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How It Happened

James Whitcomb Riley 1849 (Greenfield) – 1916 (Indianapolis)



I got to thinkin' of her--both her parents dead and gone--
And all her sisters married off, and none but her and John
A-livin' all alone there in that lonesome sort o' way,
And him a blame old bachelor, confirmder ev'ry day!
I'd knowed 'em all from childern, and their daddy from the time
He settled in the neighborhood, and had n't ary a dime
Er dollar, when he married, far to start housekeepin' on!--
So I got to thinkin' of her--both her parents dead and gone!

I got to thinkin' of her; and a-wundern what she done
That all her sisters kep' a gittin' married, one by one,
And her without no chances--and the best girl of the pack--
An old maid, with her hands, you might say, tied behind her back!
And Mother, too, afore she died, she ust to jes' take on,
When none of 'em was left, you know, but Evaline and John,
And jes' declare to goodness 'at the young men must be bline
To not see what a wife they 'd git if they got Evaline!

I got to thinkin' of her; in my great affliction she
Was sich a comfert to us, and so kind and neighberly,--
She 'd come, and leave her housework, far to be'p out little Jane,
And talk of _her own_ mother 'at she 'd never see again--
Maybe sometimes cry together--though, far the most part she
Would have the child so riconciled and happy-like 'at we
Felt lonesomer 'n ever when she 'd put her bonnet on
And say she 'd railly haf to be a-gittin' back to John!

I got to thinkin' of her, as I say,--and more and more
I'd think of her dependence, and the burdens 'at she bore,--
Her parents both a-bein' dead, and all her sisters gone
And married off, and her a-livin' there alone with John--
You might say jes' a-toilin' and a-slavin' out her life
Far a man 'at hadn't pride enough to git hisse'f a wife--
'Less some one married _Evaline_, and packed her off some day!--
So I got to thinkin' of her--and it happened thataway.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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James Whitcomb Riley

James Whitcomb Riley was an American writer, poet, and best-selling author. During his lifetime he was known as the "Hoosier Poet" and "Children's Poet" for his dialect works and his children's poetry respectively. more…

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