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Life's a long song

Sometimes when I'm mowing the lawn or doing some other mindless thing, a song I learned in elementary school will start playing on my brain's jukebox. How I can remember song lyrics from nearly 50 years ago mystifies me—and it makes me wonder what things of worth I could have remembered if my brain cells hadn't been taken up by, say, lyrics from Protestant hymns. (I'm not making this up.)

For many of these songs, I wonder just what on earth people were thinking when they taught them to us. Times certainly have changed. The song that was driving me nuts(ier) today, for example, is full of thievery and ethnic violence. It begins:

Taffy was a Welshman.
Taffy was a thief.


To my knowledge, I had no classmates from Wales. Maybe that's why it was acceptable to the people who set the music curriculum. It continues:

Taffy came to our house
And stole a leg of beef.


One would think the natural reaction—the civil reaction, the one you would hope children would learn—would be to call the authorities and let them handle it. But no. Instead, a revenge motif begins:

I went to Taffy's house.
Taffy was not home.


Why wasn't he home? Because he's a thieving Welshman, that's why:

Taffy came to our house
And stole a marrow bone.


OK, OK: Maybe times were tough. Maybe Taffy was hungry—starving, even. Maybe he was so hungry that his hunger drove him to thievery, drove him to take a leg of beef. But to steal a "marrow bone"? What is a "marrow bone," anyway? Is it a soup bone?

At this point, the song takes a disturbingly violent turn. The police remain unsummoned. An effort to understand Taffy's circumstances goes unmade. Instead:

I went to Taffy's house.
Taffy was in bed.
I took the marrow bone
And hit him on the head.
Whack!


Violence is the answer, children. Violence. Hit the bad guy. Hit him in the head. Hit him in the head when he's sleeping.

Damned Welshman.

Comments

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
lancaster1250
May. 20th, 2010 02:24 pm (UTC)
Hahah, I read this last night but was too tired to comment. I love the subtle (but clear) side comments. It's amazing how the times change.
patrick_vecchio
May. 21st, 2010 12:50 am (UTC)
We learned some songs that if I were to write about them, no one would believe it.
(Anonymous)
May. 20th, 2010 03:19 pm (UTC)
Whew, I thought I was the only one... I remember songs from grade school, too, and most of the Gettysburg Address, which I memorized in 1966. And I remember Nana's phone number. That and my student ID number from college have come in handy as passwords (I have to change my passwords at work every 90 days, no repeats allowed). I often wish there were a "delete" button for the brain, so I could purge the cranial hard drive of some of the useless stuff and make room for more current things that I can't remember - you know, like my passwords for work! ;)
---YLADST
(p.s. spellcheck suggested changing "ylasdt" to "lardiest" - I'm offended!)
patrick_vecchio
May. 21st, 2010 12:49 am (UTC)
Nana's phone number? Wow.
(Anonymous)
May. 21st, 2010 02:31 am (UTC)
I remember Aunt Betty's, too.
patrick_vecchio
May. 21st, 2010 02:50 am (UTC)
Egads. That's a little scary or something.
cougarfang
May. 22nd, 2010 05:08 am (UTC)
Your entry reminded me of something I'd intended to write about and never got around to, so instead of a comment, here's my thoughts in my own journal. ^^;
nodressrehersal
May. 31st, 2010 01:12 pm (UTC)
OMG. For some reason, I know this piece too, but I'm not remembering it as as song; I think I learned it as a poem. I imagine having a tune to accompany it is way worse than just remembering the words.
patrick_vecchio
May. 31st, 2010 01:54 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry to hear that. Now it will be stuck in your head all day unless you take this cure:

"Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves."

nodressrehersal
May. 31st, 2010 03:54 pm (UTC)
*shakes fists in the air*
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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Nota bene: “Fear has governed my life, if I think about it. ... I always feel like I’m not good enough for some reason. I wish that wasn’t the case, but left to my own devices, that voice starts speaking up.” – Trent Reznor

“I hate to say this, but not many people care what you do. They care about what you do as much as you care about what they do. Think about it. Just exactly that much. You are not the center of the universe.” — Laurie Anderson

"The path's not yours till you've gone it alone a time." – William Carlos Williams

“Filling this empty space constitutes my identity.” – Twyla Tharp

"My definition of peace is having no noise in my head." – Eric Clapton

"The wreckage of the sky serves to confirm us in delicious error." – John Ashbery

"We are all here by the grace of the big bang. We are all literally the stuff of the stars." – Dwight Owsley

"For my part, I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of stars makes me dream." – Vincent van Gogh

"It is only with the heart that one can see right; what is essential is invisible to the eye." — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

"Forget about being a perfectionist, because entropy always wins out in the end." – Darren Kaufman.

"Impermanence. Impermanence. Impermanence." – Garry Shandling

"Fame is a vapor; popularity an accident; the only earthly certainty is oblivion." – Mark Twain

"There is no realm wherein we have the truth." – Gordon Lish

"Actual life is full of false clues and sign-posts that lead nowhere." – E.M. Forster

“Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe." – Frank Zappa

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