IAGenWeb Project - Clayton co.


The poetry of H.D. Brown
aka the Turkey Valley Poet


The Old Elkader Line
by H.D. Brown,
of the Hardware firm of Brown & Bahr, Elkader, Iowa

I 'spose the 20th Century train that runs so fearful fast,
Is like a western cyclone as it goes a thundering past.
Some folks like to ride that way but none of it in mine,
Give me the 'commodation on the Old Elkader Line.
She leaves here as a passenger and comes back in as freight,
She's always right on schedule time, about an hour late;
Once I think somebody said this train got in on time,
But everyone just loves to ride on the Old Elkader Line.

There ain't a man or boy in town but knows Conductor Morse,
He's run this train for twenty years and owns it now, of course;
So he don't work as steady now as he used to do,
He just gets Conductor Smock to handle this here crew.
When the weather's getting frosty and the snow is on the track,
And the pesky cold old coaches are a pullin' the engin' back -
Well "Si" just takes his lay-off till again the weather's fine,
Then he's back a punching tickets on the Old Elkader Line.

Our mail-clerk sais he's getting fat, but not as I can see,
If I was him I think I'd drink a little more Coffee;
And Brakeman Lange, he runs the gang and couples up the cars,
He hasn't lost no fingers yet, can't even show no scars.
Bill Heitkamp, the baggageman, is sometimes in distress
When it comes to brakeing on the cars and handling the express;
John Magnuson, our old fireman, he left town just in time,
Or they'd of made him engineer on the Old Elkader Line.

Henry Ploog sets in his cab with one eye on the crossin',
He keeps the train right on the track without a bit of bossin';
The fireman is new to me, I think his name is Bissel;
But just the same he keeps up steam so Hank can blow the whistle.
They only eat one meal a day, the other's in the night -
Because they come and go you see, before it's really light.
There is some talk a going 'roung, 'bout changing of the time,
But Gilje just won't stand for it, on the Old Elkader Line.

If you want to go to New Orleans, New York or Allamakee,
Just ask Ed Paul and he can tell you what the fare will be;
He's lived around the depot for nigh on forty years,
And loaded up a pile of freight, both horses, hogs and steers;
He works from early morning till away late in the night,
A checking up the baggage and a gettin' things done right;
You never heerd him grumbling, he's always there on time,
To start the train a rolling on the Old Elkader Line.

A tramp got on the train one day at St. Olaf - eight miles back,
He said he wouldn't pay to ride, he didn't like the track
Now this man didn't know Old "Si", he tho't he'd ride in here
And beat the company just one fare, and save that much for beer;
But when the train was nearly in "Si" collared him "and, say"
He backed that train up them eight miles to Olaf all the way,
Then chucked him off and sais to him, "the walking's mighty fine;
So don't you try to monkey with the Old Elkader Line."

~*~*~*~

On the Old I. & D.

Away back in eighteen seventy-nine, I was a boy not yet twenty-one,
I dropped into Sanborn, Iowa, before the big snow storms began.
It was sometime along in November, I don't just remember the date,
I went to work in the depot, helping to check up on the freight.
The storms of the winter that year are remembered by some to this day,
It began snowing along in October and scarely let up until May.
Fred Harmon was running the depot and Andy Divine worked the key,
Ole Olson, I think, was yard-master then at Sanborn on the old I. & D.

'Twas an awful winter to railroad, the snow lay thick on the ground,
The yards were filled full of snow banks, 'twas a hard job getting around.
Out on the main line the cuts were all full, the men threw the snow way up high,
When you stood on the track and gazed at the top it seemed to reach up to the sky.
All kinds of snow plows were brought into use but they failed to keep the snow back,
A sixty-mile gale would come out of the north and soon have it back on the track.
John Hughes, John Byrnes and John Clancy were handling the engines, you see,
They plowed up the snow east of Sanborn, you know, from the track of the old I. & D.

I'll never forget Frosty Olson, as he and I used to watch coal,
Some of the boys will remember him yet, he was a jolly good soul.
We used to hang out in the old caboose while the wind just hammered the door
As it shrieked and rattled the windows and drifted the snow more and more.
"No coal for sale," the company said, "for no matter how hard we strive
We can't get enough for the stoves hereabout but must keep the engines alive."
The people just begged us for fuel and some got as mad as could be,
'Twas no easy task to keep them away from the coal of the old I. & D.

