Appalachia Rhymes

Counting Rhymes


Choosing whos it by counting potatoes

Counting rhymes are often used to figure out who is going to be ‘it’ in a game-or who’s going to get to go first. Most of the rhymes are said as children are standing in a circle or in a line-with a lead person pointing out each person as they say each word. As the rhyme is said each person is eliminated from the game until only one is left to be ‘it’ first. See if you remember any of the counting rhymes below.

One two three,
Momma caught a flea,
Flea died, Momma cried,
Out goes Y-O-U!


Ennie meenie minie moe
catch a tiger by the toe
if he hollers let him go
ennie meenie minie moe


My momma told me to
pick the very best one
and it was Y-O-U!


One, two star blue;
All out ‘cept you.


Wire, briar, lumber lock
Three geese in a flock
One flew east, one flew west
One flew over the cuckoo’s nest.


My mama and your mama were hanging out clothes’
My mama hit your mama right on the nose.
Did it hurt? Yes.
Y E S spells yes and out you go.

*Blind Pig reader Sharon Schuster shared this variation: “My mother and your mother were hanging out clothes. My mother punched your mother right in the nose. What color was the blood? P-U-R-P-L-E. Out.” Oddly, I never heard the ‘did it hurt’? That makes more sense than the color question, but we kids never thought anything about what we were actually saying!


Bee bee bumblebee,
Stung a man upon his knee;
Stung a pig upon his snout.
I declare if you ain’t out.


Acker backer
soda cracker
Acker backer
Acker backer
soda cracker
Out goes you!


Engine, engine number 9
going down Chicago line
if the train goes off the track
do you want your money back
Yes, no, maybe so.
Y-E-S spells yes and you are not it.


Bubble gum, bubble gum in a dish
how many pieces do you wish?
1-2-3 and you are not it.


William Trembletoe
is a good fisherman.
He catches hens
puts them in a pen.
Some lay eggs
some none.
Wire briar limberlock;
three geese in a flock.
One flew east, one flew west
one flew over the cuckoos nest.
There I met my father.
He had rings, many pretty things.
Be gone you dirty dish dog!


Drawing straws was also used to decide who went first. Seems like when I was little we always accused whoever was holding the straws of cheating so we didn’t use that method much.

Flipping a coin to decide something is still common today-but have you ever heard of flipping a rock? I read something-that detailed two boys flipping a rock to decide who went first. They wet one side of the rock-then called out either wet or dry as the rock was flipped in the air.

Blind Pig reader Jackie said shared a method of determining which team got to bat first: “We had one to determine which team got to bat first. We took turns with hand over hand on a bat until no one could get another hold. Then the boy out would attempt to kick the bat out of the other’s hand. If he succeeded his team got to bat – if he failed his team went to the field.”

What counting out rhymes do you remember?


Portions of this post were originally published here on the Blind Pig in May of 2013.

*Source: The Frank C. Brown Collection Of North Carolina Folklore

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  • Reply
    May 10, 2014 at 6:07 am

    We only did the Ennie meenie minie moe version, with a different twist.. or rock, paper, scissors..

