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SONGS ABOUT ANIMALS
Lydia Gumbel, of Straight College, New Orleans, sends a version sung among the Creole Negroes in Louisiana.
Oh, Bre'er Raccoon, up de persimmon tree,
Possum on de groun'; Bre'er Rabbit say, "You son of a gun,
Shake dem persimmons down!"
Mister Rabbit appears often in these folk-songs, as familiar a figure as in the tales Uncle Remus told, and the singer is as fond of him for his naive, child-like ways and his cunning, as the old darky represented by Harris was. One wonders how the rabbit myth came into being, for in actual life the hare is never so resourceful in his schemes for escape, never so debonair in his insouciant gaiety, never so quick of repartee, as Uncle Remus or the folk-songsters would have us imagine. These qualities of intelligence and wit are superimposed upon slight basis. The rabbit in reality shows skill in getting through fences to green gardens, prodigious appetite for nibbling young plants most beloved of gardeners or farmers, and swiftness of foot in escaping pursuers. But of Gallic wit and American humor he shows no trace in real life. Why is he so beloved of Negro workers, of folk-tales and song? Perhaps because of his defenceless-ness and his mild ways. If he nibbles young plants, it is as a hungry fellow, not a malicious vandal. How is he to know cabbages were not planted for his delectation? One recent summer I watched a baby rabbit grow up in a Dorothy Perkins rose-tangle beside a Southern porch. He ventured forth when nobody was there but me, to play leap-frog with himself on the lawn, and to lunch off a row of nasturtiums along a circling stone wall. I never bothered him, and when the owner of the porch wondered what was happening to her nasturtiums, I breathed no word of explanation. A young rabbit "on his own," as this one was, has a hard time enough dodging hawks and hounds, so I surely would set no female gardener on his track.
The rabbit appears in an innocent and engaging rdle in a song given me by Mr. Dowd, of Charleston, South Carolina. This is in the dialogue form dear to the Negro song-maker.
"Mister Rabbit, Mister Rabbit,
Yo' ears mighty long." "Yes, my lawd,
Dey're put on wrong I
Every little soul must shine, shine, shi-ine, Every little soul must shi-ine, shine, shine."