"Tradin' Joe"

by James Whitcomb Riley

James Whitcomb Riley

I'm one o' these cur'ous kind o' chaps
You think you know when you don't, perhaps!
I hain't no fool--ner I don't p'tend
To be so smart I could rickommend
Myself fer a CONGERSSMAN my friend!--
But I'm kind o' betwixt-and-between, you know,--
One o' these fellers 'at folks call "slow."
And I'll say jest here I'm kind o' queer
Regardin' things 'at I SEE and HEAR,--
Fer I'm THICK o' hearin' SOMETIMES, and
It's hard to git me to understand;
But other times it hain't, you bet!
Fer I don't sleep with both eyes shet!
I've swapped a power in stock, and so
The neighbers calls me "Tradin' Joe"--
And I'm goin' to tell you 'bout a trade,--
And one o' the best I ever made:
Folks has gone so fur's to say
'At I'm well fixed, in a WORLDLY way,
And BEIN' so, and a WIDOWER,
It's not su'prisin', as you'll infer,
I'm purty handy among the sect--
Widders especially, rickollect!
And I won't deny that along o' late
I've hankered a heap fer the married state--
But some way o' 'nother the longer we wait
The harder it is to discover a mate.
Marshall Thomas,--a friend o' mine,
Doin' some in the tradin' line,
But a'most too YOUNG to know it all--
On'y at PICNICS er some BALL!--
Says to me, in a banterin' way,
As 'we was a-loadin' stock one day,--
"You're a-huntin' a wife, and I want you to see
My girl's mother, at Kankakee!--
She hain't over forty--good-lookin' and spry,
And jest the woman to fill your eye!
And I'm a-goin' there Sund'y,--and now," says he,
"I want to take you along with ME;
And you marry HER, and," he says, "by 'shaw I
You'll hev me fer yer son-in-law!"
I studied a while, and says I, "Well, I'll
First have to see ef she suits my style;
And ef she does, you kin bet your life
Your mother-in-law will be my wife!"
Well, Sundy come; and I fixed up some--
Putt on a collar--I did, by gum!--
Got down my "plug," and my satin vest--
(You wouldn't know me to see me dressed!--
But any one knows ef you got the clothes
You kin go in the crowd wher' the best of 'em goes!)
And I greeced my boots, and combed my hair
Keerfully over the bald place there;
And Marshall Thomas and me that day
Eat our dinners with Widder Gray
And her girl Han'! * * *
Well, jest a glance
O' the widder's smilin' countenance,
A-cuttin' up chicken and big pot-pies,
Would make a man hungry in Paradise!
And passin' p'serves and jelly and cake
'At would make an ANGEL'S appetite ACHE!--
Pourin' out coffee as yaller as gold--
Twic't as much as the cup could hold--
La! it was rich!--And then she'd say,
"Take some o' THIS!' in her coaxin' way,
Tell ef I'd been a hoss I'd 'a' FOUNDERED, shore,
And jest dropped dead on her white-oak floor!
Well, the way I talked would 'a' done you good,
Ef you'd 'a' been there to 'a' understood;
Tel I noticed Hanner and Marshall, they
Was a-noticin' me in a cur'ous way;
So I says to myse'f, says I, "Now, Joe,
The best thing fer you is to jest go slow!"
And I simmered down, and let them do
The bulk o' the talkin' the evening through.
And Marshall was still in a talkative gait
When he left, that evening--tolable late.
"How do you like her?" he says to me;
Says I, "She suits, to a 'T-Y-TEE'!
And then I ast how matters stood
With him in the OPPOSITE neighberhood?
"Bully!" he says; "I ruther guess
I'll finally git her to say the 'yes.'
I named it to her to-night, and she
Kind o' smiled, and said 'SHE'D SEE'--
And that's a purty good sign!" says he:
"Yes" says I, "you're ahead o' ME!"
And then he laughed, and said, "GO IN!
And patted me on the shoulder ag'in.
Well, ever sense then I've been ridin' a good
Deal through the Kankakee neighberhood;
And I make it convenient sometimes to stop
And hitch a few minutes, and kind o' drop
In at the widder's, and talk o' the crop
And one thing o' 'nother. And week afore last
The notion struck me, as I drove past,
I'd stop at the place and state my case--
Might as well do it at first as last!
I felt first-rate; so I hitched at the gate,
And went up to the house; and, strange to relate,
MARSHALL THOMAS had dropped in, TOO.--
"Glad to see you, sir, how do you do?"
He says, says he! Well--it SOUNDED QUEER:
And when Han' told me to take a cheer,
Marshall got up and putt out o' the room--
And motioned his hand fer the WIDDER to come.
I didn't say nothin' fer quite a spell,
But thinks I to myse'f, "There's a dog in the well!"
And Han' SHE smiled so cur'ous at me--
Says I, "What's up?" And she says, says she,
"Marshall's been at me to marry ag'in,
And I told him 'no,' jest as you come in."
Well, somepin' o' 'nother in that girl's voice
Says to me, "Joseph, here's your choice!"
And another minute her guileless breast
Was lovin'ly throbbin' ag'in my vest!--
And then I kissed her, and heerd a smack
Come like a' echo a-flutterin' back,
And we looked around, and in full view
Marshall was kissin' the widder, too!
Well, we all of us laughed, in our glad su'prise,
Tel the tears come A-STREAMIN' out of our eyes!
And when Marsh said "'Twas the squarest trade
That ever me and him had made,"
We both shuck hands, 'y jucks! and swore
We'd stick together ferevermore.
And old Squire Chipman tuck us the trip:
And Marshall and me's in pardnership!

Last updated January 14, 2019