Poetry of Kansas
 

Billy Been

Billy Been of the Marais des Cygnes,
Trading Post, Kansas___Have you ever seen
A one legged man who lives in a boat?
(When fishing is fair he is always afloat.)
He knows all the rocks and the stumps that are
  seen
Along the sleek banks of the Marais des Cygnes,
And he uses them daily to anchor his lines
Nor cares if it's raining nor if the sun shines.
 
Billy Been, of the Marais des Cygnes
Morning and evening each day can be seen
Paddling along as he visits his hooks
(Just as the stories you read of in books)
Tells all you ask___just what kind of bait
Is used by the experts, and tells it so straight
That hopes of a catch by each novice are high
As he fights the mosquitoes and casts out his fly.
 
Billy Been, of the Marais des Cygnes,
Welcomes all visitors, (plain to be seen)
For when they are weary and hungry at last
From casting the lines, when the hooks all get
  fast,
They start down the river a-looking for him,
Where his boat is fast anchored to rocks or a
  limb,
They dig up their coin when they get to the spot
And ask him how much for what fish he has got.
 
Good Billy Beth then pulls up his trap
So chock full of fish that the staves almost snap,
And says "For that catfish two dollars to you,
For a carp or a sucker a dollar will do.
I'm sorry the fish warn't bitin' today
But I'm not much surprised for the sky was so
  gray
Come back in a week they're not moving much
  yet
And ye'll get some whoppers with doughballs I
  bet."
 
And then to the city the novices go
With a twenty pound cat and a sucker to show,
And tell all their friends how that catfish did fight
As he yanked on the lines on that Saturday night,
How they upset the boat and let smaller fish go,
As they sweated and tugged to get him in tow,
How the spot of all spots is the Marais des Cygnes
But they never once mention their friend Billy
  Been.

__Ed Blair.

Sunflower Siftings
Ed Blair
(Boston: The Gorham Press. 1914)
Pages 56-57

 
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November 10, 2002 / John & Susan Howell / Wichita, Kansas / howell@kotn.org

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