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Posts Tagged ‘miseducation’

If you want to get to heaven, let me tell you what to do,
Gotta grease your feet in mutton stew.
Then slide right out of the slippery sand,
And eeeeeeease over to the Promised Land!

That’s how I learned it in fifth grade, and that was all I learned. No mention of Woody Guthrie, no real explanation for why we were learning it. Maybe we were told, but I seem to recall it was in our Language Arts text and we did it as a class like it was a music unit. For most of my life I had assumed it was something like a plantation song. Why teach this to kids? Why would a kid be wanting to know how to get to heaven? As I read it now it’s a recipe for a slip-and-fall lawsuit.

Imagine my surprise the day the song pops back into my head and I run the lyrics through Google and discover the following:

If you want to get to heaven, let me tell you what to do,
You gotta grease your feet in a little mutton stew.
Slide right out of the devil’s hand,
And ease over to the Promised Land.

Take it easy! Go greasy!

I was down in the holler just a’settin’ on a log,
My finger on the trigger and my eye on a hog;
I pulled that trigger and the gun went “zip”
And I grabbed that hog with all of my grip

‘Course l can’t eat hog eyes, but I love chitlins

Down in the hen house on my knees,
I thought I heard a chicken sneeze,
But it was only the rooster sayin’ his prayers
Thankin’ the Lord for the hens upstairs.

Rooster prayin’, hens a-layin’,
Pore little pullets just pluggin’ away best they know how.

Mama’s in the kitchen fixin’ the yeast,
Poppa’s in the bedroom greasin’ his feets
Sister’s in the cellar squeezin’ up the hops,
Brother’s at the window just a-watchin’ for the cops.

Drinkin’ home brew-makes you happy.

Now, I’m just a city dude a-livin’ out of town.
Everybody knows me as Moonshine Brown;
I make the beer, and I drink the slop,
Got nine little orphans that call me Pop.

I’m patriotic…raisin’ soldiers. Red cross nurses.

Ain’t no use me workin’ so hard,
I got a gal in the rich folks’ yard.
They kill a chicken, she sends me the head.
She thinks I’m workin’, I’m a-layin’ up in bed.

Just dreamin’ about her. Havin’ a good time. . .
Two other women

Dude, are you serious? This was the seed they planted when they taught us that first verse?

Listen, kids, somewhere down the road you’re gonna come across this song that starts off like this. It’s okay, don’t be alarmed. Backwoods livin’ is fine. A little hog shootin’ a little moonshine, grow up to be a no-good womanizing layabout. Trust us, kids, heaven isn’t that far away…

I understand there’s a tradition of a sort of spoken “walking blues” that Guthrie is following, and while a but racy for these enlightened post-PC days, they were perfectly fine in context… back in the 1930’s, not in my 1970’s classroom!  Though now that I think of it, imagine the sort of conversation a class full of sixth graders would have today with these lyrics.  Hey, it can’t be any worse then hearing my youngest mention that in Current Events they discussed the domestic dispute between Rihanna and Chris Brown. 

Why back in my day we used to talk about the Symbianese Liberation Army for Current events

Poetry Friday is being herded like feral cats over at Big A little a this week.  No, I don’t know why I just said that.

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