Drawing by John Furnival
The Sheela-na-gig (c. 1135) on the corble table
of St Mary & St David at Kilpeck, Herefordshire


Vance Randolph. Roll Me in Your Arms. “Unprintable” Ozark Folksongs and Folklore. Volume I: Folksongs and Music. Edited with an Introduction by G. Legman. University of Arkansas Press 1992. 582 pp. $50.00 (cloth)

Vance Randolph. Blow the Candle Out. ”Unprintable” Ozark Folksongs and Folklore. Volume II: Folk Rhymes and Other Lore. Edited with an Introduction by G. Legman. University of Arkansas Press 1992. 392 pp. $45.00 (cloth)

The title— that’s the kind of jive that Tina Turner used to croon to mean old Ike Turner. Tina liked to get hotter than Georgia asphalt. It sounded great, the words said exactly what they meant, as opposed to the words in many a polite and fireless lyric by the White Folks. Ah, us White Folks, we’re not doing too well in the springtime of 1994 in the US of A. One word that might define what is happening to us is: enfeeblement. Various Jeremiahs (the ones who yelled in my ears are named Dahlberg, Goodman, Olson, Patchen, Rexroth) have been preaching for at least 50 years that, starting with the telegraph and the telephone and then the radio and television, we have achieved nearly instant communication at the price of nearly absent communion. Every electronic gizmo that comes along guarantees further that almost no one can write a literate, or, god knows, ‘personal’ letter. Few people can converse. Few people have time for friendship. Everyone hides behind their fax machines, their answerphones. their e-mail, their whatever. Enfeeblement. But, that’s a whole book, not a book review.

The genial editor of Parnassus asks me to take on the razorback-bawdry of the Ozarks, since I am a hillbilly avatar of the one and only Marcus Valerius Martialis, born way back when in the hills of Hispanic Tarragona, and who wrote miles and miles of rude and lusty stuff and made a big hit when he went to Rome. Martial was pudendous indeed and agrees with me that poetry should always provide offense for those who are determined to take same. It is rather wild and woolly for me to share the same state with Senator Jesse Alexander Helms, Jr., and 4,000,000 Baptists, and one learns to give as good as one gets. Before we go to the Ozarks, I’d like to sketch out for you some of my own poetic bawdry, a mixture of classics and just plain folks.

My father, Ben Williams grew up in rural Henderson County, North Carolina at the beginning of the century. He was Class Poet at his little Baptist school, Fruitland Academy, and he had a real feeling for Black dialect. By the time I was ten years old I had heard many, many recitations from Uncle Remus, by Joel Chandler Harris (Mr. E. Loomis Pound was another who liked to read Uncle Remus aloud to his friends); Ol’ Man Adam an’ His Chillun, by Roark Bradford; and Lyrics from Cotton Land, by John Charles McNeill. From the latter:

Catfish tender, catfish tough,
We’s done et catfish long enough.
We’s tar’d er collards en white-side meat,
En we’s gwine have supp’n’ wut’s good to eat.
It’s ’possum time again!

Not cosmic, but not bad. I still like it better than James Whitcomb Riley, or Eugene Field, or the stern and preachy bards of New England. But, in just the next ten years after that, I made my escape from Nice People, from Princeton, from the poetry of the faculty club, the garden club, and the country club, and got down into the Blues, where we can hear Bessie Smith, in “Empty Bed Blues,” singing these lines:

He boiled my first cabbage,
He made it awfully hot.
When he put in the bacon,
It overflowed the pot.

Mirabile dictu, our toga’d friend, Martial, would have given his left nut to have written something that exuberant and imaginative. Or, the wonderful Lonnie Johnson, crying out:

If you don’t like my peaches,
Baby, don’t you shake my tree!

Ah, sweet memories of life— how they flood back, etc. Basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, 1952, 20-mile marches in full pack in the sun:

I don’t know but I been told
Eskimo pussy is mighty cold.
Sound off! One, two.
Sound off! Three, four.
Take it on down!
One, two, three, four.

Every night before retreat,
Sergeant Willie Johnson beats his meat.
If Sergeant Willie didn’t beat his meat,
Private Harry wouldn’t eat.
Sound off! One, two.
Sound off! One, two,
three, four!

Or, George Melly, in his vast scarlet-and-mustard, checked-tweed suit, managing to sound amazingly like Bessie in a few choruses of “Hot Nuts.”

Hot nuts! Hot nuts! Get ’em from the peanut man.
Yeah, talking about nuts, hot nuts,
Get ‘em any way you can.