A third of a century has passed and gone, how I love to think of those days,
Tommy Comfort was firing out on the west end and so was my old friend Bill Hayes.
Geo. Bryant was brakeing, Mike Byrnes had a train, and so did Scott Derrick too,
Tom Maxwell, Chas. Mathews and Ben Olson, these boys were each handling a crew,
Ed Morand, Dell Chase and Lew Farnum, Clancy Coleman and I think, Tommy Lane,
Tom Joyce, Gene Brainard and Frank Langhan were also each handling a train.
That same year, I believe, the life was snuffed out of my good old friend, Jim Fee,
It happened out there in the Sheldon yard on the track of the old I. & D.

Frosty Olson was then sent out with a train, he worked with all of his might,
He looked o'er the way bills and checked up the freight to see that all was done right
His train was made up and ready to go, I remember him humming a tune,
How little we thought, as his train pulled out, that he'd be back in so soon.
They pulled out of Sanborn about ten p.m., now it may have been just a bit past,
The boys on behind heard the whistle for brakes and noticed they were running quite fast,
Frosty climbed out on top and started ahead to see what the trouble could be,
His body was picked up all mangled and brruised on the track of the old I. & D.

Kid Mowder, Jack Durgin and Dave Blackwood are a few of the boys I recall
Yes, I almost forgot old Tom Frazier, hewas the grandpa of all.
Bill Woodman was handling the throttle, Hank George had the best job by far,
Mr. Sanborn was Superintendent and rode in his own private car.
Ed Pennington was the Road Master. I remember him very well, too.
I sang for him "Down Among the Daisies" before he was head of the Soo.
Now boys please don't feel offended if I've failed to make mention of thee,
But remember that thirty-two years have gone since I left the old I. & D.

[note: Sanborn is in O'Brien county, Iowa]

~*~*~*~

Life Is But a Game Of Cards

Life is but a game of cards
Which each one has to learn,
Each shuffles, cuts and deals a pack
And each a trump doth turn,
Some turn a high card at the top,
While others turn a low,
Some hold a hand quite full of trumps,
While others none can show.

Some shuffle with a practised hand
And pack their cards with care,
So they may know when they are dealt
Where all the leaders are.
Thus fools are made the dupe of rogues
And rogues each other cheat,
But he is very wise indeed
Who never meets defeat.

In playing some will lead the ace
Their counting card to save,
Some play the deuce and some the tray
And many play the knave,
Some play for money and some for fun
And more for worldly fame,
And not until the game's played out
Can they count up the gain.

When hearts are trumps we play for love
Then pleasure decks the hour,
No thought of sorrow checks our joy
In rosy's beauteous bower,
We dance and sing sweet music make
Our cards at random play,
And while the heart remains on top
Our game is but a holiday.

When diamonds chance to crown the top
Then players stake their gold,
And heavy sums are made and lost
By gamblers young and old,
Intent on winning each doth watch
His cards with eager eye,
So he may watch his neighbor's hand
And cheat him on the sly.

When clubs are trump look out for war
On ocean and on land,
For bloody deeds are often done
When clubs are in the hand.
Then lives are staked instead of gold
The days are worn out bread,
Across the broad Atlantic now
See clubs has got the lead.

And last of all is when the spade
Is turned by hand of time,
And always finishes up the game
In every land and clime,
No matter how much a man may win
Or how much a man may save
You'll find the spade turns up at last
And digs the player's grave.

~*~*~*~

Mr. and Mrs. Henry Wolf's Silver Wedding

Twenty-five years ago today
You were made man and wife,
And through the years that's passed
You've led a happy life,
You told th eparson you would take
For better or for worse,
Each other and you'd do your best
To fill the family purse,
Your many friends speak well of you
And say that you're all right,
They've never heard you scrapping
And say you never fight.
We're proud of you and family,
And wish you all the joys
That God can give to parents
That have raised five good husky boys.

Hurrah, Hurrah for Milton, Doug, and Lew.
Hurrah, Hurrah for richard, and Donald too,
Here's hoping you may celebrate
Your diamond jubilee,
And always have the best of health
For you and family.

