And a Do-Si-Do | Newberry

And a Do-Si-Do

You have given us some mighty pretty things this past week. Not just the books about medieval concepts of literacy or LPs of Peruvian polkas, but your bookmarks and other attending paper have been toward the top of the scale this week.

I absolutely adored that book on the Chicago Fire, rushed into print shortly after the fire and well cared for since 1871. That in itself is a treasure, but not an unprecedented one. We really like the patriotic stationery you left, either to preserve the sentiment or just as bookmarkers. The sailor on the deck of his ship, standing between a cannon and an eagle and flanked by a flag and shield with stars and stripes, the stripes now being pink since the fading of the ink, is very nice. But the angel of the battlefield, dispensing a drink of water for a picturesquely wounded Zouave while a battle rages in the background is particularly choice. His pantaloons (baggy military pants were part of the Zouave uniform during the Civil War) and the stripes on her dress are a similar pink to that on the other envelope. It leaves me with some fashion notes—did angels of the battlefield wear knee-length skirts because it was more convenient on the battlefield?—but it is choice nonetheless.

Thank you for sending us your Bible, Kissie Doll, Honey Girl. I read the note your mother sent with it, telling you why she’s sending it and why she marked two verses in particular. If I may be permitted to read between the lines, she sent it for your first Christmas with your husband. The verses she marked are kind of the thing mothers send to daughters who get married. I mention this because the Bible, its gift box, the notes, and the bookmarks are all in such excellent condition, I assume you never got as far as looking at them yourself. The next owner thanks you, too.

The prize for interest, though, this time around is a piece of paper where I have also read between the lines and gotten nowhere in particular. I have searched the Interweb for clues, and have come out pretty much where I went in. If anyone out there can add anything to my guesses, I’d be glad of it.

The book is a collection of American Folk and Fairy Tales, edited by Rachel Field, a name to conjure with in the field of children’s lit. It is a mixed bag, a former library book with a mild amount of water damage. As collections of folktales go, I would not call this entirely authentic: it’s a collection of nice American stories for children.

And tucked inside is a barbaric yawp which reads like a collection of dance tune lyrics for a folk singer of a far distant day. It is a typed sheet bearing three different poems about the power of music, one with lyrics rather familiar. Can’t quite place them, which, of course, is one of the top ten reasons the Internet was invented. Are you struggling with the words of a song: is one word or line eluding your memory? Go to the Internet: somebody somewhere has posted what you need.

And I can’t, somehow, find these three anywhere, even the one I’m positive I’ve seen before. Are they unknown folk songs, lyrics somebody dreamed up in an idle moment, or something copied off the wall of a barn belonging to an unsung poet? I like them—which is a lot, coming from a devout poetry-skipper—and I want to know what’s going on.

The one I seem to recall begins “Corn in the bin and turkey in the straw, jumpin’ jeepin’ hoppers and a mule’s hee-haw”. It’s a raucous celebration of the music of everyday life, and I wonder where I would have come across it, back in my boy days. I didn’t go on hayrides, and I can’t believe I heard it on Lawrence Welk.

The third song, the shortest, begins, “Look! I kin walk, I kin walk as good as you!” and deals with a young lame person who is announcing that when music plays, he’s as good on his feet as anyone else. It’s another quick, loud yell of song.

But the first song, which takes up more than half the page, is the one which has me puzzled. This one ought to be traceable: maybe I’m going about it the wrong way. It is rather Tolkienesque, sounding like some of his long, comic story poems. (Tolkien liked folk songs himself: one of his favorites was the one about that fox who went out on a chilly night—Sam sings a cover of it in The Lord of the Rings.)

And I honestly think it should be easy to trace the story of Millicent Hune of the silver shoon (that’s an old word for “shoes”, if you’re not up on your folk lingo). Millicent is fortunate in that so much which happens to her rhymes with her last name, but unfortunate in that the moon refuses to dance with her. She is inclined to sulk until someone somewhere strikes up some music, and the tune (are you getting all these rhymes?) convinces her shoon that they can dance anyhow, without any partner.

So if anybody out there can tell me about any of these songs—whether you’ve heard them, whether they’re hiding somewhere on YouTube, I’d like to know. Not only would it satisfy curiosity, but it would also tell me whether I have some rare Americana here or just notes by someone who knew a good song when she heard one.

Add new comment