Duncan’s Ledger: Pat’s Troubles

March 17, 2012

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, a story about an Irishman with a love for the bottle, which made him a little shortsighted.


Pat’s Troubles


Times were getting hard down in Irishtown

And Pat Malone was pushed for ready cash.

His life insurance spent all his money to a cent

And all of his affairs had gone to smash.

Then his wife spoke up and said: “Now Pat if you was dead,

This twenty thousand dollars we could take”.

Then old Pat layed down and tried to make out that he had died,

Until he smelled the whiskey at the wake.


Then Pat Malone forgot that he was dead,

And he raised up in his bunk and he said;

“If this thing holds on a minute, the corpse it will be in it,

You will have to make me drunk to keep me dead.”


Oh, they gave the corpse a sup,

In other words they filled him up,

And they laid him in the coffin with a prayer;

And the driver of the cast

Says, “bedad I’ll never start

Until I see that someone pays the fare.”


Then Pat Malone forgot that he was dead,

And raised up in his coffin and he said:

“You dare to doubt my credit, you’ll be sorry that you said it,

Drive on, or else the corpse will break your head.”


Then the driver, he pulled out on the cemetery route,

And the neighbors tried the widow to console;

They arrived face to face with Malone’s last resting place,

And they quickly shoved old Patrick in the hole.

Then Pat began to see as plain as one, two, three,

Where he had failed to reckon on the end;

When the clods began to drop, Pat kicked off the coffin top,

And quickly to the earth he did ascend.


Then Pat Malone forgot that he was dead,

As he quickly from the cemetery fled,

And its well he did by thunder, for he came darn near going under,

Pat Malone was only playing off for dead.



Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Duncan’s Ledger: A Proposal

March 8, 2012

My grandfather’s ledger, begun when he was a cowboy in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, has many, many poems and song lyrics written in it.

Recently a person contacted me about a poem I had previously published from Duncan’s Ledger and asked if the ledger had any dates.  I looked through it and couldn’t find even one and responded to that person’s e-mail with that result.

But I have finally found one dated entry:

That doesn’t really tell me anything different than the information I already had, but it was interesting to see.

This search has re-kindled my interest in reading the ledger and sharing some entries.  Here’s a short one (those are rare!) that I thought was interesting:

(click on the image  to enlarge)


If you are, like myself, of the opinion that

an unmarried person is like a half of a

pair of scissors, lacking the other half, I

have the honor to put myself at your complete

disposition, in order that we may cut out

the fabric of life together.

Not exactly a proposal you might hear today, but I find it very charming and elegant.  I wonder if it worked!

Mama Remembered: “Mysteries of Anatomy”

July 9, 2010

At the very end of Mama’s book, I Remember, she shared some songs and poetry which she had memorized.  Here is a cute one that is also recorded in her father’s journal, Duncan’s Ledger:

I learned this from my dad when I was a little girl.

Mysteries of Anatomy

Where can a man buy a cap for his knee, or a key to a lock of his hair?

Can his eyes be called an academy, because there are pupils there?

Is the crown of his head where jewels are found?

Who travels the bridge of his nose?

If he wanted to shingle the roof of his mouth, would he use the nails on the end of his toes?

Can he sit in the shade of the palm of his hand, or beat on the drum of his ear?

Can the calf of his leg eat the corn off his toe?

If so, why not grown corn on his ear?

Can the crook of his arm be sent to jail?

If so, just what did he do?

How can he sharpen his shoulder blades?

I’ll be darned if I know, do you?

When Mama was a little girl, her family was very poor and moved alot so they didn’t have many books and seldom lived close enough to visit a library.  So they memorized things like this.  She says, I learned this from my dad when I was a little girl. I can picture her father going over and over this with her to help her memorize it.  And I imagine as they did that, she might have questioned him about the meaning of some of it.  “Where is the cap of my knee?” or “What is the bridge of my nose?” or giggled at the idea of corn growing in her ear!

And this is a tradition that Mama passed down to her children too.  I had many more books than she had had, but she still spent time reciting poems like this to me and encouraging me to memorize the nursery rhymes and songs in my books.

One on one time spent with a child, helping them memorize something that they may be able to recall and smile about  for the rest of their lives — and possibly teach to their children.  The need for this way of learning may have been replaced by many other ways for children to learn today, but it is a source of great memories for those of us who experienced it.

Duncan’s Ledger: Those Deadly Pies

May 19, 2010

A poem my grandfather wrote down in his ledger while sitting around a campfire or a bunkhouse with other cowboys about 100 years ago, which gives us some humorous insight into the anonymous author’s experience with food preservation!