See that man who walks like a duck.
He can’t dance but he sure can fuck.
Singing hot nuts, hot nuts. Get ’em from the peanut man.

See that man his hat is tall.
They say he hasn’t got any nuts at all.
Singing hot nuts, hot nuts, Get’em from the peanut man.
Better get ’em when you can.

I marvel at the verbal skill of these things, the lapidary ear at work. Of course, it’s not all Black. I must admit the White Folks can get it right. There are thousands of limericks in the tradition. We all have our party favorites. Three of mine are:

There was a young bugger from Dent,
Whose cock was so long that it bent.
To save himself trouble,
He put it in double—
Instead of coming, he went.

The team of Tom and Louise
Do an act in the nude on their knees.
They crawl down the aisle,
While fucking dog-style,
And the orchestra plays Kilmer’s “Trees.”

There was a young lady of Brewood
Who liked to dance in the nude.
Cried a voice at the front,
“Then show us your cunt!”
Just like that. Right out loud. Really rude.

There are collegiate ditties like “The Good Ship Venus,” crammed with immaculate quatrains:

The cabin boy, the cabin boy,
The dirty little nipper.
He stuffed his ass with broken glass,
And circumcized the skipper.

There are anonymous masters of the graffito in nearly every town and city:


I spied that in the bar of a gay bar near Dupont Circle in Washington, DC back in the 1950s and have never forgotten it. Perversely, I have forgotten every line of Rainer Maria Rilke I have ever read except for one: “Was wirst du tun, Gott, wenn ich sterbe?” (What will you do, God, when I am dead?) I have met orphic souls for whom Rilke is the only poet, yet RMR throws me one sinking fastball after another and I strike out every damn time. But, boys, I can hit that dionysiac spitter almost at will. And I once even hit a frozen rope off the mysterious “eephus” pitch that only Satchel Paige could throw. Martial missed it. Nuf sed.

So, to the Ozarks, those Arkansas and Missouri uplands that the cosmopolites suppose are filled with clones of Mammy Yokum, Pappy, Li’l Abner and Daisy Mae, in their fiefdom of Dogpatch. I can’t quite remember, but wasn’t the bad place for the Dogpatchers a country called Lower Slobbovia? Suddenly strikes my mind’e ear that this must be Slav country— the Anglo-Saxons hating ancient tribal foes. Being part Anglo-Saxon, the Celtic part of me finds Anglo-Saxons pretty hard to take. They must be one of the most repressive, imperious, just plain ornery tribes in human history. Some scholars say they came to Britain in the later half of the fifth century A.D., from a place the Danes called Hathaby. It is now known as Schleswig-Holstein, in Germany. They had a good start. The influence of Christianity in the Kingdom of Northumbria (by the end of the seventh century) had Anglo-Saxons carving extraordinary crosses like the ones at Bewcastle and Ruthwell, and making illuminated manuscripts like the Lindesfarne Gospels. It’s been downhill ever since— 1500 years of cable-tv, am-radio, bad moonshine, Tyson’s chicken, mobile homes, and mean-minded preachers: WASPERAMA. But that list is as facile and stupid as the view from Telegraph Hill or Murray Hill. You scratch around country places long enough and you’ll strike— at least a little— vitality, and talent, and sassy imagination just as naked as a jaybird. Charles Ives said he found music “in the ground.” John Clare said he found his poems “in the fields.” How could you not see and hear something in Ozark places with names like Snowball, Ozone, Ben Hur, Flag, Dongola, Blue Eye, Old Joe, Mozart, Eros, Chimes, Timbo, Hog Eye, Yellville, Romance, and Heart?

The man who collected all the material for “Unprintable” Ozark Folksongs and Folklore was a Kansan by the name of Vance Randolph (1892-1980). He collected in the field, primarily from 1915 through 1955. The photograph of him on the back jacket of these outsize volumes (published with great distinction by the University of Arksansas Press) shows a maverick gentleman who belongs in a Brecht-Weill opera, or at a poker table sitting opposite Mr. W.C. Fields. He looks like he might enjoy a drink— maybe even more than one. He chomps hard on that stogie. He was a very large man and a great man in his field. He always said he was “not a folklorist at all,” and he never received a Ph.D. degree, which put him on the outs with the usual academic drones. “Unprintable” Ozark Folksongs and Folklore, unpublished at his death, needed a good editor and Vance Randolph was wise in his choice: the indefagitable and timeless expert on erotica, G. Legman. Gershon Legman has been around all my literary life. I have his Love & Death from 1949, his The Horn Book, and his two huge books containing over 2750 limericks. Over the years I have corresponded with him a few times and loved writing to his elegant address: La Cle des Champs, Valbonne, (Alpes-Mmes.), France. Miller Williams, Director of the University of Arkansas Press, tells me that Mr. Legman is almost blind and in poor health, which is sad news for those of us who so admire his courage and conviction in fighting redneck literary censors wherever he found them (i.e., everywhere). Randolph wrote to Legman just before he died in 1980: “I trust you not to expurgate this stuff, and never to let any of those sons-of-bitches cut it up either. If you fail me on this, I’ll ha’nt you after I’m dead, all the way to France.”

