“Riding the Shoo Fly”
By Nannie Tillery Williams Francis
Submitted by: Margaret Strickland
Posted: 3 April 2010
Copyright: Margaret Strickland
When we grew up to go alone,
Ma would let us ride the Shoo Fly Train,
That was a train going north.
We would go to visit Grandpapa and our aunts,
That would be at the station in Enfield, North Carolina,
With the buggy pulled by Nellie the horse.
When getting on the train Ma would say,
You can eat until you get to Whitakers,
As soon as the train started we opened our shoe box and started eating.
Don’t forget to close your box she would say,
Wipe your mouth so you will be pretty when you get there.
We both sat near the window,
So we could see our aunts and Nellie the horse.
They would be there waving their hands,
When the train stopped and the door opened we would jump in their arms.
They put us in the buggy and asked us lots of questions,
We could hardly answer for looking all around.
When we got to Grandpapa’s house,
He had a big watermelon under the tree,
And told us to change clothes cause Hettie wanted us to stay clean.
It was a hard thing to do when there were so many things planned that day.
Our clay cakes we had left under the house to bake
We had to look to see if they wee there.
Everything was in place just as we left it before,
Grandpapa said he kept everything in place,
And watched everything we left.
But the fun came when Grandpapa would put us on Nellie’s back,
And take us for a ride through the country.
He would holler to his neighbors that we were there,
We both would wave our hands.
So much fun to visit them,
Our relatives were so nice to us.
We didn’t have to wait til Sunday,
To get that chicken pot pie.
We picked berries and got blue in the face,
And they would laugh and say Hettie should see you now
Berries everywhere on our faces and on our clothes,
But who cared, the water was there,
Waiting in the tub in the backyard.
We both jumped in and played around,
And we wee soon like new again.
Tired and sleepy we soon went to bed,
But the next day we were all ready again.
This poem was taken from Happy Hill Memories written by Nanie Francis, daughter of Frank Whitman and Hettie Gray Williams. Frank and Hettie Williams married in 1906. At the time of the 1910 census, Frank was 27, Hettie was 24, and Lossie, the oldest child, was 2 years old. They lived on Beal Street, Rocky Mount, Nash County. Frank Williams worked at the railroad freight depot. He and Hettie eventually had 5 children.
This is a story we printed in THE CONNECTOR in the Fall 2006 issue.