"The time to repair a leaky roof is when the sun is shining" (FDR, not JFK)

Charles Doyle cdoyle at UGA.EDU
Mon Apr 10 00:29:24 UTC 2006

That's a good call by Joel, the citation of a versified
version of the rustic's-leaky-roof jest in lyrics of "The
Arkansas Traveler" (though I am unable to follow the link
Joel provides).

The tune (at least) is probably older, but lyrics appeared
in sheet-music form, published in Buffalo, probably in the
1850s; those were reprinted in The Arkansas Traveller's
Songster (NY, 1864). Whether the early printed texts
contained the jest I do not know.  Nor is the history
of "Arkansas Traveler" as a FOLKSONG clear--that is, what
lyrics have accompanied the tune at various stages of oral
transmission.  One set of lyrics (containing the jest),
collected in 1918, can be found in J.H. Cox, Folk-Songs of
the South (Cambridge, MA, 1925).


---- Original message ----
>Date: Sun, 9 Apr 2006 10:59:55 -0400
>From: "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
>Subject: Re: "The time to repair a leaky roof is when the
sun is shining" (FDR, not JFK)
>---------------------- Information from the mail header ----
>Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-
>Poster:       "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
>Subject:      Re: "The time to repair a leaky roof is when
the sun is shining"
>              (FDR, not JFK)
>At 4/9/2006 10:37 AM, Charles Doyle wrote:
>>am also reminded of a short joke--it's been in oral
>>circulation for a few decades--about a rustic (maybe an
>>Aggie) who remarks that when it's raining, he can't fix the
>>leaks in the roof of his house, and when it's not raining,
>>they don't NEED fixing.
>Or Arkansas, and 140 years old?  The words to the folk
dance tune
>"Arkansas Traveler", from
>Oh, once upon a time in Arkansas
>An old man sat in his little cabin door
>And fiddled at a tune that he liked to hear
>A jolly old tune that he played by ear
>It was raining hard, but the fiddler didn't care
>He sawed aways at the popular air
>Though his rooftop leaked like a waterfall
>That didn't seem to bother the old man at all
>A traveler was riding by that day
>And stopped to hear him a-fiddling away
>The cabin was afloat and his feet were wet
>But the old man still didn't seem to fret
>So the stranger said Now, the way it seems to me
>You'd better mend your roof said he
>But the old man said as he played away
>I couldn't mend it now, it's a rainy day
>The traveler replied that's all quite true
>But this I think is the thing for you to do
>Get busy on a day that is fair and bright
>Then patch the old roof till it's good and tight
>But the old man kept on a-playing at his reel
>And tapped the ground with his leathery heel
>Get along said he for you give me a pain
>My cabin never leaks when it doesn't rain
> From http://www.streetswing.com/histmain/z3arktrv.htm:
>The vintage Arkansas Traveler is said to have originated in
>Connecticut Valley around 1860 where it got its name from a
>who "hawked" his merchandise up and down the valley while
>everyone he came from Arkansas. The dance was dedicated to
this peddler.
>-- The Arkansas traveller was basically a barn dance that
had twice
>the number of calls as the other dances of the time to
symbolize the
>peddlers travels. During this time the waltz was virtually
unknown to
>the peasant dancers. The Arkansas Traveler is also known as
>Essence of Old Virginia.
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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