Springfield Mountain


Jon picked this up “From Folk Songs Of The English Speaking Nations. I did this briefly with John and then with Eliza and the Ratcatchers. Fay’s now doing a great version with Sam and Rob.”

Also known as The Pesky Sarpant (or Serpent) and possibly based in part on a true tale of death by snakebite of Timothy Myrick on August 7th 1761, although I’m sure there is more than one case that this could be based on. There do seem to be at least two styles to this song, with one simply and seriously recounting his death and burial and the other adding the girl with the rotten tooth who also succumbs. I must say I’m surprised to see this latter version described as comic with its double death by poison, although I guess by folk song standards… Anyway, Mudcat has a decent thread on this, with some variations and history. I’ll agree with Jon that Fay’s version is great having seen here again a week or so ago in East Dulwich, but then I like this too.


34 Responses to “Springfield Mountain”

  1. Adam says:

    Burl Ives for one plays up the humor of the hollow tooth in his version–Jon’s pokerfaced rendition is much more subtle. (It helps to hear it without the yodel-like chorus of “Ray goo day-noo-ay” etc). I hope to hear Fay’s version someday–does she perform the straight or the humorous version?

  2. Muzza (s.e.England) says:

    If that old rattlesnake had bitten him on the backside…she’d be alive today! (Ray goo day-noo-ay!)

  3. Jane Ramsden says:

    I understand Woody Guthrie did a version of this as well, but I can’t find anything on YouTube.

    I don’t care for the song as a song, but the tale is quirky and, if true, I can see why it’s been promulgated this long. Such a shame the poor girl didn’t know that sucking out the venom doesn’t work, as it can’t compete with the circulatory system carrying it around the body very quickly. She was always more likely to get poisoned herself than save the lad! She should have got her bowie knife out and sliced him!

    @ Muzza: It doesn’t necessarily follow… Hahahahahaha!

  4. Peter Walsh says:

    Woody’s version can be listened to on Spotify, Janie, and he does all the “Ray goo day-noo-ay” stuff! It’s on an album assembled by Moses Asch in 1962 entitled “Woody Guthrie Sings Folk Songs”.

  5. Adam says:

    For those who like old markers, this is supposedly the gravestone of the ill-fated Timothy http://www.flickr.com/photos/garyrt/3649021378/ It stands in a cemetery about 35 miles due south of where I live: I guess I should be careful “not to pass/ too near to patches of high grass.”

  6. Muzza (s.e.England) says:

    @Adam……….suggest you also stay away from naked ladies offering apples!

  7. Jane Ramsden says:

    @ Muzza: But it was a snake in the grass at the back of Eve too!

  8. Joe Offer says:

    I understand Springfield Mountain is near Springfield, Massachusetts. I can’t imagine that you would find rattlesnakes in the northeast US nowadays, although I’ve heard they exist at least in small numbers in every state except Hawaii. We have plenty here in California. I think of this song every time I have to clear brush on my property.

  9. Adam says:

    We have the timber rattlesnake, which is uncommon but still present: a friend encountered one in NY not too long ago (with a happier outcome). You may find them on south-facing rocky hills in Massachusetts and Connecticut, according to my field guide, so be sure not to mow the hay on those slopes!

  10. Muzza(s.e.England) says:

    @Joe & Adam………You guys and your wide open spaces……..Nothing so wild as that in Surrey, U.K……..suppose I could write a Ballad along the lines “I was bitten on the bum by an adder on old Box Hill”

  11. Jane Ramsden says:

    @ Muzza: Would we be entertained with a YouTube performance of your ‘Bitten On The Bum On Old Box Hill?’ I knew my advice of yesterday was sound, to keep away from butts of all kinds… hehehehehehe!

  12. Pale Corbie says:

    I’ve actually never heard a serious version of this one before – my folk song education is being greatly expanded by this project, so thank you, very much.

    She more than survives in this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-HtAX7HCsRc

  13. Diana says:

    What a horrid way to do. Chances are he would have survived if he had been born 200 years later but at least he had more than his 15 minutes of fame. He had an song written about him which has stood the test of time.

    Muzza I join with Jane and would like to hear the song you mention above. Hurry up and write it. :mrgreen:

  14. Diana says:

    As per usual the obligatory mistake – “way to go” should have come up.

    Nothing whatsoever to do with anything really, but in these days of austerity it was lovely to see the council planting several saplings on a stretch of the main road amongst the mature ones already there.

  15. Muzza(NW Surrey.UK) says:

    To be sung to the tune of “Barbara Allan”..
    that old traditional song from darkest surrey…noted down in 1792 from an old farm worker by that avid song collector..Rufus Abadgersbum:-
    entitled ………”I was bitten on the bum by an adder on old Box Hill”

    1)On old Box Hill I chanced to stray
    For passion I was hoping
    I found a spot full of lush green grass
    On level ground-not sloping.

    2)The sun shone from a clear blue sky
    The birds were sweetly singing
    As I waited for my own true love
    I felt a sudden stinging

  16. Folk Archivist says:

    Having seen the comments above from that Muzza fellow…it may surprise him to know that there is such an old traditional song from darkest surrey…noted down in 1792 from an old farm worker (just before he died of snake bite) by that avid song collector..Professor Rufus Abadgersbum:-
    entitled ………”I was bitten on the bum by an adder on old Box Hill”

    To be sung to the tune of “Barbara Allan”..

    1)On old Box Hill I chanced to stray
    For passion I was hoping
    I found a spot, full of lush green grass
    On level ground-not sloping.

