|Let others sing of castled Rhine,
And rivers old in story seek;
I'll choose a nearer theme for mine-
The dear old Cattaraugus Creek.
For oft when eyes are closed to care
I see myself a boy at play
Along the crooked valley where
It's cadent waters find their way,
And oft returns the cherished wish
To camp again beside the stream,
With nought to do all day but fish
And swim and hunt and sing and dream.
Ah, Jim! do you remember how
We lived in trees so safe from foe,
In huts we built of twig and bough,
Like man primeval long ago?
How wise we were! How proud we were
To know where log and boulder lay;
Where, treacherous as a tiger's purr,
Lurked beds of quicksand, beds of clay!
How keen our ears to goblins' call!
What plots and schemes and myths we made!
Creating beasts and giants tall,
Exulting we were not afraid!
What voyages we used to take!
On rafts of poles and rotten planks
We'd sail away, with bubbling wake,
Along the muddy, crumbling banks.
|I only have to close my eyes
To dream I'm floating there once more,
Beneath the azure summer skies,
Embarking from pebbly shore:
Past files of reeds and cat-tails dead,
That deftly nod as past we glide,
And floats of driftwood, smoothly spread
Above the pools where fishes hide;
Past shadow-haunted thickets, dank
With grape vine wild and crowding fern,
And where, through poison-ivy rank,
The lazy blacksnakes twist and turn;
Past where, like gently beckoning hands,
The slender willows trembling toss,
Where, spectre-like, the poplar stands,
Midst fallen monarchs draped in moss.
Old Cattaraugus, ripple on!
To you I'll cling until the last-
The dearest place beneath the sun,
The sweetest memory of the past;
And still, when turmoil clouds my brain,
In fancy I'll return to you,
And sing again and dream again
The songs and dreams my boyhood knew.
Notes about the author:
Archie Thomas was born within a year or so of 1875 and was a lifelong friend of my grandfather (Frank D. Bond, b. 1875- d. 1957).
They had many boyhood adventures together and remained friends for the rest of their lives. My uncle, Archie Bond (WWII India, China, Burma) was named after Mr. Thomas. What I know of him is all from family stories, notes from Mr. Thomas to my grandfather and some notes in old journals written by my grandfather.
Archie Thomas grew up on a farm in the West Yorkshire area which, in my family, was called "the Forks." He attended the old Forks School House (Yorkshire District No. 3) and later moved to Buffalo, NY, (about mid 1890's) to work as a typesetter for an old Buffalo Newspaper. I'm not positive, but believe that may have been the Buffalo Illustrated Express.
He and my grandfather visited back and forth and many summers Mr. Thomas would return to spend some time with grandfather, out in Cattaraugus County. They would go fishing and hunting, as they had many times before.
I wish that I could recall better, but I think that Mr. Thomas married the daughter (Mary) of a neighboring farm family named Geer (?) and that she moved with him to Buffalo. I've never been able to confirm that or really find any documented family history for Mr. Archie Thomas. I also seem to recall that he may have gone by the knickname of "Jackie."
There were at least two Thomas families in the Yorkshire area in the late 1800's, but I have never been able to make a definite connection of Archie Thomas to either of them. However, would be interested if someone has that information.
Archie Thomas enjoyed writing poetry and shared many of hispoems with my grandfather, who held him in high regard.
We have a number of other poems by Mr. Thomas and thoughthat perhaps "The Old Cattaraugus" might spark some warm memories for folks with roots in that area. Having spent many hours of my own youth along the banks of that creek, in the same valley as the author wrote about, it did that for me.
Donald Phillips Bond
(g.g.g.grandson of Bishop and Elizabeth Coston)