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A Caller From Boone
by [?]


It was a dim and chill and loveless afternoon in the late fall of eighty-three when I first saw the genial subject of this hasty sketch. From time to time the daily paper on which I worked had been receiving, among the general literary driftage of amateur essayists, poets and sketch-writers, some conceits in verse that struck the editorial head as decidedly novel; and, as they were evidently the production of an unlettered man, and an old man, and a farmer at that, they were usually spared the waste-basket, and preserved–not for publication, but to pass from hand to hand among the members of the staff as simply quaint and mirth-provoking specimens of the verdancy of both the venerable author and the Muse inspiring him. Letters as quaint as were the poems invariably accompanied them, and the oddity of these, in fact, had first called attention to the verses. I well remember the general merriment of the office when the first of the old man’s letters was read aloud, and I recall, too, some of his comments on his own verse, verbatim. In one place he said: “I make no doubt you will find some purty sad spots in my poetry, considerin’; but I hope you will bear in mind that I am a great sufferer with rheumatizum, and have been, off and on, sence the cold New Year’s. In the main, however,” he continued, “I allus aim to write in a cheerful, comfortin’ sperit, so’s ef the stuff hangs fire, and don’t do no good, it hain’t a-goin’ to do no harm,–and them’s my honest views on poetry.”

In another letter, evidently suspecting his poem had not appeared in print because of its dejected tone, he said: “The poetry I herewith send was wrote off on the finest Autumn day I ever laid eyes on! I never felt better in my life. The morning air was as invigoratin’ as bitters with tanzy in it, and the folks at breakfast said they never saw such a’ appetite on mortal man before. Then I lit out for the barn, and after feedin’, I come back and tuck my pen and ink out on the porch, and jest cut loose. I writ and writ till my fingers was that cramped I couldn’t hardly let go of the penholder. And the poem I send you is the upshot of it all. Ef you don’t find it cheerful enough fer your columns, I’ll have to knock under, that’s all!” And that poem, as I recall it, certainly was cheerful enough for publication, only the “copy” was almost undecipherable, and the ink, too, so pale and vague, it was thought best to reserve the verses, for the time, at least, and later on revise, copy, punctuate, and then print it sometime, as much for the joke of it as anything. But it was still delayed, neglected, and in a week’s time almost entirely forgotten. And so it was, upon this chill and sombre afternoon I speak of that an event occurred which most pleasantly reminded me of both the poem with the “sad spots” in it, and the “cheerful” one, “writ out on the porch” that glorious autumn day that poured its glory through the old man’s letter to us.

Outside and in the sanctum the gloom was too oppressive to permit an elevated tendency of either thought or spirit. I could do nothing but sit listless and inert. Paper and pencil were before me, but I could not write–I could not even think coherently, and was on the point of rising and rushing out into the streets for a wild walk, when there came a hesitating knock at the door.

“Come in!” I snarled, grabbing up my pencil and assuming a frightfully industrious air: “Come in!” I almost savagely repeated, “Come in! And shut the door behind you!” and I dropped my lids, bent my gaze fixedly upon the blank pages before me and began scrawling some disconnected nothings with no head or tail or anything.