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Here we are in April, the month that promises but seldom delivers. How often at the end of the month have you looked back and said to yourself, “There was one nice day about two weeks ago”?

What? You don’t talk to yourself? How do you learn anything?

Having turned 602 in dog years last month, I look back and remember only a few really nice Aprils. My family is tired of me recalling an April back in the 1970s when we had snowstorms three Wednesdays in a row.

And baseball players know how its stings when the ball hits one’s glove on a cold April day.

Oh, there are bright spots in April. Grass is green, the tree limbs are growing spinach. Usually near the end of the month, especially in farm country, there comes a day the earth takes on a once-a-year fresh smell, an aroma no other season can equal.

The month often contains Easter, as this year, and Arbor Day although I don’t know how many Americans actually plant trees on Arbor Day.

April Fool Day

And we have April Fool Day. I remember a day back at District 5, a one-room school near Lester Prairie, a small town in Minnesota 55 miles northeast of Fairfax, when Orville said, “Mert, your shoestring is untied.” When I looked, he gleefully exclaimed “April Fool!”

There was a period when the Nearby News had fun on April Fool Day. Like the time it published a photo of a house with a shadowy figure behind a drape, saying it was (if I remember correctly which seldom is the case) Richard Nixon paying a surprise visit to a local resident. I don’t know if the Nearby News ever let on that the editors were playing a joke on the readers.

April had a lot to do with the birth of our nation. You know, Lexington and Concord, Paul Revere’s ride, Minutemen, Redcoats, tea party, Red Sox trading Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees. That sort of thing.

Paul Revere’s Ride

I wonder if schoolchildren still read Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “Paul Revere’s Ride.” He wrote:

Listen my children and you shall hear

Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere

On the 18th of April in ‘75.

Hardly a man is now alive

Who remembers that famous day and year.

Less-Known Poem

I doubt anyone today reads the less-known poem by Henrietta Lessworth Shortlady titled “Poker Night in John Adams’ Barn.” She wrote:

Listen up, Dudes, you’re gonna hear

‘bout a poker night in a fateful year.

None of the guys is still alive

Who gathered that night in seventy-five.

John Adams’s barn is where they met.

An April night they’d ne’er forget.

Tom Paine was there. And Paul Revere.

John’s cousin Sam brought a keg of beer.

There weren’t much cash in them-thar times.

They mostly bet with Roos-velt dimes.

Now on that night, as I’ve been told,

Abigail Adams, brave and bold,

Rushed in and yelled, “Hey, look, you people,

I see a light in yon church steeple.”

“Red Coats,” said Paul. “They’ve come by land.

And I’ve four aces in my hand!’

Threw down his cards and ran right out,

Got on his horse, commenced to shout,

“The Brits are here, we’re gonna fight.”

That was the end of Poker Night.

You or me?

Are you going to contact area school superintendents and urge them to order teachers to make children learn Shortlady’s poem? Or should I?.

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Emmert Dose is a retired Journal Times reporter. His column appears every month. Write to him c/o The Journal Times, 212 Fourth St., Racine, WI 53403.


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