Little Breeches

by JOHN HAY (1838-1905)

I DON’T go much on religion,
I never ain’t had no show;
But I ‘ve got a middlin’ tight grip, sir,
On the handful o’ things I know.
I don’t pan out on the prophets
And free-will and that sort of thing,—
But I b’lieve in God and the angels,
Ever sence one night last spring.

I come into town with some turnips,
And my little Gabe come along,—
No four-year-old in the county
Could beat him for pretty and strong,
Peart and chipper and sassy,
Always ready to swear and fight,—
And I’d larnt him to chaw terbacker
Jest to keep his milk-teeth white.

The snow come down like a blanket
As I passed by Taggart’s store;
I went in for a jug of molasses
And left the team at the door.
They scared at something and started,—
I heard one little squall,
And hell-to-split over the prairie
Went team, Little Breeches, and all.

Hell-to-split over the prairie!
I was almost froze with skeer;
But we rousted up some torches,
And sarched for ’em far and near.
At last we struck hosses and wagon,
Snowed under a soft white mound,
Upsot, dead beat,—but of little Gabe
No hide nor hair was found.

And here all hope soured on me
Of my fellow-critter’s aid;—
I jest flopped down on my marrow-bones,
Crotch-deep in the snow, and prayed.
By this, the torches was played out,
And me and Isrul Parr
Went off for some wood to a sheepfold
That he said was somewhar thar.

We found it at last, and a little shed
Where they shut up the lambs at night.
We looked in and seen them huddled thar,
So warm and sleepy and white;
And thar sot Little Breeches and chirped,
As peart as ever you see,
“I want a chaw of terbacker,
And that’s what’s the matter of me.”

How did he git thar? Angels.
He could never have walked in that storm:
They jest scooped down and toted him
To whar it was safe and warm.
And I think that saving a little child,
And fotching him to his own,
Is a derned sight better business
Than loafing around The Throne.

John Hay

Born in Salem, Indiana in 1838, John Hay was raised in Warsaw, Illinois. He attended Brown University, where he developed an interest in poetry. Upon graduation, he was named Class Poet. At age 22. Hay became a secretary to Abraham Lincoln, while technically a clerk in the Interior Department. He shared a room in the northeast corner bedroom of the White House, on the second floor. with fellow secretary, John G. Nicolay. Hay was present when President Lincoln died after being shot by John Wilkes Booth. Hay and Nicolay wrote a formal 10-volume biography of the slain president Abraham Lincoln: A History (1890).

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