Last night I went to watch The Pony play his trombone in the District Honors Band. There are eleven schools in our conference, so this was quite a production. As if a full band was not enough, the District Honors Choir also performed. That's a lot of middle-schoolers under one roof.
The choir went first. One of the songs they sang was Alabama's Mountain Music. You know the one..."Oh, play me some mountain music, like Grandma and Grandpa used to play, then I'll float on down the river, to a Cajun hideaway." They did other songs, too. And very well. But this is the one that caught my attention. Because when they got to a certain part, it was missing. I don't know if they left out the whole stanza, or switched the words. I was too busy noticing that a crucial part was not sung.
I did not hear..."Climb a long tall hick'ry. Bend it over, "skinnin' cats."
Now it's possible that the kids did not enunciate clearly. And it's possible that my old ears ain't what they used to be. But I was listening specifically for that part. I heard about drifting away like Tom Sawyer, and swimmin' across the river to prove that I'm a man. But as my mom is my witness, I did not hear about skinnin' cats.
Was I merely inattentive? Or was this song censored? Who doesn't know what "skinnin' cats" means? Well. Apparently, my son The Pony, my husband Hick, and my stepson The Veteran. Go figure! I'm sure all of my readers, as persons of a certain age, have skinned a cat or two. Pity my poor Hick, who must have had quite a disadvantaged childhood, bereft of cat-skinning. I know he was poor. But I didn't think anyone could be so poor as to be denied the inalienable right to skin a cat.
Are we so politically correct now that we cannot sing about a childhood playground gymnastic move? Seriously? My sister and I used to skin cats all the time. We were nigh on world-record-caliber cat-skinners. We skinned cats in the backyard on our rusty swingset. You remember swingsets, don't you? Those metal contraptions with a couple of swings, a two-man glider, and an attached slide that burned the flesh off your rumpus from noon 'til four? The legs of said swingset that lifted off the ground once your swing reached a certain altitude, threatening to tip the whole kit 'n' caboodle over on your head?
That little yellow bar that held the two blue legs at one end of our swingset together, the end opposite from the slide, was our favorite skinnin' place. First, we grabbed that bar and pulled our legs up over it so we were hangin' upside down. Then we swung our legs back away from the bar so we kind of turned inside out. At just the right moment, we knew to let go with our hands and drop onto our feet, right side up again. Because otherwise, I'm pretty sure something gristly and grindy would have happened in the shoulder area. And the back of our head might have whacked that bar. It's been a long time. But I know what skinnin' a cat means.
And so, it seems, does this unidentified connoisseur of cat-skinnin' that I found on the internet.
Perhaps these days, it must be done under cover of darkness.