How-Do-Ye-Do Without Mercy

THERE never comes a rainy day but I have a flashback to a ditty of childhood. Our family uncle, who dandled us all on his knee but never had chick of his own, recited the ditty with related movements. He'd set one of us astride his knee, facing him, and take our hands in his - "playing horsey." Then would come the verses:

One misty, moisty morning

When cloudy was the weather,

I chanced to meet an old man

All clothed in leather.

He began to compliment

And I began to grin,

And how-do-ye-do

And how-do-ye-do

And how-do-ye-do again!

On the "how-do-ye-do," Uncle would jounce us without mercy on his knee, with the effect of an old plug of a farm horse that has just felt his oats and has run wild across a piece of plowed ground. In truth, I think a plug of a farm horse that has felt his oats and has run wild across a piece of plowed ground would have been more gentle. But we'd squeal with glee, bystanders would join in our happiness, and the victim would say, "Ag'in!"

Other elders had a less athletic version of this horsey game, but the wild riot of the misty, moisty morning belonged to Uncle alone. In the other version, the child would sit astride in the same equestrian posture and things would start with the line:

This is the way the ladies ride...

Then would come the ladylike:

Trot, trot, trot...


This is the way the gentlemen ride...

Canter, canter, canter.

And the big fun:

And this is the way the farmers ride...

Hobble-de-gee, hobble-de-gee.

But the jouncing up and down was never so severe as the how-do-ye-do of Uncle, even though it brought on the same "Ag'in!"

My mother, who would be handy when Uncle gave us his rides, would sometimes say, "Now, don't get 'em all stirred up! Bedtime's by, and they won't sleep a wink!" So Uncle, admonished, would bring his program to a close with a sharp rap on the side of his playmate's head, which Uncle called "a cuff on the ear," but which hurt like the dickens and was his testimonial of his love. Verging on "punchy" and tears in our eyes, we'd cuddle him goodnight and run to bed.

Today, so many years after, is a misty, moisty morning, and as I walked from the house up to my workshop, there was the old man all clothed in leather again, and I took him by the arm and helped him inside out of the rain.

We all know that indeed something has happened to us, and we've been pondering about our family values. The schools lament the decline of home life, the homes wonder about the churches, and the churches tread easily lest they offend everybody. There is great argument about it and about, and the revolving door goes 'round. If all the politicians who have been decrying our great loss of family values should be laid end to end, I think it would be a splendid idea. And I haven't heard anybody say that our pr oblem amounts to a dearth of ancient uncles to bounce nephews and nieces (and grandnephews and grandnieces) until their little bottoms tingle from saddle slaps, and then to cuff their ears with total love until the tears come and say, "Aw, go on with you! That's to make you smart!"


My misty, moisty morning recollection isn't the all of the uncle story by a long shot. My particular uncle did for me what all uncles did. He told me how the Sioux hunted buffaloes (he knew Chief Sitting Bull personally!), showed me how to skin eels, how to fletch an arrow, how to tie a bowline, how to solder a leaky pot.... He worked on family values. Why don't we think about all that?

Meantime, the Cable TV people have "given" our schools some equipment for in-class viewing, for which generosity our school board sanctions advertising.

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