Pieces People Ask For/The Deacon's Ride
THE DEACON'S RIDE.
On his cool back porch sat Deacon Brown, the richest and fattest man in town.
Before, behind, to left and right, showed meadows dotted with gold and white,
And grazing there in the pastures green, fifteen fine Jerseys as ever seen;
The regular herd-book stock were they, and how much butter they made each day,
I hardly would dare attempt to say.
No greater joy had Deacon Brown, than to sit on the porch, as the sun went down,
And view his acres so broad and fine, and feast his eyes on his Jersey kine;
But now his face wore a look much vexed, and he drummed his knees in a way perplexed,
As, sitting snug in his tilted chair, he gazed at the goodly show and fair,
Of bovine beauties grazing there.
Well might the Deacon muse and frown, and vaguely scratch his smooth, bald crown;
For a Jersey heifer, his pride and boast, the one of all that he valued most,
Had taken it into her head that she not like her meeker sisters would be,
And so, at sight of the milking-pail, would lower her horns and thrash her tail,
And kick till her kicking power would fail.
All sorts of cures had the Deacon tried; but, alas for a good old churchman's pride!
"The finest heifer in this 'ere town" would never a drop of milk give down
For one whole day, though coaxed and fed with the "cream of the place," so the Deacon said;
And when thrice she'd knocked the good man over, as if barnyard mud were a field of clover,
He vowed in his wrath, as a deacon may, that he'd sell the creetur the very next day,
To the village butcher, and risk his pay.
Yet now, as he sat and thought it o'er, it seemed that his cross was indeed most sore;
He could not do it; 'twould break his heart, from his goodly heifer this way to part!
Just then strolled toward him his elder son, who never a bit of work had done,
But fished in the brook through the livelong day, instead of helping get in the hay,
Or "lift" at the work in any way.
So the Deacon frowned a frown most stern: "'Twas time that a lazy youth should learn
To earn his salt; 'twas different when he was his age,—the men was men,
Not idle care-naughts; and going to school made something besides a college fool."
Then, growing milder, "Wal, 'bout Peachblow—I reckoned a cure you'd hap to know,
In that heathen gabble you chatter so."
Quoth the idle scapegrace, with twinkling eye, "I've heard of a cure which you might try."
Then some Latin words he gravely said. "If on to her back a weight is laid,
She'll give milk straightway, and quiet be." Said the doubting Deacon, "I'll try and see."
Out in the stable Peachblow stood, calm chewing her cud as a heifer should.
Spoke the Deacon: "William, you're young and spry; you can climb on her back, now, quicker'n I.
You'll do for the weight. I'll fetch the stool, and milk the critter: you just keep cool."
But scarce had the hopeful gained his seat, when out flew the placid Peachblow's feet,
And milker and milking-stool upset, in a way too hurried for etiquette.
And the Deacon roared in his wrath, "Get down! I'll try myself,—that'll bring her roun'."
And, puffing and grumbling, with Will to boost, he found himself on his novel roost.
But, alas! with what little certainty can we plume our minds on things to be!
For, just as the Deacon, with voice elate, cried, "Go to milkin'; you needn't wait!"
The stanchion was loosed by some luckless Fate,—
And wildly out through the open door dashed—as she never had dashed before—
The frightened heifer, with snorts and bounds, and her load of a hundred and ninety pounds.
The roaring scapegrace behind was left; while, like a creature of sense bereft,
Young Peachblow flew with her frantic feet, a-bellowing down the village street,—
To the district school-boys what a treat!
The Deacon's neckerchief flapped in the wind; his hat blew off, and was left behind;
His eyes bulged out, his face grew white, his fringe of hair stood up with fright;
The children scampered with laugh and hoot, the dogs all started in mad pursuit;
The geese they squawked, and the chickens flew; the wives ran, startled by such ado;
Out ran the husbands, to cry, "Halloo!"
And the good old parson, with face aghast, flew to the gate as the deacon passed.
What a dreadful scandal throughout the town might rise from this frolic of Deacon Brown!
Was he drunk, or crazy, that thus he'd ride? And, loud as he could, the parson cried,
"Stop, stop, Brother Brown! Oh! where will you go?" and back from the dust came these words of woe:
"The Lord and this cow, sir, only know!"
But she stopped at last, this steed so gay; she stopped quite short in a sudden way,
Struck out her heels with a graceful poise, and the hundred and ninety avoirdupois
Shot over her head and into the dirt, with buttonless breeches and tattered shirt.
Sadder and wiser, Deacon Brown led Peachblow home as the sun went down;
And all the questioners got him to say was, that he might tell them some other day.
But Peachblow was lamb-like enough that night,—was milked very meekly, and seemed all right.
And the Deacon mused: "Wal, the heathen may have fust-rate cow cures, but I must say,
They are tryin' to old folks, anyway."
Mary C. Huntington.