Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Huckleberry Songs

April 20, 2008: These songs were copyrighted by me in 1991, in an unpublished collection entitled "Shawangunk Mountain Folktunes." Two of them are published with complete musical notation in two of my books: "Fire on the Mountain" in Shawangunk: Adventure, Exploration, History and Epiphany from a Mountain Wilderness (pp. 36-38) and "Blue Gold of Shawangunk Mountain" in The Huckleberry Pickers (pp. 158-60). The music for the other 4 songs may be made available by contacting me at (845) 895-3756. Musicians should feel free to perform these songs, though not to record them for commercial purposes.
Of my five published books of history/nature writing: images, description and ordering information for the four that are still in print may be viewed at by clicking "Museum Shop" and scrolling down to "Recommended Reading."
I perform these songs, accompanied by folk-musician Bob Lusk, at the annual Shawangunk Mountain Wild Blueberry and Huckleberry Festival in Ellenville, N.Y. in late August (for more info, contact Ellenville/Wawarsing Chamber of Commerce).
Note regarding the website you are now viewing: It was created several years ago by Bob Lusk, who informed me after the fact. Since I am not myself online, and I find use of the internet difficult and often annoying, I have not taken the opportunity to examine, edit and make corrections until now. From this date forward, I take responsibility for the accuracy and integrity of the content.
---Marc B. Fried

Huckleberry Songs

"Oscar and Evelyn"
c 1991 by Marc B. Fried

Chorus A:
Oscar and Evelyn, raising the devil in
them huckleberry mountains up along the Stony Kill,
if someday down that road you tramp on by the berrypickers' camp
and you look real close, perhaps you’ll see them there still.

Chorus B:
Oscar and Evelyn, such a pair there’s never been,
raising berrypicking hell and making merry fit to kill,
though they’ve been gone for many a year, if you listen closely you might hear
them carrying on yonder on that huckleberry hill.

He’d never met his match before, they met each other in the war,
she followed him back home and there she fancied what she saw,
each summer on those rocky heights and round the campfire summer nights
she shared the life and soon was Oscar’s wife in common law.

Notorious but loved by all and glorious before their fall,
though Evelyn, she cooked and cleaned and served the family well,
Oscar sought inebriation, Evelyn slept all 'round creation,
soon they had a reputation for raising holy hell.

(Chorus A & B)

She was Oscar’s only lover, he shared her with his pa and brother,
she got to know the whole family in an intimate sort of way,
and when Oscar was asleep from too much liquor, she got to know every other berrypicker,
respectable folks would shake their heads and this is what they’d say:

(Chorus B: - 1st two lines, then 2-bar instrumental, then final 2 lines.)

One dark night, as I been told, driving down the old turnpike road
Miss Decker saw a shape that made her give her horn a blow ([pause]..."beep! beep!")
What she thought she saw made her aghast, a male and female dog “stuck fast,”
luckily for them she was driving purdy slow,...

But it was Oscar and Evelyn, with a jug of wine between,
sittin' in that road, they rose and slowly walked away,
and the two of them never heard no more 'bout what they’d been mistaken for,
but the tale’s been passed around and down until this very day.

(Chorus A&B)

After twenty years went by she left him for another guy,
though Oscar’s heart was broke it took him twelve more years to croak,
though Oscar’s liver passed the test, eventually he was laid to rest
behind a picket fence, beneath the Stony Kill sky.

Evelyn spent five more years living in this vale of tears,
some say she lost her spunk and that she never more got drunk,
but when she finally up and died, she was laid to rest beside
Oscar and his family, reunited in their biers.

(Chorus B [Repeat second half with retard])

"Mary Crose"
c 1991 by Marc B. Fried

Oh, Mary Crose, they loved you most for your chickens and your roasts,
for your puddin' and your pie, your musk melon, my-oh-my,…
and whoever wandered in was fed a dinner for a king,
such hospitality was shown, your house was everybody’s home.

Oh, Mary Crose, she had cows, she had chickens in her barn,
she had good things a'coming from her kitchen and her farm,….
for the stranger or the friend, there was vittles without end,
and they all loved you so true, they named a mountain after you.

She was born Mary Caston in a place called Greenfield
in the year eighteen hundred six-ty,
and she married Caleb Crose, but he turned out to be a louse,
so she soon kicked him out and replaced him with a kraut,
a man named Fisher, they lived happily together
and they’re buried side by side in the cemetery.


When she was just a tyke, a rattlesnake took a bite,
or so has the story been said,
so she had a wooden leg, and she wore it to bed,
for inside it her money was hid.

Round about in back, she had tarpaper shacks,
so high above the valley below,
and when times was bad, there was work to be had,
picking berries for Mary Crose.


