When Pa Goes to Town

Ready for a zany poem about shopping? My father was the quintessential bargain hunter and was always coming home with at least a dozen of whatever was on sale at the Piggly Wiggly or Red Owl . . . along with unusual “new” taste sensations to expand our palates, like pickled kumquats, pig’s feet, or scrambled beef brain (I kid you not). “OOOOh, yukky!” 😦 With five children, Dad would dig deep into the bargain bins and day-old bakery supplies to keep us fed! A generation later, as a mother of seven (six strapping sons), I built on my father’s foundation and quantity shopping became a basic survival skill. Many a week, as I waltzed down the checkout lane with 7 gallons of milk and two baskets loaded to the brim, I would get a casual smile and, “Do you run a foster care home?”

At any rate, my oldest brother wrote this poem about my father, and in honor of April being GloPoWriMo (Global Poetry Writers Month) AND musing over my big COVID shopping-for-a-month spree a couple of days ago, I thought you might appreciate a bit of comic relief.

When Pa Goes to Town
(—Robert Ward, reflecting on our father’s shopping in the 1950’s;
Copyright 2019)

When Pa goes to town
All the grocers around
Go down in their basements and hide.
They cry and they scream,
And with eyes all agleam,
Lock the doors
So Pa can’t get inside.

But Pa with a glare
Like a buzzard’s cold stare
And nose like a beagle-sired bloodhound
Gets in where he can
And with swift-moving hand
Grabs all the bargains around.

Bread for a nickel,
Peaches a dime,
Dates for a quarter,
Pa’s having a time.

“I’ll take a dozen of those,
A gallon of that,
A gross of these,
Put the rest in my hat.”

Pa loads all his stores
On his trusty go-cart,
Cracks the whip to his kids,
And yells, “Do your part!”

Dad comes home with more stores
Than can fit through the doors.
He has yams and hams
And cans of canned Spams,
And musty old
Crusty old dates.

Ma in despair
Pulls the last of her hair
And muffles a fast-rising sob.
“You can try if you care
To fit more in there,
But the army says it’s an impossible job.

But Pa is not stopped,
Though some things are dropped.
He crams and pushes and groans.
And as the roof pops
And the second floor drops,
He returns for that special on dog bones.

She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar. She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens” (Proverbs 31:13-15). I know in most families the wife probably does most of the shopping, but my mother didn’t like to shop so my father took it on. They both taught school—Mom elementary and Dad college—so on school days, while my mother packed our lunches, my father made breakfast. Without a doubt, my mother was a virtuous woman, but looking back, I remember many ways in which my flamboyant and highly unconventional father was a good dad, too!