Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I've got a mule and her name is.....



School children in New York State have one year in elementary school where they learn about New York State history.  For me, it was while I was in 4th or 5th grade and we learned a little about the Iroquois, the Dutch, Peter Stuyvesant, Fort Orange (later Albany), skipped to the battles at Saratoga and then to the building of the Erie canal and finally to the construction of the St Lawrence Seaway which was only completed a few years before then.

The best part was learning to sing "The Erie Canal". I can only remember the first verse and the chorus and I always loved singing it.  Little did I understand when I was shouting  out the song that my grandparents, great grandparents and great great grandparents made their livelihood on the Champlain Canal, the sister of the Erie!
The composer of the song, Thomas Allen (1876-1919) was an American vaudeville composer and he may never have actually worked on the canal but his lyrics were noting the passage of time and the changes when  the old towpaths with mule teams were giving way to faster and "efficient" engine power.

Listen Here via Library of Congress
Actual title
"Low Bridge"
written by Thomas S. Allen in 1905




For those of you who missed this seminal event in their childhood, the song goes like this....


I've got a mule, her name is Sal
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal
She's a good old worker and a good old pal
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal
We've hauled some barges in our day
Filled with lumber, coal, and hay
And we know every inch of the way
From Albany to Buffalo
Chorus:
Low bridge, everybody down
Low bridge cause we're coming to a town
And you'll always know your neighbor
And you'll always know your pal
If you've ever navigated on the Erie Canal
Get up here Sal, We've past that lock,
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal
And we'll make home before six a-clock
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal
One more trip and back we'll go
Through the rain and sleet and snow
And we know every inch of the way
From Albany to Buffalo
Low bridge, everybody down
Low bridge for we're coming to a town
And you'll always know your neighbor
And you'll always know your pal
If you've ever navigated on the Erie Canal.....


Apparently there's some additional verses...

Erie Canal Song
Low Bridge, Everybody Down

(Written by: Thomas Allen in 1905)

I've got a mule, and her name is Sal,
Fif-teen miles on the Er-ie canal,
She's a good ol' worker and a good ol' pal,
Fifteen miles on the Er-ie can-al,
We've hauled some barges in our day,
Filled with lum-ber coal and hay,
And ev'ry inch of the way we know
From Al-ba-ny to Buff-a-lo OH

Chorus

Low bridge ev'-ry bod-y down,
Low bridge for we're com-in to a town,
And you al-ways know your neighbor,
You'll always know your pal,
If you've ev-er navigated on the Er-ie can-al

Chorus

We'd better look round for a job old gal,
Fif-teen miles - on the Er-ie can-al,
You bet your life I wouldn't part with Sal,
Fif-teen miles on the Er-ie can-al,
Giddap 'there gal we've passed that lock,
We'll make Rome fore six o'clock,
So, it's one more trip and then we'll go,
Right back home to Buff-a-lo OH

Chorus

Oh, where would I be if I lost my pal?
Fif-teen miles on the Er-ie can-al.
Oh, I'd like to see a mule as good as Sal,
Fif-teen miles on the Er-ie can-al,
A friend of mine once got her sore,
Now he's got a busted jaw,
'Cause she let fly with her iron toe,
And kicked him in to Buff-a-lo OH

Chorus

Don't have to call when I want my Sal,
Fif-teen miles on the Er-ie can-al,
She trots from her stall like a good old gal,
Fif-teen miles on the Er-ie can-al,
I eat my meals with Sal each day,
I eat beef and she eats hay,
And she ain't so slow if you want to know,
She put the "Buff" in Buff-a-lo OH





Apparently Bruce Springsteen caught on to this song thanks to Pete Seeger.  I can hardly believe it is the song we sang in grammar school.  The violin accompaniment is beautiful. Bruce sings Low Bridge





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