The fox went out on a chase one night
He bayed to the moon to give him light
He had many a mile to go that night
Before he reached the town-o, town-o, town-o
Many a mile to go that night before he reached the town-o
My daughter and my father and I are all introverted thinkers by preference.
When my daughter was in Kindergarten, she had a week where she was the child in focus. During that week she was to bring in a poster about her family and the child could choose activities.
We chose “The Fox”.
My father crossed from my house to the school two blocks away. I noticed that he was short of breath on the flat just carrying his guitar. Fifty five years of unfiltered Camels, two packs a day, will do that. I wished he was not short of breath.
We had a poster with photographs of Camille and her parents and her brother and friends and cousins and grandparents. We also had a poster with the words of “The Fox.” We introduced the song to the class and my father played guitar while we sang it. The words were on the poster. I’ve had it memorized for as long as I can remember….
He ran til he came to a great big pen
Where the ducks and the geese were kept therein
“A couple of you gonna grease my chin
Before I leave this town-o, town-o, town-o
A couple of you gonna grease my chin before I leave this town-o
My sister said that when she was little, she thought that a town-o was one of the brass ashtrays that my parents had. The ashtray was completely round on the bottom and would rock at a touch. She pictured the fox riding down a hill in the brass ashtray.
He grabbed a grey goose by the neck
Throwed a duck across his back
Didn’t a mind the quack quack quack
Or the legs all dangling down-o, down-o, down-o
Didn’t mind the quack quack quack or the legs all dangling down-o
I remember not knowing what “grease my chin” meant and also wondering whose side I should be on. The fox’s side? The goose and duck’s? Old Mother Flipperflopper?
Old Mother Flipperflopper jumped out of bed
And out of the window she stuck her head
Crying “John, John, the grey goose is gone
and the fox is on the town-o, town-o, town-o
John, John, the grey goose is gone and the fox is on the town-o
And there is that town-o again.
Johnny ran to the top of the hill
He blew his horn both loud and shrill
The fox he said “I better flee with my kill
Because they’ll soon be on my trail-o, trail-o, trail-o
I better flee with my kill ’cause they’ll soon be on my trail-o”
Every day my father and Camille and I sang the song with the class. By Friday the whole Kindergarten class had joined in and could sing the song or at least part of it.
Camille had not been sure that the song was a good idea, but the class liked it.
The fox he ran to his cozy den
There were the little ones, eight, nine, ten
Saying, “Daddy, daddy, better go back again
‘Cause it must be a mighty fine town-o, town-o, town-o
Daddy, daddy, better go back again, ’cause it must be a mighty fine town-o”
At the end of the year, they had a Kindergarten graduation ceremony, with little white hats, at Chetzemoka Park. The teacher and the principal were there and parents and grandparents. The class had a surprise for all of us: they sang “The Fox” again.
The fox and his wife, without any strife
Cut up the goose with a fork and knife
They never had such a supper in their life
And the little ones chewed on the bones-o, bones-o, bones-o
They never had such a supper in their life and the little ones chewed on the bones-o
We didn’t discuss the ethics of the song. The fox is hunting for his family. He is stealing from people and he kills a goose and a duck. The people try to hunt him. His children think town-o must be wonderful, but it is dangerous for a fox to earn a living. And the little ones are fed. I think it is a teaching song.