“Carefree as a Plantation Darky in Watermelon Time”*
Jim Jeffries worked the corner the night
I fought his little brother. He saw up
close how my left can drop a man
like a cherry from a tree. The younger
Jeffries was a game fighter, but he had
no elasticity. Because he was so game,
I helped carry him back to the corner
after I put him to sleep. Naturally,
I was surprised to find I was a 2 to 1
underdog to the older Jeffries, the same
man who retired immediately after
he saw me in action. I don’t care if Jim
did keep a grizzly as a pet: I’m going
to make a whole lot of money betting on
myself. If I felt any better, I’d be afraid
of myself. I’m so fast I only got my shadow
to spar with & most times, it don’t keep
up either. So I shoot craps to train my fists.
I play the fiddle to train my eyes.
I play baseball to get ready for bed.
When I drive my Flyer over the red rises
into that Reno sunset, everybody from
Philadelphia to Australia will see Jack
Johnson’s taking his machine for a ride.
*The title is a description of Johnson training to fight Jim Jeffries for the Heavyweight Championship from the Baltimore American (July 2, 1910).
—Originally appeared in Pluck!