UPDATE: March 15, 2017
This post presents lyrics and a video example of the old time music dance song "Buckeye Rabbit" (also known as "Buck Eye Rabbit", "Buckeyed Rabbit", "Big Eye Rabbit", and "Big Eyed Rabbit". Comments about this song and the phrase "buckeye" are also included in this post.
The content of this post is presented for folkloric, cultural, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.
All copyrights remain with their owners.
Thanks to the composers and collectors of these songs, and thanks to all those who are quoted in this post. Thanks also to the featured artists in this video and thanks to the publisher of this video on YouTube.
RELATED POST: http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2014/03/buckeye-jim-limber-jim-comments-lyrics.html ""Buckeye Jim" & "Limber Jim" comments, lyrics, & videos"
WHAT "BUCKEYE" MEANS
"Buckeye" ("buck eye"- protruding (bulging) eyes, similar to "buck tooth" (teeth that stick out (protrude). "Buck eye" is also given as "bug eye", probably because some bugs have bulging eyes. "Buck tooth" is a more commonly used adjective (in the United States) and refers to teeth that protrude. All of these terms are considered to be impolite and negative.
It should also be noted that "bugged eyes" (protruding eyes, a wide eyed stare, particularly to express fear; "pop eyes", eyes popping out") have been used as descriptions of a racial (racist) coded look for Black people via 19th black-faced minstrelsy. Also, "buck" is a stereotypical persona that refers to "a large Black man who is proud, sometimes menacing, and always interested in White women" http://black-face.com/. However, I'm not sure if that stereotypical image of Black people or the stereotypical reference to Black men as "Bucks" and Black areas of town being called "Bucktown" have anything to do with the song "Buck Eye Rabbit".
Another meaning for "buckeye" which I think has nothing to do with the "Buck Eye Rabbit" song is the "buckeye tree" (and the brown nut from that tree). Buckeye trees are the official state of Ohio. http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/tabid/5343/default.aspx. According to that website, holding a buckeye nut in your pocket s considered to bring good luck. http://www.statesymbolsusa.org/Ohio/state-tree-ohio.html indicates that the "Ohio Buckeye (Aesculus glabra) was designated the official state tree of Ohio in 1953. Ohio's nickname is "the buckeye state." The buckeye is fairly common in Ohio, growing especially well along rivers, streams, and on floodplains."
People who live in Ohio are sometimes informally called "buckeyes". That nickname has nothing to do with their eyes. Also, the mascot of Ohio State University is "Brutus Buckeye".
UPDATE March 13, 2014
From a 2002 discussion on Rootsweb of the song "Buckeye Jim":
"Buckeye" (every meaning but the candy?
of chattel slavery; but as Thom Moore's comment indicates, this song probably predates that era. "Buckeye" might've endured among enslaved people of all kinds of color & mixture, as an admonition to keep your gaze "dark" -- impassive, so as not to reveal your emotions or intentions.... whatever the color of your own eyes or skin, or the colors showing in your parents, or your children... or in your
"masters", or in their children."...
-Angela in KY http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/Melungeon/2002-08/1030349013
UPDATE March 15, 2017
When I added that March 13, 2014 Update, I initially changed my mind about the meaning of "buck eye" (as used in the song "Buck Eye Rabbit"). However, I now believe that my initially comments about "buck eye" meaning "big eye", if not protruding eyes, were correct. Read more below.
"Folklore was how Negroes dealt with their world. They identified themselves as the characters in the well-known folk tales similar to how the narrator of Invisible Man identifies himself as characters such as Jack the Rabbit and Jack the Bear. These characters come from the stories known by the name "Uncle Remus tales" and were remade by Walt Disney in the movie "Song of the South".
