In Arkansas

Watermelons, on the other hand, grow pretty big.

‘In Arkansas’ is one of a group of related humorous songs: ‘In Kansas’, ‘In Mobile’, ‘Over there’ and others. Published in 1844, ‘In Kansas’ looks to be original. It is widely thought to be a parody of a very sad song about the Irish potato famine, "The Praties They Grow Small", especially due to the similarity of the first verse. This theory seems a bit unlikely since 1844 precedes the worst of the potato blights and it is wildly incongruous to convert such a serious ballad into such a goofy ditty.

I learned the song from Shep Ginandes’ 10 inch LP, Songs of Delinquency, recorded in 1952 on Storyville Records. See Willie the Weeper for more about Shep.

Shep may have gotten the lyrics from Vance Randolph’s collection “Ozark Folksongs.” I’m not sure where the jaunty little tune came from, it doesn’t sound traditional but it suits the song well I think. It’s fun to make up your own verses. Many of the variants have really, ahem, questionable lyrics. The duck verse is my contribution to the song cycle.


Oh the taters they grow small in Arkansas
Oh the taters they grow small in Arkansas
Oh the taters they grow small
For they dig 'em in the fall
And they eat 'em tops And all in Arkansas

Oh the chickens they grow tall in Arkansas . . .
And their meat is full of gall
And they eat 'em guts And all in Arkansas

Oh they bake a polecat pie in Arkansas . . .
And the crust is made of rye
You gotta eat it if you die in Arkansas

Oh they chaw terbacker thin in Arkansas . . .
And it runs down on their chin
And they wipe it off ag'in in Arkansas

Oh I'd like to be a geese in Arkansas . . .
So I'd live And die in peace
And accumulate some grease in Arkansas

Oh the candles they are small in Arkansas . . .
For they dips 'em lean And tall
And they burns 'em sticks And all in Arkansas

Oh the roosters they lay eggs in Arkansas . . .
A big as whiskey kegs
And they got whiskers on their legs in Arkansas

Oh the people never wed in Arkansas . . .
Or so I’ve heard it said
They just tumble into bed in Arkansas

I’d like to be a duck in Arkansas . . .
And try out all my luck
And maybe buy a pickup truck in Arkansas