The river flows on just the same
As when you took your bride,
To see our grand old sone arch bridge
That always was your pride,
the old town clock peals out the hours
As it did long, long ago,
The Ford garage has taken the place
Of the Cooper shop you know,
The school house has been rebuilt,
The seats are all replaced,
With new ones very like the same,
Your pen knofe once defaced.
The mill keeps on a grinding
From the water in the dam,
Our streets are paved and paid for
But not by Uncle Sam.

You too have gone life's highway,
Life's been hard but gay,
The folks say you know every pole,
And that it's just a lark,
To start out when it's storming
And search there in the dark,
And work in rain and snow, and mud,
And put in all the night,
Searching for the trouble
Se we may have our light,
And when a storm knocks down a pole
A dozen miles away,
It's funny how some people scold
And the hazy things they say,
And you get home half frozen,
Soaked through to the skin,
Well Will O'Brien is on the job
And he will let you in.

With now and then a baby boy,
To cheer you on your way.
You now have five good, husky boys,
All grown up clean and neat,
They went to school like other boys,
And had enough to eat.
You've worked hard for your children,
And you have them every one,
You've made a happy home for them,
Just as you should have done.
Perhaps you might have humored them,
Which some good folks condem,
But every parent's children are
A heap the best to them.

You've held down your position Hank,
For twenty years or more,
You've kept the lights a shining
On both sides the Turkey shore,
You have given satisfaction since
The day that you were hired,
For when men fail to do their best
Sometimes you know they're fired,
Your many acts of kindness
Of yourself and your good wife,
Will never be forgotten
By your host of friends in life,
And when you reach the other shore
Where they know all our needs,
I'm sure you'll be rewarded
For your many kindly deeds.

~*~*~*~

Ain't Gonna Rain No More

Bill O'Brien is still a tryin'
To make our lights less jerky,
He says he can work out a plan
For drying up the Turkey,
Fred Heiden saw that big balloon
Sail past the other morning,
But it's not right to make this flight
Without giving Fred a warning.

Louis Kramer has a clock
Runs backward so they say,
He can lay in bed or stand on his head
And tell you the time of day,
Ike McSperrin keeps our streets
A looking might slick,
But every sparrow in this town
Is looking awful sick.

Ike's up at five and working
A cleaning up our street,
He sweeps things so thoroughly
The birds find nothing to eat.
Once more we want to thank you
For the way you all turned out,
But don't forget to do your part
And boost for our Boy Scouts.

~*~*~*~

More to come as time permits

Beulah Land

Did you ever ride in a railway coach and make a big long trip,
When you felt just like a millionaire or a purser on some ship?
As you pass on through the valleys o'er the mountains to the west
Where everything is sunshine and your mind at utter rest,
You feel just like a man in love as you pass along the shore,
Of some lovely lake or river you have never seen before.
Your pleasure trip draws to a close, you hum some sweet refrain
As they drop you off at Beulah for the Old Elkader Train

Beulah's only nine miles from the Mississippi river
And bounded all around by hills. To wait there makes you shiver.
It has a population of "one" and sometimes more,
A lonesome little brooklet runs right beside the door.
William C. Brown, the President of the New York Central line,
Was the Agent down at Beulah about eighteen sixty-nine.
It has a spring and fish-pond too, but you're not allowed to seine
While you sit around there waiting for the Old Elkader Train.

A man came in here from the west, I think 'twas Thursday night,
His ticket read Elkader, he thought it wasn't right
To put him off at Beulah without giving him a hunch
That there wasn't any place in town where he could get a lunch.
He was hungry as a coyote and as sassy as a bear,
He sat around the depot till he almost learned to swear.
Those creepy thoughts stole over him and seemed to dull his brain
As he sat around there waiting for the Old Elkader Train.

This man had rode wild horses and lassoed Texas steers,
To kill a mountain lion was sport in early years,
"He hunted grizzly bears," he said, "and trapped all kinds of game,
Had been captured by the Indians but all these things were tame.
Has knocked around for thirty years and been in every state,
But Beulah had 'em beat a mile where a fellow has to wait."
He whistled and he shouted till his lungs began to pain,
But he failed to hear the "All Aboard" for the Old Elkader Train.

"I don't see why the company," he said, "can't pulla fellow by,
Take him down to North McGregor when they know he must be dry.
Where they liquidate a little, just to make your palate work
And could satisfy the inner man at the Berry or the Burke."
He's going to write to Clifford Thorne and David Palmer, too,
The commissioners of the Railroads will "Ketchum," I tell you.
He thinks that Uncle Sam would have a hard time to explain
Why they make you wait at Beulah for the Old Elkader Train.

