The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #48893   Message #849376
Posted By: John Minear
17-Dec-02 - 10:12 PM
Thread Name: Origin: Limber Jim
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
Back in July, I posted the lyrics from a song that was collected by Cecil Sharp from Jane Gentry of Hot Springs, North Carolina. It was called "I Whipped My Horse". I came across that song again today and was struck by these two verses:

I fed my horse in a poplar trough,
And there he caught the whooping cough.

I fed my horse in a silver spoon,
And then he kicked it over the moon.

Compare them with two of the verses from Patti Newman's "Limber Jim":

Way down yonder in a sycamore trough,
An old lady died with the whooping cough.

Way up yonder above the moon,
A jaybird lived in a silver spoon.

While there are any number of "trough/whooping cough" examples floating around from song to song, this is the only other example that I have found of the "moon/silver spoon" motif. In both of the "moon/silver spoon" examples, there is a "cow jumped over the moon" sense involved. In fact, as I recall that nursery rhyme:

Hey diddle, diddle,
The cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon.
The little dog laughed
To see such a sight,
And the dish ran away with the spoon,

I am reminded that here we also have a "moon/spoon" motif.

It is interesting to see the "jaybird", an African American as well as a White Appalachian favorite critter, which may come from a Native American trickster tradition, somehow getting mixed up with a "silver spoon", which tends to call to mind old English nursery rhymes.

And, to "jump over the moon" is to be "way up yonder above the moon". This is the only place I've come across where "way up/down yonder" has been linked to the moon. I wonder if there are any stories about the jaybird and the moon.

I don't know if there is any significance to the fact that both Patti Newman and Jane Gentry were from North Carolina. Jane lived in the moutains at Hot Springs. Her family had come from a little further north, up in the Beech Mountain area. She was a Hicks. Patti lived in the piedmont area of North Carolina at a place called Elon College, just east of Greensboro, I think. Her folks came from North Carolina, but had spent a significant amount of time out in Missouri. They shared a common era.

This little song about "Limber Jim" continues to intrigue me. T.O.M.