The House Out Back

My memory keeps me company and moves to smiles or tears,
A weather-beaten object looms through the mist of years.

Behind the house and barn it stands, a half a mile or more,
The hurrying feet a path had made straight to that swinging door.

The architecture was a type of simple, classic art,
And in the tragedy of life it played a leading part.

And oft a passing traveler slowly drove and heaved a sigh,
To see the modest hired girl slip out with glances shy.

We had our posey garden, that women love so well,
I loved it too, but better yet, I loved the stronger smell

That filled the evening breezes, so full of homely cheer,
And told the night-o'ertaken tramp that human life was near.

On lazy August afternoons it made a little bower
Delightful where my grandsire sat and whittled away an hour.

For there, the summer morning, its very cares entwined
And berry bushes reddened in the steaming soil behind.

All day the fattened spiders spun their webs to catch the flies
That flitted to and from the house where Ma was baking pies.

And once a swarm of hornets bold had built a palace there,
And stung my unsuspecting aunt, I daresen't tell you where.

Then Father took a flaming pole - that was a happy day,
He nearly burned the building down, but the hornets left to stay.

When summer's bloom begins to fade and winter to carouse,
We banked the little building with a heap of hemlock boughs.

But when the crust was on the snow and the sullen skies were grey,
In sooth, the building was no place where one could wish to stay.

We did our duties promptly, there one purpose swayed the mind,
We tarryed not, nor lingered long, on what we left behind.

The torture of that icy seat could make a spartan sob,
For needs must scrape the gooseflesh with a lacerating cob

That from a frost-encrusted nail was suspended from a string.
My Father was a frugal man and wasted not a thing.

When grandpa had to go out back amd make his morning call,
We'd bundle up the dear old man with a muffler and shawl.

I knew the hole on which he sat was padded all around,
And once I dared to sit there, 'twas all too wide I found.

My loins were all too little, and I jack-knifed there to stay;
They had to come and get me out or I'd have passed away.

Then Father said, ambition was a thing that boys should shun
And I must use the children's hole 'til my childhood days were done.

But still I marveled at the craft that cut the holes so true,
The baby hole, and the slender hole that fitted Sister Sue.

That dear old country landmark. I've traveled around a bit
And in the lap of luxury it's been my lot to sit;

But ere I die I'll eat the fruit of the trees I've robbed of yore,
And seek the shanty where my name is carved upon the door.

I know the old familiar smell will soothe my faded soul,
I'm now a man, but none the less, I'll try the children's hole.

The Passing Of The Back House by James Whitcomb Riley,
the "Hoosier Poet"

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