Fiction or Fact from Bob’s Almanac

by Robert Mason Jr.

I‘m sure many of you recall the traditional song from your childhood Thanksgiving holiday celebrations, “Over the River and Through the Woods.”

But did you know the popular song was based on a 12-verse children’s poem by Lydia Maria Child (1802-1880). Who knew?

The poem was first published in 1844 in Flowers for Children, Part II, as “The New-England Boy’s Song about Thanksgiving Day.” Eventually set to music by an unknown composer, the song version is usually six stanzas, or less, and sometimes substitutes Christmas for Thanksgiving, woods for wood and grandmother’s house for grandfather’s house.

In any case, it’s a reminder of simpler times and traditions when Thanksgiving was a real holiday marked by sincere observations, rather than a precursor to the hustle and bustle of the commercial-driven Christmas season. I fear it’s only a matter of time before Thanksgiving is replaced altogether by Black Friday’s eve.

Meanwhile, between the parade coverage and the football pre-game commentary, hit the mute button and read Child’s poem to the family as the turkey cools.

The New England Boy’s Thanksgiving Poem
(Over the River and Through the Woods)
by Lydia Maria Child
Over the river, and through the wood,
To grandfather’s house we go!
The horse knows the way,
To carry the sleigh,
Through the white and drifted snow.

Over the river, and through the wood,
To Grandfather’s house away!
We would not stop for doll or top,
For this is Thanksgiving Day.

Over the river, and through the wood,
Oh, how the wind does blow!
It stings the toes,
And bites the nose,
As over the ground we go.

Over the river, and through the wood,
With a clear blue winter sky,
The dogs do bark,
And children hark,
As we go jingling by.

Over the river, and through the wood,
To have a first-rate play.
Hear the bells ring, “Ting-a-ling-ling!”
Hurray for Thanksgiving Day!

Over the river, and through the wood,
No matter for winds that blow,
Or if we get
The sleigh upset,
Into a bank of snow.

Over the river, and through the wood,
To see little John and Ann.
We will kiss them all,
And play snow-ball,
And stay as long as we can.

Over the river, and through the wood,
Trot fast, my dapple grey!
Spring over the ground,
Like a hunting hound!
For this is Thanksgiving day!

Over the river, and through the wood,
And straight through the barn-yard gate,
We seem to go
Extremely slow,
It is so hard to wait!

Over the river, and through the wood,
Old Jowler hears our bells,
He shakes his pow,
With a loud bow-wow,
And thus the news he tells.

Over the river, and through the wood,
When Grandmother sees us come,
She will say, “Oh, dear,
The children are here,
bring a pie for every one.”

Over the river, and through the wood,
Now grandmother’s cap I spy!
Hurrah for the fun!
Is the pudding done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!

Now, here’s where tradition really comes alive—where the thanks meets the giving.

To give is divine. It’s so thoughtful of you to share that Thanksgiving turkey.

You know how I like it—oven-roasted breast meat, sliced thick, between two slices of white bread with a dab of butter, a dash of salt and pepper and a dollop of sauerkraut on the side.

Place the sandwich and sauerkraut in separate ziplock plastic bags and drop them through the mail slot in the front door at the Rappahannock Record office, 27 North Main Street, Kilmarnock.

Although the office will be closed on Thanksgiving Day, I will be checking the mail drop periodically. You would be surprised how soggy that sauerkraut can make the bread, so remember to put it in a separate bag.

And be sure to include a note with your name and contact information, so I can properly thank you.

Happy Thanksgiving.