really the "Hoosier Poet," and those of you who know
of whom I speak can just turn the page right now -- you already
know the story.
I was born out here in the Wild West, and I never did make his
acquaintance until many years after my proper schoolin' had
effectively ceased. Those mid-westerners amongst you are no
doubt scandalized at this point and I don't blame you -- for
my money there still ain't a finer--
but before we continue I must update you on events related to
our last column, wherein we discovered that little Clara had
begun reading on her own without bothering to inform anyone.
As you may well imagine, we rather quickly communicated news
of Clara's reading proficiency to her Pre-School instructor.
ratted her out.
upshot of that was that a week later an enormously proud little
girl got to sit in the Teacher's Chair and read a book to her
classmates. We have begun looking for an appropriate University
for the child.
has a voracious appetite for books now. The other night I was
thumbing through a collection of some of the early "Little
Orphan Annie" newspaper strips from the twenties, and Clara
marched in and asked what I was reading -- when I told her she
said "Is that the same as the "Annie" in the
movie?" I assured her it was, and the upshot was that we
ended up reading a good two months' worth of the comic strip
the Hoosier Poet grew up, naturally, in Indiana in the mid-1800's.
He was blessed/cursed with an excess of talent, and tried his
hand both at music and graphics before deciding on the writing
of verses. He wrote mostly in a mighty good approximation of
several mid-western dialects, winning fans as diverse as Mark
Twain and Rudyard Kipling. Indeed, I entertain not the slightest
doubt that his influence has touched us all.
most famous poem was published in 1885 and called "The
Elf Child." What's that -- you've never heard of it? Oh,
but you have, dear reader, you surely have...
mightiest of Hoosiers, one of the greatest children's poets
America has ever produced, was named James Whitcomb Riley. He
was huge in his time -- a century ago there were few not acquainted
with the name.
still you profess to be unacquainted with the fellow? Very well,
three years later he wrote what is almost certainly his second
most famous poem, "The Raggedy Man." At the very least
this poem must have influenced a certain eight-year-old named
Johnny Gruelle. When Gruelle grew up he created a series of
stories about a certain rag doll named (naturally) Raggedy Ann
-- named after Riley's two most famous poems.
when he had his first "hit" poem republished in 1897,
he was able to change the title from "The Elf Child"
to something more to his liking...