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Up Beat Down South "Hallibone, crackabone, ten and eleven" Children's Rhymes and Singing Games BY GAVIN JAMES CAMPBELL One %ol, two %ol, trica^oll %an, Bobtailnannygoat, Yankee-doodle dan. Harum, scarum, Virgin Mary, Highpon tosh; outgoes he! —South Carolina counting-out rhyme, ca. i88os Children's singinggame, Greene County, Georgia, ca. 1941. Courtesy ofthe Southern Historical Collection, University ofNorth Carolina at ChapelHill. 127 "Aw, Mom! Do I have to? Can't I stay out just a littlelonger?" The injustice ofbeing called in to prepare for bed just as the fun was really starting has been replayed in countless yards across the Soudi. Cicadas sing a goodnight lullaby that heralds the dolesome hour. Trudging like die condemned to die scaffold, the child ascends the porch steps as the rest ofthe children regroup to accommodate the loss ofyet another playmate to the clutches ofthe washcloth and cotton sheets. Wafting on the dusky evening air in a ritual almost as old as the bedtime struggle is a counting-out rhyme to choose the newest person to be "it": Bee, bee, bumblebee, Stung a man upon his knee; Stung a pig upon his snout. I declare ifyou ain't out! For over two centuries, rhymes and singing games have been an integral part of southern childhood. From the singing games like "Here Come Three Dukes ARoving ," to jump-rope, to deciding who would be "it," to starting foot races, childhood recreation involves playing with rhythms, rhymes, and melodies. Like much ofsouthern culture, these games are complex mixtures ofEuropean, African , and American elements, and though not nearly so prevalent as in the last century , they still continue to accompany youthful play. Jump-rope rhymes are one of the more familiar combinations of rhythm, rhymes, and play that still enjoy widespread popularity. Because rural children who wore out valuable plow lines using them as skipping ropes often found tiieir rear-ends equally worn out from daddy's belt, jump-rope has largely been an urban recreation. Children, particularly girls, have composed a vast corpus of imaginative verses that are an integral part of the game. Preferably at least three children play: two "turners" to turn the rope and another child to jump. If only two play, a tree or post can substitute for the absent turner. To accompany the jumping, players recite any one of thousands ofverses such as this one found in Durham, North Carolina, before World War II: Last night and the night before, A lemon and a pickle came a-knockin' at my door. I went downstairs to let them in; They hit me on the head witii a roiling pin, And they said: Lady Moon, Lady Moon, turn around; Lady Moon, Lady Moon, touch the ground; Lady Moon, Lady Moon, show your shoe; Lady Moon, Lady Moon, how old are you? [Count until you miss.] I28 OAVlN JAMES CAMPBELL If "Lady Moon" got so elderly that the jumper was outstaying her welcome, the turners could call out "hot peas!" and whip the rope faster and faster until the jumper missed. Jumpers also used their rhymes to predict the future. As early as 1 886 in Washington, DC, an observer noted that girls called out, "silk, satin, velvet , calico, rags," as they jumped. When they tripped the rope they would know dieir wedding dress fabric. In a more modern version, girls say, "What shall I drive when I grow up? Lincoln, Chrysler, Chevrolet, Ford." Rhyming verses start many games as well. Long before Elvis Presley's "Blue Suede Shoes" made the lines immortal, for instance, many black and white children throughout the South timed the start of foot races by shouting, One for the money, Two for the show, Three to make ready, And four for the go! Games that require one person to be "it" also begin with an old rhyming ritual called "counting out." Some Virginia children in the 1880s, for instance, recited the following: Heely, peely, tipty, fig, Deely, doly, domi, nig; Horter sporter, Sally Snorter. Woa, har, gee, buck! A self-appointed leader would begin this rhyming verse, pointing to each child, including him or herself, with each word. Alternately, the children put their fingers inside a hat...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 127-134
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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