Appalachia children Games Rhymes

Chickama, Chickama, Craney Crow

Today’s guest post was written by Charline Venturini.


Chatter being silly – not sure if she was making herself a tail or gathering stuff for a playhouse

Happy Saturday!

1. I was recently reading a very dry history of Rowan County, North Carolina for research, published long ago in that scholastic and flowery style in which writers prided themselves. In one section, the author mentioned pre-Revolution Era schoolyard games. What caught my attention was “Chickama, Chickama Craney Crow” (he spelled it “chichama”). My Daddy (b. 1918 Ark) used to say this rhyme while any of us children were on his lap, or at bedtime:

Chickama, Chickama Craney Crow
I went to the well to wash my toe

When I got back, the old black-eyed chicken was gone-
What time is it, Old Witch?

I never realized it was a game at one time, but you can easily picture kids joining hands, going in a circle, perhaps one in the middle? What were the other verses? Two, three, four? I’m sure the rhyme was taught to him by his own Daddy.

Have you ever heard this?

2. My sister-in-law quoted a song that she found herself singing to her little granddaughter (!?) and asked if my Daddy (lovingly called Papaw) wrote it. I told her no, that he probably grew up with it:

Went downtown to see my little lady
Nobody home, but kitty and baby
Kitty got drunk, and baby was sober
Kitty ran around, and knocked baby over

She asked me if I knew more verses?

~ Charline Venturini


Please leave a comment if you’ve heard either of the nonsense rhymes Charline shared-or even one of a similar nature. I’ve never heard either one, but I think its fascinating that snippets of games, poetry, limericks, and riddles are passed down through the generations even when they morph a little bit on their way down.


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  • Reply
    Ben Holding
    May 26, 2021 at 9:27 pm

    Check out Caney Crow recorded by Mac Rebennack (Dr. John) from 1971 album The Sun, Moon & Herbs. I got here trying to figure out what he was singing about. The Night Tripper was into a lot of cool stuff. His background singers do the Chichama, chichama vocals that people here talk about.

  • Reply
    Jim Dorrell
    May 23, 2021 at 5:46 pm

    This little tune came to me today, but I remember it a bit differently. Yes, we played the game, though I don’t know when it was. Maybe while visiting my grandfather in Sumter SC./ The lyrics I remember were

    Chickama, Chickama Craney Crow.
    I went to the well to wash my toe
    When I got there the water was low
    What time is it old witch, old witch?
    What time is it old witch?

    Old Witch, old witch, she lives in a ditch
    And combs her hair with a hickory stick.
    She lives on snails and nails and flies,
    And when she walks, she jumps like a cat.
    Ohhhh, she jumps like a cat.

    That was over 60 years ago though, so I am probably remembering them wrong…

  • Reply
    Linda Chickering
    July 25, 2020 at 7:11 am

    I read about Chickema chickema craney crow in Gone Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright, when I was little. It was there described as an old children’s song, sung by a lady born in the late 1800s. Now that we are in the age of the internet I was able to look it up and I see that it’s a southern (often referred to as an African American) chase/counting game with accompanying song. A “witch” (like the “it” in tag) chases “chickens” until she has several and then they have a little tug of war, and the loser becomes the new “witch”.

  • Reply
    Melinda K
    March 25, 2020 at 11:56 pm

    AW Griff,
    My Great Granny Bailey did something like you tell. But it was ‘Shoe the old horse’ (as you hold the little one on your lap, patting the sole of his shoe); ‘Shoe the old mare’ (as you pat the other sole) ‘But let this colty go BARE’ ( you laugh & pull off his shoe & pat his bare foot.

    We have passed that down in the family. My great grandson & I enjoyed that when he was a toddler

  • Reply
    Kegan Mahon
    February 13, 2020 at 9:36 pm

    Recorded version of KITTY AND THE BABY:

  • Reply
    Tod Norman
    September 10, 2019 at 12:58 am

    Have heard my grandmother (born in Tar Flat Kentucky in 1918) sing the chikama craney crow song many times! I didn’t know it was a game!

  • Reply
    Jo Kilmer
    August 31, 2018 at 8:15 pm

    Our horsey rides went like this. You would be sitting down and have the little one straddle one of your legs on your lap facing you while holding their hands. It started out by gently saying
    “This is the way the ladies ride…. tre-trot, tre- trot, tre- trot tre ” while you wobbled them from side to side…next you would say with a bigger smile
    ” This is the way the gentlemen ride…Getty-up, Getty-up , Getty-up” while you bounced them up and down quickly…then saying even louder
    ” This is the way the Farmers ride…He-Ho! He-Ho! He-Ho! As you threw them up in the air…..:)
    We also played the hand game of Fly Away Black Bird

  • Reply
    August 25, 2018 at 8:58 pm

    What a cute photo of Chatter and her pup! Very glad to read all the comments.

    • Reply
      April 29, 2019 at 8:53 pm

      My Granny would play this with my cousins and me in the summertime. I had forgotten the words so I searched it and found you. She had even started writing a book about forgotten children games. She never finished it. Your post is refreshing and comforting. She was born in Hope, AR.

