A Defective Santa Claus – James Whitcomb Riley

Allus when our Pa he’s away
Nen Uncle Sidney comes to stay
At our house here—so Ma an’ me
An’ Etty an’ Lee-Bob won’t be
Afeard ef anything at night
Might happen—like Ma says it might.
(Ef Trip wuz big, I bet you he
‘Uz best watch-dog you ever see!)
An’ so last winter—ist before
It’s go’ be Chris’mus-Day,—w’y, shore
Enough, Pa had to haf to go
To ‘tend a lawsuit—”An’ the snow
Ist right fer Santy Claus!” Pa said,
As he clumb in old Ayersuz’ sled,
An’ said he’s sorry he can’t be
With us that night—”‘Cause,” he-says-ee,
“Old Santy might be comin’ here—
This very night of all the year
I’ got to be away!—so all
You kids must tell him—ef he call—
He’s mighty welcome, an’ yer Pa
He left his love with you an’ Ma
An’ Uncle Sid!” An’ clucked, an’ leant
Back, laughin’—an’ away they went!
An’ Uncle wave’ his hands an’ yells
“Yer old horse ort to have on bells!”
But Pa yell back an’ laugh an’ say
“I ‘spect when Santy come this way
It’s time enough fer sleighbells nen!”
An’ holler back “Good-by!” again,
An’ reach out with the driver’s whip
An’ cut behind an’ drive back Trip.
An’ so all day it snowed an’ snowed!
An’ Lee-Bob he ist watched the road,
In his high-chair; an’ Etty she
U’d play with Uncle Sid an’ me—
Like she wuz he’ppin’ fetch in wood
An’ keepin’ old fire goin’ good,
Where Ma she wuz a-cookin’ there
An’ kitchen, too, an’ ever’where!
An’ Uncle say, “‘At’s ist the way
Yer Ma’s b’en workin’, night an’ day,
Sence she hain’t big as Etty is
Er Lee-Bob in that chair o’ his!”
Nen Ma she’d laugh ‘t what Uncle said,
An’ smack an’ smoove his old bald head
An’ say “Clear out the way till I
Can keep that pot from b’ilin’ dry!”
Nen Uncle, when she’s gone back to
The kitchen, says, “We ust to do
Some cookin’ in the ashes.—Say,
S’posin’ we try some, thataway!”
An’ nen he send us to tell Ma
Send two big ‘taters in he saw
Pa’s b’en a-keepin’ ’cause they got
The premiun at the Fair. An’ what
You think?—He rake a grea’-big hole
In the hot ashes, an’ he roll
Them old big ‘taters in the place
An’ rake the coals back—an’ his face
Ist swettin’ so’s he purt’-nigh swear
‘Cause it’s so hot! An’ when they’re there
‘Bout time ‘at we fergit ’em, he
Ist rake ’em out again—an’ gee!—
He bu’st ’em with his fist wite on
A’ old stove-led, while Etty’s gone
To git the salt, an’ butter, too—
Ist like he said she haf to do,
No matter what Ma say! An’ so
He salt an’ butter ’em, an’ blow
‘Em cool enough fer us to eat—
An’ me-o-my! they’re hard to beat!
An’ Trip ‘ud ist lay there an’ pant
Like he’d laugh out loud, but he can’t.
Nen Uncle fill his pipe—an’ we
‘Ud he’p him light it—Sis an’ me,—
But mostly little Lee-Bob, ’cause
“He’s the best Lighter ever wuz!”
Like Uncle telled him wunst when LeeBob cried an’ jerked the light from me,
He wuz so mad! So Uncle pat
An’ pet him. (Lee-Bob’s ust to that—
‘Cause he’s the little-est, you know,
An’ allus has b’en humored so!)
Nen Uncle gits the flat-arn out,
An’, while he’s tellin’ us all ’bout
Old Chris’mus-times when he’s a kid,
He ist cracked hickernuts, he did,
Till they’s a crockful, mighty nigh!
An’ when they’re all done by an’ by,
He raked the red coals out again
An’ telled me, “Fetch that popcorn in,
An’ old three-leggud skillut—an’
The led an’ all now, little man,—
An’ yer old Uncle here ‘ull show
You how corn’s popped, long years ago
When me an’ Santy Claus wuz boys
On Pap’s old place in Illinoise!—
An’ your Pa, too, wuz chums, all through,
With Santy!—Wisht Pa’d be here, too!”
Nen Uncle sigh at Ma, an’ she
Pat him again, an’ say to me
An’ Etty,—”You take warning fair!—
Don’t talk too much, like Uncle there,
Ner don’t fergit, like him, my dears,
That ‘little pitchers has big ears!'”
But Uncle say to her, “Clear out!—
Yer brother knows what he’s about.—
You git your Chris’mus-cookin’ done
Er these pore childern won’t have none!”
Nen Trip wake up an’ raise, an’ nen
Turn roun’ an’ nen lay down again.
An’ one time Uncle Sidney say,—
“When dogs is sleepin’ thataway,
Like Trip, an’ whimpers, it’s a sign
He’ll ketch eight rabbits—mayby nine—
Afore his fleas’ll wake him—nen
He’ll bite hisse’f to sleep again
An try to dream he’s go’ ketch ten.”
An’ when Ma’s gone again back in
The kitchen, Uncle scratch his chin
An’ say, “When Santy Claus an’ Pa
An’ me wuz little boys—an’ Ma,
When she’s ’bout big as Etty there;—
W’y,—’When we’re growed—no matter where,’
Santy he cross’ his heart an’ say,—
‘I’ll come to see you, all, some day
When you’ got childerns—all but me
An’ pore old Sid!'” Nen Uncle he
Ist kindo’ shade his eyes an’ pour’
‘Bout forty-‘leven bushels more
O’ popcorn out the skillut there
In Ma’s new basket on the chair.
An’ nen he telled us—an’ talk’ low,
“So Ma can’t hear,” he say:—”You know
Yer Pa know’, when he drived away,
Tomorry’s go’ be Chris’mus-Day;—
Well, nen tonight,” he whisper, “see?—
It’s go’ be Chris’mus-Eve,” says-ee,
“An’, like yer Pa hint, when he went,
Old Santy Claus (now hush!) he’s sent
Yer Pa a postul-card, an’ write
He’s shorely go’ be here tonight….
That’s why yer Pa’s so bored to be
Away tonight, when Santy he
Is go’ be here, sleighbells an’ all,
To make you kids a Chris’mus-call!”
An’ we’re so glad to know fer shore
He’s comin’, I roll on the floor—
An’ here come Trip a-waller’n’ roun’


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