21 July 2011

Be careful what you wish for

When I was very small, my father used to sing (at my own urgently repeated request) a little one stanza song when we were playing out in the open air. I render it here with an attempt to recapture the particular cadence of his delivery.

I'm a lit-tle prair-ie flow'r
Grow-ing wilder hour by hour.
No-one tries to cultivate me
So I'm as wild as wild can be!

This memory lies dormant for weeks, months, years at a time, then springs to front of stage for no obvious particular reason to dance in my conscious mind for a day or two before returning to the wings. Inconsequential though it may be, it embodies for me something very personally precious about my father, and his relationship with me. A conversation with my brother, a couple of days ago, somehow brought it out for a spin in the light and it is sparkling still at the edge of my day to day thoughts, son on the spur of the moment I just did a search for it.

There are several video clips and MP3 files in the Google listing. I stuck to text hits, though, and the first I found was a partial reference within a longer anecdote. There was a small discrepancy (shown here in red):

I'm a little prairie flower!
Growing wilder by the hour!

Then there is this version, from Mudcat, which provides a whole song of which mine is the first stanza. Again, there are minor differences:

I'm a little prairie flower,
Growing wilder every hour;
Nobody cares to cultivate me,
I'm as wild as wild can be.

The International Lions also give a whole song but shorter than and only partially resembling as Mudcat's. Subtitling it I'm a little lion cub, add a line repetition and a wordless twirl to the end of each stanza:

I'm a little prairie flower,
Growing wilder every hour;
Nobody cares to cultivate me,
I'm as wild as wild can be.
I'm as wild as wild can be,
Tu-ra-lu-ra, Tu-ra-le.

Wikipedia mentions the song only under its entry for Lesley Sarony, without attributing it to him, although there are a number of web pages which do make this attribution.

Courtesy of Google Books I find that The Rotarian, vol.13 #3 (September 1918) , gives exactly the same version as Mudcat but the previous month's issue (vol.13 #2, August 1918) adds the last line repeat (though not the wordless twirl) of the Lion's version. Exactly forty years later (vol.93 #3, September 1958), however, a couple of years after my father was singing it to me, has it as:

I'm a little prairie flower,
Growing wilder by the hour;
No one cares to cultivate me,
I'm as wild as I can be.

At this point, I realised that precious memory, whether accurate or flawed, was beginning to blur at the edges. So, I stopped looking. There can be such a thing as too much information, and there can be occasional limits to John's breezy (KJV 8:32) assertion that “the truth shall make you free”.

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