Legman contributes a long introduction to the books, and lots of editing, annotating and cross-referencing. Extraordinary information!Volume I includes 180 songs, as well as the music transcribed from the original singers, a great asset for anyone able to pick them out on a piano, etc. Volume II contains rhymes and songs without music, as well as other unexpurgated Ozark materials: children’s lore, elements in speech, graffiti riddles, dance-calls, and beliefs. Legman speaks of Vance Randolph near the end of his introduction and sees him “as a traditional American writer and humorist, very much in the style of Joel Chandler Harris, author of the deathless Uncle Remus stories carefully cast in the Negro dialect. Randolph certainly was a national treasure too, like Harris or Mark Twain, but no one noticed this until just a few years before his death at eighty-eight, owing to the care with which he wore his tight upland Arkansas disguise.”

Vance Randolph seems extremely lucid a collector. “I made no special effort to collect lewd songs, but my informants sang them anyhow, and I recorded bawdy pieces along with the other items. I have not suppressed a syllable that was pronounced by my informants.” Of some 2300 texts he collected, he estimates 510 of them (22 and a half percent) were bawdy. “The titles of fiddle tunes are many and varied, but some of them are pretty crude.... Near, Day, Missouri, in 1940, and old fiddler played a fine hoedown called “Fucking in the Goober Patch,” but he wouldn’t allow me to make a recording of it. ‘We used to play lots of tunes like that,’ he said, ‘but the folks that knowed ’em has mostly died off now. Them that’s left don’t dance no more, because they’re all crippled with rheumatism, or else got religion.’”

So, let’s sample the fare. Here’s a lyrical ballad, “The Old Sea Crab,’ perhaps the oldest oldest surviving bawdy song in English (1643), based on a traveler’s tale in Russia, ca. 1280:

Now, old John Henry had a story to tell,
Singing, diddy-ah, diddy-ah ding,
Now, old John Henry had a story to tell,
And yes, by gosh, it was dirty as hell,
Singing, diddy-ah, diddy-ah ding,
Singing, diddy-ah, diddy-ah ding.

John Henry caught a sea-crab by the back bone,
And he tugged and he pulled till he finally got it home.
When he got home his wife was asleep,
So he put it in the pisspot, safe to keep.

Well, his wife got up and she straddled the pot,
And the damned old sea-crab got her by the twat.
Then she said, John Henry, there’s a devil in the pot,
And he’s got two horns and they’re red-hot!

John Henry got up in his night-clothes,
And the damned old sea-crab got him by the nose.
Then said John Henry, Won’t you let a little fart,
To blow my nose and your ass apart.

Well, she heaved and she ho’d, and she come a little bit,
And she filled John Henry’s face full of shit.
Now, of this story I know no more—
There’s an apple up my ass and you can have the core.

Well, the moral of the song is easy to define:
None of us has got an eye on our behind.
So better be sure before you squat,
There’s nothing swimming in the chamberpot.

Voila. Sounds like the Anglo-Saxon imagination is in no danger of burning to a crisp with the fried chicken. Let the piss and the vinegar flow!

Here’s a version of “I Went Upstairs” once learned in Moberly, Missouri:

I went upstairs to get a jug of cider,
Saw a bedbug jerkin’-off a spider.
Says to myself, This won’t do,
Down came my pants and I went at it too.
Toodle oddle um tum, my ass hole.

Two stanzas of “My Pretty Little Miss”:

Will you marry me, my pretty little miss?
Will you marry me, my honey?—
Kiss my butt, you son-of-a-bitch,
‘Cause you ain’t got no money!

Oh, can you fuck, my pretty little miss.
Oh, can you fuck, my honey?—
I can fuck more in a minute and a half
Than you can all day Sunday!

