Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Courting of Wilbur Day

I don’t know if it was due to my own recent misadventures in dating, but I recently was thinking about the whole notion of courting—the ways a man tries to win a woman’s heart—and thought I’d take a look in the collections to see what strategies for courting that men have found to be successful.  I found quite a few stories, including one about a man who brought a woman to a dance and bought a box of chocolates which he proceeded to eat saying to her, “ these chocolates are very good, you should buy yourself a box” (NA 159).  But my favorite piece was a poem I found about the courting of Wilbur Day—one of Maine’s early twentieth century hunters.

Wilbur Day came to the attention of folklorist Sandy Ives around 1960 when he began gathering information about a notorious poacher from the 1880s from Washington County known as George Magoon for a book he published  in 1988: George Magoon and the Downeast Game War.  In the course of his investigations he discovered that another man from Washington County, Wilbur Day along with Calvin Graves had been involved with Magoon in illegal hunting.  Graves had killed two game wardens and Day had burned down the warden’s house and barn consequently serving a three-year jail sentence.  One day a student by the name of  Jane Kazutow brought Sandy a copy of a manuscript autobiography of Wilbur Day which he later published as the twenty-fifth volume of Northeast Folklore in 1985.  Wilbur was single-minded and once he made up his mind to do something, he acted upon his plans without further thought.  In June, 1963 Ralph Hayward of Machias Maine sent this poem in to Sandy which tells the delightful story of how Wilbur courted his wife Susie:

On the old Air-Line in Wesley
On a balmy night in June,
Wilbur Day sat at his table
Listening to his favorite tune.
“When It’s Springtime in the Rockies”
His old Phonograph ground out---
He had heard that tune repeated
A hundred times without a doubt.

But tonight it stirred emotions
That seldom bothered him,
As he gazed upon the rising moon
Above the forest rim.
Though his hounds lay all about him
And they often glanced his way;
There was something that seemed to be lacking
To the mind of Wilbur Day.

“Wouldn’t it be fine,” mused Wilbur,
“If I had a better half,
Someone to do the dishes
And wind the phonograph;
Someone who loved me dearly,
A girl with a pretty face,
Some one with a charming figure
Who would share my fond embrace.”

Then he spoke aloud: “By Judas!
There’s a woman on the hill---
Though she isn’t very girlish
She is quite attractive still.
Guess I’ll take a hunk of deermeat
Up to Susie Trafton’s now---
Though I never did much courting,
Kinder reckon I know how.”

In five minutes he was walking
Up the road at an eager pace;
In his eyes there was a twinkle
And with a smile upon his face.
When his eye caught sight of Susie,
 In her arms there was a cat,
And the pace of Wilbur slackened
And his heart went pit-a-pat.

And he thought, “She’s got affection
For that cat—why not me?
And though that cat is in her arms
That’s where I hope to be.”
Then he called “Hello there, Susie!
I’ve some deermeat and it is good.
Do you s’pose that you could use some?
”And she said “You bet I could!”

Then she smiled upon him sweetly
And she said, “Won’t you come in?”
“Oh, I guess I’ll stop a minute,”
Answered Wilbur with a grin.
Then he cleared his throat and blurted:
“Gosh, Susie, I can’t see
Why we couldn’t both be happy
 If you’d come and live with me.

There’s a preacher at the corner---
He could marry us alright—
What do you say I hitch the horse up
And we’ll get hitched tonight?”

“It’s so sudden,” answered Susie,
“I don’t know what to do.”
“I’ll be back in twenty mintues,”
Answered Wilbur, “after you.”

Then he put his arms around her
And she let him hold her tight
And he said, Your name, Miss Trafton,
Will change to Day tonight.”

Now you’ve heard about the courting
Of the poacher, Wilbur Day---
“Guess I was a little hasty,”
His old pals have heard him say. (NA1534)