Monday, April 19, 2010
Bad Gratitude Monday: Family Treasures, Poetry & Cutter Racing
Well, I have. You can stop laughing, now.
The thing is, I never had a gift for rhymed verse, though I wanted to. I totally wanted to rock that ABAB or ABBA or ABCBA rhyming scheme, but I actually sucked at it. I like to think I made up for it with my free verse, but only my English teachers and the few editors who actually published my poetry will ever know the truth.
My great-grandmother, though - she's amazing. She's darn near 100 years old and she can spout off verses she wrote sixty years ago. From memory. We should all be so blessed when we're nearing a century on this planet.
While tidying up my bookshelves today, I came across a slim pamphlet titled Madison Cutter Association Sixth Annual Winter Carnival: Saturday, February 14, 1970 - 12:00 PM. The cover features a photo of the championship team. I couldn't help but smile at the find, for two reasons: First, my great-grandpa Charlie was a cutter racer. I knew his name would be found inside the program as one of the racers. Second, Great-grandma Nellie was the cutter association secretary and poet laureate, so I know I'd find one of her written treasures inside.
I wasn't disappointed.
What is cutter racing? Go ahead; you can ask. Don't be shy. Cutter racing looks something like Roman chariot racing, but with weird little one-man open carts. Great-grandpa Charlie bred and raced horses for this foolhardy sport, and Great-grandma provided the color commentary with her writing.
Inside my antique program I found two poems attributed to Great-grandma. Dear Granny has macular degeneration, so she can't see that I'm going to share them with you, here. Let me preface the sharing by saying that I'm as protective of her copyright as I am of mine, so enjoy, but there will be positively no stealing - if you know what's good for you. That being said, here we go:
When the wind is getting chilly,
and there's snow and fog and frost --
There's a bug or virus comes to life,
and cutter men are lost.
They get the chariots and harnesses out
and oil and clean them up,
And start trying out their horses
to pick the very top.
They meet in Associations
and start setting up the rules,
So that every man will know them
and when to pay their dues!
A day is set and agreed upon
for the racing season's start.
And every driver feels elation
and quick beating of the heart.
"Will I go to World Meeting,"
is what every mind will say,
"or be eliminated as we race
No day too cold or snowy for
these NUTS who cutter race,
And you wonder how men and animals
can stand the grueling pace!
Then when it's finally over
and the finals have been run,
And the trophies are awarded,
then we know it's all been fun.
All the drivers that were losers
make a promise to their pride,
"Next year I'll get some horses
to take me to World Wide!"
(c) Nellie Hall 1970
A Cutter Racer's Prayer
God grant that I could own a team
A snappy pair of colts,
That can run their race in 23.0
And never try to bolt.
I'd have them with a nerve of steel
But gentle as a lamb,
If I could have a team like that
I wouldn't give a damn.
When I put the harness on
To race and go out on the track,
I'd want another picture
For my winning picture rack.
I think the sire should have some 3 bars blood
Or Joe Reed or maybe Dial
With a record on the Dams side
That is bulky in their file.
I'd like to win each race I run
To put me at the top
So that when the World Wide Days are held,
I wouldn't have to stop.
I'd like to win a few there, too,
And I would be so proud;
A trophy would be nice, dear Lord,
While we pose before the crowd.
This is my prayer to you, Lord
And don't think me out of line;
I'd settle for some horses
That win part of the time.
(c) Nellie Hall 1970
Photo credit: All American Cutter Racing Association