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Putting a Twist on Summer Songs


In this month’s installment of These Ozarks Hills, Marideth Sisco considers which songs are the best for summertime.

This is Marideth Sisco for These Ozarks Hills. Well, summer here, and I can't say I'm too pleased about it. Summer in the Ozarks is beautiful, but it's my least favorite season, because of the bugs, the heat and the humidity. I can hear someone saying right about now that "It's not the heat. It's the humidity." Well, I don't know about how it is where you are, but over here on this side of the Ozarks it is, too, the heat. And the humidity. These days, songs like "keep on the sunny side" and "In the Good Old Summertime" are not on my songlist.

Truth be known, I try to steer clear of the old standard pop songs as a rule, even though I grew up with them. it's because of my parents. It's not that they sang, for they did, every time we got into the car, which, since my father traveled from job to job, we did quite often. And wherever we were going next, they sang all the way there. And I learned many a song from them, just from sitting there in the back seat, wondering where we were going next.

And I've kept the habit of singing for all these years, and I am apt to burst into song at the drop of a hat. But not those songs, not the ones learned from my folks. I know better. They spent years perfecting the wrong words to all the songs and sayings they could think of. On purpose. That's right. They traded the real words for those of their own invention. Even when they heard a comic song and learned it, they improved upon it until it satisfied them.To this day, I can tell you the number of days in a month by reciting that old favorite rhyme:

Thirty Days Hacienda. April, June and No Wonder, All the rest have 31 except Grandma, and she drives a Ford.

You see what I mean? Then there's that old song from an old musical, you remember the one, called Yes, we have no bananas. I recently learned the real worlds, and found to no surprise that my parents had made alterations in that as well.The chorus line of both versions goes --Yes, we have no bananas, We have no bananas today. So far, so good. But if you were to sing the original verse, it would go like this:

We have string beans, and onionsand squashes and scallions and All kinds of fruits and Hey!Yes, we have no bananas, and so on.

But my parents' words went like this:Weee just killed a pony, so try our baloney, it's flavored with oats and hay, hey, Yes, we have no Banana yeah

I was full grown before I realized that I had diligently memorized the wrong words to a score of songs. And since I had been collecting songs to sing for years, I didn't always remember which had been altered and which had not. My parents died when I was in my early 20s, and over the decades I gradually weeded out the altered versions of songs until I didn't' sing them anymore. But they're still there in my head. My favorite was one they didn't have to alter, because it was already twisted pretty tight, when someone apparently discovered that words could be made into nonsense without alterations if you sang them just right. They took this simple statement:

Mares eat oats and does eat oats, and little lambs eat ivy.A kid will eat ivy too. Wouldn't you?

A simple observation, but when sung, it turns into this"

Maresy Doats, and Dosey Dotesand Liddlelamms eedivey.A kiddle eedivey too, wouldn't you:

They loved that song so much that for a time they called me Maresy, for short. But not for long.

The song I'd nominate as being perfect for summers like this, though, is a lovely but horribly sappy old ditty called "In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree," And wouldn't you know it, there is also a comic version called, "In the Crust of the Old Apple Pie."

Well, my folks were delighted by the comic version, but couldn't tear themselves away from that fruit tree. So they hybridized, and came up with a version I like, and which celebrates the thing I'm most likely to be doing from now until September, whenever I'm outside. I'll be sitting in the shade, apple tree or not.

Their version goes like this:

In the shade of the old apple tree, there is something for you and for meIt might be a pin, that the cook just dropped in, or it might be a dear little fleaIt might be an old rusty nail. Or a piece of a puppy dog's tailBut whatever it be, it's for you and for me,In the shade of the old apple tree

This is Marideth Sisco, spending this part of the summer keeping to the Shady side of these Ozarks Hills.

Marideth is a Missouri storyteller, veteran journalist, teacher, author, musician and student of folklore focusing on stories relevant to Ozarks culture and history. Each month, she’s the voice behind "These Ozarks Hills.” Sisco spent 20 years as an investigative and environmental writer for the West Plains Quill and was well known for her gardening column, “Crosspatch,” on which her new book is based. Sisco was a music consultant and featured singer in the 2010 award-winning feature film “Winter's Bone.”