What Is It?

You’ve read of the wreck of the Hesperus
        On a stormy sea one night,
And you’ve read of the Wonderful One Hoss Shay
        That was built with precision and might.

And numerous other tales you’ve read,
        Each one was told right well;
But none will ever measure up
        To the one I’m about to tell.

The story is set on a winter night
        At a humble farm by the way
Where Harry and Howard and Chester and Hal
        And Alice all romped in play.

Mama was darning and patching pants
        And Papa was reading a book
That told of crime and brave lawmen
        Who always tracked down the crook.

When all of a sudden a noise was heard
        Out under the hackberry tree,
Or maybe ’twas near the lilac bush
        That was growing in ecstasy.

We heard Ol’ Matt let loose with a bray
        And Ida kicked and snorted;
The pigs all squealed, the dogs all barked,
        The cattle bawled and cavorted.

So Papa got up from his mystery tale
        And in haste kicked over the churn
And found in a basket upon the front step
        What looked like a wiggling red worm.

He brought it in and set it down
        And the kids all gathered around,
With eyes bugged out and hearts all still,
        To see what Papa had found.

We held our breath and opened it up
        And pulled out a wriggling brat;
At first we thought ’twas a baby boy,
        But we couldn’t be sure of that.

“Lord, help us all,” our Papa cried:
        “What shall we do with this thing!”
Says I: “If you’re smart, the poker you’ll take
        And knock out its silly brain.”

“No,” said Papa, “we better not,
        For it’s very plain to see
That this is a varmint unknown to man —
        Only one in captivity.”

“So maybe we better feed it a bite
        And change those pants of his
And call it Marion Edwin
        ‘Til we find out what it is.”

Now many years have come and gone
        And we’ve watched it fume and fizz,
But until this hour in which I write
        We still don’t know what it is.


Hal Upchurch, c. 1950