You’ll find this week’s blog written below, but first a brief word from our sponsors.
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Now, back to the blog.
Evie Busk, my mother, loved jokes and puns and poetry. Well into her eighties she could still recite Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha from beginning to end—and liked to do so. On our driving trips back and forth between Arizona and South Dakota, out on the prairies where radio signals didn’t reach, she entertained us with songs.
In My Fair Lady Professor Henry Higgins claims that women’s heads are full of “cotton, hay, and rags.” My mother’s head was full of song lyrics, verse upon verse, the sadder the better.
Oh, they cut down the old pine tree,
And they hauled it away to the mill,
There’ll be no cabin of pine
For that sweetheart of mine
Since they cut down the old pine tree.
But she’s not alone in her grave tonight,
T’is there my heart will ever be,
Though we drifted apart
Still they cut down my heart,
When they cut down the old pine tree.
And then there was the heart breaker, “In the baggage Coach Ahead.” In that one a young man is on a train, caring for a very fussy and cranky baby. Two nosy busybodies on the train go up to him and demand to know where is that child’s mother. His reply? “She’s in the baggage coach ahead.” That one never failed to make me cry.
But there were funny songs, too: Vive La Cookery Maid.
There once was a maiden to cooking school went
Vive la cookery maid.
On dishes delicious her heart was intent
Vive la cookery maid.
Her apron was spotless,
Her cap it was neat.
The figure she made
Was distractingly sweet
But the stuff she concocted
A goat couldn’t eat.
Vive la cookery maid.
There are several more verses including one that recounts the story of a robber who makes the mistake of breaking intoner house and sampling a recently baked pie. As a consequence, he comes to an untimely end. No wonder I liked that song. It came complete with forensics.
And then there was Ain’t We Crazy.
I know a little ditty
It’s as crazy as can be.
The guy who wrote it
Didn’t want it
So he handed it to me.
He said he didn’t want it
Because he thought it blue
And that’s the very reason
That I’m handing it to you.
It’s the song the alligators sang
While coming through the rye
To serenade the elephants
Up in the trees so high.
It’s the song the iceman shouted
As he shoveled in the cold
And was echoed by the monkeys
Up around the northern pole.
There are lots more verses to that one, and my mother knew them all. You can look them up on the Internet if you’re interested.
But this morning when my eyes popped open, my mother’s voice was there in my ear, reminding me of a poem she recited from time to time. I could only remember a few bits and pieces of it, and, with her gone, I thought the poem was gone, too.
Evie was born in 1914 and her death in her early nineties predates much of what we know today as the Internet. To my surprise, though, just now when I googled the pieces of that poem that I did remember, I came away with the whole thing.
Mysteries of Anatomy
Where can a man buy a cap for his knee,
Or the key to a lock of his hair?
Can his eyes be called an academy
Because there are pupils there?
Is the crown of your head where jewels are found?
Who travels the bridge of your nose?
Can you use in shingling the roof of your mouth,
The nails on the ends of your toes?
Can you sit in the shade of the palm of your hand,
Or beat on the drum of your ear?
Can the calf in your leg eat the corn off your toe?
Then why not raise corn on the ear?
Can the crook in your elbow be sent to jail?
If so, just what did he do?
How can you sharpen your shoulder blades?
I’ll be darned if I know – do you?
These are literally, the words I learned at my mother’s knee. They’re part of what made me who I am today—someone who loves words and music. Someone who loves a good joke or a good pun.
I owe my mother a great deal, and so do my readers.
Thank you, Evie!