Folklore in [the novel] Invisible Man [by Ralph Ellison]
- Jack the Bear
- Buckeye Rabbit / Br'er Rabbit
- The Tortoise with the Pretty Daughter
"'WHO WAS BUCKEYE THE RABBIT?' I WAS FILLED WITH TURMOIL. WHY SHOULD HE THINK OF THAT?... I LAUGHED, DEEP, DEEP INSIDE ME, GIDDY WITH THE DELIGHT OF SELF-DISCOVERY AND THE DESIRE TO HIDE IT. SOMEHOW I WAS BUCKEYE THE RABBIT... IT WAS ANNOYING HOW HE HAD HIT UPON AN OLD IDENTITY... 'BOY, WHO WAS BRER RABBIT?'... ANYONE KNEW THEY WERE ONE AND THE SAME: 'BUCKEYE' WHEN YOU WERE VERY YOUNG AND HID YOURSELF BEHIND WIDE INNOCENT EYES; 'BRER' WHEN YOU WERE OLDER." (ELLISON 241-242)
Br'er Rabbit / Jack the Rabbit / Buckeye the Rabbit
"Br'er Rabbit and the Tar Baby" is an old folktale with its origins drawing back to Africa. Br'er Rabbit is characterized as a trickster, but is seen as a source of entertainment for other characters such as Br'er Fox. Br'er Rabbit is sometimes gullible as shown in the story of "Br'er Rabbit and the Tar Baby", but he is cunning and uses his intelligence to ultimately find his way out of the sticky situation. The narrator is compared to Br'er rabbit for several reasons. One, his is associated with the Brotherhood where they call themselves by the name "Brother" which is what Br'er means. Also, the narrator is compared to Br'er Rabbit because he is used as a resource like Br'er Rabbit is used as entertainment by Br'er Fox. Lastly, the narrator uses his strength and intellectual ability to find his way out of tough situations."...
BACKGROUND & EARLY LYRICS
The song "Buck Eye Rabbit" ("Big Eye Rabbit") is a song of African American origin. The song is composed of a chorus and floating verses from (other?)19th century African American dance songs and/or children's play song.
Here a comment about this song that I found at http://mudcat.org/detail_pf.cfm?messages__Message_ID=743415 , posted by John Minear, "Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics",06-Jul-02
..."I've only found two other references to "buckeye" or "buck-eyed". One is the song "Big Eye Rabbit". A version from Alabama goes as follows:
I wanted sugah very much,
I went to Sugah Town
I climbed up in that sugah tree.
An' I shook that sugah down.
Buck-eye rabbit, Shoo! Shoo!
Buck-eye rabbit, Shoo-dah!
Buck-eye rabbit, Shoo! Shoo! Shoo!
Buck-eye rabbit, Shoo-dah!
I went down to my sweetheart's house,
I ain't been dah befo'
She fed me out of an old hog trough,
And I don't go dah no mo'!
Way down yonder on Cedar Creek,
Where all them gals grow 'bout 'leven feet,
Jump in the bed but it ain't no use,
Feets stick out like a chicken roost.
[From: p. 120 of FOLK SONGS OF ALABAMA, Byron Arnold (University of Alabama Press, 1950). Reprinted in Alan Lomax's THE FOLK SONGS OF NORTH AMERICA, #266, p. 504]
Note the "trough" and the "way down yonder".
Thomas Talley also has a version called "Buck-Eyed Rabbit! Whoopee!" (#269, p.149, THOMAS W. TALLEY'S NEGRO FOLK RHYMES): last verse only
Buckeyed Rabbit! Whoopee!
Buckeyed Rabbit! Ho!
Buckeyed Rabbit! Whoopee!
Squir'l's got a long way to go.
It is not clear which came first, "buckeyed" or "big-eyed". Mellinger Henry has a different variation of "Big-Eye Rabbit" (#173 FOLK-SONGS FROM THE SOUTHERN HIGHLANDS, 1938), obtained from Mr. C.L. Franklin, of Crossnore, Avery County, North Carolina, "who learned it when a child from his father, William Franklin." Henry does not give a date.
Big eyed rabbit behind the pine;
Big eyed rabbit, you are mine.
Rabbit skipped; rabbit hopped;
Rabbit ate my turnip top.
I cocked my gun; the hammer flew;
I tore that rabbit square in two.
