Egbert T. Bush wrote this charming piece at the end of 1931. It seemed like a nice addition to this year’s posts. Besides his visitor, he also took note of some unseasonable weather for the end of December. His conclusion was that it was just Mother Nature’s pendulum swinging one way, then another. This was probably true back in 1874 and 1889. Not so much today. However, his final thoughts do provide some solace during these disturbing times.
Note that I have included the headings used in the original version, but one of them was wrong, so I added a correction in brackets. The headings must have been added by the Democrat’s editor; Mr. Bush would never have made that error.
A Cricket for a Christmas Guest
The 1931 Holiday Not as Warm, However, as Christmas Day in 1889
The Frogs Peeped in 1874
by Egbert T. Bush, Stockton, NJ, December 31, 1931
Others may tell you if they will about the fine Christmas tree lugged down by the young lady, with the aid of her escort and the faithful dog, from the old pasture lot nearly a mile away, and set up in one corner of the parlor, to glow in all the barbaric splendor of colored bulbs and tinsel and electric light. All that is interesting and characteristic, but not at all rare. They may tell you of the guests who surrounded the Christmas table, loaded down with turkey or its equivalent, and all that could be devised to go with it. That might be pleasant and spicy, but it is only a repetition of what has been taking place once a year since colonial days.
My story is just a simple statement concerning a rare guest who came all unbidden, but none the less welcome on that account. A personage of no less consequence than the celebrated Musical Cricket has been spending the holiday season with us. That is something a little unusual, at least, but he seems to be enjoying the visit very much, and it is certain that the rest of us are enjoying it no less.
An [Un]Obtrusive Guest
He is not an obtrusive guest. Rarely does he get in the way. He does not expect or desire to be entertained. In fact, he not only furnishes his own entertainment, but freely contributes a generous part to the amusement of the family. He is seldom seen—is never seen during the long hours of his musical activities. On one or two occasions he was seen venturing across the floor. That was somewhat earlier in the season, and caused no little apprehension that he meet disaster. Happily, he is with us still as enthusiastic as ever.
His night work never begins before nine o’clock—most of the time at nearly ten. Like an experienced artist, he begins with apparent hesitation, as though carefully tuning up before entering upon the serious work of the occasion. In a few minutes he is in full swing, with vigor and ecstasy that last till about six next morning. At that time he regularly breaks off as gradually as he began, apparently reluctant to jar the nerves of his audience by stopping too suddenly. Come in at any time during that long entertainment, and one is sure to find the tireless musician as fresh and enthusiastic as at the opening.
Lives in Old Fireplace
His hall is the great old, fireplace where the crane once hung and the big pots swung and the bake iron bloomed with appetizing buckwheat cakes. No fire must be started there now. It might “roast out” our welcome Christmas guest. Besides, the andirons are now in another and less spacious fireplace, one that has been “improved” by modern methods, and occasionally has an excuse for an old-time fire trying pathetically to be the real thing.
I cannot remember ever before to have heard a cricket at Christmas time. But I do remember a warmer Christmas day than that of 1931. In 1889, if memory speaks truth, the day was so warm that we worked in the peach orchard without coats or vests, and felt the heat very much. At noon we pumped water from the old well in the dooryard, “washed up,” and then sat outside “in our shirt sleeves,” and waited for that welcome announcement, “Dinner is ready.” During the day we found the buds very much enlarged, and a few blossoms actually open. Of course the weather grew cold a few days later; and it is needless to say that we had no peaches the next summer.
Frogs Out In 1874
I remember another untimely musical event. In this one neither our honored guest nor any of his kin took the least part. It was a most delightful concert held by the local Society of Musical Frogs in a broad, shallow pond, on the Henry Rowland farm a half mile southwest of Cherryville. This great winter concert—and it was really a great one—was held, if I am not mistaken about the exact day, on the third of January, 1874. I was taking a nearly four-mile morning walk “across country,” in order to reach the place of my daily duties on time. But the important urge could not prevent a brief pause for enjoying a concert so pleasing, as well as doubly rare.
These reminiscences are not important in themselves, of course; but they may serve a good purpose. They may set some of us to wondering whether, after all, our streaks of unseasonable weather are so unusual as we are prone to think them. They may lead some to the conclusion that Dame Nature is safely “on the job,” giving us only such temporary “freaks” as are the result of temporary and natural causes, and that Nature’s pendulum swings one way as naturally as the other. If we could be led to feel somewhat the same way in regard to the graver conditions which surround us, it might be better for us all.