Terry: I could’ve been this poor fellow

With Thanksgiving only a little over a week away I thought I might share a cautionary tale passed down in my family through verse.

For all you single guys looking for a mate to share your holiday table, be warned you need to be careful how you go about it. I myself wound up getting

Karl Terry

Karl Terry

engaged at Christmas and it turned out successful but it probably wasn’t because I heeded the words of my great-grandfather.

I really don’t remember Granddad Kennedy but I’ve heard about him all my life. They tell me he was thrifty, bordering on outright cheap. But he didn’t let that stop him from a long and full life.

He had a poem that family members say he learned as a young man back around 1900. All his life he recited it a couple times a year from memory, usually at special occasions. I remember others reading the poem at family gatherings but I just thought it was pretty funny and never reflected too closely on the moral of the story.

Fortunately with the advent of computers and compact discs I was given a copy of the poem and have it on my computer where I read it from time to time. Now that I’m older, every time I read it I feel a lot like the sinner in church getting his toes tromped on good by the preacher.

After reading it again the other night and contemplating the poem, I didn’t have a name or author. I figured it would be out there on the Internet somewhere but I could only find it on one page of old poems and even that reference only included a couple of stanzas. It had the title as Caleb’s Courtship but didn’t list an author.

It starts out this way:
I had no time for courting when I was young and spry,
But working and saving, I let the years go by.
Then I was buying and building, and farm work never gets done.
At last I counted my birthdays and found I was fifty-one.

Caleb, or whoever this hardworking middle-aged farmer was, goes on to describe the qualities he wanted in a wife in terms that would probably have him run out of town by the fairer sex these days.

Slow with her tongue cause talking just takes up a woman’s time.
But keep busy gardening and saving and watch every silver dime.

Since he’s a little shy and pretty busy, he decides the best course of action is to enlist his younger, flashier neighbor to help with the courtship of his chosen girl, Eunice, the deacon’s daughter. The price of a yearling calf sealed the deal.

Things seemed to be going fine for the poet despite the tag-teaming with neighbor Jacob, pinched pennies in the romance, buying cheaper gifts, walking instead of riding and even planning the wedding for Thanksgiving to save the price of a big wedding dinner.

Started over Thanksgiving morning to have the knot tied.
Rigged in my Sunday best, walking alone quite spry
When whoa, but a sleigh came dashing by.
There was Jacob driving and Eunice by his side.

Looking back I think I made all the same mistakes that Caleb made; I just got lucky that Jacob didn’t step up.

Karl Terry writes for Clovis Media Inc. Contact him at: