I haven’t thought of this in almost sixty years, and it amazes me that the little snip of memory has persisted in some crevice of my brain, surviving unscathed to the present day.
We lived in a little white house on a hill owned by the Clarys, a fine older couple who were relatively well-off for rural Redwater, Texas. They had running water and indoor plumbing. We did not.
I must have been around five. It was some time long before first grade. My father read a lot of magazines when he was home and not sleeping, from long hours at his job at Lone Star Ordnance Plant.
One day he burst out laughing at something he read, and I went over to him. It was a humorous poem title, “Woman,” but when he read it aloud to my mother, who was stirring a pot of great northern beans on the stove, she was not amused.
My father sat me on his lap and told me to repeat the verses after him. Although I didn’t understand all the words, I quickly memorized and repeated them to my father. I’ll never forget his booming laughter every time I recited it.
When we went to my grandparents’ house, he had me recite the brief poem to them and a couple of uncles, and everyone burst out in laughter again. I was so thrilled to be the source of such glee among my family that I didn’t need much prompting. When we went to the general store for ice cream, my father had me recite it to the couple behind the counter. The barber thought it was hilarious, as did a couple of my father’s coworkers. When we visited my Uncle Rufus and Grandma Norman in Dade City, Florida, my Uncle Rufus guffawed, which led to him and my father taking me around to my uncle’s friends to hear his nephew’s poem. Looking back, I wonder what was more amusing, the words of the little poem that were so characteristic of the early 1950's culture, or its recitation by a small boy who surely did not understand all that he was reciting. Perhaps it was a combination of both.
Amazingly, every verse is still burned into my memory. Looking back, that little poem, my first experience with poetry and memorization, may have been the seed that grew into a lifelong love of poetry — reading, reciting, and writing. Although not politically correct in our sensitive modern era, in 1954, to hear a little boy recite it was great fun. Thanks, Daddy.
This is the verse as Charlie recited it:
She’s an angel in truth,
A demon in fiction,
Woman’s the greatest
of all contradiction.
She’s afraid of a cockroach,
She’ll scream at a mouse,
But she’ll tackle a husband
As big as a house.
It is actually a partial section from a poem by Alfred J. Krieg:
She’s an angel in truth, a demon in fiction A woman’s the greatest of all contradiction She’s afraid of a cockroach, She’ll scream at a mouse
But she’ll tackle a husband as big as a house She’ll take him for better, She’ll take him for worse She’ll split his head open and then be his nurse
And when he is well and can get out of bed She’ll pick up a teapot and throw at his head She’s faithful, deceitful, keen-sighted and blind She’s crafty, she’s simple, she’s cruel, she’s kind
She’ll lift a man up, she’ll cast a man down She’ll make him her hero, her ruler, her clown You fancy she’s this, but you’ll find that she’s that For she’ll play like a kitten, and fight like a cat.
-Composed by Alfred J. Krieg