Here’s a little song, “Drinkin’ Corn Whiskey,” hardly longer than a haiku:

Drinkin’ corn whiskey an’ pullin’ my pud,
Doc says it’ll kill me.
But it’s doin’ me good.

Part of the saga of “Uncle Bud, Uncle Bud”:

When apples are red they orter be plucked,
When gals are sixteen they orter be fucked,
Oh Uncle Bud, oh Bud.

Old Uncle Bud was a man like this:
He had lots of money but he fucked his fist.

Uncle Bud had a prick like a telegraph pole,
If he misses your pussy, look out ass-hole!

“Old Aunt Kate” sounds as predatory as any macho mountain man:

Old Aunt Kate an’ her little daughter,
They done things they hadn’t orter.
Um diddy um tum, um diddy idy,
Um diddy um tum, doodle dum didy.

Ketch a feller all alone,
Grab his peter like dogs on a bone,
Um doddy um dum, doodle dum a day.

In “Of All The Beasts” a little Taoist reverie:

Of all the beasts that roam the woods,
I’d rather be a coon,
I’d climb the highest ’simmon tree
An’ jack off at the moon.

Here’s a version of “Old Granny Blair” that makes me think of Robert Creeley:

Grandmaw Dare,
What you doin’ there?—
Setttin’ on a dog turd
Pickin out hair.

Picked out one,
Picked out two,
Picked out another one
Just like you.

A very rollicking version of “Buffalo Gals” with a great third stanza:

You bet your ass we’re a-comin’ out tonight,
A-comin’ out tonight, a-comin’ out tonight,
You bet your ass we’re a-comin’ out tonight,
To dance by the light of the moon.

We’ll fuck all night till broad daylight,
Broad daylight, broad daylight,
We’ll fuck all night till broad daylight,
And go home with the gals in the mornin’.

Country boys all pecker and feet,
Pecker and feet, pecker and feet,
Country boys all pecker and feet,
Go home with the gals in the morning.

“The Crow Fucked the Buzzard” is a somewhat tangled web of a ballad:

Oh, the crow fucked the buzzard,
And the buzzard fucked the crow,
And we’ll all suck the monkey
On the O-hi-O!...

Mr. Randolph asked his informant what “sucking the monkey” meant, and he told him it was “an old army expression” for drinking whiskey straight, out of the bunghole of a barrel.

“In the White-Oak Timber” the tune of “Dixie” is often sung:

Way down South in the white-oak timber,
Cain’t git a hard-on, stick it in limber,
Look away, look away,
Look away, in Dixieland

“Uncle Joe” is an Ozark schlemihl, a sad sack, a born loser:

Uncle Joe he fished all night,
Got a minner nibble and a crawdad bite.

Uncle Joe he had hard luck,
Had two girls and they both got fucked.

Here’s a version of “Casey Jones” collected by Randolph in Fayetteville, Arkansas on May 2, 1949, from Mr. M.M:

Casey Jones was a man of might
He worked all day and he frigged all night,
He lined a hundred women up against the wall,
An’ he bet a hundred dollars he could frig ’em all.

Well he frigged ninety-right an’ he had to stop,
The skin on his pecker was gettin’ red hot,
He ran around the corner, ate an oyster stew,
Then he come back again an’ he frigged the other two.

Casey Jones died an’ he went to Hell,
He frigged the Devil’s wife an’ he frigged her well;
All the little devils come a-runnin’ down the hall,
Hollerin’, Save us, mamma, he’s goin’ to frig us all.

A very polished version of “Mademoiselle from Armentieres,” collected in 1953:

Oh! the French they are a funny race,
The French they are a funny race,
The French they are a funny race,
They fight with their feet
And fuck with their face—
Hinky-dinky parlay-voo?!

“A Letter from Home,” is to be sung brightly to the tune of the Anglican hymn No. 503, “St. Owald.” A small masterpiece of its kind:

Home presents a mournful picture,
Dark and dismal as the tomb;
Grandma has a painful stricture,
Cousin Katie strokes her womb.

Sister’s missed her menstruation,
No one ever jokes or smiles;
Mine’s a pleasant occupation,
Cracking ice for Grandpa’s piles.

But we must not be down-hearted,
Nor give way to fear or doubt,
For Brother William just has farted,
Blown his ass-hole inside out.

And, one more, how about “Red As a Jaybird’s Ass,” where macho-style misogyny turns a local female into a rip-roaring Vagina Dentata:

Her lips are pink as a rooster’s dink,
The hair on her pussy is brown,
Her tits hang loose like the balls of a goose,
She’s the belle of a chicken-shit town.

