Crooked Man

Nationality: American

Age: 53

Primary Language: English

Residence: San Antonio, Texas


“So for some info about the nursery rhymes… Basically, my parents would read ‘Mother Goose’ rhymes to me or sing nursery songs to me at bedtime. Or they would read Aesop’s fables, which often had a moral or parable or lesson tied to them. Once I started learning how to read, they would have me read them (kind of like what I did with you all with Harry Potter). And they both loved to sing, so there was lots of singing nursery songs. One of my favorites was:

‘There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile,

He found a crooked sixpence against a crooked stile;

He bought a crooked cat which caught a crooked mouse,

And they all lived together in a crooked house.’

I guess the most memorable thing with my parents was their love of reading and promoting that with us at an early age, and their love of music and singing. My dad would even sing some of these to us while playing the guitar.”


This informant is my mother. Her parents were scholars/teachers and musicians, so she grew up reading stories and creating music. She taught music for 20+ years at both secondary and collegiate levels, and she’s now a full-time composer for marching bands and symphony orchestras.


Based on her recounting of the most memorable nursery rhyme from her childhood, I believe these ballads are how my mother learned to read, create music, and connect with her parents. Ballads bridge music and storytelling – they are songs with a story. My mom’s introduction to nursery rhymes – which rhyme, tell a simple story, and have a simple tune easy enough for children to pick up (such as Crooked Man) – developed by mom’s reading skills and ear for music at an early age, as well as her love for music. As an adult, she used her skills to pursue music as a career. Additionally, these ballads served as a way for my mom to connect with her parents. Given that her parents were also musicians, music was a language they deeply understood and preferred to communicate with.