by Irwin Russell
What say? A song or a story? Draw up a box 'r a chair,
All them that is wantin' to listen; — but, boys, I'm a-tellin' you fair.
See this? It'll go for the feller what takes a notion to laugh,
And him or me will be t' our folks a man or a foretograph!
You didn't know Jim — of course not — I'm tellin' you now of him:
A fearful chap on his muscle, a wild old boy, was Jim;
But, boys, now don't you forgit it, he was as good and square
As any man that the county held — and plenty o' men was there.
Jim was alightnin'-jerker — of course you know't I mean:
He sot at his little table and rattled the Morse machine.
And didn't it rattle! I bet you! He'd studied it down so fine,
There wasn't a one that could " send " with him, not all along the line.
One time Jim sat in the office, a-smokin' and gazin' out,
When in come a feller was lookin' skeered — and nuff to be skeered about!
He told his news in a minute, and, man as he was, got cry'n';
And " Yaller fever is broken out! " went clickin' along the line.
I think that line was connected with every soul in the land,
From what was sent t' us Howards — I'm one, d'ye understand?
Of all the parts o' the Union, no tell'n' which helped us most;
And we was a-workin', we was, sir! And Jim he kep' to his post.
All day long he was settin' pushin' away at the key,
Or takin' off from the sounder, just as the case might be;
And most of the night a-nursin'. And what was bracin' his heart
Was knowin' his only sister 'n' him was seventy miles apart.
The air got full o' the fever; grass growed up in the street;
Travel the town all over, and never a man you'd meet,
'Cept, maybe, some feller a-runnin', who'd say, as he passed you by:
" I'm tryin' to find the doctor, " or " Billy is bound to die. "
When folks went under — they might be the very best in the land —
We throwed 'em into a white-pine box, and drayed 'em out off-hand,
To wait their turn to be planted, without a word or a prayer;
There wa'n't no chance and there wa'n't no time for prayin' or preachin' there.
Well, Jim, he minded his duty, and stuck to the work — oh, yes —
But, boys, one Saturday night, when he was busy sendin' the press,
There come a break, and his office call, and soon as he'd time to sign,
" Your sister's took the fever and died " come flashin' along the line.
Throw up the winder and let in air! How can I breathe or speak
With — Jim? Oh, certainly; news like that was bound tor to make him weak;
But Jim sot straight at the table — he wa'n't the man to shirk!
And, calmer and cooler than I am now, he finished the company's work.
But then he dropped; and in four days more all that was left of him
Was the wasted body that once had held the noblest soul — poor Jim!
O boys! that brother and sister was brother and sister o' mine!
I wonder if ever we'll meet ag'in, somewheres along the line.
Last updated September 05, 2017