Space aliens, vampires, holes in space time and even dragons are a few of the corner stones of our modern science fiction and fantasy properties. But as wide spread as popular culture has taken these fantastic ideas, there are still a few who wonder how such things can exist or even create believable worlds? In truth the human being’s desire, in fact need, to believe in the fantastic is as old as literature itself. From fireside story tellers to modern blockbuster directors, the fanciful fills that need.
How far can these storytellers push the limits of our suspended disbelief? The answer to that question may in fact be as far as they like, and no epic title or story illustrates the boundless limits of the ludicrous more than a century old poem that has been recited, sung and shared for at least seven generations, despite it’s undetermined provenance.
While this poem has been in circulation for at least a century, no one has determined where exactly it came from. There have been many variations of this rhyme, and it’s name is also unknown. It has been referred to as the backwards rhyme, the contradictory rhyme, hole in a barbed wire fence, and two dead boys, but one thing that remains true, is that it is a beloved verse by generations of children and grown ups alike. It is thought it was widely spread as a “jump-rope” sing in the early 20th century. I first read the verse in the 3rd grade. I rapidly fell in love with it! Below I have cobbled together what I saw as the best parts of the verse, and some “misremembered” stanzas to create what I think is a great version of the classic rhyme.
Ladles and jelly-spoons, hobos and tramps,
Bug-eyed mosquitos and bowlegged ants,
The show is now over, but before you go out,
let me tell you a story I know nothing about.
The admission is free, so just pay at the door,
pull up a chair and sit on the floor.
It makes no difference where you sit,
The man in the gallery is certain to spit.
One fine day in the middle of the night,
two dead boys got up to fight.
Back to back they faced each other,
drew their swords and shot the other.
A blind man came to watch fair play.
A mute man came to shout, “hurray!”
A deaf policeman heard the noise,
and came to stop the two dead boys.
He lived on the corner in the middle of the block,
in a two story house on a vacant lot.
A man with no legs was just passing by,
And he kicked the lawman in his thigh.
He crashed through a wall without a sound,
and in a dry riverbed splashed down and drowned.
A long black hearse came to take him away,
but he ran for his life and is still gone today.
I watched from the corner of a big round table,
the only eye witness to the facts of this fable.
But, if you doubt my lies are true,
There’s one more man who saw it too.
A diminutive blind lady saw it all hence,
through the little round hole in a barbed wire fence.
–Unknown Origin, early 20th Century