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Edgar Lee Masters (1868–1950). Spoon River Anthology. 1916.

171. Shack Dye

THE WHITE men played all sorts of jokes on me.

They took big fish off my hook

And put little ones on, while I was away

Getting a stringer, and made me believe

I hadn’t seen aright the fish I had caught.

When Burr Robbins circus came to town

They got the ring master to let a tame leopard

Into the ring, and made me believe

I was whipping a wild beast like Samson

When I, for an offer of fifty dollars,

Dragged him out to his cage.

One time I entered my blacksmith shop

And shook as I saw some horse-shoes crawling

Across the floor, as if alive—

Walter Simmons had put a magnet

Under the barrel of water.

Yet everyone of you, you white men,

Was fooled about fish and about leopards too,

And you didn’t know any more than the horse-shoes did

What moved you about Spoon River.