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The James T. Callow Folklore Archive

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THERE WAS A MAN UPON THE STAIRS,
GEE I WISH HE WASN'T THERE.
HE WASN'T THERE AGAIN TODAY,
GEE, I WISH HE'D GO AWAY.

Submitter comment: INFORMANT LEARNED THIS FROM HER MOTHER MANY YEARS AGO.

Data entry tech comment: YESTERDAY UPON THE STAIR, I SAW A MAN THAT WASN'T THERE.
HE WASN'T THERE AGAIN TODAY,
OH, HOW I WISH HE'D GO AWAY (THAT'S THE WAY I HEARD IT)

Where learned: MICHIGAN ; DETROIT

Keyword(s): CHIASMUS CONTRADICTIONS QUATRAIN ; FIRST PERSON NARRATIVE ; REPETITION METER: IAMB. RHYME: IMPERFECT, DOUBLE ; RHYME AABB ; SLANG CONTRADICTION ; WISH GHOSTS FEAR

Subject headings: Ballad Song Dance Game Music Verse -- Verse without Music

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FORMULAIC VERSE WITHOUT MUSIC

I WENT TO THE RIVER, I COULDN'T GET ACROSS,
SO I PAID SIX BITS FOR AN OLD GRAY HORSE,
I RODE HIM IN, HE WOULDN'T PULL,
SO I RODE HIM OUT AND TRADED HIM FOR A BULL.
THE BULL WOULDN'T HOLLAR, SO I TRADED FOR A DOLLAR,
THE DOLLAR WOULDN'T PAY, SO I TRADED FOR SOME HAY,
THE HAY WOULDN'T GROW, SO I TRADED FOR A HOE,
THE HOE WOULDN'T DIG, SO I TRADED FOR A PIG,
THE PIG WOULDN'T SQUEAL, SO I TRADED FOR A WHEEL,
THE WHEEL WOULDN'T RUN, SO I TRADED FOR A GUN.
THE GUN WOULDN'T SHOOT, SO I TRADED FOR A BOOT.
THE BOOT WOULDN'T FIT, SO I GUESS I'D BETTER QUIT.

Where learned: MICHIGAN ; FERNDALE

Keyword(s): FIRST PERSON NARRATIVE ; INCREMENTAL REPETITION ; METER: IAMBIC ; MONEY FUTILITY BARTER ; RHYME: INTERNAL, IMPERFECT ; RHYME: MASCULINE, AABB

Subject headings: Ballad Song Dance Game Music Verse -- Narrative Verse

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HE WAS ONLY A LAVENDER COWBOY,
THE HAIRS ON HIS CHEST NUMBERED TWO.
HE WANTED TO BE LIKE THE HEROES
AND DO AS THE BIG MEN DO.

RED, GREEN, MANY-COLORED HAIR TONICS
HE RUBBED ON HIS CHEST DAY AND NIGHT,
BUT WHEN HE AWOKE THE NEXT MORNING,
ONLY TWO HAIRS WERE IN SIGHT.

HE BATTLED FOR RED NELLY'S HONOR,
HE HELD UP AN OUTLAW'S NEST,
BUT THEY FOUND HIM DEAD THE NEXT MORNING,
WITH ONLY TWO HAIRS ON HIS CHEST.

Where learned: OFFICE

Keyword(s): FIRST PERSON NARRATIVE ; METAPHOR OVERSTATEMENT HEROES ; METER: IAMBIC ; REPETITION ; RHYME: IMPERFECT, MASCULINE, ABCA

Subject headings: Ballad Song Dance Game Music Verse -- Narrative Verse

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(BOY'S NAME) AND (GIRL'S NAME) SITTING IN A TREE,
K-I-S-S-I-N-G. (SPELLING)
FIRST COMES LOVE, THEN COMES MARRIAGE,
THEN COMES (NAME) WITH THE BABY CARRIAGE.

Submitter comment: I REMEMBER THIS FROM GRADESCHOOL.

