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The Poet Of Sierra Flat
by [?]

As the enterprising editor of the “Sierra Flat Record” stood at his case setting type for his next week’s paper, he could not help hearing the woodpeckers who were busy on the roof above his head. It occurred to him that possibly the birds had not yet learned to recognize in the rude structure any improvement on nature, and this idea pleased him so much that he incorporated it in the editorial article which he was then doubly composing. For the editor was also printer of the “Record”; and although that remarkable journal was reputed to exert a power felt through all Calaveras and a greater part of Tuolumne County, strict economy was one of the conditions of its beneficent existence.

Thus preoccupied, he was startled by the sudden irruption of a small roll of manuscript, which was thrown through the open door and fell at his feet. He walked quickly to the threshold and looked down the tangled trail which led to the high-road. But there was nothing to suggest the presence of his mysterious contributor. A hare limped slowly away, a green-and-gold lizard paused upon a pine stump, the woodpeckers ceased their work. So complete had been his sylvan seclusion, that he found it difficult to connect any human agency with the act; rather the hare seemed to have an inexpressibly guilty look, the woodpeckers to maintain a significant silence, and the lizard to be conscience-stricken into stone.

An examination of the manuscript, however, corrected this injustice to defenceless nature. It was evidently of human origin,–being verse, and of exceeding bad quality. The editor laid it aside. As he did so he thought he saw a face at the window. Sallying out in some indignation, he penetrated the surrounding thicket in every direction, but his search was as fruitless as before. The poet, if it were he, was gone.

A few days after this the editorial seclusion was invaded by voices of alternate expostulation and entreaty. Stepping to the door, the editor was amazed at beholding Mr. Morgan McCorkle, a well-known citizen of Angelo, and a subscriber to the “Record,” in the act of urging, partly by force and partly by argument, an awkward young man toward the building. When he had finally effected his object, and, as it were, safely landed his prize in a chair, Mr. McCorkle took off his hat, carefully wiped the narrow isthmus of forehead which divided his black brows from his stubby hair, and with an explanatory wave of his hand toward his reluctant companion, said, “A borned poet, and the cussedest fool you ever seed!”

Accepting the editor’s smile as a recognition of the introduction, Mr. McCorkle panted and went on: “Didn’t want to come! ‘Mister Editor don’t went to see me, Morg,’ sez he. ‘Milt,’ sez I, ‘he do; a borned poet like you and a gifted genius like he oughter come together sociable!’ And I fetched him. Ah, will yer?” The born poet had, after exhibiting signs of great distress, started to run. But Mr. McCorkle was down upon him instantly, seizing him by his long linen coat, and settled him back in his chair. “Tain’t no use stampeding. Yer ye are and yer ye stays. For yer a borned poet,–ef ye are as shy as a jackass rabbit. Look at ‘im now!”

He certainly was not an attractive picture. There was hardly a notable feature in his weak face, except his eyes, which were moist and shy and not unlike the animal to which Mr. McCorkle had compared him. It was the face that the editor had seen at the window.

“Knowed him for fower year,–since he war a boy,” continued Mr. McCorkle in a loud whisper. “Allers the same, bless you! Can jerk a rhyme as easy as turnin’ jack. Never had any eddication; lived out in Missooray all his life. But he’s chock full o’ poetry. On’y this mornin’ sez I to him,–he camps along o’ me,–‘Milt!’ sez I, ‘are breakfast ready?’ and he up and answers back quite peert and chipper, ‘The breakfast it is ready, and the birds is singing free, and it’s risin’ in the dawnin’ light is happiness to me!’ When a man,” said Mr. McCorkle, dropping his voice with deep solemnity, “gets off things like them, without any call to do it, and handlin’ flapjacks over a cookstove at the same time,–that man’s a borned poet.”