My father, being That Sort Of Dad, has been at some pains to ensure that I was able to pass along the proper kind of information to my young 'uns, if and when I ever have any. Starting around the age of five (when I was five, that is) he began to regale myself and my younger brother (then two) with all manner of limerick, doggerel, and campfire-song-turned-whorehouse-proud. He would get a tear of pride when my brother or I as wee 'uns would gleefully recite full measure of these pearls of wisdom at my mother's friends' cocktail parties. Extra points if we had managed to get naked, smear food on ourselves and/or our surroundings, and/or cause any guest to pass out.

I feel it only appropriate to ensure at least one gets passed on as I learned it, here on E2.

The song is called 'There Once Was A Farmer.' It is meant to be sung while drinking, ideally in groups, loudly, with gusto. Extra points for spilling drinks on someone else's head during the toasting. Here are the lyrics; note that ellipses indicate pause in the singing, resuming several beats later.

There once was a farmer who sat on a dock
you could tell by his actions he played with his ...

marbles in the springtime with the lady next door
you could tell by her actions that she was a ...

charming young lady who rolled in the grass
and when the wind blew you could see her bare ...

features in the moonlight she could swim like a duck
she taught all the farmers a new way to ...

bring up their children and also to knit
while the boys in the barnyard were shoveling the ...

contents of the barnyard right up to the door
While the boys in the basement were shouting for more BEER!

...the last two words, naturally, should be shouted in the direction of the bar staff before quaffing all that's immediately available.

I have tried to discover the origin of this song, but it has been a long slog with no good results. Attempts at asking my Dad have invariably ended up in anecdotes beginning "You know, during my boyhood in Pago Pago..." Additional attempts through that source turned up an astonishing number of locations in which my sire apparently spent his formative years, some of which I cannot find on a map despite hard searching. I must remain in awe of his adventurer credentials.

Next, of course, I turned to the Web. I have found a 'campfire song' appropriate for Scouts and church groups, which has the same rhythm to it, and is also about a farmer, named 'Sweet Violets.' However, that song purports to describe a farmer abandoned at the altar by his sweetheart, and when I showed it to my father, he became incensed, tore the page and threw his beer at me, proclaiming that such pansy-ass dilly-dallying was not welcome in his house, and was I sure I was his son?

After assuring him that this was merely an attempt to research the origins of said tune, he calmed enough to be served another beer, and enlightened me as to his boyhood in the Hindu Kush.

I did find a tune called 'The Ship's in the Harbor', which claims it is sung to the tune of 'Susan was a Lady' - and at the bottom of that reference, there was a small, three-couplet version of 'There Once Was A Farmer' (except in that one, he 'lived by the Crick'). It contained the first three couplets as above, with that change. If you know of any more 'verses,' please, do submit them here. My future wife's future friends' cocktail parties will thank you.

Update: Thank the internets! Here is Bob Saget singing a very close relative of this song on YouTube, if you're curious about the tune.

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