Occupation: interior decorater
Residence: Chatham, MA
Date of Performance/Collection: 3/11/17
Primary Language: English
The interviewer’s comments are denoted through initials JK, while the interviewee’s responses are denoted through initials MB.
MB: The Arkansas Traveler is a story that we always knew growing up, and they have a song about it, I think it’s the state song….. And it’s about a traveler going through Arkansas and he comes upon a cabin and there’s an old squatter, they called him, that’s what they called him, a squatter, like an old hillbilly type, hayseed, and he’s fiddling on his porch and um.. So the traveler, the Arkansas traveler is tired and hungry, and he asks the guy “Can ya spear some water?”, and the guy says, Oh I ain’t got none.” And he keeps fiddling and fiddling all through the whole thing. And he says, “Well do you have any food?” and the squatter says, “No, nothing in this cabin.” But he keeps fiddling this whole time, just playing this little tune over and over again. And then the guy says “Do you know if there’s an inn up ahead?” and the squatter says, “Might be, I don’t know, never been there.” You know, he’s a real hayseed. The traveler says, “Well, do you think maybe I could spend the night with you?” And the squatter’s like “Well there ain’t no room” Oh, and it was raining this whole time, I forgot to mention, that’s a big point in the story haha. So the squatter says, “There’s only one dry spot in the house and my wife and kid and me sleep there.” And the traveler says, “Well why don’t you mend the roof?” The the squatter goes “I’m not gonna mend the roof on a rainy day.” And all this time he’s fiddling, fiddling, fiddling. Then the traveler says, “Well why don’t you mend it on a sunny day? Go out on a nice pretty day and mend it.” And the Fiddler says “The roof don’t leak on a pretty day” So the traveler is just like exasperated and he goes “Why do you keep fiddling that same tune over and over again?” And the fiddler is like, “I can’t figure out how to finish it.” The traveler says “Well give me the fiddle” and takes the fiddle and he puts an end to it, you know, he fiddles it up, and he puts an end to it. Then the squatter looks at him with just this huge smile, like thank you you’ve rescued me from this torture, he’s so happy that this guy has finished his song for him and now he’s let loose from this fiddle and he says, “Oh come on in!! You can have the dry spot!!” He calls to his wife and says, “Make up some dinner!!” and calls to his son, “Grab some whiskey, we got us a visitor” In other words, the last word is like, “You can have the dry spot” cause remember it’s raining.
JK: So the song the traveler completed for the Fiddler is the state song of Arkansas?
MB: I think it is the state song, its called “Arkansas Traveler” and that’s why the baseball team is called the “Travelers” (the AAA affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals– The Arkansas Travelers).
I found this to be a very interesting story. My mom is originally from Arkansas– the informant is one of her childhood friends– so I’ve visited the state every couple of years since I was born. For me, it was especially interesting to hear how the Arkansas Travelers baseball team got their name. I’ve been to a fair amount of their games and I’ve always wondered why they’re called the Travelers– I was just too lazy to look it up.