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

Joaquin (Cincinnatus Hiner) Miller (1837–1913)

William Brown of Oregon

From “Complete Poetical Works”

THEY called him Bill, the hired man,

But she, her name was Mary Jane,

The squire’s daughter; and to reign

The belle from Ber-she-be to Dan

Her little game. How lovers rash

Got mittens at the spelling-school!

How many a mute, inglorious fool

Wrote rhymes, and sighed, and dyed—mustache!

This hired man had loved her long,

Had loved her best and first and last;

Her very garments, as she passed,

For him had symphony and song.

So when, one day, with flirt and frown

She called him “Bill,” he raised his heart;

He caught her eye, and faltering said,

“I love you; and my name is Brown.”

She fairly waltzed with rage; she wept;

You would have thought the house on fire.

She told her sire, the portly squire,

Then smelt her smelling-salts and slept.

Poor William did what could be done:

He swung a pistol on each hip,

He gathered up a great ox-whip,

And drove right for the setting sun.

He crossed the big back-bone of earth;

He saw the snowy mountains rolled

Like nasty billows; saw the gold

Of great big sunsets; felt the birth

Of sudden dawn upon the plain;

And every night did William Brown

Eat pork and beans, and then lie down

And dream sweet dreams of Mary Jane.

Her lovers passed. Wolves hunt in packs

The sought-for bigger game; somehow

They seemed to see about her brow

The forky sign of turkey-tracks.

The teeter-board of life goes up,

The teeter-board of life goes down;

The sweetest face must learn to frown;

The biggest dog has been a pup.

Oh maidens! pluck not at the air;

The sweetest flowers I have found

Grow rather close unto the ground,

And highest places are most bare.

Why, you had better win the grace

Of one poor cussed Af-ri-can,

Than win the eyes of every man

In love alone with his own face.

At last she nursed her true desire.

She sighed, she wept for William Brown.

She watched the splendid sun go down

Like some great sailing ship on fire,

Then rose and checked her trunks right on;

And in the cars she lunched and lunched,

And had her ticket punched and punched,

Until she came to Oregon.

She reached the limit of the lines;

She wore blue specs upon her nose,

Wore rather short and manly clothes,

And so set out to reach the mines.

Her right hand held a Testament,

Her pocket held a parasol,

And, thus equipped, right on she went,

Went waterproof and waterfall.

She saw a miner gazing down,

Slow stirring something with a spoon;

“Oh, tell me true, and tell me soon,

What has become of William Brown?”

He looked askance beneath her specs,

Then stirred his cocktail round and round,

Then raised his head and sighed profound,

And said, “He’s handed in his checks.”

Then care fed on her damaged cheek,

And she grew faint, did Mary Jane,

And smelled her smelling-salts in vain,

Yet wandered on, wayworn and weak.

At last, upon a hill alone

She came, and there she sat her down;

For on that hill there stood a stone,

And, lo! that stone read, “William Brown.”

“Oh William Brown! Oh William Brown!

And here you rest at last,” she said,

“With this lone stone above your head,

And forty miles from any town!

I will plant cypress-trees, I will,

And I will build a fence around,

And I will fertilize the ground

With tears enough to turn a mill.”

She went and got a hired man,

She brought him forty miles from town,

And in the tall grass squatted down

And bade him build as she should plan.

But cruel cowboys with their bands

They saw, and hurriedly they ran

And told a bearded cattleman

Somebody builded on his lands.

He took his rifle from the rack,

He girt himself in battle pelt,

He stuck two pistols in his belt,

And mounting on his horse’s back,

He plunged ahead. But when they showed

A woman fair, about his eyes

He pulled his hat, and he likewise

Pulled at his beard, and chewed and chewed.

At last he got him down, and spake:

“Oh lady, dear, what do you here?”

“I build a tomb unto my dear;

I plant sweet flowers for his sake.”

The bearded man threw his two hands

Above his head, then brought them down,

And cried, “Oh, I am William Brown,

And this the corner-stone of my lands!”

The preacher rode a spotted mare;

He galloped forty miles or more;

He swore he never had before

Seen bride or bridegroom half so fair.

And all the Injins they came down

And feasted as the night advanced,

And all the cowboys drank and danced,

And cried: “Big Injin’ William Brown!”