Mary passed from this world one New Year’s Day,
her work on Earth was done,
but the huckleberry pickers didn’t move away,
they was having too much fun.

There was music and singing, a'dancin' and a'jiggin'
and the hooch often flowed like a fountain,
and even today people talk of the place
as Mary Crose’s Mountain.

(Last chorus: second half only, with retard toward end.)

"Old Bill Punch"
c 1991 by Marc B. Fried

Old Bill Punch, he had better pack a lunch
if he’s gonna try and wait to get in that pearly gate,
for all the fightin’ and the drinkin' he done,
I bet he’s friends with the devil and still having his fun.

He was a millstone cutter and a blacksmith too
and he sure did like his likker,
and when summertime come, just for the fun
he was a huckleberry picker.

Bill loved the life of the berrypickers' camp
way up at the Five Mile Post,
though he liked to breathe that fresh mountain air,
he liked the fightin' and the drinkin' the most.


When Bill was young and full of fun
he was awful hard on his women,
to be his wife for even part of his life
was not an easy living.

Bill played the mouth organ and the Jew’s harp too,
oh , he loved to jig and frolic,
but of all these things, what he loved best to do
was to be an alcoholic.


When Bill was already old, he was walking up the road
and he fell off the bridge into the water,
he ended up in bed with a broken leg
and his jiggin' days was over.
Old Bill lived to be eight-four,
and he still knew how to raise hell,
for all my clean living I just wanna say
I hope to hell I can do as well!


4. (ad lib)
Now that he’s dead... it must be said...
if the truth is to be told,...
for all his errant ways, Bill was loved by all...
for he had a heart of gold...

(a tempo)
Old Bill Punch, with his good luck
I bet he made it into heaven somehow,
where he’s dancin' the jig and playin' the harp
In Gabriel’s band right now

(End with 4 bars instrumental)

"The Countrymen, the Quicks, and the Conklins"
c 1991 by Marc B. Fried

Chorus A:
Oh, the Countrymen, the Quicks and the Conklins
are all kin to one another, intermarried twixt and tween…
'twas something in their blood made all them answer that ol' mountain's call,
and huckleberries were their destiny.

Chorus B:
Oh, the Countrymen, the Quicks, and the Conklins
are intermarried twixt and tween, they’re a genealogist's dream.
They worked to fill those berry crates, tried not to step on rattlesnakes,...
while they spread the branches of their family tree.

Now, Sarah married Louis Rose 'bout eighteen forty-four,
they had Catherine, Mary, Julia, Ben and many, many more,
Catherine wed Jim Countryman, their sons were Mead and Bill
and they all were berrypickers, living on the Stony Kill.

When brother Ben got married, oh, so many offspring sprung
that you wonder how poor Carrie ever got the diapers done,
sister Mary wed George Crawford, and from their daughter Liz
came the Countrymen’s cousins, the Quicks and Addices.

(Chorus A with revisions:)
Twas something passed down in their genes made mountain folks of all, it seems
and huckleberries were their destiny.

(Chorus B with revisions:)
All those cousins, uncs and aunties living in tarpaper shanties
spread the branches of their family tree

Julia Rose wed George Conklin, and several sons they got,
and they all picked huckleberries way up on that mountain top,
they had a daughter Laura, she was just a child when
she disappeared while picking berries and was never seen again.

One son’s name was Benjamin, Maude Donnely he wed,
I guess she had a problem with bedbugs in her bed,
she cleaned it with some gasoline, an unfortunate thing to do,
and they all blew up together, Maude and her bedbugs too.

(Chorus A with revisions:)
From childhood years till old and gray the mountain was their work and play,
and huckleberries were their destiny.

(Chorus B with revisions:)
They'd pick those berries, sweet and blue, then treat themselves to mountain dew
and spread the branches of their family tree

Joseph married Harriet and later wed Salina,
and Joe and Harriet had Addie, who wed Abraham,
Abe and Addie begat Minnie, she wed Thomas, they had many,
that’s how one branch of the Conklins began.

Joseph and Salina, they had Alice, who wed Jack,
and they didn’t waste no time before they began to begat,
all the brats of Jack and Alice married those of Min and Thomas,
that's the way the branches of the Conklin tree ran.

Oh, the Countrymen are kin to the Quicks (what a mix!)
and the Conklins, oh brother, they’re all married to each other...
and one of them that I once saw, they say he was his own grandpaw...
(ritard:) and his family tree had great complexity!

"Fire on the Mountain"
c 1991 by Marc B. Fried

Oh, it’s time for a fire on the mountain
'cause the pickin’s gettin' slow,
and the berries’ll do better in any kind of weather
if they have more room to grow.

