Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Uncle Zeke Scolds the Girls

Uncle Zeke sometimes raised the ire of his female readership of the Buzzardtown News. He was constantly harping on the attire of the girls of the day, their use of cosmetics, their lack of desire to learn how to milk a cow, and many other tasks which had been done by women before the “age of the flapper1.” A review of his articles does not clearly reveal whether Uncle Zeke was actually serious about his criticism of women or whether it was part of his devilish scheme of “jokestering,” as he called it. Often, after what seemed to be a biting criticism of some aspect of a young girl’s life, he then would say he was “only joking.” Maybe, he was and maybe he wasn’t, but at this date one cannot say for sure. But, since Uncle Zeke says he was only kidding, we may have to take him at his word.

Now listen, all you gentle folks,
And don’t get mad at my little jokes;
If you fume and foam, fret and cuss
It only makes things ten times “wuss,”
I’m just as mad as I can be
Because you never do joke me
Now listen to what I have to say
I expect to joke to my dying day.

It makes me feel very much relieved
Because I know you ne’er get peeved;
So in the paper you’ll still find
Some little jokes of every kind.

As a prelude to the Uncle Zeke versus Aunt Meek tussle, the following are examples of Uncle Zeke’s opinion about things feminine, so the reader can attune his or her ear to the coming battle.
About Women’s Dresses
Weather down to zero
Skirts above the knee—
If things keep on a keepin’
Them little calves might freeze.

About Lipstick
Tommy Jones, a village boy
Liked to have a frolic;
He kissed a flapper on the lips
And died of painter’s colic.

About Omnipotence
I powdered and painted the face of the clock;
Gave a permanent wave to the sea;
I bobbed the hair on the head of the bed;
And put the backward spring in the flea.

About a Good Wife
His wife she never drank no booze,
And never told bad tales;
She never wore the high heeled shoes,
Nor wore long finger nails.

About Young Girls Becoming Teenagers
When little children begin to walk,
Their prattling tongues begin to talk;
Then they lay away their toys,
To paint their cheeks and court the boys.

About Casting a Wife Adrift
If my better half smoked cigarettes,
I’ll tell you what I’d do-
I’d build a boat and set her afloat,
She could paddle her own canoe.

If she wore long fingernails,
Painted red like some women do
Upon my soul, I’d get a pole,
And upset her old canoe.

Now ladies, please don’t get your guns
And hunt for Uncle Zeke
You know I mean it all for fun;
There might be more next week.
About a Scolding Wife and Her Poor Husband
When every dog has his day,
And every woman has her way;
And every husband naught to say
Its time to bow our heads and pray.

When everybody gets your goat
And the missus takes you by the throat;
And the devil gets you in his boat,
A fervent prayer you ought to quote.

About the Old-Time Girls
The old-time girls have passed away
Who hoed the corn and raked the hay.
But bless their sweet and useful lives,
They were just the kind for good housewives.

About the Girls of 1932
The girls of nineteen hundred thirty two,
They much resemble something new;
With powder, lipstick, rouge and paint
Makes them look like what they ain’t.

About the Prettiest Girls
The prettiest girls who come to town,
Are those attired in working gown.
Its not the dress or pretty curls
That make the noblest dearest girls.

About Women Smoking Cigarettes
Some women hate to read good books,
Some even hate their husbands’ looks,
At everything they fume and fret,
But love to smoke a cigarette.

About Some Girls Who Ain’t Built that Way
Some girls they have a very fine look,
And yet they never learned to cook;
At washing dishes they don’t know how
And never tried to milk a cow.

Some never even learned to sew,
And yet they’d like to have a beau;
They never learned to scrub or wash,
And yet they think they’re it, b’gosh.

Some never think to comb their head
Nor even wash to mix the bread;
But some will chew their gum, you bet
While others smoke their cigarette.

Some are gray and some are sad,
So now, dear girls, please don’t get mad;
Some are bad and some are good;
To do without them we never could.

Some will sing and some will dance,
And some will play all day.
But they can’t scratch a match on the seat of their pants,
Because they ain’t built that way.

Uncle Zeke’s verse displays his teasing and judgmental nature toward the opposite sex. He also mixed his verse with non-poetic jokes. In a 1928 column, Uncle Zeke told his readers that “It is claimed that a moth these days can devour a woman’s skirt at one meal and not complain of stomach trouble either.” Apparently, Uncle Zeke heard complaints from some readers about his girl jokes because he often postscripted the jokes with a disclaimer that the “whole thing was just a joke.”

