Thursday, March 13, 2008

Peoria, Texas, March 22, 1891

After some delay I am finally
getting around to writing you.
Them seeds and beans come through
all right. I am very thankful.
People are later planting this spring.
We had a big snow the first of March,
but prospects are still good for
at least a tolerable early crop.

I would like to see you out here
this fall, or later in the summer
when I can feed you on melons
from the patch I’m going to plant
behind the new school house.
You promised to come soon and
it is about time you was deciding,
but I fear that promises is all I have.

Tell your brother John I said
for him to come out here to east Texas
where he can farm right for a change
instead of plowing on rocky hillsides,
where he can get land so level and rich
it will make his eyes water to look.
A man can make an honest living out here,
can get all the work and land he wants.

Write me a long letter about home.
Give me all the news from Sevier County.
Tell your family I think of them often,
but don’t hug your sisters too hard
for they sometimes giggle and break wind.
Right now I’m sure you are all in bed asleep
under the same moon that’s full as a dinner plate.
I hope you are sleeping peaceful.

You asked about my health this winter.
After I got accustomed to the weather
which is about as cold as any in Tennessee,
I manage to eat well enough, though I miss
your cooking, your biscuits, and your smile.
I still am the tallest man in town,
and have not lost weight since last we met.
Board and washing is included in my wages,
but not a woman’s care.

I lifted your letter out of the office on the 20th.
Let me hear from you soon so I can plan.
If you want to come ahead I will assist you.
The country’s health and wages are all right.
We will have our own pastor and
a nice new church at the end of town.
My land will be six miles west of Hillsboro,
and two miles south of Peoria
when the deed comes through.
But a man can only wait for so long.
I promised your dear Maw I would
take care of you should you come.
Bring me all the news of home yourself.

Yours,
J.B. Sherfly

4 comments:

Mike said...

Good write, David. I imagine ten thousand versions of this letter found their ways back home as this country grew.

David Wayne Hampton: said...

Thanks! I collect correspondence and hand-written papers from the 1800s and early 1900s, and sometimes the most poetic lines are found in everyday letters of that time period, when people actually wrote letters. This poem was an amalgamation of a couple of different things I read over the years. I tried to capture the language and mindset of that time period as best I could.

Kentucky Dreamer said...

You did an excellent job too, I agree. I enjoyed this as I use to have a whole stack of very old letters, I sure am wishing I still did. The rightful owner came along after I found them hidden under old floor boards of the home I'd bought and was re-doing. Dated between 1903-1913 they were quite wonderful to read.

I enjoyed this.

deborah wilson said...

David,

For some reason my comment didn't post last night..

But I enjoyed this too -

I love the past centuries. I bet it was hard for women, indeed entire families, to leave their eastern and mountain homes and head west to begin to build a new life in strange lands.

But leave they did. And that is the real back bone, the making of America.