Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Back Home Again in Indiana

I've finally got the rusty gears turning on a nonfiction project I'm working on about the origin of the word "Hoosier." Here's a bit from a funny poem I am going to quote from in the piece called "The Hoosier's Nest":

I'm told, in riding somewhere West,
A stranger found a Hoosier's Nest -
In other words, a buckeye cabin,
Just big enough to hold Queen Mab in;
Its situation, low but airy,
Was on the borders of a prairie;
And fearing he might be benighted,
He hailed the house, and then alighted.
The Hoosier met him at the door -
Their salutations soon were o'er.
He took the stranger's horse aside,
And to a sturdy sapling tied;
Then having stripped the saddle off,
He fed him in a sugar-trough.
The stranger stooped to enter in -
The entranced closing with a pin -
And manifested strong desire
To seat him by the log-heap fire,
Where half-a-dozen Hoosieroons,
With mush-and-milk, tin-cups, and spoons,
White heads, bare feet, and dirty faces,
Seemed much inclined to keep their places.
But Madam, anxious to display
Her rough but undisputed sway,
Her offspring to the ladder led,
And cuffed the youngsters up to bed.
Invited shortly to partake
Of venison, milk, and johnny cake,
The stranger made a hearty meal,
And glances round the room would steal.
One side was lined with divers garments,
The other spread with skins of varmints;
Dried pumpkins overhead were strung,
Where venison hams in plenty hung;
Two rifles placed above the door;
Three dogs lay stretched upon the floor -
In short, the domicile was rife
With specimens of Hoosier life.

Yeah, 'bout sums it up. We have John Finley to thank for cementing the word "Hoosier" in popular lore. But I like this bit too:

Blest Indiana! in thy soil
Are found the sure rewards of toil,
Where honest poverty and worth
May make a Paradise on earth.
With feelings proud we contemplate
The rising glory of our State;
Nor take offense by application
Of its good-natured appellation.
'T is true among the crowds that roam
To seek for fortune or a home,
It happens that we often find
Empiricism of a kind.
A strutting fop, who boasts of knowledge,
Acquired at some far eastern college,
Expects to take us by surprise,
And dazzle our astonished eyes.
He boasts of learning, skill, and talents
Which, in the scale, would Andes balance;
Cuts widening swaths from day to day,
And in a month he runs away.
Not thus the honest son of toil,
Who settles here to till the soil,
and with intentions just and good,
Acquires an ample livelihood:
He is (and not the little-great)
The bone and sinew of the State.
With six-horse team to one-horse cart,
We hail here from every part;
And some you'll see, sans shoes or socks on,
With snake-pole and a yoke of oxen;
Others with pack-horse, dog, and rifle,
Make emigration quite a trifle.

Give me a shout at johnoakdalton@hotmail.com

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