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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

John Hay (1838–1905)

Little Breeches

From “Pike County Ballads”

I DON’T go much on religion,

I never ain’t had no show;

But I’ve got a middlin’ tight grip, sir,

On the handful o’ things I know.

I don’t pan out on the prophets

And free-will and that sort of thing—

But I b’lieve in God and the angels,

Ever sence one night last spring.

I come into town with some turnips,

And my little Gabe come along—

No four-year-old in the county

Could beat him for pretty and strong,

Peart and chipper and sassy,

Always ready to swear and fight—

And I’d larnt him to chaw terbacker

Jest to keep his milk-teeth white.

The snow come down like a blanket

As I passed by Taggart’s store;

I went in for a jug of molasses

And left the team at the door.

They scared at something and started—

I heard one little squall,

And hell-to-split over the prairie

Went team, Little Breeches and all.

Hell-to-split over the prairie!

I was almost froze with skeer;

But we rousted up some torches,

And sarched for ’em far and near.

At last we struck horses and wagon,

Snowed under a soft white mound,

Upsot, dead beat—but of little Gabe

Nor hide nor hair was found.

And here all hope soured on me,

Of my fellow-critter’s aid—

I jest flopped down on my marrow-bones,

Crotch-deep in the snow, and prayed.


By this, the torches was played out,

And me and Isrul Parr

Went off for some wood to a sheepfold

That he said was somewhar thar.

We found it at last, and a little shed

Where they shut up the lambs at night.

We looked in and seen them huddled thar,

So warm and sleepy and white;

And THAR sot Little Breeches, and chirped,

As peart as ever you see:

“I want a chaw of terbacker,

And that’s what’s the matter of me.”

How did he git thar? Angels.

He could never have walked in that storm;

They jest scooped down and toted him

To whar it was safe and warm.

And I think that saving a little child,

And bringing him to his own,

Is a derned sight better business

Than loafing around The Throne.