Where learned: MICHIGAN ; DETROIT

Keyword(s): ANTI-CLIMAX HUMOR SYMBOL ; FIRST PERSON NARRATIVE ; METER: TROCHAIC ; RHYME: MASCULINE, AABB ; SEX, REFRAIN ; SPELLING RHYME

Subject headings: Ballad Song Dance Game Music Verse -- Children
Ballad Song Dance Game Music Verse -- Narrative Verse

Date learned: NOT GIVEN

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MY DEAR, DO YOU KNOW,
HOW A LONG TIME AGO,
TWO POOR LITTLE CHILDREN,
WHOSE NAMES I DON'T KNOW,
WERE STOLEN AWAY
ON A FINE SUMMER'S DAY,
AND LEFT IN THE WOODS,
AS I'VE HEARD PEOPLE SAY.
AND WHEN IT WAS NIGHT,
SO SAD WAS THEIR PLIGHT,
THE SUN IT WENT DOWN,
AND THE MOON GAVE NO LIGHT;
THEY SOBBED AND THEY SIGHED,
AND THEY BITTERLY CRIED,
AND THE POOR LITTLE THINGS,
THEY LAY DOWN AND DIED.
AND WHEN THEY WERE DEAD,
THE ROBINS, SO RED,
BOUGHT STRAWBERRY LEAVES, (BROUGHT?)
AND OVER THEM SPREAD.
AND ALL THE DAY LONG
THEY SANG THEM THIS SONG:
"POOR BABES IN THE WOODS,
POOR BABES IN THE WOODS,
AND DON'T YOU REMEMBER,
THE BABES IN THE WOODS."

Where learned: MICHIGAN ; DETROIT

Keyword(s): DEATH ; FIRST PERSON NARRATIVE ; METER: ANAPESTIC ; MONOLOGUE REPETITIION ; RHYME: MASCULINE, AABA CCDC

Subject headings: Ballad Song Dance Game Music Verse -- Narrative Verse

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OOEY GOOEY WAS A WORM,
OOEY GOOEY LIKED TO SQUIRM,
OOEY GOOEY CROSSED THE RAILROAD TRACK.
O-O-EY, G-O-O-EY!

Where learned: MICHIGAN ; DETROIT

Keyword(s): HUMOR, FIRST PERSON NARRATIVE ; METER: IAMBIC ; MONOLOGUE UNDERSTATEMENT ; RAILROAD DEATH ; RHYME: IMPERFECT, MASCULINE, AABC

Subject headings: Ballad Song Dance Game Music Verse -- Narrative Verse

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THE BOY STOOD ON THE BURNING DECK,
EATIN' GOOBERS BY THE PECK.
THEN THEY FOUND THE STEAM WAS HOT,
HE PUT THE GOOBERS IN THE POT.

Where learned: MICHIGAN ; DETROIT

Keyword(s): GOOBERS=PEANUTS ; HUMOR, FIRST PERSON NARRATIVE ; METER: IAMBIC ; QUATRAIN MONOLOGUE ; RHYME: MASCULINE, AABB ; SLANG PARODY EATING

Subject headings: Ballad Song Dance Game Music Verse -- Narrative Verse

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THE CLOCK OF LIFE IS WOUND BUT ONCE,
AND NO MAN HAS THE POWER
TO TELL JUST WHERE THE HANDS WILL STOP,
AT LATE OR EARLY HOUR.
TO LOSE ONE'S WEALTH, IS SAD INDEED,
TO LOSE ONE'S HEALTH IS MORE;
TO LOSE ONE'S SOUL IS SUCH A LOSS,
AS NO MAN CAN RESTORE.
THE PRESENT ONLY IS OUR OWN,
LIVE, LOVE, TOIL WITH A WILL--
PLACE NO FAITH IN "TOMORROW" FOR
THE CLOCK MAY THEN BE STILL.

Where learned: MICHIGAN ; UNIVERSITY OF DETROIT ; DETROIT

Keyword(s): ADVICE, PREPARATION FOR DEATH ; FIRST PERSON NARRATIVE ; METER: IAMBIC ; RHYME: MASCULINE, ABCA ; SYMBOL METONYMY RELIGION TIME

Subject headings: Ballad Song Dance Game Music Verse -- Narrative Verse

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THERE WAS A GIRL YOU COULD TICKLE,
BY POKING HER RIBS WITH A PICKLE.
AT A CHURCH FAIR ONE DAY,
THEY MADE THE BOYS PAY,
BY CHARGING A NICKEL A TICKLE.