My only other reference is to a "buck-eyed Whippoorwill" in a song in Talley's book (#79,pp.51-52) called "Sheep Shell Corn": (first verse only)
Oh: De Ram blow de ho'n an' de sheep shell co'n;
An' he sen' it to de mill by de buck-eyed Whippoorwill.
Ole Joe's dead an' gone but his Hant blows de ho'n;
An' his hound howls still from de top o' dat hill.
So, who knows the orign of "buckeye". It could refer literally to a deer's eye, or to a horse chestnut, or to Ohio, or be a form of "big-eyed", or simply brown-eyed, or it might have a racial overtone, like "Cotton-eyed Joe". There is a "Buckeyed Jim" version in the DT [Digital Tradition- A collection of song lyrics on Mudcat]."...
If "Buck Eye Rabbit" was composed in the 19th century as is suggested by the fact that its verses are found in other 19th century African American dance songs, the scarcity of sugar and the desire for sweet treats among many 19th century African Americans (enslaved or otherwise) helps to add context to the first verse of that song. In that verse the person speaks about wanting sugar, journeying to a fictitious town where sugar trees grow, and shaking sugar down from sugar trees. sugar tree.
Click http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=44133 for the Mudcat thread ""Buckeye Jim: Oddest Lullaby I've heard".
There's a lot of debate about the meaning of "cotton-eyed" in the song "Cotton Eyed Joe". Click http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cotton-Eyed_Joe for information and comments about that song.
The chorus of "Buck Eye Rabbit" is the only part of that song which refers to a rabbit. I imagine the singer walking along singing this song, and upon seeing a buck eyed rabbit in his path, waves his hands and says "Shoo Shoo! (Shoo means "leave", "run away").
FEATURED VIDEO: Buckeye Rabbit
dgustav, Uploaded on Oct 28, 2006
Old River Band reunited.
LYRICS: BUCK EYE RABBIT
(as sung by Old River Band)
I wanted sugar very much.
I went to Sugar Town.
I climbed up in that sugar tree
And I shook that sugar down.
Shoo Shoo Shoo.
I went down to my sweetheart’s house.
I ain’t been there before.
She tossed me in the old pig pen.
And I don’t go there no more.
Love it is a killing thing,
Beauty is a blossom.
If you want your finger bit,
Poke it at a possum."
ADDENDUM: EXCERPTS OF VERSES IN "BUCKEYE RABBIT" THAT ARE FOUND IN SOME (OTHER?) 19th CENTURY AFRICAN AMERICAN SONGS
From http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=123317#2714105 Richie, "RE: Folklore: Negro Folk Rhymes (Thomas W. Talley)", 01 Sep 09
"The next song in Talley is:
LOVE IS JUST A THING OF FANCY
Love is jes a thing o' fancy,
Beauty's jes a blossom;
If you wants to git yo' finger bit,
Stick it at a 'possum.
Beauty, it's jes skin deep;
Ugly, it's to de bone.
Beauty, it'll jes fade 'way;
But Ugly'll hoi' 'er own.
It's incredible that there is so much wisdom in these two simple verses. Both are well known folk sayings:
Teh first usually appears in Bile Dem Cabbage Don as from Frank Warner:
"Love it is a killing thing,
Beauty is a blossom,
If you want your finger bit,
Poke it at a possum."
"Love is a funny lookin' thing
Shaped like a blossom;
If you want your finger bitten,
Stick it to a possum."
or in the song "Mabel":
Love it is a an awful thing and beauty is a blossum,
If you want your finger bit just poke it at a 'possum.
Perrow had an ealier vesion, he collected from African-American in Virgina in 1912:
Love it am a killin' thing, beauty am a blossom;
Ef yuh want tuh get yuh finger bit, poke it at a 'possum.
BEAUTY'S BUT SKIN DEEP is a poem by John Davies of Hereford
There is also an old jingle, author unknown, which parodies the famous beauty line. It reads:
"Beauty is but skin deep, ugly lies the bone;
Beauty dies and fades away, but ugly holds its own." "
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