Mules That Walked Our Fo'c'sle Deck, The
DESCRIPTION: "The mules that walked our fo'c'sle deck, They were two mules of fame; They sailed the Lakes for many a year." The singer describes the mules, the tasks they did, how they adapted to sailing, the messes they made, and says one of them should be mate
EARLIEST DATE: before 1952 (collected from James Dix and others by Walton)
KEYWORDS: animal work sailor ship humorous
FOUND IN: Canada(Ont) US(MW)
REFERENCES (1 citation):
Walton/Grimm/Murdock, pp. 135-137, "The Mules That Walked Our Fo'c'sle Deck" (1 composite text)
NOTES: Many deep-sea sailing vessels carried animals aboard -- chickens on short voyages, perhaps even pigs and cattle for long. The idea was to have fresh meat. Great Lakes vessels, never far from shore, normally did not do this, so a good chunk of this song is devoted to complaints about the two mules' waste products.
According to Walton, many timber vessels carried mules aboard, to do the heavy lifting of loading and unloading logs. When this work was taken over by steam engines, they were called "donkey engines."
Walton's informant said that work on these "horseshit boats" was extremely wearying, so sailors rarely signed on for more than one trip. Hence it was quite possible (as in this song) that the mules would be more used to the work than the sailors.
Walton indicates no tune for this, but I can't help but suspect that it is the same melody as that used for "On Mules We Find Two Legs (Before/Behind)," which I seem to recall my father singing to the tune of "Auld Lang Syne." - RBW
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The Ballad Index Copyright 2017 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.