Submitter comment: INFORMANT LEARNED THIS FROM HER UNCLE, WHO WAS A MINISTER.

Where learned: MICHIGAN ; DETROIT

Keyword(s): FIRST PERSON NARRATIVE ; HUMOR CHILDREN MONEY ; METER: TROCHAIC ; METONYMY ; RHYME: FEMININE, INTERNAL, AABBA

Subject headings: Ballad Song Dance Game Music Verse -- Verse without Music

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THERE WAS A YOUNG WOMAN NAMED BRIGHT,
WHOSE SPEED WAS MUCH FASTER THAN LIGHT.
SHE SET OUT ONE DAY,
IN A RELATIVE WAY,
AND RETURNED ON THE PREVIOUS NIGHT.

Where learned: MICHIGAN ; WYANDOTTE

Keyword(s): HUMOR, FIRST PERSON NARRATIVE ; INDIRECTION LIMERICK ; METER: ANAPESTIC TETRAMETER ; QUATRAIN CONTRADICTIONS ; RHYME: MASCULINE, AABBA ; RIDICULE NONSENSE

Subject headings: Ballad Song Dance Game Music Verse -- Narrative Verse

Date learned: 11-12-1968

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LIFE IS LIKE A MOUNTAIN RAILROAD,
WITH AN ENGINEER THAT'S BRAVE.
WE MUST MAKE THE RUN SUCCESSFUL,
FROM THE CRADLE TO THE GRAVE.

Submitter comment: RECITED

Where learned: MICHIGAN ; DETROIT

Keyword(s): FIRST PERSON NARRATIVE ; METER: TROCHAIC-IAMBIC ; RHYME: FEMININE, IMPERFECT, ABCA ; SIMILE ADVICE PREPARATION FOR DEATH

Subject headings: Ballad Song Dance Game Music Verse -- Lyrical Verse

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STARTING THE NEW YEAR

ON THE FIRST OF THE NEW YEAR YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO LET THE FIRST
DARK PERSON THAT YOU KNOW COME THROUGH THE DOOR FIRST
WHILE HE CARRIES A PIECE OF BLACK CHARCOAL (IF NOT MALE THEN
HAVE A FEMALE DO IT).
SO THAT YOU MAY HAVE GOOD LUCK THROUGHOUT THE YEAR.

Submitter comment: THIS ITEM WAS LEARNED DURING HIS LATE ADOLESCENT STAGE IN HIS
HOME TOWN.

Where learned: MICHIGAN ; DETROIT

James Callow Keyword(s): FIRST FOOTING

Subject headings: 686 Properties attributed to specific numbers or numerals individually.
CUSTOM FESTIVAL -- January 1 New Year's
CUSTOM FESTIVAL -- December 21 solstice to March 20
BELIEF -- Number
BELIEF -- Good luck P881.1
BELIEF -- Good luck P881.42

Date learned: 00001930S

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HOW DOES THE BIG MOUNTAIN CALL HIS SON? (HE YELLS, "HEY CLIFF")

Where learned: MARYLAND ; BALTIMORE ; TOLD IN

James Callow Keyword(s): PUN ON FIRST NAME

Subject headings: RIDDLE -- Riddle Question

Date learned: 00-00-1972

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NEW YEAR'S BELIEF

IF THE FIRST PERSON TO VISIT YOU ON NEW YEAR'S DAY IS FAIR-HAIRED THERE WILL BE MUCH TROUBLE FOR YOU THAT YEAR.

IF THE FIRST PERSON TO VISIT IS DARK-HAIRED THEN THERE WILL BE GOOD LUCK FOR THE YEAR.

Data entry tech comment:

Informant and collector share the same surname.