Those Deadly Pies

I loathe, abhor, detest, despise,

abominable dried apple pies.

I like good bread, I like good meat,

or anything that’s good to eat;

but of all poor grub beneath the skies,

the poorest is dried apple pies.

The farmer takes his gnarliest fruit,

’tis wormy, bitter and hard to boot.

They leave the hulls to make me cough,

and don’t take half the peelings off.

Then on a dirty cord ’tis strung,

and in a garret window hung.

And there it serves a rest for flies,

until it’s made up into pies.

Tread on my corns and tell me lies,

but don’t pass me dried apple pies!

Duncan’s Ledger: An Introduction

May 4, 2010

As I told you in this post about his encounter with a panther, my grandfather Duncan Browning was a cowboy for a year or so in Texas at the beginning of the 20th century.  And the family story goes that while he sat around the campfire and in the bunkhouse with other cowboys he wrote down in a ledger the words to songs and poems he heard.

When I went to my sister Martha Lou’s last week, I brought home some very old photo albums.  So for this post, I looked for a picture that might show what Duncan looked like around the time he was a cowboy.  This is the oldest picture of him I could find.  I believe these were taken about 1914 (9 or 10 years after his cowboy days.)  He would be about 45, my grandmother would be about 25 and Mama would have been 6 years old.  The picture on the left is of my mother’s parents (Ruby and Duncan) with her little sister, Ivy.  On the right is Mama with her mother and her mother’s mother, Grandma Thompson (who came to live with them a few years before she  died) and Ivy.    Mama always said because she was short (5’3″) she must have gotten her height from Grandma Thompson, because her parents were very tall for those times.  Her mother was 5’10” and her dad was 6’4″.

So, back to the ledger.  I mentioned in that previous post that I thought my sister Martha Lou might have the ledger now, so I would ask to see it the next time I went there.  Well, when I went to visit Martha Lou last week, she had our grandfather’s ledger waiting for me (she reads my blog, so had read that I was interested in seeing it), and she said I could take it home with me!  Thank you Martha for trusting me to be the caretaker of this family heirloom (as well as the old photo albums).

I think Duncan must have let his young daughters play with the ledger — because the names of his two oldest daughters, Aileen and Ivy, are printed on the cover, and then it looks like the same little writer also tried to print her daddy’s name on it too, but either ran out of space or couldn’t decide how it was spelled!

So, this book has obviously seen a hard life and, as you can see, is in very poor condition.  Needless to say I am treating it very gently, because I certainly don’t want to be the family member who has it in her possession when it disintegrates!

There were several things that surprised me when I got home and sat down to really look at the ledger.

First of all, there are no personal stories from Duncan.  I was hoping for some insights into him, with maybe some stories about his cowboy days.  But I haven’t found anything like that yet.  Just poems and song lyrics.

I’m also surprised, considering the nomadic life of my mother’s childhood, when several times they just picked up and moved taking very few belongings with them, that this book is still around.  Someone (and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was my mother who always had a keen interest in family history) must have taken a special interest in making sure the Ledger always got taken along, wherever they moved.

Looking through this book also reminds me of what an effort people had to make to retain and pass on information a hundred years ago.  Maybe many people did what my grandfather did and wrote down things like this, but I would guess alot of the retention was by memory.  In that vein, there are several poems in this book that I remember Mama reciting to me when I was little, and I’m sure they had first been recited to her when she was little.  It’s remarkable, considering my bad memory, that all these years later I can still recite a little of some of those.

I’m also surprised at how many songs and poems are in the ledger.  Maybe Duncan continued to add to the ledger, or his daughter’s did.

The fact that cowboys recited poems and sang songs around the campfire that weren’t necessarily just about cowboys and cows surprises me too.  (I obviously have seen too many old western movies!)

So, the bottom line is, I’m going to start another series that will pop up here occasionally, called Duncan’s Ledger.  It will be some of the lyrics to songs and poems that I find interesting  in my grandfather’s ledger.

I hope that you will enjoy, as I already am, reading how people expressed themselves in verse 100 years ago.

To begin, this was written on the first page:

Steal not this book for fear of shame,

for on it is the owner’s name.

And when you die the Lord will say,

“Where is that book you stole away?”

And when you say you do not know,

The Lord will say “Go down below!”

Those library fines pale in comparison to that threat, don’t they?!

More from Duncan’s Ledger to come.