~*~*~*~

The Congregational Church

I came to Elkader
In eighteen eighty-four,
Only two churches,
And not one good store.
Nine saloons and a brewery,
They drank day and night,
The stuff they were drinking
Would make some men fight,
One protestant church
In Elkader you know,
Up by the schoolhouse
Where we used to go,
The congregation died down
Until eighteen ninety-four,
Then the Congregationalists thought
They'd like to have a church once more.

A committee was appointed
To get a church on its feet,
They all worked faithful
That year 'twas complete,
It was dedicated
And the job was done well,
Mrs. Williams and Merritt,
Donated the bell.
Mr. Bayless gave the organ
So we could sing and play,
Mrs. Hetrich gave the parsonage
Where the parsons could stay,
Quite a few joined the church,
They sure ran no risk,
Because our first pastor
Was the Rev. F.L. Fisk.

Rev. Baxter next came
With his horse Beauty Rock,
He staid six years
Then came A.S. Hock,
A splendid young gentleman
And not a bit tricky,
He stayed one year
Then we got J.D. Dicky.
Next came Rev. Stimpson,
He got us going fine,
But the Rev. R.G. Hedden,
Got us all out of line,
After he left
We had quite a wrestle,
But finaly we found
The Rev. Isaac Cassel.

Rev. Cassel stayed one year
Then went to Des Moines,
Uncle Sam, he wanted him
And paid him much more coin,
Then we got George N. Hull,
He brought a nanny goat,
This goat of his was musical
And she could sing by note,
When he lft the Hempstead's came
With his fine girls and boys,
He was a good preacher
But he made a lot of noise.
Then Rev. Warner, he came next
In nineteen twenty-two,
I thnk while here our membership
Had increased quite a few.

One Sunday Rev. Kilburn came
He came as a supply,
He had no trouble with his sermon
But he did with his necktie.
We liked the Rev. very well
We loved to hear him tell
All about his travels,
How he loved to walk so well,
In the fall of nineteen thirty
Rev. Brewster came to us,
He took hold of our church affairs
Without a bit of fuss,
While here he was married
To a beautiful young wife,
We hope God will give them
A long an happy life.

Rev. Bartholomew took the work
After the Brewsters went away,
I like the Brewsters awful well
And would like to of had them stay,
But you can't blame a minister
If they don't want to stay,
As most every time they move
They get a raise in pay.
Then came George M. Richter,
A worker and preacher too,
He soon got us all working,
The and and gravel flew,
Until we had a basement,
It's a credit to us all,
And after it was finished
We called it Friendship Hall.

Faint heart said it can't be done
But we all went to work,
The congregation all pitched in
No one tried to shirk,
We hauled the dirt and sand away
And leveled up the floor,
We busted holes through the wall
To make an outside door,
No one seemed to get cold feet,
They helped out everyone,
And now we have a monument to show
Where the work was done.
Its a real fine place we now have
And it was lots of fun,
Rev. Richter showed us all
When the job was done.

I cannot close this poem of mine
Without mentioning our choir,
You know we love to hear you sing
Of this we never tire.
We realize what work it means,
But the Lord will some day say,
Go right in with the angels
You sure have paid your way,
And for the ladies of this church
There's always a faithful few,
Without you when a feed is on
What would we ever do?
We know that in the judgement day
You surely will be shown,
A splendid seat in heaven
Right up near the throne.

~*~*~*~

Red Lean's Minstrells
(sung to the tune: Ain't Gonna Rain No More)

This song was written by Dr. H.D. Brown and sung by the entire company of the American Legion Minstrels at Postville, May 10th, 1924. It was a grand success.


We made some twenty calls today
But could not spend a cent,
We'll do our best to tell you now
Just every place we went.

It ain't gonna rain, it ain't gonna rain
It ain't gonna rain no more,
You can't never tell by looking in the well
That it ain't gonna rain no more.

Well just as soon as we struck town
We called on Marshal Bellows,
And got his promise not to lock up
Any of us fellows.

Next we called on Mayor Hanks,
And sung for him a ditty,
Jim gave to us a hearty grip
And a welcome to our city.

