It was kept out in the kitchen, and ’twas long and deep and wide,
And the poker hung above it and the shovel stood beside,
And the big, black cookstove, grinnin’ through its grate from ear to ear,
Seemed to look as if it loved it like a brother, pretty near.
Flowered oilcloth tacked around it kept its cracks and knot-holes hid,
And a pair of leather hinges fastened on the heavy lid,
And it hadn’t any bottom—or, at least, it seemed that way
When you hurried in to fill it, so’s to get outside and play.
When the noons was hot and lazy and the leaves hung dry and still,
And the locust in the pear tree started up his planin’-mill,
And the drum-beat of the breakers was a soothin’, temptin’ roll,
And you knew the “gang” was waitin’ by the brimmin’ “swimmin’ hole”—
Louder than the locust’s buzzin,’ louder than the breakers’ roar,
You could hear the wood-box holler, “Come and fill me up once more!”
And the old clock ticked and chuckled as you let each armful drop,
Like it said, “Another minute, and you’re nowheres near the top!”
In the chilly winter mornin’s when the bed was snug and warm,
And the frosted winders tinkled ‘neath the fingers of the storm,
And your breath rose off the piller in a smoky cloud of steam—
Then that wood-box, grim and empty, came a-dancin’ through your dream,
Came and pounded at your conscience, screamed in aggravatin’ glee,
“Would you like to sleep this mornin’? You git up and ‘tend to me!”
Land! how plain it is this minute—shed and barn and drifted snow,
And the slabs of oak a-waitin!, piled and ready, in a row.
Never was a fishin’ frolic, never was a game of ball,
But that mean, provokin’ wood-box had to come and spoil it all;
You might study at your lessons and ’twas full and full to stay,
But jest start an Injun story, and ’twas empty right away.
Seemed as if a spite was in it, and although I might forgit
All the other chores that plagued me, I can hate that wood-box yit:
And when I look back at boyhood—shakin’ off the cares of men—
Still it comes to spoil the picture, screamin’, “Fill me up again!”