James Whitcomb Riley

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

What Smith Knew About Farming


There wasn't two purtier farms in the state
Than the couple of which I'm about to relate;--
Jinin' each other--belongin' to Brown,
And jest at the edge of a flourishin' town.
Brown was a man, as I understand,
That allus had handled a good 'eal o' land,
And was sharp as a tack in drivin' a trade--
For that's the way most of his money was made.
And all the grounds and the orchards about
His two pet farms was all tricked out
With poppies and posies
And sweet-smellin' rosies;
And hundreds o' kinds
Of all sorts o' vines,
To tickle the most horticultural minds
And little dwarf trees not as thick as your wrist
With ripe apples on 'em as big as your fist:
And peaches,--Siberian crabs and pears,
And quinces--Well! ANY fruit ANY tree bears;
And th purtiest stream--jest a-swimmin' with fish,
And--JEST O'MOST EVERYTHING HEART COULD WISH!
The purtiest orch'rds--I wish you could see
How purty they was, fer I know it 'ud be
A regular treat!--but I'll go ahead with
My story! A man by the name o' Smith--
(A bad name to rhyme,
But I reckon that I'm
Not goin' back on a Smith! nary time!)
'At hadn't a soul of kin nor kith,
And more money than he knowed what to do with,--
So he comes a-ridin' along one day,
And HE says to Brown, in his offhand way--
Who was trainin' some newfangled vines round a bay-
Winder--'Howdy-do--look-a-here--say:
W hat'll you take fer this property here?--
I'm talkin' o' leavin' the city this year,
And I want to be
Where the air is free,
And I'll BUY this place, if it ain't too dear!'--
Well--they grumbled and jawed aroun'--
'I don't like to part with the place,' says Brown;
'Well,' says Smith, a-jerkin' his head,
'That house yonder--bricks painted red--
Jest like this'n--a PURTIER VIEW--
Who is it owns it?' 'That's mine too,'
Says Brown, as he winked at a hole in his shoe,
'But I'll tell you right here jest what I KIN do:--
If you'll pay the figgers I'll sell IT to you.,'
Smith went over and looked at the place--
Badgered with Brown, and argied the case--
Thought that Brown's figgers was rather too tall,
But, findin' that Brown wasn't goin' to fall,
In final agreed,
So they drawed up the deed
Fer the farm and the fixtures--the live stock an' all.
And so Smith moved from the city as soon
As he possibly could--But 'the man in the moon'
Knowed more'n Smith o' farmin' pursuits,
And jest to convince you, and have no disputes,
How little he knowed,
I'll tell you his 'mode,'
As he called it, o' raisin' 'the best that growed,'
In the way o' potatoes--
Cucumbers--tomatoes,
And squashes as lengthy as young alligators.
'Twas allus a curious thing to me
How big a fool a feller kin be
When he gits on a farm after leavin' a town!--
Expectin' to raise himself up to renown,
And reap fer himself agricultural fame,
By growin' of squashes--WITHOUT ANY SHAME--
As useless and long as a technical name.
To make the soil pure,
And certainly sure,
He plastered the ground with patent manure.
He had cultivators, and double-hoss plows,
And patent machines fer milkin' his cows;
And patent hay-forks--patent measures and weights,
And new patent back-action hinges fer gates,
And barn locks and latches, and such little dribs,
And patents to keep the rats out o' the cribs--
Reapers and mowers,
And patent grain sowers;
And drillers
And tillers
And cucumber hillers,
And horries;--and had patent rollers and scrapers,
And took about ten agricultural papers.
So you can imagine how matters turned out:
But BROWN didn't have not a shadder o' doubt
That Smith didn't know what he was about
When he said that 'the OLD way to farm was played out.'
But Smith worked ahead,
And when any one said
That the OLD way o' workin' was better instead
O' his 'modern idees,' he allus turned red,
And wanted to know
What made people so
INFERNALLY anxious to hear theirselves crow?
And guessed that he'd manage to hoe his own row.
Brown he come onc't and leant over the fence,
And told Smith that he couldn't see any sense
In goin' to such a tremendous expense
Fer the sake o' such no-account experiments
'That'll never make corn!
As shore's you're born
It'll come out the leetlest end of the horn!'
Says Brown, as he pulled off a big roastin'-ear
From a stalk of his own
That had tribble outgrown
Smith's poor yaller shoots, and says he, 'Looky here!
THIS corn was raised in the old-fashioned way,
And I rather imagine that THIS corn'll pay
Expenses fer RAISIN' it!--What do you say?'
Brown got him then to look over his crop.--
HIS luck that season had been tip-top!
And you may surmise
Smith opened his eyes
And let out a look o' the wildest surprise
When Brown showed him punkins as big as the lies
He was stuffin' him with--about offers he's had
Fer his farm: 'I don't want to sell very bad,'
He says, but says he,
'Mr. Smith, you kin see
Fer yourself how matters is standin' with me,
I UNDERSTAND FARMIN' and I'd better stay,
You know, on my farm;--I'm a-makin' it pay--
I oughtn't to grumble!--I reckon I'll clear
Away over four thousand dollars this year.'
And that was the reason, he made it appear,
Why he didn't care about sellin' his farm,
And hinted at his havin' done himself harm
In sellin' the other, and wanted to know
If Smith wouldn't sell back ag'in to him.--So
Smith took the bait, and says he, 'Mr. Brown,
I wouldn't SELL out but we might swap aroun'--
How'll you trade your place fer mine?'
(Purty sharp way o' comin' the shine
Over Smith! Wasn't it?) Well, sir, this Brown
Played out his hand and brought Smithy down--
Traded with him an', workin' it cute,
Raked in two thousand dollars to boot
As slick as a whistle, an' that wasn't all,--
He managed to trade back ag'in the next fall,--
And the next--and the next--as long as Smith stayed
He reaped with his harvests an annual trade.--
Why, I reckon that Brown must 'a' easily made--
On an AVERAGE--nearly two thousand a year--
Together he made over seven thousand--clear.--
Till Mr. Smith found he was losin' his health
In as big a proportion, almost, as his wealth;
So at last he concluded to move back to town,
And sold back his farm to this same Mr. Brown
At very low figgers, by gittin' it down.
Further'n this I have nothin' to say
Than merely advisin' the Smiths fer to stay
In their grocery stores in flourishin' towns
And leave agriculture alone--and the Browns.

Submitted: Friday, April 09, 2010

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