The Grand Rush to Please Children – Bill Arp, 1878

Mr. Editur:—This is a most blessed land—where everything grows that man is obleeged to have,
and a power of good things throw’d in just to mmister to his pleasure. The summer is now ripening
the fruits of the earth, and when I see childern and grand-childern and nefews and neeses rejoicin’
in their wanderin’s over the field and orchards, it carries me back to the blessed days of childhood.
The old-field plums and the wild strawberries and cherries, mulberries and black berries were worth
more then than gold, and it made no difference who was priest or president, or how rich was Astor
or Girard or any of the nabors,or whether Sal Jackson’s bonnet was purtier than Melyann Tompson’s
or not. What a glorious luxury it was to go barefooted and wade in the branch and go a raining and
climb trees and hunt birds’ nests and carry the corn to mill and leave it, just to get to ran a hoss race
home again. I know now that those days were the happiest, and so I won’t to rob my posterity of
the same sort, if I can help it. I want ’em to love the old homestead, and I want childrens’ children
to gather about it and cherish its memory. What a burleeque on childhood’s joy it must be to visit
grandma and grand-pa in a crowded city, penned up in brick walls with a few sickly flowers in front
and a garden in the rear about as big as wagon sheen. But that’s the way the thing is drifting. Them
calculatin’ yankeee have long ego done away with the ‘old back log’ and the basing hearthstone and
substituted a furnace in the basement and a few iron pipes running around the walls and a hole in
the floor to let the heat in. All that maybe economy, but in my opinion a man can’t raise good stock
in no such a way. Tney’ll be picayunish and nice and sharp featured and gimiety, but they wont do
to bet on like them children that’s been bro’t up ’round a fire place on a hundred-acre farm and
had plenty of free hair and latitude.

Mr. Editur, pleasin’ the children is about all the majority of mankind are livin’ for, though they don’t
know it; and if they did they woulden’t actnowledge it. It is emphatically the great business of life.
We look on with wonder and amazement at the busy crowds in a great city that are ever goin’ to
and fro like a fiddler’s elbow, and eight out of ten of ’em are workin’ and strugglin’ to please and
maintain the children. It’s the excuse for all the mad rush of business that hurries mankind through
the world. It’s the apol(gy for nearly all the cheatin’ and stealin’ and lyin’ in the land, and in a heap
of such cases I have thought the good angels would drop tears enuf on the big book to blot ’em
out forever. The troubie is, Mr. Editur, that most people are always livin’ on a strain, tryin’ to do
a little too much for their children, and scufflin’ against wind and tide to git just a little ahead of
their nabors. Some of ’em won’t let a ten year old boy go to meetin’ or to Sunday echool if he
can’t fix up as fine as other boys. They won’t let him go barefooted nor wear a patch behind
nor before nor ride bareback, nor go dirty and so the domestic pressure for finery becomes
tremendion. Jeeso with bonnets and parasols and kid gloves and silk dresses and chanyware
and carpet and winder curtins—and a thotuand things, that cost money and run up the charge
a heap bigger than tne incum. Generally speakin’ this home pressure is a noisy one, but,
on the contrary, is very silent and sad—so sad that a body would think there was
sumebody dead in the house, and so after awhile sumhow or sumhow else the
finery comes and thus for awhile all is sereen.

But the collapse is shore to cum sooner or later, and the children ain’t to blame for it. Sumtimes
when I ruminate upon the meanness of mankind I wish the children never got grown for they
don’t get mean or foolish untill they du. Jost think what a sweet time of it old mother Eve and
Mrs. Commodore Noah and aunt Metausaler had with 30 or 40 of ’em wearin’ bibs and aperns
until they were 50 years old, toggin’ along after their daddies untill they were a hundred: I don’t
think old Father Woodruff could have stood that. When a man who ain’t no yearlin’ gits married,
and ten or a dozen of ’em cum right straight along to a row, and by the time he gets on the piazza,
tired and grunty, they begin to climb all over him and under him and betwixt him and on the back
of his chair and the top of his head, its a little more than his venerable nature can stand. On such
occasions, it ain’t to be wondered at that he gently shakes himself aloose ard exclaims, “Lord have
mercy upon me.” But then, the likes of this must be endured. lt’s a part of the bargain, implied if not
expressed, as the lawyers say, and no man ought to dodge lt. Humor ’em, play hoss and frolic with
’em, wash ’em, undress ’em, tell ’em stories about Jack and the bean stalk, and what you done when
you was a little boy, scratch their backs and put ’em to bed, and if they can’t sleep, get up with ’em
away in the night, and nod around in your night-gown untill they can.

Let ’em trot after you a heap in week days and all day of a Sunday, and don’t try to shirk off the trouble
and the reeponsibility on the good woman who bore ’em. Solomon says: “Children are the chief end
of a man, and the glory of his declinin’ years,” and raisin of ’em is the biggest bisness I know of in this
life, and the most responsible in the life to come.

Yours, Bill Arp.

P.S.-Harris keeps on axen me about the Bumble bee’s gimlet. I reckon he must belong to the bug
buro, or maybe he’s been stung by one of them insects, and wants to find out whether it bit him from
before or boredhim from behind. If he hadent been raised a town boy he would have known that Bumble
bees make theirnests in the ground, and Carpenter bees in wood. Them last go in pairs, and ain’t got
any gimlet, but gnawthe hole out with a gouge. They are all called Bumble bees because when they fly
off from a yaller blossomthey make a noise like a bumb a singin thro the air.
Please “ax me sumthin’ hard.”


N.B. Ax Harris how a ground squirrel digs his hole without leaving any dirt around the top,
and how big was that giraff’s egg that he said he saw at the Smithsonian institute?

B. A.

Last Updated on January 13, 2021 by Bill Arp

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