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    August 25, 2018 at 7:29 pm

    We played “Trot, little horsie, go to town. Trot, little horsie, don’t fall down.” and with the word down — which we would stretch out long — we straightened out the leg the baby was straddling and slide him down (while holding both his hands, of course). We also played “Triddy trotty Boston to buy a baby cake. Triddy trotty back cause it isn’t even baked. Triddy trotty Boston to buy a loaf of bread. Triddy trotty back, and the Old Trot’s DEAD. (and you’d drop your leg and pretend to
    be dead).

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    August 25, 2018 at 4:05 pm

    Daddy would be 108 today, Jim, Don, and Annette’s dad, Commodore was born in 1910 also. I’ve often wondered if they knew each other. I have many wonderful memories of my parents and nothing can erase that.

    Nice picture of Chatter when she was younger. …Ken

  • Reply
    August 25, 2018 at 2:58 pm

    Tipper ,i’ve not heard the ones you mentioned . Have heard a variation of ride a little horsey when bouncing your baby on the knee. We’d say, ”ride a little horsey , down to town, take little baby , don’t fall down ,”at which point you’d stretch your legs out ( holding on to baby)to slide them down. Two other school yard games were ”strut miss Lizzy” and London Bridge. So fun learning about and remembering all these , and their variations.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    August 25, 2018 at 2:44 pm

    I used to put my littluns on my knees facing me and hold their hands while singing
    “Ridey horsey, ridey horsey, go to town
    Ridem and ridem til we all fall down!”
    At that point I would spread my knees and let them fall. Of course, I had their hands so would catch them before they hit the floor.
    You couldn’t count the times I’ve heard “Do dat adain Daddy, do dat adain!”

    When Missy was little I would sit on the couch while she would climbed up behind me and lean out across my shoulder. I would but my arms around the back of her head and neck and flip her over my shoulder and out into the middle of the floor. She would do that until I was too wore out to continue. Like a cat she always landed on her feet.
    One time I came in and caught her walking down the hall. Spider walking is what I called it. She was walking with her hands and feet on the walls. Her head was up near the ceiling. Her cousin Cricket was under her crawling along on her hands and knees. I laughed til I hurt. That was before video cameras were everywhere. Missy has 2 kids now and RA so them days are only memories!

    • Reply
      Jane Bolden
      August 25, 2018 at 3:37 pm

      Children love Ridey Horsey! My daughter and her four children certainly did.

  • Reply
    Leilani Worrell
    August 25, 2018 at 11:32 am

    We used to chant this when we were skipping rope. I don’t remember the first lines, so I’ll substitute words with the right cadence:

    (Doctor, Doctor, come on in),
    Mama’s got a brand new baby,
    It isn’t a boy, it isn’t a girl,
    It’s just a brand new baby.

    Wrap it up in toilet paper,
    Put it in the elevator,
    How many floors will it go up?

    (And then you would skip rope until you missed a beat.)

  • Reply
    August 25, 2018 at 10:18 am

    I’ve heard the first one. I think it was in a book, Gone-Away Lake, by Elizabeth Enright.

  • Reply
    Sheryl A. Paul
    August 25, 2018 at 9:40 am

    Never heard thy hese. But reminds me of how many stories and rhyms were so mean to
    Babies. Sibling rivelry maybe

  • Reply
    Paul Gamble
    August 25, 2018 at 9:33 am

    When l was a young’un we had an old Burl lves record with a story/song called The Witch at the Well. It had them words. It also said chickama chickama cranny crow/l went to the well to wash my hand/when l got there the water was sand/what time is it old witch old witch oh what time is it old witch

  • Reply
    August 25, 2018 at 8:56 am

    I don’t think i have heard any of them Tipper.

  • Reply
    Cindy Pressley
    August 25, 2018 at 7:02 am

    I’ve never heard either of these, that I can recall though one phrase….went to the well to wash my toe… is distantly familiar…

  • Reply
    aw griff
    August 25, 2018 at 6:55 am

    Chickama,chickama, craney crow. I’ve read that so many times I’m about to convince myself I’ve heard it. I think I have???
    One of the things I’ve seen passed down in my family that’s said when bouncing a child on your knee : Ride an old horsey ride an old mare let the colt go bare bare bare. There may be more to it but that’s all I ever knew.

    • Reply
      b. Ruth
      August 25, 2018 at 10:37 am

      The one way I remember saying this rhyme when bouncing a baby on your knee was like this!
      While holding toddler on your knee, hands/arms out; “Ride a little horsey into town”…(Slowly bounce, bounce the baby sort of like a trotting pony)…”Upside, downside all around the town!” Upside.. you hold the baby up high on the knee, bringing your knee up high). Downside, you lower the baby backwards toward the floor, holding his/her arms. All around town, you move baby around in circle while still bouncing/trotting the horsey!
      Then you say “Giddy-up and bounce fast until baby laughs so hard you have to say…Whoaaaa!
      Then you start over of course!
      Sure wish my babies were young enough or even my grandchildren to play “Ride a little horsey”…
      Thanks for the memory…

      • Reply
        Wanda Devers
        August 25, 2018 at 12:59 pm

        I played a similar game with my nephew. Ride a little horsie, go or trot to town, on the way back they all fall down–progressively jogging the child faster. We both loved this game.

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