American Ballads and Folk Songs: page - 0110

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American Ballads and Folk Songs
Treed fourteen possums up an old gum stump, And I thought old Rattler could see, by God, Yes, I thought old Rattler could see.
Went up on the mountain,
And I thought he'd treed a coon,
But when I got close to where the old dog was,
Old Rattler was a-barkin' at the moon, by God,
Yes, old Rattler was a-barkin' at the moon.
Rochelle Harris, Chattanooga, Tennessee, went without his supper to record this chant for us. Once he had been the foreman of a steel-laying gang whose job it was to unload rails from a flat-car and then place them in position on the ties. The first qualification in the South for a foreman of this sort is that he have a good voice and a fine sense of rhythm, along with the ability to improvise. A regulation railroad iron weighs nearly two tons, and it takes fourteen good stout men to handle it safely and easily. To keep these men working together so that none of them would strain himself unduly or get in the way of the falling rail, then, Rochelle chanted the following directions and in the tenderest manner imaginable. Note the frequently occurring "nows."