We all went down to the hospital
And called on doctor Schmidt,
He said, Oh my you boys look dry
And then doc done his bit.

We called on William Klingbile
But this cost us some dough,
To tell Bill what we wanted him
To say about our show.

We next called on the city dads,
Sanders, Gregg, and Fay,
They're going to move the railroad track
And do it right away.

But Mr. Hines he thinks the cost
Will run to quite a sum,
Of course now if it has to be
We'll do it said Charley Krumb.

Next we called on John McNeal,
About our Studebaker,
John looked at us and then the car
Say's call the undertaker.

George Kohlman offered us a suit
For an even twenty dollars,
And throw in a hat and an undershirt
A necktie and some collars.

Next fall when you put up your stoves
You'll not need any mitts,
Ed Derno now makes stove pipes
That really has the fits.

We're awful glad ou people here
Really like our show,
We're doing this for the baseball boys
And for Red Lean you know.

We hope that everyone of you
Will make a lot of noise,
And put your shoulders to the wheel
And boost for the baseball boys.

We want to tell you folks of how
We started a reformation
As yaers ago we set our hearts
On how to save the nation.

Our first assault was made on gum,
We gathered figures showing
How ruin would be sure to come
If people's jaws kept on going.

We pointed out the awful cost,
And keigh Gray estimated,
One hundred thousand watts were lost
Where gum was masticated.

We begged Judge Taylor in despair
To have this matter righted,
But we could not even get
The judge a bit excited.

From gum we turned to other things,
With trembling apprehension,
The moonshine quiz and other things
Appears to need attention.

This wasteful practice is one that ought
To call for drastic action,
We went to see Hale Burling,
But got no satisfaction.

The other day we raised our voice
In strenuous opposition
To candy as the second choice
Of foes of prohibition.

We called on Elmer Peeper,
And he said now don't fret,
We'll get the stills and moonshine to
But he hasn't done it yet.

We called on the county engineer,
He said that he would try
To stop the trains at crossings
To let the autos by.

We advocated women folks
A serving on the jury,
So when a man beat up his wife
He knew that he'd get fury.

We sought without results to get
Umbrellas for the sparrows,
So they could keep from getting cold
Or frozen to their marrows.

We've tried in many different ways
To show our public spirit,
But wer're afraid we'll end our days
In poverty or near it.

We hope that all you people here
Will make a lot of noise
And your shoulders to the wheel,
And boost for the baseball boys.

~*~*~*~

Old William Dill

Old William Dill
Just received a big bill,
For some plumbing
He had done at his store,
He wasn't a bit glad,
For he looked awful mad,
And gracious how that old man swore.
I'll not pay that bill,
Let him sue if he will,
He can't put that over on me,
I'll just let him sweat so he won't forget
What a robber that man can be.

Old William was dreaming,
He also was scheming,
How he'd get even with that man.
He worked hard all day,
Just thinking away,
Trying to figure out a plan.

I'm going to get busy,
I'll make that man dizzy,
I'll call hiim a faker and more,
He's a blamed ill begotten,
His plumbing is rotten,
And he swindles us by the score.
When he fixed up my plumbing
It always kept humming,
But never again don't you fret,
With a little lamp wicking
I'll take a good licking
If I don't fix the thing on a bet.

With a wrench and a hammer,
And a confident manner,
He would fix it with ease and save money,
So he worked like a bear,
But gave up in despair,
The way those pipes leaked it was funny.
That night it turned cold,
And the plumbing was old,
And the pipes froze up good and tight,
They let loose with a roar,
And they flooded the store,
And Bill was so mad he could fight.

He sure was disgursted
When he found the pipes busted,
He thought he could fix them up tight,
The plumber had said,
Thoses pipes should be lead,
But he thought that his pipes were all right,
But the pipes were on the hummer,
But John Bahr the plumber,
Could of fixed them up spick and span.
A resolution old Bill made,
Every man to his trade,
I'm off of this plumbing forever.

 

~poems are from a reprint of "Poems and Songs" by the Turkey Valley Poet, Dr. H.D. (Doug) Brown generously sent to me by Ron Harris
~I'd also like to thank Mary Lee Witt, Judy Wellendorf & Helen Jennings for the photocopies sent me of some of the Brown poetry
~poems transcribed for Clayton co. IAGenWeb by S. Ferrall

~*~*~

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