The Poetry of Elsie Strawn Armstrong

Transcribed and Donated by Leslie Howard Strawn

Lines written at the request of my brother Jacob, who was about five years old when the little incident took place in the family that he remembered so well that he wished me to put it in rhyme.

My sister’s Sunday clothes

That she outgrew, I wore,

And little had been bought for me

In all my life before.

When I was full sixteen

They bought me a new saddle,

With a pretty striped beast-late,

Sircingle and new bridle.

They bought me two new dresses,

And also a new bonnet,

A deep blue cloth great coat,

With lots of buttons on it.

They bought me a new shawl

And gloves and other riggings,

And a new whip, that I might ride,

And go see other diggings.

I thought I’d like to try

How my new things would fit,

And also my new saddle,

To know how it would sit.

On Sabbath morning people

Going to church I’d seen,

I thought I’d like to dress myself

And go there too, I mean!

When mother gave consent,

Then I spoke to father,

“Have John bring me my mare,”

He seemed to respond with pleasure.

He said, “Johnny, slip away,

Get the little girl her mare,

She saw people going to meeting,

And she’d like to go there.”

He went and brought a large young horse,

His color was dapple gray,

Because the most convenient

For him to bring that day.

Father put on the saddle,

And when all the rig was on,

A splendid horse I thought he was,

For me to ride upon.

After that I was dressed,

Came out with whip in hand,

Already for to ride,

And on the steps did stand.

The horse was young and awkward,

Had been ridden by none but John,

Knew not how to come up

And kindly take me on.

A little dusty switch

That in the yard lay,

Father picked up to scare the horse

Up to the step that day.

Then I went down to father

And said, “Let me lead him through the gate,

I’ll get on before he knows it,

Or climb on at some rate.”

But father said, “Go back,

And stand there where you are,

He must learn to come up,

And I’ll soon bring him there.”

But still I kept insisting

And teasing him so,

At length he gave me a tap,

I quick to the step did go.

Then John leaned down to laugh

And said, “How quick she takes the hint,”

Father looked very smiling,

And with a pleasant nod and wink

Said, “I had better luck a whipping her

Than the horse,


Don’t you think.”

Then mother took a hearty laugh

And said, “Better late than never,

Your father thought he’d best begin

To whip you now, if ever.”

She said the dusty switch mark on my coat

Showed most conspicuous bright,

Showed plain I had caught the switch

And had taken it right.

Put me between a laugh and cry,

I scarce knew what to do,

It was laughing sport for all,

Father, to whip was new.

What added to the sport,

I was never dressed before,

And then to catch the switch

It made the fun the more.

But mother with her apron

Brushed off the dust, she said,

So no one could see the mark

The dusty switch had made.

Then father had the horse

By the step a standing still,

And John opened the gate and

We went off with good will.

Both the horse and I

Had just received correction,

Came back in first rate plight,

Perhaps in better subjection.

A trip to visit brother Jacob’s family. (At the Matteson house with Eaton Goodell and family.)

Brother Jacob came to Ottawa

In the year of sixty-three,

Invited me to Jacksonville

To see his family.

And gladly I went with him,

A pleasant trip for me,

We all got on the car,

A cheerful company.

When we arrived at Bloomington,

There we made a call

At sister Phoebe’s cousins,

Ourselves and niece and all.

A pleasant time we had,

The family all so kind,

So much delicious fruit,

And the fare it was so fine.

We took supper and took breakfast,

And on the car at two o’clock,

In the morning got to Springfield,

And then we made a stop.

A bright spot in my life

The day that I spent there,

With a special old acquaintance,

And he took us to the car.

When we arrived at Jacksonville,

To Jacob’s house we went,

And there about three weeks

Most pleasantly we spent.

Then we received some presents

And came up to Lacon,

To see our friends and nephews,

Nieces and brother John.

And there about six weeks

We spent, in going round

To visit sixteen families,

Before we left the ground.

Again we took the cars

And came up to Ottawa,

The seventh of September,

While the fair was under way.

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