The mortgage

In sifting through my archive of “paper stuff,” I ran into another poetic gem that is deserving of space in this column. It’s timely, too, sadly, because the fall harvest is less than spectacular, and surely, the poor harvest is going to end up putting some good, honest, hard-working folks into financial trouble. 

But, rest assured, any mortgages that farmers and ranchers took on will keep right on going, thriving, with a financial life of their own.

So, here is the melancholy poem. In this case, the writer is known. He is Will Carlton. The date he wrote it is unknown, but I’d guess it was back in the 1980s or even back in the Great Depression.


We worked all spring and winter, 

Through summer and through fall. 

But the mortgage worked the hardest

And the steadiest of us all. 

It worked on nights and Sundays.

It worked each holiday. 

It settled down among us 

And it never went away. 

Whatever we kept from it, 

Seemed almost as bad as theft.

It watched us constant time,

And it ruled us, right and left.  

The rust and blight they hit sometimes,

And sometimes they did not.

But, the dark-browed scowling mortgage

Was forever johnny on the spot. 

The weevil and the cutworm,

They went as well as came. 

But, mortgage stayed forever,

Eating hearty, all the same. 

It nailed up every window.

Stood guard at every door. 

And happiness and sunshine made

Their home with us no more. 

Until, with failing crops and sickness,

We got stalled upon the grade, 

And there came a dark day on us, 

When the interest wasn’t paid. 

And there came a sharp foreclosure, 

And I kinda lost myhold 

The children left and scattered

When they yet were hardly growed.

My wife, she pined and perished,

And I found myself alone. 

What she died of was a mystery,

For her docs twas never known. 

I know she died of “mortgage,”

Just as I also wanted to. 

If to trace a hidden sorrow, 

Were within the doctor’s art, 

They’d a’ found a mortgage lying

On that woman’s broken heart. 

Worm or beetle, drought or tempest,

On the farmer’s land may fall, 

But for first-class ruination,

Thrust a mortgage against it all! 


Well, I need to counter that tear jerker with something brighter. I’m 80 years old, but some folks say I don’t look that old. Then I tell them I can prove my age. When they ask how I can, I tell them I’m so old I can remember the introduction to the kid’s program, “The Howdy Doody Show,” on first-generation black and white television back in the early 1950s.

These words will prove my age. “It’s Howdy Doody time. It’s Howdy Doody time. Bob Smith and Howdy, too, say ‘howdy do,’ to you. Let’s give a rousing cheer. ’cause Howdy Doody’s here. It’s time to start the show. So, kid’s let’s go!” That should settle my age.

Have a good ‘un.

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