A Letter to J. H. VanHoose, written Aug 13, 1873

(poem format-mkg)

Just fifty years ago, dear Jim, just 50 years ago,

A tiny boy was born, 'twas I, as you must surely know.

 A summer sun was shining then, the corn was green and high;

That corn is gone, the sun shines still, bright in a summer sky.

The hills around were shaded air with trees of stately pride --

The oak, the beech, the chestnut trees, but these have grown and died.

Yea, many friends who then were young, whose hearts were light and gay,

Have lived and gone, as have the trees, from Time have passed away.

I've heard my Uncle Jesse speak about my natal hour;

How his father wrestled long, to test their manly power.

Our sire then was in his prime and thought himself quite stout;

Younger was Jesse and 'tis said he laid our Daddy out! T

he tussel took place in the field beneath an August sun,

Below our old big stable; the time of day was one.

The land was newly cleared up then -- trees and stumps all over;

For years 'twas used for growing corn, afterward for clover.

Old Time has fled on rapid wing since I, a little boy,

Played in the branch below the house and built mock mills with joy,

Or slipping off to Jennie's Creek, with pin-hook, bait and line,

Caught many perch or little chubs, and passed a happy time.

Oft' I in fancy travel back to boyhood's happy days

And feel myself a child again, engaging in their plays

We dam the branch and build the mill; we make the tiny sled;

The birds are trapped, we ball the snow with fingers cold and red.

The chestnut-hunts, the berry-times, I take them in review,

The shugar-camp, with its delights, doth claim a thought or two.

I see "Big Rock" down Jennie's Creek, below the old long field,

Near which grew diverse walnut trees that many nuts did yield.

Above this field (along the hill) we found the ripe papaw,

The grapes, the hazel-nut and plums and next the large red haw.

A few old peach and plum trees too, we in the hollow found,

Where stood the house (as you have heard) - a water spout ran round.

Thence nearly eastward is the Gap that holds the grave of May,

At which a cat scared Uncle Lee and made his trotters play.

Here Uncle Felt hailed Rube and Jess with such unearthly groan,

He spoiled a coon-hunt on that night and made them truckle home.

From this old gap, a little way, we find a poor hillside On which

"Tolt" Leak plowed old White Buck until from heat he died.

He had the steer geared like a horse, with collar harnes and chains;

But when he died they took his hide and tallow for their pains.

The high round knob with fruit trees clad doth claim a passing thought.

On which we played in sun or shade and with the case-knived wrought.

A holly bush grew on its side; "the branch" ran round the base;

The "patch" of salamus were there, found in a small wet place.

Southeastward (looking from the Knob) I see where we were born --

The house, the shady locust trees, the apple-trees and corn. T

he "Little Knob" with graves thereon, and further off "the pines"

Which grew atop that rising hill, which marks the east confines.

Off to the left, a little way, is seen the meadow green;

The still-house branch, the distant hills, with wood and vale between

Burnt-Cabin branch is farther down, along the road to Mill,

Up which we sawed and made the staves, our lumber-boats to fill.

How changed, how sad, the present view, since 40 years or more --

The former occupants are not here; gone are the days of yore.

The stranger tills the garden spot and plucks the blooming rose

Where we (when little boys) once plied, the rake and weeding hoes.

Perhaps of us they never dreamed -- those strangers living there;

They little know whose arm and axe helped make those hills so bare.

Nor do they know whose baby feet first pattered 'round the spot;

Whose little hands first pulled the rose, the pink, or touch-me-not.

We don't forget; we journey back to childhood's early hours --

The old loved spots will rise to view where first we culled the flowers.

We live it o'ver (our youthful time) and give a parting sigh

As fading visions die away, escape the mental eye.

Through many changes we have passed since our first home was left;

Many birthdays too have seen, of many friends benefit.

A share of trials has been ours, a sprinkling too of joys;

Our gold, you know, is never pure, but mixed with some alloys.

New ties are binding you and me, that steal our hearts away,

And we forget our childish loves, our little boyish play.

New hopes come crowding every on, to animate the brain,

' And we are looking, seeking still, a brighter prize to gain.

Z. Van Hoose


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