Early 20th Century Schoolyard Game

My father was born in 1904, how I got to be born in 1964 is a tale for another day. Anyway, dad told me of the games that he would play as a child in central Texas. One stuck out, for its rather dull-seeming repetition and very bizarre little rhyme that was a part of it. The game itself was a version of tag.

Apparently, the children would stand in a large circle. In the centre of the circle would be a designated "it," the so-called "Old Witch." The children in the ring would chant:

"Chicory Chicory Craney Crow
Went to the well to wash his toe.
When he got back, the chickens were gone.
What time is it, Old Witch?"

The Old Witch would then shout "One O'clock!" The kids would resume the chanting ...

"Chicory Chicory Craney Crow
Went to the well to wash his toe.
When he got back, the chickens were gone.
What time is it, Old Witch?"

...and the Old Witch would say "Two O'clock." The game would progress like this through the numbers up to twelve, presumably with the tension (such as it might have been) mounting.

When the OW shouted the words "Twelve O'Clock," that was the signal for the children to flee in all directions, probably shrieking madly, with the OW hot on their little heels, trying to tag them. Whichever child got tagged would then be the Old Witch for the next round.

Even as a child, this sounded really tedious to me. All I could think is that, before there was television, kids must've had a lot of time on their hands. I would have thought that, what with all the chores and the church and learning the three R's and the walking uphill to school and getting whipped with hickory switches and whatnot, early 20th century youngsters would not have had time to stand around for hours, chanting strange rhymes and watching one of their fellows increment a number ... but apparently this was a very popular game.

I have no idea what the rhyme means, it is probably just schoolyard nonsense like "Cinderella/Dressed in yella/Went upstairs to kiss a fella ..." or "Girls are sexy/made out of Pepsi/Boys are rotten/made out of cotton..." Still, it could be a fun project for some post-Freudian or tongue-in-cheek sociologist to examine.

The rhyme was chanted or sung to a tune approximately the same as "Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush". My father told me that sometimes it was "Hickory Chicory Craney Crow" but most often, it was the version above. The only source that I could find on a couple of InterWeb searches was also from Texas, also from the turn of the century. They had the rhyme as:

"Chickama, chickama, craney crow
Went to the well to wash his toe.
When he got back his black-eyed Susan was gone.
What time is it, Old Witch?"

I have to confess, I like Dad's version a lot better. Black-eyed Susan is way too many syllables for that line.

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