Jimmy Stewart

Jimmy Stewart by George H. Rothacker - acrylic on canvas -  24" x 24" - Original painting $2400, prints @$90 each plus tax and shipping (Prints are an edition of 50, signed, titled and numbered with an image area of 13"x 13").

This is a blog about writers that have meant something to me and influenced my life. There are no conditions on the amount they wrote, or in what genre. So because of the many influences he has had on my life, I am including a personal favorite writer and actor of mine who only wrote one short book of poems - Jimmy Stewart.

In 1989, New York Times writer Beth Ann Krier commented on the recently published book of poems by then 81-year-old Jimmy Stewart. She wrote, "He may be the only person in the world who could get away with publishing a book of poetry containing but four poems--four short poems at that."

Stewart explained that he had only written "maybe eight--at the very top eight" poems during his entire life. And some of those were even briefer than the ones just published in "Jimmy Stewart and His Poems."

"A couple of them had only four lines," Stewart said, referring to poems that he and his editors at Crown Publishers decided to exclude.

"I haven't done (a poem) for years, but I've just kept these," he says of his rhyming verses, which celebrate such diverse subjects as a movie camera that was attacked by a hyena in Nairobi, his dead dog Beau, the tricky top step on a flight of stairs in an Argentine hotel and how unbelievably cold it gets in Kenya's Aberdare National Park.

Egged on by Johnny Carson, Stewart began a tradition of reading his poetry on "The Tonight Show." The response from the studio audience and fans throughout the country was sustained and enthusiastic, prompting repeat performances.

"Johnny Carson said to me,'Why don't you put them in a book?' " recalled Stewart. "I swear it has nothing to do with studying poetry or learning from somebody," he insists, adding that he doesn't have a favorite poet or even read other people's poems.

"I just sort of stumbled into it, maybe 30 years ago," he remembers. "The idea of poetry never occurred to me so much. I think Gloria (his wife of 40 years) and I were in South America in the late '50s. We were in Northern Argentina, in a small town called Junin de los Andes, which has a wonderful trout stream.

"There were four of us staying in a small hotel with three floors of steps. . . . Every one of us tripped on the last step and fell down. Gloria said, 'The top step in Junin, (pronounced Who-neen) is mean.' I started with that and made it rhyme and it turned out to be a poem. I wanted to record this in some way so I wouldn't forget it."

One poem stands out, as it was heard and felt by millions who heard Stewart read it on the "Tonight Show." He said he wrote "Beau" after the death of his beloved dog, Beau. In the poem, Stewart recalled Beau's life and the great love Stewart had for the dog, and his sense of loss after Beau's death.

Here is the poem in its entirety:

"Beau"
by Jimmy Stewart

He never came to me when I would call
Unless I had a tennis ball,
Or he felt like it,
But mostly he didn't come at all.

When he was young
He never learned to heel
Or sit or stay,
He did things his way.

Discipline was not his bag
But when you were with him things sure didn't drag.
He'd dig up a rosebush just to spite me,
And when I'd grab him, he'd turn and bite me.

He bit lots of folks from day to day,
The delivery boy was his favorite prey.
The gas man wouldn't read our meter,
He said we owned a real man-eater.

He set the house on fire
But the story's long to tell.
Suffice it to say that he survived
And the house survived as well.

On the evening walks, and Gloria took him,
He was always first out the door.
The Old One and I brought up the rear
Because our bones were sore.

He would charge up the street with Mom hanging on,
What a beautiful pair they were!
And if it was still light and the tourists were out,
They created a bit of a stir.

But every once in a while, he would stop in his tracks
And with a frown on his face look around.
It was just to make sure that the Old One was there
And would follow him where he was bound.

We are early-to-bedders at our house--
I guess I'm the first to retire.
And as I'd leave the room he'd look at me
And get up from his place by the fire.

He knew where the tennis balls were upstairs,
And I'd give him one for a while.
He would push it under the bed with his nose
And I'd fish it out with a smile.

And before very long
He'd tire of the ball
And be asleep in his corner
In no time at all.

And there were nights when I'd feel him
Climb upon our bed
And lie between us,
And I'd pat his head.

And there were nights when I'd feel this stare
And I'd wake up and he'd be sitting there
And I reach out my hand and stroke his hair.
And sometimes I'd feel him sigh
and I think I know the reason why.

He would wake up at night
And he would have this fear
Of the dark, of life, of lots of things,
And he'd be glad to have me near.

And now he's dead.
And there are nights when I think I feel him
Climb upon our bed and lie between us,
And I pat his head.

And there are nights when I think
I feel that stare
And I reach out my hand to stroke his hair,
But he's not there.

Oh, how I wish that wasn't so,
I'll always love a dog named Beau.

Jimmy Stewart