Yarns of the People (From "The People, Yes")

Yarns of the People
(From "The People, Yes")


They have yarns
Of a skyscraper so tall they had to put hinges
On the two top stories so to let the moon go by,
Of one corn crop in Missouri when the roots
Went so deep and drew off so much water
The Mississippi riverbed that year was dry.
Of pancakes so thin they had only one side,
Of "a fog so thick we shingl'ed the barn and six feet out on the
Of Pecos Pete straddling a cyclone in Texas and riding it to the
west coast where "it rained out under him,"
Of the man who drove a swarm of bees across the Rocky Mountains
and the Desert "and didn't lose a bee."
Of a mountain railroad curve where the engineer in his cab can
touch the caboose and spit in the conductor's eye,
Of the boy who climbed a cornstalk growing so fast he would have
starved to death if they hadn't shot biscuits up to him,"
Of the old man's whiskers: "When the wind was with him his
whiskers arrived a day before he did,"
Of the hen laying a square egg and cackling, "Ouch! " and of hens
laying eggs with the dates printed on them,
Of the ship capt@in's shadow: it froze to the deck one cold
winter night,
Of mutineers on that same ship put to chipping rust with rubber
Of the sheep-counter who was fast and accurate: "I just count
their feet and divide by four,"
Of the man so tall he must climb a ladder to shave himself,
Of the runt so teeny-weeny it takes two men and a boy to see him,
Of mosquitoes: one can kill a dog, two of them a man,
Of a cyclone that sucked cookstoves out of the kitchen, up the
chimney flue, and on to the next town,
Of the same cyclone picking up wagon-tracks in Nebraska and
dropping them over in the Dakotas,
Of the hook-and-eye snake unlockin itself into forty pieces, each
piece two inches long, then in nine seconds flat snapping
itself together again,
Of the watch swallowed by the cow: when they butchered her a year
later the watch was running and had the correct time,
Of horned snakes, hoop snakes that roll themselves where they
want to go, and rattlesnakes carrying bells instead of
rattles on their tails,
Of the herd of cattle in California getting lost in a giant
redwood tree that had been hollowed out,
Of the man who killed a snake by putting its tail in its mouth so
it swallowed itself,
Of railroad trains whizzing along so fast they reached the
station before the whistle,
Of pigs so thin the farmer had to tic knots in their tails to
keep them from crawling through the cracks in their pens,
Of Paul Bunyan's big blue ox, Babe, measuring between the eyes
forty-two ax-handles and a plug of Star tobacco exactly,
Of John Henry's hammer and the curve of its swing and his singing
of it as " a rainbow round mv shoulder."
They have yarns . . .