Aesthetic Realism Online Library Poetry by Martha Baird

    Pioneer, All for Life

    A pioneer is one who goes before,
    Prepares the way
    For others.
    My grandfather was a pioneer.
    In 1877 he came to Kansas,
    Staked out the claim on his homestead,
    Built his sod house and his barn.
    He was not anybody's grandfather then.
    He was a young man,
    With his thoughts on marrying Nettie.

    In 1878 he married her in Illinois,
    And brought her back
    To his land
    With the sod house and barn
    In Smith County, Kansas.
    They were both of them only twenty-one years old—
    Children, in the wilderness.

    The sod house had three rooms and a wooden floor.
    Many sod houses didn't have wooden floors.
    Houses were built of sod
    Because there were not enough trees.
    (Often and often Nettie must have longed for the
         luxuries of Illinois.)
    Kansas looked flat and desolate,
    But things could grow there,
    And they did.
    My grandfather was a good farmer: he worked hard,
         and got along.
    (Did he have time, working so hard, to talk much to Nettie?)
    Children were born, and the sod house
    Was replaced by a frame house.
    In time, the house on the farm
    Was replaced by a house in the town.
    And my grandfather prospered.

    My grandfather was sociable.
    He liked parties, with singing.
    He liked story telling.
    He liked reading aloud, with everybody gathered around
    He liked to go to baseball games and yell for his team.
    When the Populist cause took Kansas,
    My grandfather was a Populist.
    He must have had some rowdy good times
    Fighting for justice with the boys.
    My grandfather liked to go places and see things.
    (My grandmother liked to stay home.)
    He had a lot of original ideas.
    He wasn't a stick-in-the-mud.

    My grandfather was a pioneer.
    He was brave, and he worked hard;
    But best of all, he was lively.
    I am proud of my grandfather
    For being a pioneer,
    All for life.
    There is no great credit in being brave
    If you're going to be surly and sour and dull while you're
    But there is credit in being brave
    If you are all for life, as you are.

    Anyone who is all for life
    Can be a pioneer.
    It doesn't take a sod house
    To be a pioneer.
    The thought of my grandfather
    Has encouraged me.
    In thinking of his jauntiness on the dim, unsettled land,
    I am stronger.
    I see his face in the photograph of 1905,
    And I am stronger.
    C.H. is smiling, over the years, over the miles:
    A pioneer who was all for life;
    And the life he was for, goes on.

    From Nice Deity (Definition Press)
    © 1955 by Martha Baird

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