, fer fourteen,
Anybody ever seen!--
'Like his namesake,' old man claims,
'Jeems K. Poke, the first o' names!
Full o' tricks and jokes--and you
Never know what _Poke's_ go' do!'
Genius, too, that-air boy is,
With them awk'ard hands o' his:
Gits this blame pokeberry-juice,
Er some stuff, fer ink--and goose-
Quill pen-p'ints: And then he'll draw
Dogdest pictures yevver saw!
Er make deers and eagles good
As a writin'-teacher could!
Then they's two twin boys they've riz
Of old Coonrod Wigginses
'At's deceast--and glad of it,
'Cause his widder's livin' yit!

Course _the boys_ is mostly jes'
Why I go to Wigginses.---
Though _Melviney_, sometimes, _she_
Gits her slate and algebry
And jes' sets there ciphern' thue
Sums old Ray hisse'f caint do!--
Jes' sets there, and tilts her chair
Forreds tel, 'pear-like, her hair
Jes' _spills_ in her lap--and then
She jes' dips it up again
With her hands, as white, I swan,
As the apern she's got on!

Talk o' hospitality!--
Go to Wigginses with me--
Overhet, or froze plum thue,
You'll find welcome waitin' you:--
Th'ow out yer tobacker 'fore
You set foot acrost that floor,--
'Got to eat whatever's set--
Got to drink whatever's wet!'
Old man's sentimuns--them's his---
And means jes the best they is!
Then he lights his pipe; and she,
The old lady, presen'ly
She lights her'n; and Chape and Poke.
I haint got none, ner don't smoke,--
(In the crick afore their door--
Sorto so's 'at I'd be shore--
Drownded mine one night and says
'I won't smoke at _Wigginses_!')
Price he's mostly talkin' 'bout
Politics, and 'thieves turned out'--
What he's go' to be, ef he
Ever 'gits there'--and 'we'll see!'--
Poke he 'lows they's blame few men
Go' to hold their breath tel then!
Then Melviney smiles, as she
Goes on with her algebry,
And the clouds clear, and the room's
Sweeter 'n crabapple-blooms!
(That Melviney, she' got some
Most surprisin' ways, I gum!--
Don't 'pear like she ever _says_
Nothin', yit you'll _listen_ jes
Like she was a-talkin', and
Half-way seem to understand,
But not quite,--_Poke_ does, I know,
'Cause he good as told me so,--
Poke's her favo-rite; and he--
That is, confidentially--
He's _my_ favo-rite--and I
Got my whurfore and my why!)

I haint never ben no hand
Much at talkin', understand,
But they's _thoughts_ o' mine 'at's jes
Jealous o' them Wigginses!--
Gift o' talkin 's what they got,
Whether they want to er not--
F'r instunce, start the old man on
Huntin'-scrapes, 'fore game was gone,
'Way back in the Forties, when
Bears stold pigs right out the pen,
Er went waltzin' 'crost the farm
With a bee-hive on their arm!--
And--sir, _ping_! the old man's gun
Has plumped-over many a one,
Firin' at him from afore
That-air very cabin-door!
Yes--and _painters_, prowlin' 'bout,
Allus darkest nights.--Lay out
Clost yer cattle.--Great, big red
Eyes a-blazin' in their head,
Glittern' 'long the timber-line--
Shine out some, and then _un_-shine,
And shine back--Then, stiddy! whizz!
'N there yer Mr. Painter is
With a hole bored spang between
Them-air eyes! Er start Chasteen,
Say, on blooded racin'-stock,
Ef you want to hear him talk;
Er tobacker--how to raise,
Store, and k-yore it, so's she pays:
The old lady--and she'll cote
Scriptur' tel she'll git yer vote!

Prove to you 'at wrong is right,
Jes as plain as black is white:
Prove when you're asleep in bed
You're a-standin' on yer head,
And yer train 'at's goin' West,
'S goin' East its level best;
And when bees dies, it's their wings
Wears out--and a thousand things!
And the boys is 'chips,' you know;
'Off the old block'--So I go
To the Wigginses, 'cause--jes
'Cause I _like_ the Wigginses--
Even ef Melviney _she_
Hardly 'pears to notice me!