Volume II gives us little time to catch our breath. It starts with a section of songs collected without tunes and goes on with a section of vulgar rhymes. Vance Randolph said: “I am not learned, and have no library. Nevertheless, I feel that it is worthwhile to set down this raw material for the record.” The librarians and the professoriat were not happy. A few samples:

Arkansas is a good old saw
But I don’t like the set that’s in it,
All day they whore, all night they snore,
And that’s why I’m ag’in it.

There ain’t no law in Arkansas
And the folks all fuck like foxes,
And all the stills in the Cookson Hills
Are made out of cundrum boxes.

A stanza from “The Frost is On the Punkin”:

Shall we sink the sacred sausage?
Shall we split the bearded clam?
Shall we dunk the old love-muscle
In the sweetest soup what am?

A good curse:

May itching piles molest you,
And boils grow on your feet;
May crabs as big as buzzards
Light on your balls— and Eat!!

A rustic limerrick:

There was a young lady from Clyde,
Who had no money to ride.
She told the conductor,
Who immediately fucked her,
And gave her two dollars beside.

Then there’s a section devoted to the bawdy lore of Ozark children. Randolph’s informants were school teachers, some of whom collected things scribbled on pieces of paper or written furtively on blackboards. One woman told him that country children write the nastiest and that some of the vilest are written by girls under twelve.

Dear Miss Brown:

You sure have got pretty legs
and I sure would like to get my
pecker between them and you would
like it too.

James Bowen

The handwriting on this note slipped into the pocket of Miss Brown’s raincoat was not that of little Jimmy Bowen.

A playground taunt common in rural Missouri about 1885:

You lie, you link, you fart, you stink,
You suck your daddy’s poodle-dink.

And a variant from Arkansas in 1942:

You poop, you fart, you shit, you stink,
You suck your brother’s bobolink.

At school in Montevallo, Missouri, one day in 1916, a seven-year-old girl recited:

Langshang rooster grows so tall,
Takes two days for a turd to fall.

A strange game song chanted in the schoolyard at Green Forest, Arkansas:

Cock upon a pear tree,
Prick out on a pole,
Jump cock, dodge prick,
Shoot her in the hole.

Next section: Ribaldry at Ozark Dances. Here are the names of some of the fiddle-tunes played at country frolics. Church people opposed all this sinful foolishness and said that some of the tunes would “make an old man’s prick stand straight up” and cause young women to “squirm around like minks on a griddle.” Good for Sin! Let’s turn a-loose the Clabber Cod Stomp, Goober-Grabbin’ Mamma, Grease My Pecker Sally Ann, No More Cock in Texas, Poontang on the Levee, Mamma Don’t ’Low No Diddling Here, Trade My Name For a Piece of Tail, and Wiggle-Ass Jig.

Here’s a square-dance call from Missouri, 1922:

One wheel off and t’other’n a-dragging,
Lets all stop and do a little shagging.

Pigs all a-squealing, ponies all a-bucking,
Choose up sides and do a little fucking.

Alamand left and tromping jimpsons down,
Stick it in the hole, don’t run it in the ground.

Balance eight till you get straight
You diddle Sue and I’ll screw Kate.

Swing your taw and slap it up against her,
On to your neighbor while I stick it in her.

Back to the center with a yo-gee-haw,
Fuck that girl from Arkansas.

Down the center and split the ring,
Keep on screwing till you hear the birdies sing.

Swing her to the left and then to the right,
Take her home and fuck her all night.

Next section: Bawdy Elements in Ozark Speech, a collection of “strange figures, metaphors, similes, cryptic allusions, and backwoods wisecracks.” Here are a few:

cold as a preacher‘s balls, hot as a fresh-fucked goat, busy as a tumblebug on a cow turd, thick as mouse-turds in the meal barrel, ragged as a buzzard’s ass, poor as piss in a pumpkin, brown as a gander’s ass-hole, blue as a possum’s cod, proud as a half-wit with two peckers, dry as a cornbread fart...

sure as there’s shit in a cat, sure as the Devil fucked Eve in the cool of the evening, so stingy you couldn’t drive a flaxseed up his ass with a maul, so low he seen a snake’s ass-hole and thought it was the North Star, so hungry my ass-hole thinks my throat’s cut, so tired I wouldn’t walk ten feet to see a piss-ant fuck an elephant, so hot he had to shit in the river to keep from setting the woods on fire, so piss-poor in them days that some winters we had to fuck our own wives, lived so far back in the boondocks we had to wipe the owl-shit off’n the clock to see what time it was, so full of shit I’m surprised the pigs don’t eat you...

