Nov. 1, 2001

Cripple Creek

by American folk song

Listen (RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: A folk song, "Cripple Creek."

Cripple Creek

I got a gal at the head of the creek,
Go up to see her 'bout the middle of the week,
Kiss her on the mouth, just as sweet as any wine,
Wraps herself around me like a sweet pertater vine.

    Goin' up Cripple Creek, goin' in a run
    Goin' up Cripple Creek to have a little fun.
    Goin' up Cripple Creek, goin' in a whirl,
    Goin' up Cripple Creek to see my girl.

Girls on the Cripple Creek 'bout half grown,
Jump on a boy like a dog on a bone.
Roll my britches up to my knees,
I'll wade old Cripple Creek when I please.

Cripple Creek's wide and Cripple Creek's deep,
I'll wade old Cripple Creek afore I sleep,
Roads are rocky and the hillside's muddy
And I'm so drunk that I can't stand study.

Today is the day after Halloween, known as All Saints Day. Halloween is actually the vigil for this day. This day celebrates God's decision to take people into heaven, as well as remembering all known and unknown Christian saints, and is in fact a sort of gathering, which is why Halloween and All Saint's Day are celebrated with corn shocks, pumpkins, apples, nuts, and other signs of the fall harvest.

It's the birthday of the playwright and novelist A. L. Gurney, Jr., Albert Ramsdell Gurney, Jr., born in Buffalo, New York (1930).  Gurney earned his master's degree in fine arts from the Yale Drama School in 1958 and taught for many years at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He gave up teaching in 1982 and began to work exclusively on his writing, because he was, as he said, "liberated ... from the oppressive obligations of academic life."  Some of his more popular plays include Richard Cory: A Play, which is a treatment and extension of a powerful short poem by Edward Arlington Robinson about a much admired man who suddenly commits suicide, The Dining Room (1982), and Love Letters (1989), a two-character play which simply depicts two people sitting at a table reading the letters they have written to each other over their lifetimes.

It's the birthday of writer Lee Smith, born in Grundy, Virginia (1944). Smith started writing at the age of nine, watching people in her father's store. She learned how people dressed, how they shopped, and what they talked about. Some of her works include Black Mountain Breakdown, News of the Spirit, and Family Linen.

It's the birthday of the author and war correspondent Stephen Crane, born in Newark (1871). He was the youngest of 14 children, and was very frail. His first published novel, The Red Badge of Courage (1895), a novel about a soldier in the Civil War, was very well received, although those critics who read it refused to believe that Crane was not a veteran soldier, since the story was so vivid, real and detailed. After The Red Badge of Courage was published, Crane released a book titled Maggie: Girl of the Streets, which he had written when he was 16 years old. Crane was also a war correspondent for The Westminster Gazette and The New York Journal for the Greco-Turkish War, and eventually went to Cuba as the Journal's correspondent, witnessing the operations at Santiago and Havana and Puerto Rico. He made his home in England, and died on June 6, 1900.  Stephen Crane, who said: "The nearer a writer gets to life, the greater he becomes as an artist."

On this day in 1512, the painter Michelangelo's paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel were first exhibited to the public. The paintings on the ceiling took four years to complete and included nine episodic scenes of Genesis. The Creation, man's temptation and ultimate fall, Noah and the Deluge are all included, depicted in vibrant colors.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
The Writer's Almanac on Facebook

The Writer's Almanac on Twitter

Subscribe to our daily newsletter for poems, prose and literary history every morning
An interview with Jeffrey Harrison at The Writer's Almanac Bookshelf
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show
O, What a Luxury

Although he has edited several anthologies of his favorite poems, O, What a Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic & Profound forges a new path for Garrison Keillor, as a poet of light verse. Purchase O, What a Luxury »