ice cream man, he’s a hillbilly fan




No tinkly tintinnabulation of children’s songs precedes him;

The vaguely Sputnik-esque speaker on the van’s roof

Squawking out Ernest Tubb and Hank Snow,

(The ice cream man is a hillbilly fan)

Tunes so out of time as to be almost beyond time itself,

Not unlike his ancient, off-white conveyance,

A vehicle of no particular make or model,

Bearing license plates issued years if not decades ago

(One thinks that the DMV would have insisted upon their replacement,

But the ice cream man likely retains them through force majeure,

And it would be no surprise if he did not find himself subject

To such notions as licenses and registrations.)


His arrival is not subject to any calendar but his own.

When his truck announces itself for the first time,

It is, by definition, the height of spring;

You notice the leaves have become a fully-formed green canopy,

And you eschew a bathrobe as you saunter out to find the morning paper.

The next ten, perhaps twelve weeks are a blurry kaleidoscope,

Rife with cones and bomb pops, drumsticks and choco-tacos,

Dispensed with a high-wattage grin and a hearty Mind how you go!

But the ice cream man is always searching the sky

(Sometimes, you would swear he is actually sniffing the air)

Seeking clues like some ancient trying to ascertain the future

In the pebbles and small bugs in a crow’s innards.

At some point, be it late August or mid-October, he is gone,

Leaving you to instinctively grab a windbreaker

If you leave the house after suppertime,

And the shorts and t-shirts are consigned to some large plastic bin

As a matter of course.


Invariably, at some point during his curbside season,

There is the urge to ask him where he goes

Once he determines that his time has ended for another year;

Surely, he cannot live on the quarters and dimes

He tucks into his improbably white apron,

And he must have his obligations to banks and landlords

Not unlike any other man, but somehow the idea

That the ice cream is under the thumb of coupon books and past-due notices

Is oddly unnerving, indeed unseemly.

In our minds, he has always been and most likely will always be,

Engine hacking, sputtering, then implausibly purring as it pulls away from the curb,

Its confectionary conductor humming some long-lost Cowboy Copus tune

Which trails off into nothingness as he disappears from view.




9 thoughts on “ice cream man, he’s a hillbilly fan

  1. Nice, I can almost hear the music preceding him as he makes his way down here to Greenville. Better days ahead.
    Three movies in which an ice cream truck is semi-prominently featured:
    1) Comfort and Joy
    2) Phantasm
    3) Attack on Precinct 13 (Original Version)

    Very nice, as always,

  2. W.K. I really like this one! This is the kind of stuff I like. Hey, anyone who uses Hank Snow (I LOVE Hank Snow and his special kind of nasality, having the AUDACITY to be CANADIAN, fer cryin’ out loud, and still be a hero in the Confederacy) and Ernest Tubb (who was resplendent in his out-of-tune singing) in the same poem are okay in my book. I can hear the songs now.

    Hank Snow (singing sort of like Popeye The Sailor Man) —-

    ” From old Montana down to Alabam’
    I’ve been before and I’ll travel again
    You triflin’ women can’t keep a good man down
    You dealt the cards, but you missed the play
    So hit the road and be on your way
    Gonna board the Golden Rocket and leave this town.”

    And Hank, singing totally out of tune, with that baritone voice…..

    Thanks a lot.
    I’ve got a broken heart!
    That’s all I’ve got!
    You made me cry,
    and I cried a lot.
    I lost yer love
    Baby thanks a lot!”

    Very colorful, eccentric character, this ice cream man. GREAT character. That’s the kind of stuff I like. I truly did enjoy this. Is this based on anyone who is up where you live?

    I wish we had colorful characters down here. Actually, I dread the arrival of the ice cream man. In other words, the Mister Softee trucks, not playing Hank Snow OR Ernest Tubb, but playing that dreaded stupid song, over and over, and over and over. Darn it, I hate the summers here in Queens! And the Mister Softee truck is symbolic to me of what I hate about Queens in the hot summer, being cussed at by animalistic morons driving cars who think that pedestrians are nothing but a nuisance that slow them down, the little lousy “dogs” shitting all over the sidewallk, the selfish pricks aand bitches who live around here who are the nastiest and worst people on earth; they’d sooner kill you than say “hello” to you.

    And, perhaps worst of all, the sadistic sound of the Mister Softee truck, playing the SAME AWFUL, OVER-MODULATED TUNE, OVER AND OVER AND OVER UNTIL YOU JUST ABOUT GO CRAZY. (It’s only in la-dee-da Manhattan that the so-called “noise ordinance” is enforced, allowing the borough of Queens to be inundated by that insane ice cream song.)

    Give me Hank Snow and Ernest Tubb ANY day.


  3. I’ve had plenty of cowboy songs in my life, and I don’t go looking for more, but I think if I heard this ice cream truck, I’d be there, cash in hand, on a summer day. Enjoyed this very much, and I think I’d enjoy a choco-taco, too.

  4. I love this ode to approaching summertime from an entirely new angle – the advent of the ice-cream man – like he himself brings the magic of the new season and knows when it is over.

    When his truck announces itself for the first time,

    It is, by definition, the height of spring…

  5. yeah, i love this one, too. had a boyfriend who spent part of a summer as a Good Humor driver in Pittsburgh, now THAT was something else. wow.

    hey on another topic… thanks SO much for your comment about how my grandmother’s writing put you in mind of Ring Lardner. that is FASCINATING. those words were written when she was in high school in the mid-20’s (in Pittsburgh), but she eventually became a journalist, was a voracious reader, and an even more voracious baseball (Pirates) fan so I’m certain she knew his writing and columns. thanks so much for making that suggestion, which has sparked much imagination and an urge to read and research on my part. thank you thank you!

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