Rid to Chinkypin this week--
Yisterd'y.--No snow to speak
Of, and didn't have no sleigh
Anyhow; so, as I say,
I rid in--and froze one ear
And both heels--and I don't keer!--
'Mother and the girls kin jes
Bother 'bout their Chris'mases
_Next_ time fer _theirse'vs_, I jack!'
Thinks-says-I, a-startin' back,--
Whole durn meal-bag full of things
Wrapped in paper-sacks, and strings
Liable to snap their holt
Jes at any little jolt!
That in front o' me, and _wind_
With _nicks_ in it, 'at jes skinned
Me alive!--I'm here to say
Nine mile' hossback thataway
Would a-walked my log! But, as
Somepin' allus comes to pass,
As I topped old Guthrie's hill.
Saw a buggy, front the 'Still,
P'inted home'ards, and a thin
Little chap jes climbin' in.
Six more minutes I were there
On the groun's'--And course it were--
It were little Poke--and he
Nearly fainted to see me!--
'You ben in to Chinky, too?'
'Yes; and go' ride back with you,'
I-says-I. He he'pped me find
Room fer my things in behind--
Stript my hoss's reins down, and
Put his mitt' on the right hand
So's to lead--'Pile in!' says he,
'But you 've struck pore company!'
Noticed he was pale--looked sick,
Kindo-like, and had a quick
Way o' flickin' them-air eyes
0' his roun' 'at didn't size
Up right with his usual style--
s' I, 'You well?' He tried to smile,
But his chin shuck and tears come.--
'_I've run 'Viney 'way from home_!'

Don't know jes what all occurred
Next ten seconds--Nary word,
But my heart jes drapt, stobbed thue,
And whirlt over and come to.--
Wrenched a big quart bottle from
That fool-boy!--and cut my thumb
On his little fiste-teeth--helt
Him snug in one arm, and felt
That-air little heart o' his
Churn the blood o' Wigginses
Into that old bead 'at spun
Roun' her, spilt at Lexington!
His k'niptions, like enough,
He'pped us both,--though it was rough--
Rough on him, and rougher on
Me when last his nerve was gone,
And he laid there still, his face
Fishin' fer some hidin'-place
Jes a leetle lower down
In my breast than he 'd yit foun'!

Last I kindo' soothed him, so's
He could talk.--And what you s'pose
Them-air revelations of
Poke's was? . . . He'd ben writin' love-
Letters to Melviney, and
Givin her to understand
They was from 'a young man who
Loved her,' and--'the violet's blue
'N sugar's sweet'--and Lord knows what!
Tel, 'peared-like, Melviney got
S' interested in 'the young
Man,' Poke _he_ says, 'at she brung
A' answer onc't fer him to take,
Statin' 'she'd die fer his sake,'
And writ fifty xs 'fer
Love-kisses fer him from her!'
I was standin' in the road
By the buggy, all I knowed
When Poke got that fer.--'That's why,'
Poke says, 'I 'fessed up the lie--
_Had_ to--'cause I see,' says he,
''Viney was in airnest--she
Cried, too, when I told her.--Then
She swore me, and smiled again,
And got Pap and Mother to
Let me hitch and drive her thue
Into Chinkypin, to be
At Aunt 'Rindy's Chris'mas-tree--
That's to-night.' Says I, 'Poke--durn
Your lyin' soul!--'s that beau o' hern--
That--_she_--loves--Does _he_ live in
That hellhole o' Chinkypin?'
'No,' says Poke, 'er 'Viney would
Went some _other_ neighborhood.'
'Who _is_ the blame whelp?' says I.
'Promised 'Viney, hope I'd die
Ef I ever told!' says Poke,
Pittiful and jes heart-broke--
''Sides that's why she left the place,--
'She caint look him in the face
Now no more on earth!' she says.--'
And the child broke down and jes
Sobbed! Says I, 'Poke, I p'tend
T' be _your_ friend, and your _Pap's_ friend,
And your _Mother's_ friend, and all
The _boys_' friend, little, large and small--
The _whole fambily's_ friend--and you
Know that means _Melviney_, too.--
Now--you hush yer troublin!'--I'm
Go' to he'p friends ever' time--
On'y in _this_ case, _you_ got
To he'p _me_--and, like as not
I kin he'p Melviney then,
And we'll have her home again.
And now, Poke, with your consent,
I'm go' go to that-air gent
She's in love with, and confer
With _him_ on his views o' _her_.--
Blast him! give the man _some_ show.--
Who is he?--_I'm go' to know_!'
Somepin' struck the little chap
Funny, 'peared-like.--Give a slap
On his leg--laughed thue the dew
In his eyes, and says: 'It's you!'

Yes, and--'cordin' to the last
Love-letters of ours 'at passed
Thue his hands--we was to be
Married Chris'mas.--'Gee-mun-_nee_!
Poke,' says I, 'it's _suddent_--yit
We _kin_ make it! You're to git
Up tomorry, say, 'bout _three_--
Tell your folks you're go' with me:--
We'll hitch up, and jes drive in
'N take the town o' Chinkypin!'

Submitted: Friday, April 09, 2010

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  • Rookie - 2 Points Rich Persoff (3/14/2014 4:50:00 PM)

    The story's rambling dialect makes this a pur't difficul' read, but there's a lot of good creative work hidden behin't it. (Report) Reply

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