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Just Outside My Door 02/07/13

February 13, 2013
By ELAINE G. COLE - COLUMNIST ( , Westfield Republican / Mayville Sentinel News

Once again I send greetings to you from my toasty home while just outside my door it's another blustery, snowy day.

The previous warm weather and rain had deleted all the snow in our yard so we could see the green grass. It didn't last long however, for we had quite stormy weather most of last week. The total amount here as of last Friday, Feb. 1 was 92 inches. If the winter continues as it was during most of January, we could easily have considerably more snow. I'm sure that would make Peek 'n' Peak very happy.

Last week I wrote about wintertime and some things I enjoy during this season. Recently one snowy day I looked through some old song and poetry books handed down to me over the years. Some came from my grandparent's, parents and a variety of other elderly people. You may not be interested in such information unless you are elderly, but I'm sure some of you share my interest.

One of those resources was entitled "Old Time Songs and Poems." It included religious songs, frontier ballads and much, much more. It was published in 1969 and is a paper publication. On it's first page there was information about "Dixie," the song of the south.

"Dixie" was originally a minstrel song written by Northerner Dan Emmet. It was sung by people in the north and south alike until it was taken over as the anthem of the Confederate States during the Civil War. At the time of that publication, it was still as popular as was corn pone and shortenin' bread, and in 1860 it became a favorite song of the greatest Northerner in history, Abraham Lincoln, whose birthday we celebrate next Tuesday, Feb. 12.

According to Evergreen, Lincoln had attended a minstrel show in Chicago late in the year of 1860. During the performance, the new song "Dixie" was presented and the President was delighted with the stirring tune as well as the lyrics. He applauded longer than anyone else in the audience and cried out, "Let's have it again, let's have it again." The band obliged and played it once more. Lincoln's head kept time to the tune, and he clapped and called, "Thank you kindly, gentlemen." Little did the Great Emancipator realize then his "favorite tune" would shortly afterward make its way to the south and become the rallying cry for rebel forces in the war that almost destroyed the nation.

I found another old time song beginning with the sentimental lyrics, "Darling, I am growing old, silver threads among the gold." Thus its title was the same with the exception of the word darling and it became very popular in American past.

When the aforesaid poem was first written by Eden E. Rexford sometime in 1870, he had no idea it would ever be sung, for he wrote it as a fill-in poem for the "Wisconsin Farm Journal," a magazine he edited for many years.

Later in the 1870's, a man by the name of Mart P. Danks saw and old copy of the farm magazine and the sentiment of the poem touched him. He went to see the editor and author of the poem and during the visit, Rexford pulled out a batch of poems he had written and chucked in his desk, where they lay forgotten.

"Mr. Rexford, you have a rare talent as a poet," his visitor told him. "You should write more poetry, sir."

"Nope," Rexford replied, "no money in it." Then Danks offered to buy all the poems the editor had strewn across his desk. He said he'd give the editor $3 for each of them.

"It's a deal, but I feel guilty taking advantage of you" Rexford answered, feeling Dank's offer way to generous.

One of those poems, deemed worthless by Rexford, was destined to become famous. Moved by the sentiment of "Silver Threads Among the Gold," Danks sat down and wrote a melody for it, one matching the poem with the haunting wistfulness which endears it to singers around the piano in that day. There are older folk who still enjoy singing that song today as they did in yesteryear.



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