An Angelic-Looking Lad

My response to the Word of the Day prompt: BRAVADO

THE CHOIR BOY

by Edgar Guest

They put his spotless surplice on
and tied his flowing tie
And he was fair to look upon
As he went singing by.
He sang the hymns with gentle grace,
that little lad of nine,
for there was something in his face
which seemed almost divine.

His downcast eye was good to see,
his brow was smooth and fair,
and no one dreamed that there could be
a rascal plotting there.
Yet when all heads in prayer were bowed,
God’s gracious care to beg
the boy next to him cried aloud:
“Quit pinching on my leg!”

A pious little child he seemed
an angel born to sing;
beholding him none ever dreamed
he’d do a naughty thing;
yet many a sudden “Ouch!” proclaimed
that he had smuggled in
for mischief-making, unashamed,
a most disturbing pin.

And yet I think, from high above,
the Father looking down
knows everything he’s thinking of
and smiles when mortals frown.
For in the spotless surplice white
which is his mother’s joy,
He know he’s not an angel bright,
but just some healthy boy.

From his book, Collected Verse of Edgar A Guest
© 1934 by The Reilly & Lee Company

The Broken Drum

Drum

THE BROKEN DRUM

by Edgar Guest

There is sorrow in the household;
there’s a grief too hard to bear;
there’s a little cheek that’s tear-stained
there’s a sobbing baby there.
And try how we will to comfort,
still the tiny teardrops come;
for – to solve a vexing problem–
Curly Locks has wrecked his drum.

It had puzzled him and worried,
how the drum created sound;
for he couldn’t understand it.
It was not enough to pound
with his tiny hands and drumsticks
and at last the day has come
when another hope is shattered,
now in ruins lies his drum.

With his metal bank he broke it,
tore the tightened skin aside,
gazed on vacant space bewildered,
then he broke right down and cried.
For the broken bubble shocked him
and the baby tears must come;
now a joy has gone forever;
Curly Locks has wrecked his drum.

While his mother tries to soothe him
I am sitting here alone.
In the life that lies behind me
many shocks like that I’ve known.
And the boy who’s upstairs weeping
in the years that are to come
will learn that many pleasures
are as empty as his drum.

From the book Just Folks,
by Edgar A. Guest
© 1917 by The Reilly & Britton Co.

My response to the Ragtag Daily Prompt: CHALLENGE

I really enjoy prompt words like this; they can call up such a variety of responses!

Rethinking the Woodpile

Firewood pile

Fandango’s challenge for today: ACCOMPLICE
Ragtag Community Daily prompt: GROOVE

Which brings to mind a short tale I once read, one that goes back to the days when every rural home had a wood stove in the kitchen, a tree stump that served as a chopping block for splitting logs, and a pile of firewood near the house for easy access in winter.

The Seventh-grade boys put their heads together at recess one afternoon. They were feeling kind of bored and wanted to think of something fun and different they could do sometime. Several ideas were advanced and vetoed.

Then someone offered the suggestion: “Why don’t we get together after dark some night over at old man Haskell’s place and play some trick on him.” This suggestion piqued the interest of the others.

‘Old man Haskell’ was their community’s equivalent of Oscar-the-Grouch. Living just out of town, gruff, abrupt, and somewhat crippled, he didn’t have a lot of patience for young boys. He grumbled when they cut through his yard to go fishing and if he saw them hanging around town he’d scold them for being idle. They should be working hard like he always had to, and so on.

At school the boys sometimes mimicked his mannerisms. Grabbing a stick for a cane, hunching over and hobbling along, they’d turn and scowl at the other boys just like old man Haskell would. They never let teacher catch them at this, though. Teachers were pretty strict about respecting your elders.

“But what trick could we play on old man Haskell? Upset his outhouse?”

“Nah,  that’s old hat. But I have an idea,” said Len. “Let’s un-stack his woodpile.”

The others looked at him curiously. “We can scatter his firewood all over his old yard,” Len explained. ” I think that would be a great trick to play on him. He’d have to pick it all up. That’d keep him busy for awhile and he wouldn’t have time to gripe at us.”

One of the other conspirators beamed. “Yeah, let’s! Wouldn’t that be fun – and serve him right for being such a grouch.”

The fourth conspirator, Rudy, scuffed his toe in the dirt. He didn’t really see the fun in tossing wood for hours, but did see possible consequences. “What if we get caught,” he asked. Much as he wanted to be part of the gang, it niggled at him how his dad would react if he heard this? Rudy had been taught to respect older folks and other folks’ property.

“It’ll be dark,” Len retorted. “Old man Haskell will never see us. And for sure he’ll never catch us — you know how slow he moves. What do you think, guys? Let’s meet in front of his place at nine tonight and have some real fun.”

That evening four boys crept away from their respective homes. Just after nine o’clock Len and his three accomplices slipped into Haskell’s yard and began tossing firewood off the pile. It became a game to see how far they could throw it. Still, there was an undercurrent of tension. They worked quietly, glancing often toward Haskell’s shack to see if the curtain moved or the door opened, though they knew he was hard of hearing.

With four pairs of hands working, the woodpile was soon scattered all over the yard. When they were done, Len rubbed his hands on his pants. “Okay. Let’s beat it, guys.”

“Won’t it be a joke when old man Haskell gets up in the morning and sees this mess? Wish I could be here to see his face. Ha ha!”

Rudy had been quiet most of the evening, his conscience stirring uneasily. He made his way home again, hoping he could slip in without his parents hearing him? But could he face his Dad in the morning? His dad was pretty sharp.