Aunt Meek Takes Up Her Cudgel
And, along comes Aunt Meek, protector of the fairer sex, to chastise and rebuke Uncle Zeke for his anti-feminine tirades, behind the false masquerade of “just being jokes.” This author is not quite sure who Aunt Meek was. Was she a creation of Uncle Zeke for the purpose of being a literary foil? Or, was she a real person with designs to “rebuke the bully” and to uphold the honor of the girls of the day? Aunt Meek, in calm and measured tones, addressed Uncle Zeke, the man in the bully pulpit, concerning his old fashioned attitudes.

Aunt Meek Writes to Her Uncle Zeke
I guess it’s quite high time
That I write dear Uncle Zeke
A poorly rhymed-up rhyme
From your yesteryear Aunt Meek.

I hope you’re well and happy
And life is glad and gay
And you’re still as young and snappy
As you were in by-gone days.
When we teased and joked each other
Thru the dear old Democrat,
And our Gassaway grandmother
Thought we’d fight like dog and cat.

But we knew it was all a jest,
You have to do like that
To work up interest for the rest
Who read the Democrat.

But now, Uncle Zeke, I don’t approve
Of the way you scold the girls.
As an old man it doesn’t behoove
You to fret and stew and snurl.

If girls nowadays don’t milk a cow,
Or spin, knit, mend or sew,
Do you expect them to learn how
To cook and broil and bake up dough.

For times have changed since olden days,
The covered wagon and buckboard, too,
Have been enjoyed and passed away.
We must let them go and enjoy the new.

You get your milk from dairies nice,
And apples already off the core.
The bread we get already sliced,
Our readymade dresses from the store.

The butter golden already churned,
Our beans cooked nice in a can;
Our meat baked to a turn,
Just suits the taste of any man.

Please do not frown or angry be,
And grow great wrinkles in your face,
You just come over and we will see
Who will really win in a milking race.

Or serving or mending or spinning, too,
I’ll show you that I’m not so weak,
For I do have to tell it to you,
I can do a few things, Good Luck, Aunt Meek.

Uncle Zeke Fights Back
Of course, Uncle Zeke was not one to take rebuke lying down. No sooner than Aunt
Meek had put her feet up on her footstool to savor her rebuke of Uncle Zeke on the very front pages of the Braxton Democrat, Uncle Zeke had pencil in hand, writing tablet on the table, and a thing or two to tell Aunt Meek in his mind.

Uncle Zeke to Aunt Meek
I guess, Aunt Meek, it is high time
That you should write a rhythmic rhyme;
Those yesteryears of which you speak
Bring memories back to me, Aunt Meek.

O yes, Aunt Meek, I’ve got the snurls,
But I like to tease the naughty girls;
I’m glad and gay and always happy,
That’s why I feel so young and snappy.

Of course I’m old and don’t dude up,
And haven’t shaved since Heck was a pup,
But when I look at you, Aunt Meek,
I see a tint upon your cheek.

To buy your dresses at the store,
A thousand things and a dozen more,
Of course it would be easily done
If everybody had the “mon.”

I think all girls should learn to bake,
Ere any of them a husband take,
For if they cannot bake his bread
He might as well be—I’ll say dead.

Yes, olden times have passed away,
When you and I were blithe and gay;
To follow the times that’ve lately come
We’ll surely have to “go it” some.

I know you are a woman grand,
And ready to lend a helping hand;
I’ll tell you why this fact I know,
Your dear old mother told me so.

I try to live both good and true,
But I never can be as good as you;
I hope when we our race have run
We both a righteous cross have won.

And now, my dearest dear Aunt Meek,
Accept this poem from your Uncle Zeke;
O may your life be full of cheer
The remainder of this glad new year.

Uncle Zeke Mellows Out
Although Uncle Zeke seemed unrepentant in his sequel poem to Aunt Meek, a review of his subsequent columns indicates that perhaps Uncle Zeke did come to conclude that he had been too harsh with the girls. His criticism became more muted, his tone more conciliatory toward the fairer sex, and he may indeed have had his eye on the “righteous cross” he sought at his end.
In Wikipedia, “the term “flapper” in the 1920s referred to a ‘new breed’ of young women who wore short skirts, bobbed their hair, listened to what was then considered unconventional music and flaunted their disdain for what was then considered ‘decent’ behavior. The flappers were seen as brash in their time for wearing excessive makeup, drinking hard liquor, treating sex in a more casual manner, smoking cigarettes, driving automobiles, and otherwise flouting conventional social and sexual norms.

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