    2)The sun shone from a clear blue sky
    The birds were sweetly singing
    As I waited for my own true love
    I felt a sudden stinging

    3)Had my nether regions sat on glass
    or was it something badder
    I turned to look, saw my fate was sealed
    It was a blooming adder

    4)My truelove came and saw my plight
    I said you’ll need to suck it
    But when she saw where the bite marks were
    She decided not to do it

    5)So here I lie my rear all blue
    The story can’t be sadder
    A ruined trip to old Box Hill
    And me bum bit by an adder!

  17. Folk Archivist says:

    I see that Muzza fellow tried to steal my thunder and hit the submit button too soon in error

  18. Jane Ramsden says:

    @ Folk Archivist: It’s amazing how many song lyrics can fit BaaBaa Allen, isn’t it? As something of an archivist missen, I was rather hoping for some technical notation to clarify points such as:

    1) Where are these nether regions where Box Hill is situated?
    2) What botanical genus is a blooming adder?
    3) Is the word ‘badder’ grammatically acceptable?

    And, most importantly,

    4) Does the world believe this young swain was trying it on with said truelove, ‘cos we all know you’ll not die from an adder bite, wherever it is! Muzza, ye have been rumbled! Or should that be bum-bled? I expect it did after an adder bite! Hahahahahahaha!

  19. Jane Ramsden says:

    @ Pale Corbie: (Great name!) I enjoyed the Jimmy Driftwood Rattlesnake Song. At least they were both alive by the end of it! Perhaps his said truelove was trying it on as well? Since you can’t successfully suck poison out of a snake bite, maybe he only got bit by an adder and not really a rattlesnake? Great vocal delivery by Jimmy Driftwood though!

  20. Pale Corbie says:

    Rattlesnakes will sometimes give a “warning” bite without a lot of venom in – after all, they need that stuff for things they can actually swallow – which is probably where the “suck the wound it’ll be fine” folklore comes from, in that you’d be sucking out the dirt, rodenty snake-spittle and such that’d cause the wound to go gangrenous…Driftwood’s version is the only one I’ve heard with sucking and survival, though.

    I’m familiar with this song as “The Rattlesnake Song” and the banjo-imitating vocals, but it usually ends with Sal running out shoeless with worry and either lamenting over Johnny or getting her leg cut off by the arriving doctor “’cause she stept on the same damn snake”.

    “Keep out of the long grass” indeed!

  21. Diana says:

    @Jane, Muzza and Folk Achivist AKA ? I don’t know Muzza does it. There is a spot of plagiariam somewhere along the line. As for you Jane, your questions are unanswerable or at least should be – except for “badder” I believe this is a slang word as is baddest. I would rather have a bunch of blooming heather than the blooming adders though. 😆

  22. Muzza (N.W.Surrey-UK) says:

    @Pale Corbie….thanks for the excellent Jimmie Driftwood link..loved the rattlesnake song…….it’s meewhy made my deewhy day!

  23. Folk Archivist says:

    @Jane…ref your questions…I have checked back with Professor Rufus Abadgersbum and he informs me
    1)Near the backside of Dorking
    2)He agrees with @Diana…a species only found in “Blooming Heather”
    3) being peasants..badder was the only word they hadder to rhyme
    4)No..not from a normal adder….but this was a “blooming badder adder”-fatal
    Please note….anymore frivolous questions that cast doubt on Prof Abadgersbum’s integrity could make him madder.

  24. Diana says:

    @ Folk Archivist: I would not presume to doubt the Professor’s integrity – he sounds so plausible. Still I wonder why we have not heard this song before as it is so good. Surely it must be up on Youtube somewhere. 😀

  25. Diana says:

    Alas poor Professir Rufus Abadgersbum has not appeared since last year.

  26. Prof Rufus Abadgersbum says:

    @Diana………..I am still here my dear…collecting all sorts of risque sounds/songs and trivia. I must thank YOU for all the lyrics that you have sent to me for my collection but I regret that 99% were unsiutable even for my repertoire.. however, I will retain the one entitled ‘Gertrude and the pit Pony’…I think you wrote that from the heart.

  27. Diana says:

    Ooh you are awful but I like you. Now you can pick yourself up Professor. I am so glad that you found one suitable for your repertoire expecially as Gertrude was one of my favourites.

  28. Linda says:

    ooh it is fun reading the old comments!
    Love Fay’s version of this

  29. Diana says:

    Yes Linda it is, I usually have a giggle at some.
    Still a strange song.

  30. Old Muzza (N.W.Surrey UK) says:

    Hey Lindy Lou………..I thought there would be a comment from you on here…….I shall check tomorrow to see if the song for 17th comes upautomatically

  31. Old Muzza(NW Surrey.UK says:

    Here we are………….Old Box Hill……….only took five years!……..and real adders not ‘Blooming ones’

  32. Jane Ramsden says:

    Just listened to all your recent offerings On YouTube, Muzza, and well done! I haven’t even got round to posting one song! But that’s really due to a lack of technological know-how… Nothing to do with my singing voice, of course! A dearth of suitable costumes in my wardrobe too… unlike thee! Lol.

  33. OldMuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    Ha…..still very cautious when I sit in long grass ….especially on hills in Surrey!

  34. OOld Muzza(NW Surrey UK) says:

    Ha…the weather is looking up and there will soon be an opportunity to venture out onto old Boxhill….keeping a wary eye on the long grass of course!

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