He tried to not make a sound but his father heard him come in and questioned why he’d been out so late on a school night? Rudy was evasive, but finally revealed the prank. “But old m…I mean Mr Haskell is such a grouch. We thought he deserved it.”

“Yes, Mr Haskell does seem cranky, but you boys don’t know what he’s been through in life and what he’s suffering now with his health issues. It’s going to be extremely painful for him to gather up all that wood and put that pile back together.”

Dad looked at him quietly for a few minutes and Rudy blushed under his silent disapproval. Suddenly Dad stood up. “So let’s us play a good prank now — and a joke on your school mates at the same time. Come on. Let’s get your brothers up.”

Dad called Rudy’s two brothers and he and his three accomplices went back to old man Haskell’s place. Working in the light of the moon for several hours, they not only put his woodpile back together, but stacked all the wood much closer to the house so he wouldn’t have so far to go to fetch his firewood come winter. They were enthused about the task and made good time once they got in the groove. When the job was done, they surveyed the neat yard and exchanged satisfied smiles. Near as they could tell, Mr Haskell never heard a thing.

“Now, boys,” Dad said, “Isn’t a prank like this a lot more fun than just making trouble for an old man? When Mr Haskell gets up in the morning and looks out, instead of seeing a huge mess he has to clean up, he’ll see his woodpile has moved twenty yards closer to his door.”

“Oh, yeah. Wish I could see his face when he gets a gander! That’ll be a neat joke,” Rudy’s younger brother said as they turned toward home again.

Rudy’s older brother nodded. “One he’ll appreciate right well, I reckon.”

Rudy grinned as he thought of Len’s reaction. “Len’s eyes are going to bulge right out of his head when he hears about this.”

“Let’s not tell anyone we did it though,” Dad cautioned. “Let them keep guessing who came here after they did.”

“That’ll be the best joke of all.” Rudy imagined the shock the other un-stackers would get when news got around. He knew Mr Haskell would never keep quiet about his walking woodpile.

Circus Memories

by Edgar A Guest

Oh, never comes the circus with its wonders into town
but I recall a little boy who longed to be a clown,
and high above the heads of all an acrobat I see
that little lad of long ago was hopeful he would be.

No care had he for words that rhyme. A more entrancing thing
was jumping on and off a horse within a sawdust ring.
And all the verses ever penned he’d gladly trade back then
to be the spangled hero in the roaring lions’ den.

There was a riding lady in a fluffy skirt of pink
who might have lured this little boy away from printer’s ink,
but destiny or fortune or the fates – or was it Dad? –
contrived to change the life-work of this circus-dreaming lad.

He would not now retrace his steps. Through eyes now growing dim
he sees an acrobat’s career would not have done for him.
But still when bands are playing and the circus barkers shout
a little boy of fifty-one walks wide-eyed round about.

From his book, Along Life’s Highway
©1933 by the Reilly & Lee Company

My response to the Word of the Day Challenge: REJUVENATE

Love Rewarded

This is my response to today’s RagTag daily prompt word: HEART

One day, a century ago, a boy of three was brought to an orphanage and placed in the hands of the kind, capable housemother. He’d never known his parents, so he took to Miss C right off; whenever she put her arm around little David, he clung desperately to her.

She had a heart for the little boy and did her best to bring him up as a proper gentleman – though he could be such a mischief. Keeping him on the straight and narrow proved to be a constant challenge for her as David grew up, in spite of the boy’s deep affection for her. Yet Miss C persevered because she believed in the end he’d do well. David didn’t disappoint her, either. He went on to be a successful and well-respected business man in London.

Miss C tackled the job of housemother at that orphanage for thirty years; she gave the children all the love and help she could, but there came the time she needed to retire. The future looked a bit rough right then: she was sixty years old and no home of her own to go to. However would she manage her rent and daily expenses on just her pension?

David came down from London for the send-off. When he got wind of her financial situation he patted her shoulder and told her, “Don’t worry; just leave it all to me.”

He went out and bought a nice little home in Nottingham, just around the block from Miss C’s brother, and had the place repaired and redecorated. Then he handed Miss C the key – it was all hers – in return for the home and motherly love she had given him in his boyhood.

Story retold from one that appeared in the 1972 Friendship Book of Francis Gay.

Boyhood Memory

by Edgar Guest

It used to be fun in the good old days
to rise at the dawn of day
and dig for worms for a fishing trip.
It used to be fun, I say,
for I swear that a robin who hovered near
knew just what we were about,
since he flew to the ground when the earth was turned
and begged us to toss one out.
Yes, it used to be fun to go fishing then,
but Time has rewritten my terms
of what pleasure is — and I never get up
to dig for a can of worms.

We’d sit on the dock and we’d swing our legs
all day in the blazing sun,
and a few small fish on a piece of string
was our ultimate dream of fun.
Then digging for worms was an easy task,
but I tried it a year ago
and the earth seemed hard as a city street
where the streams of traffic flow.
And I’d lost the knack of clutching a thing
that wriggles and twists and squirms,
so I said to myself: “You will never again
go digging at dawn for worms.”

I stuck to the task ‘til my hands grew sore,
I labored and toiled and wrought,
but the worms were scarce and no robins came,
and it wasn’t the fun I thought.
But a small boy said as we walked away:
“I’m wondering, Uncle Ed,
when there’s so much pleasure in getting up,
how can old folks stay in bed?”
I could only answer him this: “My lad,
all experience confirms
the dreadful fact that there comes a time
when it’s labor to dig for worms.”

From Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest
© 1934 by the Reilly & Lee Company

Some of us who have grown old and stiff are finding that it’s labor to dig for any reason nowadays, though ‘nature’s call’ may still rouse us before dawn. 😉
Happy gardening, everyone.