"Them Old Cherry Words"

by James Whitcomb Riley

James Whitcomb Riley

Pap he allus ust to say,
"Chris'mus comes but onc't a year!"
Liked to hear him that-a-way,
In his old split-bottomed cheer
By the fireplace here at night--
Wood all in,--and room all bright,
Warm and snug, and folks all here:
"Chris'mus comes but onc't a year!"
Me and 'Lize, and Warr'n and Jess
And Eldory home fer two
Weeks' vacation; and, I guess,
Old folks tickled through and through,
Same as _we_ was,--"Home onc't more
Fer another Chris'mus--shore!"
Pap 'u'd say, and tilt his cheer,--
"Chris'mus comes but onc't a year!"
Mostly Pap was ap' to be
Ser'ous in his "daily walk,"
As he called it; giner'ly
Was no hand to joke er talk.
Fac's is, Pap had never be'n
Rugged-like at all--and then
Three years in the army had
Hepped to break him purty bad.
Never _flinched_! but frost and snow
Hurt his wownd in winter. But
You bet _Mother_ knowed it, though!--
Watched his feet, and made him putt
On his flannen; and his knee,
Where it never healed up, he
Claimed was "well now--mighty near--
Chris'mus comes but onc't a year!"
"Chris'mus comes but onc't a year!"
Pap 'u'd say, and snap his eyes ...
Row o' apples sputter'n' here
Round the hearth, and me and 'Lize
Crackin' hicker'-nuts; and Warr'n
And Eldory parchin' corn;
And whole raft o' young folks here.
"Chris'mus comes but onc't a year!"
Mother tuk most comfort in
Jest a-heppin' Pap: She'd fill
His pipe fer him, er his tin
O' hard cider; er set still
And read fer him out the pile
O' newspapers putt on file
Whilse he was with Sherman--(She
Knowed the whole war-history!)
Sometimes he'd git het up some.--
"Boys," he'd say, "and you girls, too,
Chris'mus is about to come;
So, as you've a right to do,
_Celebrate_ it! Lots has died,
Same as Him they crucified,
That you might be happy here.
Chris'mus comes but onc't a year!"
Missed his voice last Chris'mus--missed
Them old cheery words, you know.
Mother belt up tel she kissed
All of us--then had to go
And break down! And I laughs: "Here!
'Chris'mus comes but onc't a year!"
"Them's his very words," sobbed she,
"When he asked to marry me."
"Chris'mus comes but onc't a year!"
"Chris'mus comes but onc't a year!"
Over, over, still I hear,
"Chris'mus comes but onc't a year!"
Yit, like him, I'm goin' to smile
And keep cheerful all the while:
_Allus_ Chris'mus _There_--And here
"Chris'mus comes but onc't a year!"

Last updated January 14, 2019