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HAL SWIFT
 Sparks, Nevada
 


photo by Johnny Gunn

 

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Hal Swift has written many poems about his early years, and about those times in American life. He calls some of that work "Heritage poetry." We invited him to share more for Mother's Day, 2008. Below are poems, photos, and his words in a tribute to his mother, Gleda Maude (Shepherd) Swift.

My mother, Gleda Maude Shepherd, was the daughter of Charles Vincent Shepherd and Lily May (Wood) Shepherd. She was born April 7, 1898, at the family homestead near Dupont, Indiana.

She became a "Westerner" in 1936, when we moved to Phoenix, Arizona, hoping for a cure for my little sister's asthma. Mom died in Phoenix in 1955, shortly before the birth of David, the second of the three sons God has given to my wife, Carol, and me.

Here she is, on one of the family's work horses, ready to bring the cows up from pasture for milking:

This is how she looked in 1915, when she met my father:

By this time, her family had moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, and she was working in the Link Belt factory there, helping to build electric motors.

She married my father, Allen Jacob Swift, twice—the first time when they eloped, then again when they were married formally in the presence of family and friends. Here she is at the wedding chapel after she and dad were married the first time:

This is me, age 3, with my next up brother, Dick. He's wearing the "knickers" I detested so much:



 

Hand-Me-Downs

I had only one complaint about growin' up
as my parents' youngest son.
And that's the way my pants'd fall down
whenever I tried to run.

See, the reason was, they weren't my pants,
they belonged to my next-up brother.
But I had to wear 'em no matter what,
you can just go ask my mother.

That's what I did, and she set me down,
and said, "What's the matter here, Bud?"
I showed 'er my knickers, and said, "Do you know,
how they got all covered with mud?"

Mom's eyebrows raised, and she said, "Well, no,
but suppose you tell me, please."
I said, "Well, you know, when I stand up,
they fall down around my knees."

"And my brother's boots! If I'm not careful,
I can turn right around inside 'em!
I'm tired of these hand-me-downs," I said,
"I tell you, I can't abide 'em!

"And, wearin' that hand-me-down underwear,
just fairly makes me see red!"
My Ma leaned back, and she closed her eyes.
then she opened them up and said,

"I know it's hard, wearin' hand-me-down clothes,
but look at it this way, mister.
Instead of complainin', you ought to be glad
your big brother is not your big sister."

© 2008, Hal Swift 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

 

I'm still wearing knickers here, in the photo above. Seems like those things'd never wear out! My sister, Betty Jo, is next to me, and mom is at the far right. The ladies on the left were the Colglazer sisters—friends we met shortly after our move to Phoenix, Arizona in 1936.

 

 

 


Here's to Mom

Here's to Mom for teaching me
the joy there is in reading.
For showing me a hundred skills
she knew that I'd be needing.

Here's to Mom for loving me,
although I often blundered.
For teaching me what courage is...
for laughing when it thundered.

Here's to Mom for helping me...
or not, if she felt she shouldn't.
For praising me when I did well,
and also when I couldn't.

Here's to Mom for showing me
Life's good, and how to know it.
For teaching me what real love is,
and helping me to show it.

Here's to Mom for all the years
devoted to my knowing
the way to find the joy in life,
wherever I'd be going.

Here's to you, Mom, from the son
you bore that cold December,
for all the ways you showed your love...
and know that I remember.

© 2008, Hal Swift 
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



 

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Find more poetry and information on page one.

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