Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

Error message

  • Deprecated function: Return type of DateObject::__wakeup() should either be compatible with DateTime::__wakeup(): void, or the #[\ReturnTypeWillChange] attribute should be used to temporarily suppress the notice in include_once() (line 143 of /var/www/html/prairieschooner.unl.edu/public/sites/all/modules/date/date_api/date_api.module).
  • Deprecated function: Return type of DateObject::format($format, $force = false) should either be compatible with DateTime::format(string $format): string, or the #[\ReturnTypeWillChange] attribute should be used to temporarily suppress the notice in include_once() (line 143 of /var/www/html/prairieschooner.unl.edu/public/sites/all/modules/date/date_api/date_api.module).
  • Deprecated function: Return type of DateObject::setTimezone($tz, $force = false) should either be compatible with DateTime::setTimezone(DateTimeZone $timezone): DateTime, or the #[\ReturnTypeWillChange] attribute should be used to temporarily suppress the notice in include_once() (line 143 of /var/www/html/prairieschooner.unl.edu/public/sites/all/modules/date/date_api/date_api.module).

Fusion Header

Roy Scheele

The Hadderways

Everyone knew them—and nobody did.
They had a place out south of town a ways,
the little house penned on the east and west
by all the barns and sheds in which they kept
the oddments from the farms that came their way
by swap or sale, or in default of loans:
mint condition antique phaetons
among worn harrow rigs and rusty scythes.
One outbuilding held beneath its rafters
a kind of Hall of Fame of radios,
consoles and portables, and several crystal sets.
The tiny house was a No-Woman’s-Land;
dark and cramped and filthy, it hadn’t known
a dusting or an airing out for years.
It had the acid, almost etched-in smell
of three old men who almost never washed.

The byword for cheap around the county,
they raised potatoes, subsisting on them
like the Old Country peasants that they were,
and each fall what they judged they wouldn’t eat
they brought to town to sell, decked out in coveralls
and red bandanas flaring bright above
the chest hair at the open-button tops
of their faded shirts. And they kept hogs:
not penned but wild, let go in standing corn
to shift for themselves, and the hogs made nests
in the fencerow underbrush, grew tusked and fierce—
it took two days to round them up for market.

Wherever the path of least resistance led,
they took it every time. When Willi, now,
the middle brother, died (one winter’s end:
it was late February, early March,
and he was at his business in the outhouse
when he had a heart attack, keeled over
with a piece of cornhusk paper in one hand—
they found him there next morning, frozen stiff),
not wanting to fuss around with him
or lay out good cash for a funeral,
they put a ladder up against the side
of a half-filled, wire-sided corncrib
and caught him at either end and hoisted him,
bent in the middle like a heavy grain bag,
and pushed him over the top and in.
It seemed to them an adequate solution.
In a couple of weeks, after the thaw,
the neighbors started noticing the smell,
and the sheriff came, then the coroner,
and the body was dragged out, still
in that ludicrous outhouse posture.
Inside of Willi’s overalls they found,
pinned in behind the bib, a wad of bills
that came, in torn, dirty tens and twenties,
to a tidy sum of several thousand.

And that was typical of how those three
went about their living and their dying—
pinching the penny first, last, and always,
afraid their early poverty might rise
from the dormant past, demand accounting.
And then it did, when the last brother died.
The estate (the part of it not recorded
tied up for years in court) was staggering,
most of it consisting of prime land,
and much of that bestowed on nearby towns
for parks, or else on favorite tenants.
The contents of the barns and sheds took up
a whole day at auction. And that was that.

They seemed (and seem) types of their generation:
having climbed, close-fisted, up from poverty,
they never learned to handle life’s largesse.
How hard it is to reckon in the blessing
ourselves among the ones that we would bless.

Prairie Schooner, Vol. 84, No. 2 (Summer 2010), p. 126

Roy Scheele

Roy Scheele’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Arts & Letters, the erie wire, Lucid Rhythms, and Measure. He was honored with a Glenna Luschei Prairie Schooner Award for three poems, one of which was "The Hadderways."

Besides the obligatory boyhood paper route, in high school Scheele was a hamburger slinger at a parking lot stand, a delivery boy for a downtown drugstore, and a vendor at Pershing Auditorium in Lincoln, NE, where he met Louis Armstrong. In college, he handed out soap samples before becoming a cub reporter and nightman for the Lincoln Journal. As a night janitor, he cleaned chocolate vats at the Russell Stover candy factory. He also has worked as a proofreader for a printing company, a peach packer in Arkansas, a waiter at the Bread Loaf Writers Conference (where he met Robert Frost), and a printing department employee of a local bank.