One comes across gems hidden amongst the deadly prose of scholarly tomes ; though no one could say that of W.J. Holland‘s popular “The butterfly book” published in 1902 meant for encouraging young American turn-of-the-century aurelians. This was discovered in one of his digressions as he liked to call them.
UNCLE JOTHAM’S BOARDER
“I ve kep’ summer boarders for years, and allowed
I knowed all the sorts that there be;
But there come an old feller this season along,
That turned out a beater for me.
Whatever that feller was arter, I vow
I hain’t got the slightest idee.
“He had an old bait-net of thin, rotten stuff
That a minner could bite his way through;
But he never went fishin’ at least, in the way
That fishermen gen’ally do;
But he carried that bait-net wherever he went;
The handle was j’inted in two.
“And the bottles and boxes that chap fetched along!
Why, a doctor would never want more;
If they held pills and physic, he ‘d got full enough
To fit out a medicine-store.
And he ‘d got heaps of pins, dreffle lengthy and slim.
Allers droppin’ about on the floor.
“Well, true as I live, that old feller just spent
His hull days in loafin’ about
And pickin’ up hoppers and roaches and flies
Not to use for his bait to ketch trout,
But to kill and stick pins in and squint at and all.
He was crazy ‘s a coot, th’ ain’t no doubt.
“He ‘d see a poor miller a-flyin’ along,
The commonest, every-day kind,
And he ‘d waddle on arter it, fat as he was,
And foller up softly behind,
Till he ‘d flop that-air bait-net right over its head,
And I ‘d laugh till nigh out of my mind.
“Why, he ‘d lay on the ground for an hour at a stretch
And scratch in the dirt like a hen;
He ‘d scrape all the bark off the bushes and trees,
And turn the stones over; and then
He ‘d peek under logs, or he ‘d pry into holes.
I ‘m glad there ain’t no more sech men.
“My wife see a box in his bedroom, one day,
Jest swarmin’ with live caterpillars;
He fed ‘em on leaves off of all kinds of trees
The ellums and birches and willers;
And he ‘d got piles of boxes, chock-full to the top
With crickets and bees and moth-millers.
“I asked him, one time, what his business might be.
Of course, I fust made some apology.
He tried to explain, but such awful big words!
Sorto’ forren, outlandish, and collegey.
‘S near ‘s I can tell, ‘stead of enterin’ a trade,
He was tryin’ to jest enter mology.
“And Hannah, my wife, says she ‘s heerd o’ sech things;
She guesses his brain warn’t so meller.
There ‘s a thing they call Nat’ral Histerry, she says,
And, whatever the folks there may tell her,
Till it ‘s settled she ‘s wrong she ’11 jest hold that-air man
Was a Nat’ral Histerrical feller.”
Annie Trumbull Slosson
Annie Trumbull Slosson (1832-1926) was an important short story writer who epitomized the American local color movement that flourished after the Civil War and ended at the beginning of the twentieth century. She is widely acclaimed for her book ” Fishin’ Jimmy “, about which noted angling story teller, Henry Van Dyke said:
“The loveliest of all her simple narratives is that which I have chosen to stand near the end of (my) book,–a kind of benediction on anglers.”
- EH Aitken’s ‘Naturalist on the prowl’ (public domain).
- Butterfly catcher. Copyrighted. A lovely collage by Ann Gorman. Borrowed from ‘En sommerfugls selvmord:Juni 2008‘.