Generation Gap

This morning my father in law—Grandpa Gary—accompanied us to our first Mu*sic To*ge*ther class of the fall. He loves to sing and was thrilled to have the chance to dance around a little room with a dozen or so under-fives, his adorable (and adoring) granddaughters among them.

Everything was smooth until "She'll be comin' 'round the mountain." The teacher led us through several of the traditional verses. She'll be driving six white horses, we'll all run out and meet her, etc. etc. Then (in that weird sing-talking that the music teachers I guess are trained to do) she asked the swaying, dancing group for suggestions for the next verse.

Rollicking right along, Grandpa Gary made his forearm into an axe and shouted, "Kill the old red rooster!"

The teacher inhaled quickly. Everyone stopped dancing for a second and watched her try to decide what to do. "Should we really sing that one?" she said very quietly, looking at the ceiling and forgetting to sing.

"Or 'eat a little tofu?'" I offered in a small voice.

She finally collected herself, skipped the butchering, and led us into "We'll all have chicken and dumplings," followed closely—and cunningly, I thought—by "She'll have to sleep with Grandpa."

Fortunately, my father in law thought it was a hoot. He grew up chopping the necks off of poultry and not knowing any other path to chicken and dumplings, and he's broad-minded and big-hearted enough to laugh gently at small clashes of perspective, especially when country meets city.

Without him there, I wouldn't have noticed the absence of that verse, which is indeed a traditional part of the song. But, in honor of Grandpa Gary, I'm going to throw it in occasionally when we sing it at home. We eat some meat in our family; there's no point in being squeamish about where it comes from.

How are things at your house? Do you kill the old red rooster?


  1. That song is not in our repertoire, but if it were, I'd probably include it. I'm none too picky about songs.

    I'm sure you'll be totally amused, given our email discussions, that the lullabyes I sing Nora are "Away in a manger," "Kumbayah," Amazing Grace," and "Swing low, sweet chariot."

  2. Well, no -but we do actually kill the hen and eat her for dinner, and I think that probably counts. J teaches the boys all kinds of old folk songs with "interesting" lyrics, though, and they're fodder for interesting discussions. More so than the cannons they played on at the Vets Home today on the walk between Wa*bun and the creek...

  3. That reminds me of a horrifying moment (years ago, long before children of my own) when I had been invited to sing a song to a class full of preschoolers. The first one that came to mind was "In a Cottage in a Wood." The look on the teachers face when I got to the rabbit's line of "before the farmer shoots me dead" made me want to crawl under a table. I still cringe thinking of it, but I also sing it to my own children, violence and all.