My parents were musicians and proteges of the 1950s and 1960s folk revival movement. At every picnic, gathering and social they would distribute song books and lead the crowd in singing a wide variety of classics ranging from “For Me and My Gal” to “The Sloop John B.” while playing ukulele and banjos.
This is how I became a musician. This is why I occasionally lead sing-a-longs.
We summered on Sawyer Island, a small island community in Boothbay, Maine. We had a great little stick frame town hall covered with carpenter-built decoration — beadboard and cut shingles. It had a great little stage, church pew seating and a tiny kitchen in the rear. The place was seldom used and was in dis-repair.
One year the community decided to open the hall and stage a talent show. I don’t remember the acts well. I do remember the Mainers and our group of Hoosier sharing friendly barbs about whether the “r” at the end of words really needed to be pronounced. My family and a visiting Hoosier clan, the Ricketts, sang an old tune made popular by Perry Como, Kentucky Babe.
Skeeters am a hummin’ on de honeysuckle vine.
Sleep Kentucky Babe!
Sandman am a common’ to dis little one of mine.
Sleep Kentucky Babe!
Silv’ry moon am shinin’ in de heabens up above.
Bobolink am pinin’ fo’ his little lady love.
You is mighty lucky. Babe of old Kentucky.
Close your eyes in sleep.
This was my introduction to the bobolink. I asked a few questions and was told that it was a bird that lived in the south. I filed the information away. It was almost 40 years before I learned much more.
On my Northern Forest Canoe Trail trip, last summer, I spent a night in a Now York’s Cumberland Bay State Park in Plattsburgh. The next leg of the journey was to cross and paddle north on Lake Champlain. Due to a strong headwind from the south I elected to walk to the end of Cumberland Head and cross the lake from there. On the walk I was joined by three different folks that were interested in my story. The last walked with my for a couple of miles. I was hungry for company and she was just what I needed.
While passing a farm she lamented that the new owners had cleared the fence rows and the bobolinks were no longer there. By this time I knew that range of bobolinks wasn’t limited to the south, but I had still never seen one. She went on to tell me that they were once common when farm fields were significantly smaller.
A week later, near Enosburg Falls, VT, I was again walking. There was a beautiful bicycle trail that looked a lot more inviting that fighting upstream through another series of rapids. I noticed that the corn fields were very small (In Indiana they can stretch to the horizon.) and began to scan them for bobolinks.
I was rewarded almost immediately! Once I heard their robot-like song I couldn’t miss them.
(Incidentally — to this story — the Sawyer Island Town Hall burned to the ground early the morning after the performance described above. An arsonist had targeted several important, but uninhabited, buildings to destroy that summer including a dance barn, several small town halls, and a movie theater.)
This bobolink is carved from white pine and includes elements constructed of brass, steel, an antique packing crate, a willow branch and a croquet ball. 12 1/2″t x 5″ l x 4″ w.