Aug 22, 2015

A possum roaming around in my head..

As you may have gathered, my thoughts often revolve around the recent and not so recent past.  That being said, I've been finding myself intently reminiscing about my grandparents this week.  When I was a young boy living in California, many an afternoon was spent at their house in Ontario, which was located on a busy street named Mission Boulevard.  Back then, there was nothing I loved more than relaxing on the porch with my grandfather.  We would while away the hours, sipping on soda and watching the trains in the distance roll by.  During those afternoons, my granddad would share stories about his youth, as well as an infinite array of life experiences.

Sometimes when there was a lull in the conversation, he would entertain me by yodeling, whistling, and singing old songs.  Many of those songs are permanently burned into my brain, and often manifest themselves when I think of dear old granddad.  However, there was one song in particular that always intrigued me..

Throw them 'simmons down
A "simmon" aka persimmon, is a wonderful fruit that somewhat resembles a tomato in color and shape.  The varieties I remember eating, kind of mimicked a plum in flavor.  My Grandfather used to sing a song about them that I used to love, and it went like this..

Possum in the 'simmon tree, Racoon on the ground..

Racoon shouts to the possum, throw them 'simmons down.

Throw them Simmons down.. throw them 'simmons down..

Racoon shouts to the possum, throw them 'simmons down.  

That's all there was to it.. a catchy little tune that always made me giggle and laugh.   Every last detail about the way my Grandfather used to sing it, is permanently housed in my data banks.  I can still vividly recall the way we held his pitch, tone, and even the speed he sang it.

I never thought much about the origin of this song, but always assumed he picked it up somewhere in the south.  I decided to do a little research on the song, as well as persimmon trees, and was amused at the info I came across.  It's apparently well documented that possums love persimmon trees and their ripened persimmon fruit, as do racoons.  I was also elated to find the title and full lyrics to the song my Grandfather used to sing to me.  Here's the skinny..

Got a Bushy Tail

Raccoon's got a bushy tail,

Possum's tail goes bare,

Rabbit's got no tail at all

Just a little old bunch of hair.

Raccoon is a mighty man,

He rambles through the dark,

You ought to see him hunt his den

When he hears Old Ranger bark.

Possum up persimmon tree,

Raccoon on the ground,

Raccoon says to possum,

"Won't you shake them 'simmons down."

Rabbit up in the gum stump,

'Coon in the holler,

Possum in the 'tater patch,

Fat as he can waller.

Raccoon's got a bushy tail,

Possum's tail goes bare,

Rabbit's got no tail at all

Just a little old bunch of hair.

I was surprised to learn that it was a five verse folk song that was originally sung by

It doesn't surprise me that Grandpa's version of the song is so different from the official version above.  Grandpa most likely sung the song as he remembered it, or wanted to remember it.  He got a real kick out of singing it, so maybe it was his favorite verse.  That's how old folk songs and stories are sometimes.  Folks take liberties with them, and the changes end up sticking over the years.  However, the verse Grandpa used to sing, was in tact enough for me to dig up the history of this great folk song.

In the end, I'm more partial to Grandpa's version, but it was very satisfying to learn the history behind the song that we both loved so much.

By the way.. I'd be remiss if I didn't thank Smithsonian Folkways  for providing me with some back history, and links to buy "Racoon's got a bushy tail" and many other great folk songs written by Pete Seeger.

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