Ellis Parker Butler

(5 December 1869 - 13 September 1937 / Muscatine / Iowa / United States)

The Twenty Hoss-Power Shay - Poem by Ellis Parker Butler

You have heard of the wonderful one-hoss shay
That was built in such a logical way
It ran a hundred years to a day.
And then, of a sudden, it up and bust,
And all that was left was a mound of dust?
Holmes -- O. W. -- told it well
In a rhyme of his -- what there was to tell --
But the one-hoss shay wasn't "one, two, three"
With a vehicle once belonged to me.

One hoss? No, sir! Not six nor nine --
Twenty there were in this rig of mine!
Twenty hosses as tough as rocks,
All caged up in a sort of box
That stood jist back of the forward wheels!
Right! She was one of those automobiles
With twenty hosses bottled inside -
Hosses that not only pull but ride!
Wonder what Holmes would have had to say
If the mare had rode in his one-hoss shay!
I reckon the shay would have logicked out
Before the century rolled about.

Well, this big touring car, I say,
Was built just like the one-hoss shay --
Some dependable, logical way --
Flipflaps, dujabs, wheels and things,
Levers, thing-gum-bobs and springs,
Hub, and felloe, and hoss-power chest --
One part just as strong as the rest;
So "logic is logic," as Holmes would say,
And no one part could first give way.

Wonderful vehicle, you'll admit,
With not one flaw in the whole of it;
As long as I had it, I declare
I hadn't one cent to pay for repair,
It couldn't break down because, you see,
It was such a logical symphony.

Now for my tale. We're not so slow
These days as a hundred years ago,
And it's like enough that the one-hoss shay,
Ambling along in its sleepy way,
Should creep a century 'thout a break,
But nowadays we aim to make
A pace that is something like a pace,
And if that old shay got in our race
It would stand the pressure twenty days
And go to the home of played-out shays.

"Logic is logic." Just figure this out --
For I know just what I'm talking about: --
If a one-hoss vehicle, genus shays,
Will stand our pressure twenty days,
Then, vice versa, a twenty-hoss shay
Should stand the pressure just one day; --
Well, mine is a logical automobile,
From rubber tire to steering wheel.
I bought it one morning at just 10.42,
And the very next morning what did it do,
Right on the second, but up and bust!
Talk of the old shay's pile of dust --
That's not logical; my mobile
Vanished completely! Brass and steel,
Iron and wood and rubber tire
Went right up in a gush of fire,
And in half a minute a gassy smell
Was all I had left by which to tell
I ever owned a touring car, --
And then that vanished, and there you are!

End of my twenty hoss-power shay.
Logic is logic. That's all I say.



Submitted by John Martin


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Read poems about / on: car, power, fire, home, running, spring



Poem Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003



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