The Poetry of Elsie Strawn Armstrong
"SKETCHES OF MY LIFE"
Page 22-28

Transcribed and Donated by Leslie Howard Strawn


CHAPTER SEVENTH

Between my bed and fire

The mud was very deep,

And there my little son

Preferred himself to keep.

I would take him by the arms

And carry him down there,

And strip him off and wash the mud

Off his skin and hair.

Then take him back to camp

And dress him clean and good,

But in spite of all my care

He would soon be in the mud.

At length he did get sick,

I was afraid that he would die,

And over him lone hours,

Most sadly I would cry.

At length my sister came

And I was very glad,

But when she saw my poor sick child

She did feel very bad.

She pressed him to her bosom

And said with flowing tears,

“This dear child is very sick,

And for him I have my fears.”

She said, “O, brother Joseph!

This child must have some way,

Or your precious little son

You must bury in the clay.

“Oh! Do now be entreated

To build a house with speed,

Tomorrow you and Mordecai

Cut all the logs you need

And next day haul them up

And go and ask your men,

And next day build your house

And be living in it then.”

So the house was built and roofed,

And the chimney place was built,

And the doorway was cut out,

And in that, I hung a quilt.

And when they cut the first log

From the intended door,

Then I began to carry boards

And commenced to lay my floor.

The boards were green, inch oak,

And fourteen feet in length,

Each one was my full load

And did just take all my strength.

Then I could keep my child

Out of the mud and rain,

And I was glad and thankful

When he got well again.

At length they took a board

And made a good strong door,

Then I was not afraid

Of snake nor beast nor more.

But first I would be thankful

That with a house I am blessed,

And in it I now feel

That I can securely rest.

I can lay me down in safety,

And go to sleep at night,

Without the fear and dread

Of being wakened in a fright.

The wild turkeys were so tame,

They came close to the door,

And there picked up the crumbs

That I swept from the floor.

And we considered then

We had better have a pen,

Our nice turkeys to save,

Such as we should like to have.

And so we fixed a pen,

And we caught a number of them;

He made a door below,

Where the turkeys used to go.

And when they did walk in,

They did not walk out again,

When they found they’d gone astray

In trying to get away.

Run their heads through the cracks

And he cut them off with an axe

Then we had turkey meat a plenty,

Perhaps fifteen or twenty.

And when the spring began to break,

We made sugar by the cake,

And we made stack of cakes,

That was very much admired.

They carried the water in pails,

And in the house I boiled it down,

He and his man that made the rails

From the trees a standing round.

And when they tapped the trees

They chopped them all around,

For there were in the act

Of clearing off the ground.

I told them that was right,

To chop them deep and well,

And then we’d have the sugar

Both to keep and to sell.

My husband said ‘twas “Nonsense

To make sugar to sell,

If we made what we needed

It would be doing well.”

We worked at it till we made

Two hundred pounds and o’er,

And then we went to clearing,

Or we might have made much more.

And still I kept to work

A doing what I could,

And my boy did often follow me

And tumble in the mud.

But still I kept to work

Without making much blunder,

Till I suppose I made

About another hundred.

And when the British war broke out,

Produce did take rise,

And all things else according

Did bear a higher price.

Then I took of my sugar,

And conveyed it to the store,

In order to exchange it

For things I needed more.

When twenty-five cents a pound

Was the best that I could do,

I exchanged for tea and coffee

And cups and saucers, too.

The coffee, fifty cents,

Three dollars was the tea,

The cups were seventy-five,

And how trade went round you see.

And when I lived in camp,

Although ‘twas but a shed,

I received friendly visits

From ladies white and red.

Among the rest, a chief’s wife,

Her papoose’s eyes did shine,

A famous little boy he was,

About the size of mine.

I gave her a little dress,

She put it on her son,

And then she took a hearty laugh

As though it was good fun.

Her son had lots of beads,

And of brooches and of rings,

She took off and put on my son

Some of all those pretty things.

And then it was the next year

The British war broke out,

Then the Indians took to killing,

And they murdered all about.

Because the British bribed them

They killed all that they could,

And they murdered Squire Ruffnors,

And they did it in cold blood.

Then they drove off their cows,

And their house they did burn down,

And left that large nice family

All slaughtered on the ground.

They came to the kind family

And found them all asleep.

And the news of that sad slaughter;

Oh! How it made me weep!

Next morning Captain Coulter

Came riding to our door,

And he told the doleful story

And he told it o’er and o’er.

He said, “Hull’s given up the army,

And the Indians all turned loose,

This frontier must bear the scourge

And must suffer their abuse.”

And the Indians will be on us,

And we don’t know the hour when,

And we ought to be retreating

As fast as e’er we can.

We invited him to breakfast

But he said “twas his design

To travel round the neighborhood

And let them know the sign.

So that they may consider

What is best for them to do;

And so they met in order

And held an interview.

They agreed to build a fort

Down on the creek below,

But my husband said ‘twas nonsense,

And said he would not go.

He said, “They won’t come back,

If they do, I do not care,

They will kill that handful there

As quick as us that’s here.”

But he went and got a horse shod

And said I might take my child,

And get upon horseback

And ride three hundred miles.

For me to get on horseback

With my child upon my back,

He was over two years old

And a heavy boy at that.

I thought it was an even chance

For me to live, or die,

For I was neither fit

To either fight or fly.

For in about two months

I had my second son,

And I was neither fit

To either fight or run.

That same night my cousin came

And brought me some relief,

He said, “They won’t come back soon,

It is my firm belief.”

“They are now making off

And pursuers they do fear,

They’ll go away and stay away

And not be soon back here.”

So, we were left frontier,

And the Indians never come,

Though not without some fears,

Yet I was best at home.

CHAPTER EIGHT

I want you to remember

How cruel and unkind

Our British neighbors were,

And bear it in your mind.

The Indians got eight dollars

For every scalp they took,

No matter whose it was,

Wife, husband, child or cook.

Oh! Infatuated mortals!

Pride and vanity the bane,

And avarice and ambition,

On these they seemed insane.

And through all coming time

The story will be told,

That Indians to the British

Their brother’s scalps have sold.

At first they paid eight dollars,

And then they fell to five,

And thus the British bribed them

To take away our lives.

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