Wayne Erbsen,
Log Cabin Pioneers:
Stories, Songs & Sayings

(Mel Bay, 2002)

As one would expect from a Mel Bay book, Log Cabin Pioneers includes easy-to-play music for the amateur guitarist or pianist, or pretty much any treble clef instrument. Captured in less than a dozen measures, the accessible melodies have simple keys and no chord is more difficult than a 7th.

Several verses of lyrics accompany these songs. However, the lyrics are just a portion of "Stories, Songs & Sayings." The text is strewn with colorful aphorisms from the pioneer period, such as "better a lame donkey than no horse" from 1854 and an undated bit of meteorological advice, "don't stand in the sun if you have butter on your head."

The stories come in two varieties. We get homesteaders' tales, like "The Shrinking Britches," and a swindle worthy of Huckleberry Finn, "What has 4 Eyes, 3 Heads, and 2 Tails?" But we also get the stories behind the songs and pioneers themselves. The stories of the people cover their fashion, building techniques and more -- including methods for hiding a still. Stories of the songs give the reader insight into the history and meaning behind "Darling Cory," "Mary of the Wild Moor" and more.

All this material is arranged topically by section: Cabin History, Pioneer Construction, Log Cabin Music, Whiskey Making, Cabin Kids, Home & Cooking, Pioneer Beauty Secrets and Log Cabin Ghosts & Lore. More entertainment and information can be had in the pioneer slang glossary that defines such obscure archaisms as explatterate (to crush or mash) and "light and hitch" (come and visit).

- Rambles
written by Tom Schulte
published 1 March 2003

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