Friends, lend your ear, this tale you must hear
of a renegade lady I knew
To her I must hand it, this teacher-turned bandit,
to books, she was brave and true.
Her students weren’t reading, so Sally was needing
to make a difference else-where
some minutes avail– I’ll regale you a tale
of Ms. Henderson’s panache and flair.
(This lady had panache and flair!)
The idea she had–just bear with me, lads–
was to spread good books door to door
take from those who don’t need ‘em
give to those who might read ‘em,
rob the rich, and give to the poor.
Now, I ain’t sayin’ its right, but she left in the night
and went West in a Honda Accord
but the engine delayed and the spark plugs were frayed
and the gas was too much to afford.
Yes, the gas cost too much to afford.
She needed a horse! And a fast one of course
She stole from a farmer you see
the horse had him some fire, he could run and not tire
this horse could help Sally run free, lads
this horse could help Sally run free.
She called him Fitzgerald and rode single barrelled
with saddlebags crammed full of stories
and in every small town she would pass books around
and be gone by the first light of morning.
She took all she could carry ‘cross the American prairie, and
meant to be back by September
just a bag full of Blake, Keats, Shelly and Yeats
and all the great books she remembered.
She brought Austin and Hardy, both Brontes, a cardi,
her toothbrush and Edna Millay
the complete works of Shakespeare
(and let me just be clear: her intent was to give it away, my friends
she gave all the good books away).
She brought Fraser and Tolkein
Smiley and Graham Green
Tyler and old Barbara K
Halprin and Joyce, so folks had a choice
O’Farrell and E Hemingway
(‘cuz you can’t forget E. Hemingway).
With DeBus, Doerr and Yeats she rode ‘cross the states
on a horse named Fitzgerald, by day
She had only her mission, and all of that fiction
her shotgun, and bags of Earl Gray
(she liked tea, lads, so bags of earl gray).
But the farmer went round to the sheriff in town
and the sheriff? Tipped off, you might say
He swore with a frown he would track Sally down
Mrs. H, she would not get away.
No, our Sally would not get away.
So, like Doc and young Billy, and old Texas Willie,
Butch, Sundance, and Bonnie and Clyde
from the law she did run with an antique shotgun
and the sheriff chased her far and wide
Sheriff Maligant chased far and wide.
(Ride, Sally Henderson! Ride!)
Well, the days turned to weeks and the weeks turned to months
and he chased her clean out to the coast
the long arm of the law was upon her, she saw
yes, poor Sally, she knew she was toast.
And one late summer night, he gave Sally a fright
cornered her on the sharp edge of town
right out on a cliff, and her heart it went stiff
so she slowed old Fitzgerald down.
Whoah, boy, Fitzgerald, slow down.
“Put your hands in the air!” said the sheriff with flair
thinking he’d caught his white whale
with a dignified gesture, she put down her Winchester, and
looked into his face, cold and pale.
But the English teacher had teacher-like features
she knew how to diffuse situations
She asked him his name and and his anger did wain
as she spoke with kindness and patience.
Turns out Maligant, as antagonists went
Was a bit of a bibliophile
he liked gothic romantics with passion-filled antics
and kept them at home in a pile.
What he wanted, you see, from our teacher, Sally–
the reason he’d chased her these nights?
A particular tome he did not have at home
a copy of Wuthering Heights, friends
just a copy of Wuthering Heights.
So she gave him the book and a teacher-like look
And he left, reading Heathcliff and Catherine
The very night he’d closed in, he left with a grin
And poor Sally H took an aspirin.
But without Maligant, her valiant quest went
rather poorly; it failed to excite
He needed the chase and she needed the race
and all that pursuit in the night.
So with tacit agreement, the sheriff and she went on
though he never quite caught her
She just gave him new books and some secretive looks and
the law? Well, it never quite got her
Yes the law, well it never quite got her.
And so, to this day, she is out there, they say
and happy, from all I can glean
You might track her down in some mid-western town
‘cuz I’ve heard folks who say she’s been seen.
I hope, my dear friends that as this poem ends,
you will promise to pass on her story
She helped those in need (IF they wanted to read), yes
Her legacy’s good books and glory, lads
Her legacy is good books and glory.