Where learned: OHIO ; CLEVELAND

James Callow Keyword(s): FIRST FOOTING

Subject headings: 686 686.1
CUSTOM FESTIVAL -- January 1 New Year's
CUSTOM FESTIVAL -- December 21 solstice to March 20
CUSTOM FESTIVAL -- December 21 solstice to March 20
BELIEF -- Body part Senses
BELIEF -- Measure of time Year
BELIEF -- Color
BELIEF -- Good luck P881.42
BELIEF -- Bad luck P882.42

Date learned: 09-10-1972

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THE FIRST PERSON TO ENTER A PERSON'S HOUSE ON MONDAY MORNING,
SHOULD BE A MALE OR OTHERWISE YOU'LL HAVE BAD LUCK THE REST OF THE
WEEK.

Where learned: DETROIT

James Callow Keyword(s): FIRST FOOTING ; SEXISM

Subject headings: 686 Properties attributed to specific numbers or numerals individually.
BELIEF -- Measure of time WeekDayHour
BELIEF -- Bad luck

Date learned: 12-00-1972

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NEW YEAR'S CUSTOM/LUCK

THE FIRST PERSON TO ENTER THE HOUSE ON NEW YEAR'S DAY MUST BE
HAPPY, HEALTHY AND PROSPEROUS, SO THAT THE FAMILY'S GOOD LUCK WILL BE
INSURED.

Where learned: MICHIGAN ; FARMINGTON

James Callow Keyword(s): CONTAGIOUS MAGIC FIRST FOOTING

Subject headings: 686 686.1
CUSTOM FESTIVAL -- December 21 solstice to March 20
BELIEF -- Fate Destiny Luck Chance
BELIEF -- Good luck P881.2

Date learned: 09-24-1972

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VISITOR

IT IS A SIGN OF BAD LUCK IF YOUR FIRST VISITOR ON
NEW YEAR'S DAY IS A WOMAN.

Submitter comment: THIS WAS TOLD TO THE INFORMANT BY A CO}WORKER WHO IS A BLACK
GIRL OF THE MUSLIM FAITH.

Where learned: MICHIGAN ; DETROIT

James Callow Keyword(s): FIRST FOOTING ; SEXISM

Subject headings: 686 Properties attributed to specific numbers or numerals individually.
CUSTOM FESTIVAL -- January 1 New Year's
BELIEF -- Bad luck P882.2

Date learned: 10-25-1972

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PRETENDED OBSCENE RIDDLE

Q: WHAT DOES A LADY DO SITTING DOWN, A MAN STANDING UP, AND A DOG ON
THREE LEGS?
A: SHAKE HANDS

Data entry tech comment: 2 MORE EXAMPLES ARE IN THE 5 X 8 CARD FILES.

Where learned: MICHIGAN ; DETROIT

Keyword(s): AN ACTION (A) ; PART OF THE BODY (A) HANDS ; PERSONS (Q) AND DOG.

James Callow Keyword(s): URINATE, IS ONE'S FIRST THOUGHT

Subject headings: RIDDLE -- True Riddle

Date learned: 09-00-1971

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EASTER

IF THE FIRST PERSON WHO WALKS IN THE DOOR ON EASTER IS A MAN, IT'S
BAD LUCK; IF IT'S A WOMAN, IT'S GOOD LUCK.

Where learned: TELEPHONE ; TOLD BY

Keyword(s): FIRST FOOTING ; LUCK

Subject headings: 686 Properties attributed to specific numbers or numerals individually.
Favorites
CUSTOM FESTIVAL -- Spring Planting Easter Sunday
BELIEF -- Fate Destiny Luck Chance

Date learned: 03-07-1970

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POLISH EASTER

ON EASTER MORNING, THE FAMILY WOULD ALWAYS HOPE FOR ITS FIRST VISITOR
TO BE A VERY YOUNG PERSON OR A CHILD AS THAT WOULD DENOTE THAT GOOD
FORTUNE WOULD FOLLOW ALL YEAR.

Submitter comment: LEARNED IN POLAND

Where learned: STORE

Keyword(s): FIRST FOOTING ; LUCK

Subject headings: 686 Properties attributed to specific numbers or numerals individually.
CUSTOM FESTIVAL -- Spring Planting Easter Sunday
BELIEF -- Fate Destiny Luck Chance

Date learned: 09-27-1967

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