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Saturday essay: 'Over the river ...'

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Contact Colin McNickle (412-320-7836 or cmcnickle@tribweb.com).

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Friday, Nov. 16, 2012, 8:56 p.m.
 

Consider it the lost song of Thanksgiving.

For more than a few generations, “Over the River and Through the Wood” — yes, “wood,” not “woods” — pretty much was standard fare in the grade school chorus this time of year.

And while maybe a few of us actually had the family singalong on the way to our Thanksgiving feast, more than a few of us likely hummed it to ourselves as we made the trip.

Many of you remember how the song goes:

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 ' tis Thanksgiving Day.

Lydia Marie Child was responsible for the 1844 poem “A Boy's Thanksgiving Day,” later put to music. But the song pretty much has been lost to history, never heard on the radio now or, with “Christmas Day” inserted, only very seldom during the annual Christmas music juggernaut (and then likely only by such highbrow artists as the Chipmunks).

A few years back, Kim Ruehl at About.com speculated that the song typically was relegated to children's records “because adults don't typically sing Thanksgiving songs” and it didn't get much notice.

Indeed, “Over the River ...” likely would get more traction as a Christmas song these days. And given the fond memories so many have of it, you'd think somebody out there could make it the “standard” it deserves to be.

— Colin McNickle

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