A whimsical look at life growing up in the small town of Waldron, Arkansas in the 1960s and 1970s, plus occasional observations from the present. Want to start at the very beginning? Click HERE.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Remember the Red River Valley

Lack of talent never kept me from singing.  As I once mentioned in a previous post, I can recall standing in my front yard at about age six singing "My Darling Clementine" at the top of my lungs.  The purpose of this impromptu performance was my realization that it would be mildly funny to sing that song loud enough that our neighbor, Clemmie Bobbitt, would hear it.  Clemmie, evidently, did not hear it, or if she did, she failed to make the tenuous connection that it was in fact directed at her. 

Another favorite that we often sang as a public performance was a little ditty that we referred to as "The Comet Song."  It was sung to the tune of the famous "whistling" theme from the movie "Bridge on the River Kwai," or for those not familiar with that great movie, to the tune of something like "da-da, da da da DA DA DA."

Comet, will make your mouth turn green,
Comet, it tastes like gas-o-line,
Comet...will make you vomit,
So get some Comet, and vomit, to-day.

A true classic.  Every kid in my neighborhood knew that song, and couldn't help but join in whenever it was performed.  Another all-time favorite was sung to the tune of "The Old Gray Mare," and went like this...

Great green gobs of greasy grimy gopher guts,
Marinated monkey meat,
Thirty dirty birdy feet.
French fried eyeballs rollin' in a bowl of blood,
And I forgot my spoon.

Always a crowd pleaser.  But our performances were not just limited to song; this spoken-word recitation was an important part of our repertoire...

One bright day in the middle of the night
Two dead boys got up to fight.
Back to back they faced each other,
Drew their swords and shot each other.
A deaf policeman heard the noise,
Came and shot the two dead boys.
If you don't believe this lie is true,
Ask the blind man; he saw it too.

We loved the incongruity of the words in that little poem. 

In addition to our impromptu neighborhood performances, we also participated in formal music programs at school.  We had two different music teachers during our elementary years; Mildred Laird and Callie Adams.  I can't remember exactly which grades each one taught, but I believe that it was Mrs. Adams who was directing the spring music recital that was to feature me in a rather prominent role.

Unfortunately, this was not a singing role.  As good as I was, I was just not quite up to performance level.  However, one of my classmates, Wilma Jones, was given a solo to sing.  She would be singing "The Red River Valley," that classic of Western song, with a minor lyric change, from "...and remember the Red River Valley, and the cowboy that loved you so true." to "...and the cowgirl that loved you so true."

One afternoon, during rehearsal, I found myself with an assigned part in the performance.  Mrs. Adams had selected me, upon the completion of Wilma's song, to step up to center stage and jab my left elbow out and escort Wilma back to her place in the group.  What an honor!  Mrs. Adams, I assumed, had given consideration to this decision by thinking, "Now, I need to select the most handsome boy in the group for this important task; now let's see, who should it be?  Ah yes! Billy Yates!  Of course!"  Actually, what Mrs. Adams was in reality thinking was more like, "Let's see, Wilma is kind of tall, so which of these boys would be tall enough?  Oh, I guess that Yates kid will do."

Of immediate concern was the fact that, as Wilma's Escort, I would need to wear a sport coat, an article of apparel that I did not possess.  So, Mama made a quick call to the Brigance family, who were her cousins, and I was able to borrow a sport coat from my second cousin Richard.

So, my ensemble complete, I was ready for the performance.  And I guess it went well.  I don't remember a lot about it, but I do specifically recall walking up to Wilma, delicately extending my left elbow, and deftly escorting her back to her spot.  I did receive some ribbing afterward about my "girlfriend," but I'm sure those in attendance that night recall it as the highlight of the performance.

I'm reminded of this quite often...every morning, to be exact.  My wife has a little clock that she bought at a thrift store several years ago, and it sits on our bathroom counter.  Every morning, at 6:00, the alarm goes off, and the alarm is an electronic version of Red River Valley.  Since, in seven years, neither of us has been able to figure out how to turn the alarm off, that song has now been imprinted in my psyche so strongly that I doubt that I could function if I didn't hear it. 

Yes, I guess Waldron was my Red River Valley.  And this little cowboy loved it, so true.

1 comment:

  1. The gopher guts song! I thought that was particular to my neck of the woods, but I guess not. Cool!

    Our version was slightly different, to whit:

    Big green gobs of greasy grimy gopher guts
    Mutilated monkey meat
    Trampled on by dirty feet
    One quart jar of all-purpose porpoise puss
    Swimming in my pink lemonade
    Without a spoon!