12 September 2007

Pike County

When we were little, we had an agreement in our house: on the hour-long trip to the lake house on Friday nights, we'd listen to "kid" songs, and on the Sunday return trip we'd listen to "parent" songs. I usually hollered loudest for the Wee Sing America tapes, and I'd close my eyes and belt out the words that transported me to Cape Cod ("Cape Cod girls they have no pins, heave-a-way, heave-a-way, they pin their gowns with codfish fins"), to the railways ("all the live-long day") or to the very foundations of my country (those ubiquitous spacious skies and amber waves of grain). Even back then the lure of time and space travel had gotten to me.

I prided myself on always being able to memorize the lyrics, even for songs with dozens of verses. I oculd always spit out the correct words to the tongue-twister songs, when my sisters got tripped up on the one about mules having two legs behind.

So it has been that much more distressing to me that for the past two weeks I've had the refrain and part of the verses from Sweet Betsy from Pike traveling through my head. Except that I only remember the first half of one verse and the second half of another verse (and the rhyming parody that we made up to the same tune, Sweet Nancy from Zike). And even after having caught myself humming "too ray lie ooh ray lie ohh ray lie ay" more times than I care to admit, I still couldn't put together the missing chunks. So today I gave up and googled Betsy.

The Wee Sing people must have figured that their target audience was short of RAM, because out of about a zillion verses to the original folk tune, only three made it into the Wee Sing America book (pictured here is a more recent edition than the old-school blue-bordered one we had). In addition, they were hedging their bets on the fact that the eighties were clearly a more innocent time, since the words that I remember have her crossing the wide prairies with her husband Ike.

Well, go have a look at those words and come back here. That whore Betsy left for California before she got married, traveled across the country with her lover, played with guns, drank whiskey and made a habit of mooning people. What a slut!

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