Nov. 16, 2000

Turkey in the Straw

by Anonymous

Broadcast date: THURSDAY, 16 November 2000

Poem: “Turkey in the Straw,” Anonymous.

As I was a-gwine down the road,
Tired team and a heavy load,
Crack my whip and the leader sprung;
I says day-day to the wagon tongue.
    Turkey in the straw, turkey in the hay,
    Roll 'em up and twist 'em up a high tuckahaw,
    And hit 'em up a tune called Turkey in the Straw.

Went out to milk and I didn't know how,
I milked the goat instead of the cow.
A monkey sittin' on a pile of straw
A-winkin' at his mother-in-law.
    Turkey in the straw, turkey in the hay,
    Roll 'em up and twist 'em up a high tuckahaw,
    And hit 'em up a tune called Turkey in the Straw.

Met Mr. Catfish comin' down stream,
Says Mr. Catfish, "What does you mean?"
Caught Mr. Catfish by the snout
And turned Mr. Catfish wrong side out.
    Turkey in the straw, turkey in the hay,
    Roll 'em up and twist 'em up a high tuckahaw,
    And hit 'em up a tune called Turkey in the Straw.

Came to the river and I couldn't get across
Paid five dollars for an old blind hoss
Wouldn't go ahead, nor he wouldn't stand still
So he went up and down like an old saw mill.
    Turkey in the straw, turkey in the hay,
    Roll 'em up and twist 'em up a high tuckahaw,
    And hit 'em up a tune called Turkey in the Straw.

As I came down the new cut road
Met Mr. Bullfrog, met Miss Toad
And every time Miss Toad would sing
Ole Bullfrog cut a pigeon wing.
    Turkey in the straw, turkey in the hay,
    Roll 'em up and twist 'em up a high tuckahaw,
    And hit 'em up a tune called Turkey in the Straw.

Oh I jumped in the seat, and I gave a little yell,
The horses run away, broke the wagon all to hell;
Sugar in the gourd and honey in the horn,
I never was so happy since the hour I was born.
    Turkey in the straw, turkey in the hay,
    Roll 'em up and twist 'em up a high tuckahaw,
    And hit 'em up a tune called Turkey in the Straw.

It's the birthday of Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe, born in Ogidi, Nigeria (1930), widely regarded as the patriarch of the modern African novel. He’s the author of Things Fall Apart (1958), Arrow of God (1964), Anthills of the Savannah (1987), and his most recent, Home and Exile (2000). Achebe left Nigeria several times to flee military dictatorship.  In 1990, at age 60, he came to the United States, and has been teaching at Bard College in upstate New York.

On this day in 1913, Swann's Way, the first volume of Marcel Proust's huge 7-part novel Remembrance of Things Past, was published in Paris.  The manuscript had been rejected by two publishers, so Proust published it himself.

It's the birthday of British author Michael Arlen, born in Ruse, Bulgaria (1895). He wrote about fashionable London after World War One in The Green Hat, which was a phenomenal success when it came out in 1924.

It's the birthday of playwright George S. Kaufman, born in  Pittsburgh (1889). Between World War One and World War Two, he was the most successful theater figure in America. He collaborated on more than 40 plays, including Of Thee I Sing (1931), You Can't Take It with You (1936), Dinner at Eight (1932), and The Man Who Came to Dinner (1939).

It's the birthday of  W. C. Handy, "the father of the blues," born in 1873, in Florence, Alabama.  He was the son and grandson of preachers; his family considered instrumental music sacrilegious, and banned it from the household.  When he bought his first guitar, his father made him return it to the store and exchange it for a dictionary. But he defied his parents' wishes and played cornet in the local brass band. At eighteen he left home and became a wandering musician; he traveled down to the Mississippi delta and learned the blues, including the use of  the flatted seventh, the so-called “blue note,” which was not found in American popular music at that time. Hardy blended blues with the ragtime beat popular in the first decade of the century.  His first published tune was Memphis Blues (1912), followed by St. Louis Blues (1914), Beale Street Blues, Careless Love, and many more.

It was on this day in 1864 that Union General William T. Sherman and his 68,000 troops set fire to Atlanta and began their March to the Sea, all the way down to Savannah.

On this day in 1849, Fyodor Dostoevsky was sentenced to death for engaging in socialist activities. At the last moment before his execution, his sentence was commuted to four years' hard labor in Siberia.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
The Writer's Almanac on Facebook

The Writer's Almanac on Twitter

Subscribe to our daily newsletter for poems, prose and literary history every morning
An interview with Jeffrey Harrison at The Writer's Almanac Bookshelf
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show
O, What a Luxury

Although he has edited several anthologies of his favorite poems, O, What a Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic & Profound forges a new path for Garrison Keillor, as a poet of light verse. Purchase O, What a Luxury »