Two fine expressions of contempt: “If he was a-dying of thirst, I wouldn’t give him the sweat off my balls.” ... “I wouldn’t even piss down his throat if his heart was on fire.”

A brief section on Obscenity in Ozark Riddles:

What is it that has six nuts, and sings?

A barber-shop quartet; we ain’t sure about the tenor.

What is it that’s six inches long, with a head on it, and all the women like it?

A dollar bill.

What’s the difference between circus acrobats and the gals in a whorehouse?

The acrobats have cunning stunts; and the whores have stunning cunts.

An excellent section of Folk Graffiti From the Ozarks, with an acute observation by Vance Randolph: “It appears that women are somewhat less prone to this sort of writing than men. My first thought was that this must be due to feminine delicacy and refinement. However, the inscriptions which do appear in women’s toilets are quite as nasty as those found in back-houses frequented solely by men. Most men use lead pencils, while many incriptions in women’s toilets are done in lipstick. It may be that the ladies write less merely because they do not carry pencils, and are disinclined to waste lipstick which is comparatively expensive.”

Here I set in silent bliss
Listening to the flowing piss,
Now and then a fart is heard,
Barking at a passing turd.

If your pecker is short,
If your pecker is weak,
You better lean over
Or you’ll piss on your feet.

If you shake it more than three times,
you are playing with it.

Why put paper on the seat?
An Arkansas crab can jump six feet.

Scribbled inscription in a railroad toilet in Joplin, Missouri:

Owing to our inability to get people to
use both sides of the paper, the privilege
has been discontinued. Use your finger
and the hell with you.

One in a filling station restroom, run by a woman near Crane, Missouri:

Please do not draw such pictures or write
such dirty writings in my toilet. You are
just showing your ignorance.

Someone has added below, in large masculine hand:

Lady, I don’t want to show my ignorance. But
I sure would like to show you my prick, which
is twelve inches long limber, and never been
measured hard.

In a toilet in Eureka Springs, Arkansas:

Fuck a duck and screw a pigeon,
Kiss my ass and get religion.

In the toilet of a pool hall in Little Rock, Arkansas:

Damn all these poets,
The sons of bitches,
I got to reading,
And shit in my britches.

A reflection from a factory in Little Rock:

When bigger turds are shit, they will
be shit in Little Rock.

Below, in a different hand:

All shits weighing more than six pounds
must be lowered with a rope.

The Management

In the washroom of a saloon in Joplin, Missouri:

Good fresh country pussy,
one flight up.

From the men’s room at a hotel in Conway, Arkansas:

In front of hotel at 7 P.M. Be there
with hard-on. Ask for M.J.

Vance Randolph massive compendium concludes with a section of “Unprintable” Ozark Folk Beliefs. Just one example. I don’t want to wear the gentle reader out. Somehow, a remark about Greta Garbo, attributed to the handsome star of the silent-screen, John Gilbert, comes to mind: “She‘d make you eat a mile of her shit just to get a whiff of her ass-hole.”

“A backwoods clan in southwest Missouri, according to one of my neighbors, produced phenomenal turnips by reason of secret magic. Just before sunrise on July 25, a grown boy and four girls did the planting. They all stripped, and the boy sowed the seed, with the four girls prancing about him. The girls kept a-hollering ‘Pecker deep! Pecker deep!’ When the planting was complete, they all rolled together in the dust ‘like wild animals.’ The way I heard it, the turnip-planters were cousins. But some say that a boy and his sisters did the job, if no girl cousins were available. Incest is not uncommon in the back hills, even without any turnip-sowing as an excuse.”

Our thanks to Miller Williams, poet and Director of the University of Arkansas Press, for giving us these uproarious volumes and for playing so very straight with the enormous findings of the remarkable Vance Randolph, embellished, as they are, with the erudition of Gershon Legman. I am sure the keepers of public decency on the Radical Right down there in Fayetteville are hotter than the hinges of Hell in denouncing everything about the project. For me, I feel much closer to Arkansas than I did before. And it makes me understand more clearly something a neighbor of William Jefferson Clinton said, when CBS Evening News was salivating over the President’s amorous history. “Shucks,” she said, “you cain’t expect a young hound to stay out there on the front porch all night long.”

Jonathan Williams