One episode of Info Please
in tonight's bedtime playlist included a few lines of the old song Froggy Went Acourtin. Their version was different from the one my father sang, which got me thinking....
My father came from an Appalachian heritage, constantly struggled to get away from it and join the upward-striving 1950s. He never really fitted into the mandatory culture of Bridge Games and Dry Martinis and The Right Car and The Right House and The Right Attitude.
Most of the misfit was basic temperament, not culture. He was a Sitter
, inclined to work with whatever life hands you. America, especially in the '50s, was built for Rovers:
ambitious, addictive, dramatic, Icarine. Fly high, melt, fly again, melt again. Roll the dice, lose. Roll the dice again, lose again. Roll again, lose again. Always expect to win, always lose. Utterly insane.
Singing old songs was, I suspect, a little act of rebellion. Turned out to be a good way of connecting with his kids and (subversively) passing on the Appalachian culture and the Sitter tendency. He often sang us the Froggy song, with some of his own verses and variations. He also insured that we had books and records of the old songs. Most of those live songs, books and records were Bowdlerized for the '50s; his version of Barnacle Bill had just as many verses as the original but none of the dirt, and his version of La Cucaracha was also cleaned up:
porque no tiene, porque le falta,
gasolina por su car!
... which actually makes more sense than the original 'marijuana que fumar'. After all, if you're going to caminar, what you need is gasolina!
Bowdler or not, I'm glad he found a way to subvert the Rovers. When I went through my burnout or mid-life crisis or whatever at 35,
I belatedly understood that I've always been a Sitter, which made the Rover way of life not just uncomfortable but impossible. Without the connection formed by those songs, I wouldn't have been able to pick up the old thread.