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    May 9, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    As I was walking down the lake, I met a little rattlesnake. I gave him so much jelly-cake, It made his little belly ache. One, two, three, out goes she!
    One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, All good children go to heaven: A penny by the water, Tuppence by the sea, Threepence by the railway, Out goes she!
    This is supposed to be truly American..??
    Hoky poky, winky wum, how do you like your ‘taters done? Snip, snap, snorum, High popolorum, Kate go scratch it, You are out!
    From Scotland…
    Eerie, orie, owre the dam, Fill your poke and let us gang; Black fish and white trout, Eerie, orie, you are OUT.. or
    Eatum, peatum, potum, pie, Babylonie, stickum, stie, Dog’s tail, hog’s snout, I’m in, you’re OUT…
    Supposed from Massachusetts, USA..??
    Ena, deena, dina, dust, Catler, wheeler, whiler, whust; Spin, spon, must be done, Twiddleum, twaddleum, twenty-one.
    I guess you are out if the word twenty-one lands on you, or is that the total the game will be played to..or I have heard the rhyme is supposed to have twenty-one words…I dunna know! lol
    Scotland again…
    As I went up the apple tree, All the apples fell on me; bake a puddin’, bake a pie. Did you ever tell a lie? Yes I did, and many times. O-U-T, out goes she. Right in the middle of the deep blue sea…
    Last two…
    Ching, Ching, Chinaman, How do you sell your fish? Ching, Ching, Chinaman, Six bits a dish. Ching, Ching, Chinaman, Oh! that’s too dear; Ching, Ching, Chinaman, Clear out of here!
    John says to John, How much are your geese? John says to John, Twenty cents a-piece. John says to John, That’s too dear; John says to John, Get out of here!
    I have more…OH NO, OH Yes…
    Thanks for the help and reference book…
    Children’s Rhymes, Children’s Games, Children’s Songs, Children’s Stories: A Book for Bairns and Big Folk by Robert Ford
    Thanks Tipper

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    May 9, 2014 at 11:30 am

    Oh no, you got me started again!!!
    Jackie, we played the ball bat counting out rhyme…except when one child was up to the end (rim) of the bat, the next child (usually a stout boy) would grasp the rim as best he could with the tips of his fingers and try to hold on by the rim!…The previous child that had the last hold, would try to kick it (bat) loose three times to win. If the kid with the hold on the rim held tight (with his very strong fingertips) he won and the other was out!…If he dropped the bat, the previous kid won the spot!
    A lot of these counting rhymes I have heard some not..
    I have a few myownself that I bet’cha no one around these parts have heard…interesting!
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    May 9, 2014 at 11:10 am

    That’s a bunch of new ones on me. I
    never heard of some of these, but I
    recon kids from all over used these
    Better git my biscuits ‘for they burn.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    May 9, 2014 at 9:48 am

    You’ve covered them all plus a bunch that I never heard.

  • Reply
    May 9, 2014 at 8:39 am

    I only remember one of the rhymes you mentioned. We used ennie minnie miney moe most of the time to decide who went first. Jackie’s example of hand over hand method was used during recess at school, but never at home.
    A tisket a tasket a red and yellow basket comes to mind, but I can’t remember the rest of the rhyme.

  • Reply
    May 9, 2014 at 8:34 am

    Some of these were familiar, some were very new to me. I remember using the potato one – one, potato, two potato, three potato, four…..

  • Reply
    May 9, 2014 at 8:27 am

    I have heard some of these and some I haven’t. We used catch a tiger by the toe a lot. The ones that I remember that we used the most were:
    “One tater, two taters, three taters, four. Five taters, six taters, seven taters more.” The one that landed on more was out.
    Then we used “My mama told me to pick this one, but I was naughty and I picked this one!”
    Brings back good memories of some fun childhood times.

  • Reply
    Mrs. V
    May 9, 2014 at 7:58 am

    We had a variation of eeny-meeny;
    Eeny- meany
    Miny- mo
    Catch a tiger by his toe
    If he hollers make him pay
    Fifty dollars every day
    My mother
    Told me to
    Pick the very best one
    And you
    Are not
    We’d also say;
    Bottle if ink
    Court fell out
    And you stink!
    They sound a lot more mean spirited than I remember them being, lol.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    May 9, 2014 at 7:31 am

    Interesting Tipper, most of these I’ve never heard. In fact the only one of these I’ve heard is the tiger toe one.

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike
    May 9, 2014 at 7:31 am

    Tipper: Some of these rhymes are known to me and some are new. Then some seem down right dangerous – like kicking the bat out of someone’s hand. But we played the games and survived. And still love to hear the rhymes.
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Stephen Ammons
    May 9, 2014 at 5:03 am

    In school we had a game called red rover and part of the kids would stand in a line and hold hands to make a chain. They would then call a persons name saying red rover red rover send this person on over and you had to run and try to break thru the chain. Not sure what the outcome was to complete the game and hoping some of the other readers remember this and finish it.

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