Susanna Wasn’t in a Gum Tree Canoe

 

 

The Ingalls are leaving Kansas at the end of “Little House on the Prairie”
and stopped on the lonely prairie to eat and sleep.

It had been a long, hard year
and they’ve lost a year out of their life,
their new home, and their food for the following year,
and are only leaving with a new mule with very long ears.

 

As usual, Pa brings peace and comfort
to his family by playing his violin.

 

Laura writes Pa’s words to
Oh, Susanna”

“I went to California
With my wash-pan on my knee,
And every time I thought of home,
I wished it wasn’t me.”

 

This is a version close to Pa’s version.

The quote by musician Truman Price on You Tube,

“This version of Oh Suzanna was made by gold miners on the way to California.
It was a hit song of 1849, more popular than Foster’s original from the year before.
I didn’t change any words. ‘I came from Salem City, my wash-pan on my knee…’ “

The words have evolved through time,
but the lyrical tune and the theme of love
still beats in American hearts.

 

 

I love me some Johnny Cash and
my husband loves him some James Taylor.

I had no idear they performed together.

 

It was equally as surprising to discover this early rock band
performed the song.

 

The longevity of Stephen Foster’s work,
influencing musicians from every genre and generation,
proves he is still the Father of American Music.

The Center for American Music at the University of Pittsburgh
provides a great biography and detailed Q&A about Foster.

 

But, what about that Gum Tree Canoe?

I thought I would be smart and BING gum tree canoe.
Yea, we don’t use the “G” word in our house.
Turns out if you accidentally type in “gumshoe canoe”
you really come up with nothing.

Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

Even if you correctly type in
“what is a gum tree canoe” you still get

Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

So, I got clever, ‘cuz at night when I’m really tired,
and I wanna’  launch a blog, get my laundry done,
and get enough sleep to look almost human the next day,
I can get clever.  Or desperate. You decide.

I looked up gum tree.
One site defined it as “a tree that produces gum.”
Like, DUH!
Gimme’ something I can really use.

Another site said gum trees
grow in the southwest states and can be up to 100 feet tall
and the trunk can be up to three feet wide.
In the olden days, people chewed the bark for gum.

OK.
Now I get it.

Tall, wide tree makes long, wide canoe.
And since we have Trident, Wrigleys and Bubble Yum,
we can leave the bark alone.
But, ya’ might wanna take a rabbit trail from the
gum tree canoe to  the history of chewing gum.
It will only waste about five minutes of your time.
Maybe ten if you’re a slow reader or
actually read every word, not just skim through
for the good stuff.

Now, I can go on with the music.

 

John Hartford plays this tune at the Grand Ol’ Opry. 

 

 

 

This is the Matthew Sabatella and the Rambling String Band’s version.
They have an amazing website “American History through Music.”
Their list of the songs features many of the songs
played by Pa in the Little House on the Prairie books.
Besides, their educational resources are for
teachers and “homeschool parents.”
Wow.
They pay us homage.
Now ya’ gotta’ visit their site.

 

Gum Tree Canoe

chorus:

Singing row away, row o’er the waters so blue
Like a feather we’ll float in my Gum Tree Canoe
Singing row away, row o’er the waters so blue
Like a feather we’ll float in my Gum Tree Canoe

verses:

On the Tombigbee River so bright I was born
In a hut made of husks of the tall yellow corn
It was there I first met with my Julia so true
And I rowed her about in my Gum Tree Canoe

(chorus)
All day in the fields of soft cotton I’d hoe
I think of my Julia and sing as I go
Oh, I catch her a bird with a wing of true blue
And at night sail her ‘round in my Gum Tree Canoe

(chorus)
With my hands on the banjo and toe on the oar
I sing to the sound of the river’s soft roar
While the stars they look down on my Julia so true
And dance in her eyes in my Gum Tree Canoe

(chorus)
One night the stream bore us so far away
That we couldn’t come back, so we thought we’d just stay
Oh, we spied a tall ship with a flag of true blue
And it took us in tow in our Gum Tree Canoe

(chorus)

 

*****

Pa knew music could still the heart and give hope and peace.
As he spent years moving his family around
to places they were facing panthers, wolves, coyotes, loneliness,
fires, Indians, raging rivers and disease,
we see that what his gun couldn’t take care of,
his violin could.

Nearly150 years later,
these songs of tradition and nostalgia,
bring joy, comfort
and toe-tapping enthusiasm to the modern generation.

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3 thoughts on “Susanna Wasn’t in a Gum Tree Canoe

  1. I absolutely love all these old songs and their history. I was fortunate to get to visit the home where Stephen Foster wrote “My Old Kentucky Home”. Gum Tree Canoe such a wonderful song. Very catchy! We bought three different cds with Pa’s music on it and we’ve been enjoying all the different versions of these songs and tributes to Pa. The are songs the whole family can enjoy. So worth the money! Got ’em all on Amazon.

  2. I’ve got this one nailed on the fiddle and will be playing it next week for our co-op meeting. Thanks for the inspiration! I’ve grown to love this song so much.

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