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The Whittlers

Roy Jerden Avatar Roy Jerden - LIFETIME Premium Member Roy Jerden - Premium MemberPremium Member Send Soup Mail Go to Poets Blog Block poet from commenting on your poetry

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The Whittlers

The Tom Green County courthouse was their gathering place
A Greek Revival building and a lovely public space
They'd be sitting on their benches under lofty pecan trees
Wood shavings on their ankles, a piece of cedar twixt their knees

They called them the whittlers, but that was just a disguise
They came to speak of mice and men and hang out with the guys
Born before the television went and addled peoples wits,
They could tell some stories that would cause your sides to split

They'd kid me 'bout the pile of books that I had just checked out
Said that I was apt to ruin my eyes and fry my brain no doubt
But I could see they got a kick out of their one devoted fan
Cause they would trot out all their stories and tell them once again

They told me stories of big ranches and oil boom shanty towns
How they worked on rigs as roughnecks and toured as rodeo clowns
How they used to ride the rails when no employment could be found
And the way they told those stories had me rolling on the ground

And in between a whittle and another spit and chew
They showed me how to whet a knife and tie a buckaroo
They had lots and lots of stories and lessons to impart
But I'd have to hear the cowboy code before I could depart

“Give a man a good hard shake and look him in the eye
If you mess up, tell it straight; don't cover with a lie
Always give a full day's work; live out each day with heart
A man's no good without his word, so finish what you start

Protect the weak and help them; respect your elders, too
Never leave a friend behind, nothing else will ever do
And when your time is done, according to God's plan
You can face up to the reaper, and meet him like a man.”

If that was all I learned from them, that lesson was enough
For a kid without some guidance, this life can be quite tough
I guess folks made fun of them, and thought them no account
For me they were my heroes, that I would trade for no amount

The Tom Green County courthouse still stands upon those grounds
But now those shaded benches are nowhere to be found
And where once the mighty whittlers carved and held their court
Squirrels gather up pecans and chase each other now for sport

December 28, 2013
Click "About this poem" above the title to see an image of some whittlers.

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  1. Date: 12/9/2014 3:38:00 PM
    Where is Tom Green County? Have a female friend who is interested in taking up whittlin' as a hobby. This is perfect for her. Jim Horn

    Jerden Avatar Roy Jerden
    Date: 12/9/2014 4:01:00 PM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

    Hi James! Tom Green County is in central-west Texas. The county seat is San Angelo, my home town. This poem is mostly fictional, as is true of about all my stuff, however the whittlers were real. The picture of whittlers is one I snagged from the internet and is not San Angelo, unfortunately. Cheers, Roy
  1. Date: 4/30/2014 4:40:00 AM
    This was magic Roy! Congrats on your win and on your poem being featured. I just can't keep up with all the poems. It is overwhelming. I remember my grandfather telling us stories of riding the rails to find work and it brought back fond feelings. He lived though the most difficult times of our country,

  1. Date: 4/30/2014 4:39:00 AM
    Cont'd. through the dust bowl and depression. Kids now days think they have it hard but heck when you have a Kindle or Nook you have the entire library at your finger tips, I call that amazing! Loved the photo too.

  1. Date: 4/28/2014 2:45:00 PM
    Enjoyed reading this; it had heart and soul.

  1. Date: 4/22/2014 2:03:00 AM
    Brilliant write and congrats on the win, Roy

  1. Date: 4/21/2014 10:00:00 PM
    ROY Congratulations, AWESOME POEM:) Thank you so much for taking your time in supporting my contest... Always & Forever *Linda

  1. Date: 3/27/2014 4:42:00 PM
    Excelent down home poem, Roy. Your one lucky guy to share their company.

    Jerden Avatar Roy Jerden
    Date: 3/27/2014 8:53:00 PM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

    Thanks, Larry!
  1. Date: 1/12/2014 10:55:00 AM
    An amazing piece! Positively riveting... I could see them without even the pictures!

    Jerden Avatar Roy Jerden
    Date: 1/12/2014 12:34:00 PM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

    Carol, I think there must be some small-town girl in you somewhere. Thank you so much.
  1. Date: 1/5/2014 7:23:00 PM
    aha, cowboy poetry. That is what Joyce loves to write and Robert too. I saw the picture and was wondering how long you have been visiting those guys!! very nice theme for your cowboy poetry, roy.