Oh, it’s time for a blaze on the mountain
'cause the brush is growing higher,
when the berry picking’s slow you can make more dough
working to put out the fire.

Sometimes they just used paper and a match
but they had more ingenious ways,
sometimes they used an old box turtle
to set the woods ablaze:

They would drill a hole in the back of his shell
and tie on a twenty-foot string,
and on the other end would be a burlap bag
all soaked in kerosene.


The mountain burned over in ‘twenty-three,
they say the fire really spread around,
and afterward the berries grew beautifully
as they do on burnt over ground.

It burned another time in July of thirty-nine,
there’s many remember them days,
and there’s many that remember all the cash they earned
workin' to put out the blaze.


A bigger fire even was in forty-seven,
It happened in October,
with the picking season done the berrypickers had their fun,
and the whole mountain ridge burned over.

Now it’s been many years since the mountain's been ablaze
and the birch and the maple tree
grow where huckleberry bushes and scrub pitch pine
grew as far as the eye could see.

(No chorus)

4. (three lines ad lib [talk it], fourth line a tempo.)
Now the berrypicking camps have all passed on,...
they ain’t never coming back,...
and many grieve for that day…when you could get away…
with being a pyromaniac! Oh,

(Concluding chorus)
It’s time for a fire on the mountain
'cause the pickin’s getting slow,
and the berries fare well, they bear like hell
if they have space to grow.

Oh, it’s time for a fire on the mountain,
it’s getting too overgrown for me…
(ad lib)
but I guess many folks now… don’t seem to care, somehow…
(a tempo)
when they can sit home and watch TV!

(Conclude with four bars of music from last four bars of verse.)

"The Blue Gold of Shawangunk Mountain"
c 1991 by Marc B. Fried

Note: the name is locally pronounced "SHONG-gum," which also works better in this song.

Carry me back to that time of long ago,
to the tarpaper shack all the old folks know,
to the life they lived, seeking high and low
the blue gold of Shawangunk Mountain.

In those rocky wilds, there I’ll always be,
there a hundred miles of the Earth you’ll see,
where a hundred years folks sought eagerly
the blue gold of Shawangunk Mountain.

They wandered all through these hills and swales,
from a carpet of blue they would fill their pails,
they’ve told me their stories, they’ve told me the tales
of the blue gold of Shawangunk Mountain.

When the hour grew late, back to camp they’d come,
round the fire they sat when their work was done,
in the spirits they drank and the songs they’ve sung
was the blue gold of Shawangunk Mountain.

(5. & 6. Instrumental)

Some came from near just below the mountainside,
some traveled here from afar and wide
to return each year to their camps beside
the blue gold of Shawangunk Mountain.

The rattlin' snake and the ol' black bear,
the porcupine too and the snowshoe hare
were their neighbors in the wild where
grew the blue gold of Shawangunk Mountain.

The summer sun that burned so hot,
the mountain fire racing cross the mountaintop,
these were part of the life of those who got
the blue gold of Shawangunk Mountain.

The thundershower and the cooling breeze,
the towhee singing from the tupelo trees,
these were also their memories,
gatherin' blue gold on Shawangunk Mountain.

(11. instrumental music as in verse 3)

Oh, carry me back to that time of long ago,
to the tarpaper shack all the old folks know,
to the life they loved, seeking high and low
the blue gold of Shawangunk Mountain.

Note: this final song is an adaptation or revision of a song I heard out in Arkansas.

"Chicken Truck"

One fine day I was headed out from New Paltz,
I was driving west to enjoy that mountain view,
I got stuck behind a chicken truck where the road begins to climb,
and 30 mph was all that he could do.

Now his springs were bad, and the chickens were a'bouncing,
and a terrible smell was about to upchuck me,
the feathers kept sticking to my windshield,
and the further we went, the harder it got to see.

Chicken truck, chicken truck, just my luck, chicken truck, chicken truck, behind him I'm stuck
on highway 44 & 55,
all the hens were squawking and the roosters were crowing, they were flapping and flopping and the feathers were a'blowing,
every one of them birds was still alive.

Now we've got a lot of curvy roads in the Shawangunk Mountains,
nearly every one's got a double yellow line,
if you ever get stuck behind a --big chicken truck,
for the next few miles you just can't make no time.


At Minnewaska I finally pulled along side him,
and I looked up at the driver next to me,
he had a box of Colonel Sanders on the dashboard,
he was eating fried chicken and chucking them bones at me.

Chicken truck, chicken truck, just my luck, chicken truck, chicken truck, behind him I'm stuck
On highway 44 & 55,
all the hens were squawking and the roosters were crowing, he was bouncing along just as slow as he could go, and
every one of them birds but one was still alive,
and it's bones lay there on highway44 and 55.