Alyce Faye Bragg: Poems from the past stir memories today

Another cloudy February day dawns in our hills, as fog almost obscures Pilot Knob and forecasts more rain. For us older folks who are retired and no longer have office duties or other employment, it is a good day to curl up with a fuzzy blanket and a good book. I am still going through old papers and clippings that I have saved throughout the years.

I inherited my mother’s old papers and things that she collected throughout her lifetime, and today I found a poem that her sister Verba (Samples) Arbogast had sent her with this note.

She wrote, “You like my poems so I’ll send you some more. Earl McCune told us a tale about a Chinaman going through the snow making tracks. He saw a bear after him and he said, ‘If you like my tracks, I’ll make you some more!’”

Aunt Verba had a remarkable memory, and had memorized many poems and innumerable Bible scriptures. This poem she sent Mom may have come from McGuffey’s Readers, but I have never seen it in any publication. It is entitled “Mary Dow” and goes like this:

“Come in, little stranger,” I said, as she tapped at my half-open door,

While the blanket pinned over her head, just reached to the basket she bore.

A look full of innocence fell, from her modest and pretty blue eyes,

As she said, “I have matches to sell, and I hope you are willing to buy.

“A penny a bunch is the price; I think you’ll not find it too much,

They are tied up so even and nice, and ready to light with a touch.”

I asked, “What is your name, little girl?” “’Tis Mary” said she. “Mary Dow.”

And carelessly tossed off a curl that played on her delicate brow.

“My father was lost on the deep, his ship never got to the shore,

And mother is sad and will weep, to hear the wind blow and sea roar.

She sets there at home without food, beside our poor sick Willy’s bed.

She paid all her money for wood, and so I sell matches for bread.

I’d go to the yard and get chips, but then it would make me too sad,

To see the men building the ships, and think they had made one so bad.

But God, I am sure, who will take such fatherly care of a bird,

Will never forget nor forsake, the children who trust in His word.

Now if I only can sell, the matches I brought out today,

I think I will do very well, and we will rejoice at the pay.”

“Fly home little bird,” then I thought. “Fly home full of joy to your nest.”

For I took all the matches she brought, and Mary may tell you the rest.

Aunt Verba added that Ma said she used to think she would see Mary some day in Heaven, and she would tell her she wanted to hear the rest!

The old poems that Mom and her sisters memorized were full of orphan children and poverty. I can remember Mom singing an old song that began, “No home, no home” said a little girl, at the door of a rich man’s home, as she trembling stood on the marble steps and leaned against the polished wall. Her clothes were thin and her feet were bare, and snowflakes covered her head. “Let me come in,” she feebly said, “Please give me a little bread.”

I can remember how we cried at a thought of a little orphan girl standing in the snow begging for a piece of bread. The song went on to tell of how the rich man refused her, and “the rich man lay on his velvet couch and dreamed of his silver and gold” and of course the little girl lay there and was taken to Heaven, “where there’s room and bread for the poor.”

A more modern song (and true) is about two little children who were drowned in a pond. It began, “Only two little rosebuds were taken from their home, to make their bloom in Heaven to decorate the throne.”

It seems that songs such as these can really touch the heart. We are grieving today for a little friend that had suffered for cancer all of his 13 years, and God took him on to Heaven to suffer no more. He was a true example of Christian faith, and prayed for other children who came to the hospital with cancer.

I prayed constantly for his healing, and my sister Jeannie told me that God answered my prayer. “God truly healed him,” she said.

•••

When I wrote about our wildlife pets last week, we only have domestic ones now. We have had Chester, a black and white tiger cat, for at least 11 years. He is the only male cat that has stayed with us, probably because we had him neutered at a young age.

He’s an outdoor cat, but still likes to be petted. We inherited Gus, a beautiful orange cat when Josh and Becky relocated to Iowa. He likes to roam around, but checks in now and then.

We are fond of Jack Russell terriers, and have had several of them. One time I wrote about the dogs we have had through the years, and I received a letter really castigating me about the dogs that we had lost. Well, if we still had Butch, the dog Criss had when we were first married, he would be past 65 years old now! Of course, we have lost many dogs through the years.

After we had my most precious dog Minnie put to sleep, I couldn’t seem to stop grieving. Criss found another female Jack Russell and bought her for me. We named her Polly, and she is the most lovable dog. The problem is, she adopted Criss and is his dog. When he sits in the recliner, she is on his lap immediately. We’ve found that Jack Russells are very intelligent, and understand many of the words that we say.

We have a squirrel dog, Sally, who trees squirrels constantly. I don’t know if she has trained these housedogs, but Criss can whisper “squirrel” and both Polly and Sparkie both instantly run to the maple tree where they hide. They could have been trained for squirrel hunting.

I thank the Lord for our animal world, and for our furred companions that make our lives happier. As we grow older, a soft paw placed on our arm or a precious puppy curled at our feet makes our day better.

Contact Alyce Faye Bragg at alycefaye@citlink.net or write to 2556 Ovapa Road, Ovapa, WV 25164.