The Ladies Page


| September/October 1972

It was a cool summer day in late June when we started for Louisville, Kentucky. There were five of usall mature women. I was at the wheel of our Harvest-Gold Chevrolet. The meeting we were headed for was the National Federation of State Poetry Societies. We were all in high spirits. We don't get an opportunity such as that every day. One lady was from Hannibal, one from Wausau, one from Sheboygan, and one, I believe, from Eagle River.

After a night spent in mid-Indiana we continued on our way. It was in Greenfield that one of our greatest experiences occurred. A member of our wide-awake group suddenly leapt forward in her seat as she reported excitedly, 'Oh Look! The home of James Riley!' My immediate response had to be that of a poet.

'Do you want to stop and see it? We have ample time to get where we are going.' Agreement simultaneously rushed at me from my right, and also bubbled up from the back seat. And so it was that at a few moments past 10:00 A. M. we were admitted to the house which is preserved as the birthplace of this memorable man.

Our guide, a charming lady of about our approximate age, had her lines well learned. And to our advantage, there were also children touring the house. In no time at all she was reliving the times of Little Orphan Annie with those two small children, their two older brothers, their parents, and those five whacky poets from Wisconsin.

As we toured this famous home she kept reminding all of us of the 'little boy who wouldn't say his prayers' and then, later, couldn't be found any place. So we all entered into the spirit of the thing and we 'seeked him in the rafter room, an' cubby hole, an' press.' We also saw 'his pants and his roundabout' hanging on his closet door. I learned that a roundabout was a wide sort of blousey shirt in those long-gone days. The pants were knee length, and rather tight, I assume, from the cut of them.

We were thrilled to enter Orphan Annie's back bedroom where she slept on a pallet on the floor. It was a tiny room. We walked down the back stairs as Annie had done years before. There she had gone to start the fire in a little old iron stove, and then gone on to 'Bake the bread, and earn her board and keep.' The porch from which she 'shooed the chickens' was later enclosed, and used as a dining areamost charming.


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