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When the Frost is On the Pumkin'

Updated on April 11, 2012

School daze...

Do you remember some of the memory assignments from school? You know, The Preamble, the Gettysburg Address… The poems and prose from American Literature, the American authors-- Like Washington Irving and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” or maybe Henry Wadsworth Longfellow -- Some of my fellow students seemed to learn things so easily. Maybe they were just more gifted, with an ability to learn, retain and recite and in some things I did too I guess, but there was this one poem that I always liked and it is applicable to the season, that was and remains to be a ‘Holy Terror’ whenever I think of it today and the hardship I had with this one poem entitled “When the Frost is On the Pumkin” by James Whitcomb Riley. Oh Mr Riley was also known as the ‘children’s poet’ or the Hoosier Poet having come from Greenfield Indiana and born to this quaint mid-western village. A very popular man often compared to Mark Twain because both wrote of their childhood with their own unique style.

Do you remember memorizing poetry in school?

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pumkin and fodder shocks
pumkin and fodder shocks

I quietly watched my classmates

It was either the fourth or the fifth grade as I remember and I’m sure much of the problem was that I just had other things on my mind.  But every time I think of it now or try to recite parts of it I shudder and my mind conjures up this dreadful memory of the torcherious hours spent trying to learn this one poem.  I quietly watched as my classmates one by one got up from their desks, walked to the front of the room, turned and while looking at me would recite this beautiful poem written over 100 years ago.  I’m including the poem, just as I can image him speaking in his Hoosier Deutsch dialect with his hands sometimes folded across his chest and other times clasp behind him as he recites:

"When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock,

And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin’ turkey-cock,

And the clackin’ of the guineys, and the cluckin’ of the hens,

And the rooster’s hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence;

O, it’s then’s the times a feller is a-feelin’ at his best,

With the risin’ sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,

As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes out to feed the stock,

When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

They’s something kindo’ harty-like about the atmusfere

When the heat of summer’s over and the coolin’ fall is here—

Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossums on the trees,

And the mumble of the hummin’-birds and buzzin’ of the bees;

But the air’s so appetizin’; and the landscape through the haze

Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days

Is a pictur’ that no painter has the colorin’ to mock—

When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

The husky, rusty russel of the tossels of the corn,

And the raspin’ of the tangled leaves, as golden as the morn;

The stubble in the furries—kindo’ lonesome-like, but still

A-preachin’ sermuns to us of the barns they growed to fill;

The strawstack in the medder, and the reaper in the shed;

The hosses in theyr stalls below—the clover over-head!—

O, it sets my hart a-clickin’ like the tickin’ of a clock,

When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!

Then your apples all is gethered, and the ones a feller keeps

Is poured around the celler-floor in red and yeller heaps;

And your cider-makin’ ’s over, and your wimmern-folks is through

With their mince and apple-butter, and theyr souse and saussage, too! ...

I don’t know how to tell it—but ef sich a thing could be

As the Angels wantin’ boardin’, and they’d call around on me

I’d want to ’commodate ’em—all the whole-indurin’ flock—

When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!"

By: James Whitcomb Riley

© SamSonS


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  • samsons1 profile image

    Sam 7 years ago from Tennessee

    thank you Peggy for your sweet comments and ratings...

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

    Great poem and I enjoyed reading it. Certainly happy that it was not one that I had to memorize and recite especially in front of a class! You come up with the greatest recollations of things in the past. Voting this up and beautiful. Thanks! Keep 'em coming!

  • samsons1 profile image

    Sam 7 years ago from Tennessee

    thanks KoffeeKlatch Gals for your friendship, your visit and your kind comments...

  • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

    Susan Haze 7 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Wow, I can remeber having to memorize poems in school but not that one. If I had had to memorize that one I would still be in school, this time with my grandchildren. It's amazing the information your brain can hold.

  • samsons1 profile image

    Sam 7 years ago from Tennessee

    thank you Judi for your kind remarks. Hope you and your family had a happy Thanksgiving.


  • Judicastro profile image

    Judicastro 7 years ago from birmingham, Alabama

    I am so grateful I never had to memorize that poem Samson! What a nightmare! Very cute.

  • samsons1 profile image

    Sam 7 years ago from Tennessee

    *Thanks carolina for your share...

    *and thank you FloBe for your take on the poem...

    *Thanks 50 for stopping by for a spell and visitin'


  • 50 Caliber profile image

    50 Caliber 7 years ago from Arizona

    Samsons, I'd have failed at that if I'd had to memorize it even a a young age when it seemed everything stuck in my brain. If you met that challenge my hats off, thanks for a mindful read, 50

  • FloBe profile image

    FloBe 7 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

    It's no wonder you had trouble memorizing this one--I can hardly read it or understand it, never mind memorize it! lol

  • carolina muscle profile image

    carolina muscle 7 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

    Apple butter... there's something I havent heard about in a long time. Me, it seems a terrible waste of apples, when you could be making cider. LOL