The Pioneer

A poem by Hanford Lennox Gordon

When Mollie and I were married from the dear old cottage-home,
In the vale between the hills of fir and pine,
I parted with a sigh in a stranger-land to roam,
And to seek a western home for me and mine.

By a grove-encircled lake in the wild and prairied West,
As the sun was sinking down one summer day,
I laid my knapsack down and my weary limbs to rest,
And resolved to build a cottage-home and stay.

I staked and marked my "corners," and I "filed" upon my claim,
And I built a cottage-home of "logs and shakes;"
And then I wrote a letter, and Mollie and baby came
Out to bless me and to bake my johnny-cakes.

When Mollie saw my "cottage" and the way that I had "bached",
She smiled, but I could see that she was "blue;"
Then she found my "Sunday-clothes" all soiled and torn and patched,
And she hid her face and shed a tear or two.

But she went to work in earnest and the cabin fairly shone,
And her dinners were so savory and so nice
That I felt it was "not good that the man should be alone"
Even in this lovely land of Paradise.

Well, the neighbors they were few and were many miles apart,
And you couldn't hear the locomotive scream;
But I was young and hardy, and my Mollie gave me heart,
And my "steers" they made a fast and fancy team.

And the way I broke the sod was a marvel, you can bet,
For I fed my "steers" before the dawn of day;
And when the sun went under I was plowing prairie yet,
Till my Mollie blew the old tin horn for tea.

And the lazy, lousy "Injuns" came a-loafing round the lake,
And a-begging for a bone or bit of bread;
And the sneaking thieves would steal whatever they could take
From the very house where they were kindly fed.

O the eastern preachers preach, and the long-haired poets sing
Of the "noble braves" and "dusky maidens fair;"
But if they had pioneered 'twould have been another thing
When the "Injuns" got a-hankering for their "hair."

Often when we lay in bed in the middle of the night,
How the prairie-wolves would howl their jubilee!
Then Mollie she would waken in a shiver and a fright,
Clasp our baby-pet and snuggle up to me.

There were hardships you may guess, and enough of weary toil
For the first few years, but then it was so grand
To see the corn and wheat waving o'er the virgin soil,
And two stout and loving hearts went hand in hand.

But Mollie took the fever when our second babe was born,
And she lay upon the bed as white as snow;
And my idle cultivator lay a rusting in the corn;
And the doctor said poor Mollie she must go.

Now I never prayed before, but I fell upon my knees,
And I prayed as never any preacher prayed;
And Mollie always said that it broke the fell disease;
And I truly think the Lord He sent us aid:

For the fever it was broken, and she took a bit of food,
And O then I went upon my knees again;
And I never cried before, and I never thought I could,
But my tears they fell upon her hand like rain.

And I think the Lord has blessed us ever since I prayed the prayer,
For my crops have never wanted rain or dew:
And Mollie often said in the days of debt and care,
"Don't you worry, John, the Lord will help us through."

For the "pesky," painted Sioux, in the fall of 'sixty-two,
Came a-whooping on their ponies o'er the plain,
And they killed my pigs and cattle, and I tell you it looked "blue,"
When they danced around my blazing stacks of grain.

And the settlers mostly fled, but I didn't have a chance,
So I caught my hunting-rifle long and true,
And Mollie poured the powder while I made the devils dance,
To a tune that made 'em jump and tumble, too.

And they fired upon the cabin; 'twas as good as any fort,
But the "beauties" wouldn't give us any rest;
For they skulked and blazed away, and I didn't call it sport,
For I had to do my very "level best."

Now they don't call me a coward, but my Mollie she's a "brick;"
For she chucked the children down the cellar-way,
And she never flinched a hair tho' the bullets pattered thick,
And we held the "painted beauties" well at bay.

But once when I was aiming, a bullet grazed my head,
And it cut the scalp and made the air look blue;
Then Mollie straightened up like a soldier and she said:
"Never mind it, John, the Lord will help us through."

And you bet it raised my "grit," and I never flinched a bit,
And my nerves they got as strong as steel or brass;
And when I fired again I was sure that I had hit,
For I saw the skulking devil "claw the grass."

Well, the fight was long and hot, and I got a charge of shot
In the shoulder, but it never broke a bone;
And I never stopped to think whether I was hit or not
Till we found our ammunition almost gone.

But the "Rangers" came at last just as we were out of lead,
And I thanked the Lord, and Mollie thanked Him, too;
Then she put her arms around my neck and sobbed and cried and said:
"Bless the Lord! I knew that He would help us through."

And yonder on the hooks hangs that same old trusty gun,
And above it I am sorry they're so few
Hang the black and braided trophies[BX] yet that I and Mollie won
In that same old bloody battle with the Sioux.

Fifteen years have rolled away since I laid my knapsack down,
And my prairie claim is now one field of grain;
And yonder down the lake loom the steeples of a town,
And my flocks are feeding out upon the plain.

The old log-house is standing filled with bins of corn and wheat,
And the cars they whistle past our cottage-home;
But my span of spanking trotters they are "just about" as fleet,
And I wouldn't give my farm to rule in Rome.

For Mollie and I are young yet, and monarchs, too, are we
Of a "section" just as good as lies out-doors;
And the children are so happy (and Mollie and I have three)
And we think that we can "lie upon our oars."

So this summer we went back to the old home by the hill:
O the hills they were so rugged and so tall!
And the lofty pines were gone but the rocks were all there still,
And the valleys looked so crowded and so small;

And the dear familiar faces that I longed so much to see,
Looked so strangely unfamiliar and so old,
That the land of hills and valleys was no more a home to me,
And the river seemed a rivulet as it rolled.

So I gladly hastened back to the prairies of the West
To the boundless fields of waving grass and corn;
And I love the lake-gemmed land where the wild-goose builds her nest,
Far better than the land where I was born.

And I mean to lay my bones over yonder by the lake
By and by when I have nothing else to do
And I'll give the "chicks" the farm, and I know for Mollie's sake,
That the good and gracious Lord will help 'em through.

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