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So If She'll Be Driving Six White Horses When She Comes,

then why is the sound effect for "she'll be coming 'round the mountain when she comes" "toot-toot"?

Is she coming on a train and then renting a team of six white horses? Possible, it seems, but unlikely.

John L. McLaughlin (mail):
Green grass eating horses suffer from flatulence, hence, they too often go "toot-toot" while drawing the wagon, cart, or carriage.
5.14.2006 1:18pm
Apollo (mail) (www):
Suffer from flatulence? In my experience they enjoy ever second of it.
5.14.2006 1:25pm
John L. McLaughlin (mail):
Upon reflection, I recall that you "drive" the wagon, cart, or carriage" and not the six white horses. To drive horses, means to herd horses. You drive the Budweiser wagon and you herd the six Clydesdales hitched to it from the pasture to the barn/stable.

A woman could easily herd six white horses, but her necessity and ability to drive a vehicle with a six horse hitch any distance around a mountain is highly doubtful?
5.14.2006 1:27pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
How about a carriage/post horn.
5.14.2006 1:45pm
Fishbane (mail):
Growing up in Tennessee, it was a common safety reaction to honk when approaching bends on certain roads, due to the general quality of the road (lack of upkeep, bad visibility characteristics on turns, missing safety features like guard rails, and a tendency to be narrower on curves than on straightways).

A wagon is much slower, and presumably it is easier to hear other approaching wagons than it is for cars, but I can see a similar convention being in place.
5.14.2006 2:01pm
Just:
I think you're reading the cleaned up version.
You're supposed to sing it, "Hot Damn!"
5.14.2006 2:05pm
Just:
...not toot-toot. Trust me.
5.14.2006 2:06pm
Allen:
They're mechanical horses. The song is actually a steampunk fantasy.
5.14.2006 2:15pm
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
Oh, EV, you're out of your league on this one. It is because it is the "toot toot" of an English foxhunting horn. Anyone who has ridden hunters-jumpers or foxhunted would know the answer to this riddle.
5.14.2006 2:18pm
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
"Growing up in Tennessee, it was a common safety reaction to honk when approaching bends on certain roads, due to the general quality of the road (lack of upkeep, bad visibility characteristics on turns, missing safety features like guard rails, and a tendency to be narrower on curves than on straightways).

A wagon is much slower, and presumably it is easier to hear other approaching wagons than it is for cars, but I can see a similar convention being in place."

Tennessee has different topography depending on where you are in the State. Are you talking about Eastern Tennessee, maybe? There are a lot of flat areas around Nashsville and Memphis.

At any rate, the answer is partially correct. It is the same for Vessels, rules of navigation. But you cannot always equate horses with cars. Many horses freak out when confronted with other horses (and especially cars) coming at them head on. Some are fine with this. But you never know which you will encounter. I have ridden horses that freak out with head on situations, panic, spin, whirl around, and take off in every direction. Usually ex-race horses that are used to traffic going in only one direction.

If the roadways had bends and curves, and were only wide enough to accommodate those who were proceeding in a starightforward stable calm fashion, it could create chaos and injuries to all involved for one not to warn another before coming around the bend into a head on situation.

It is just the nature of horses. Also, there is a huge difference between equestrian horns and car horns. Honking a car horn around an unknown horse is not a good idea. A car honk could freak a horse out into darting in front of the car whereby both horse and driver are likely to suffer fatal injuries.
5.14.2006 2:32pm
Barbara Skolaut (mail):
Or maybe it's just a folk tune and doesn't have any real meaning?
5.14.2006 2:48pm
Bleepless (mail):
I smell a cover-up. Get me Freder Frederson and my Da Vinci Code.
5.14.2006 3:13pm
Joe7 (mail):
I have honestly never heard the version with "Toot toot"
5.14.2006 3:14pm
Tom Collins:
I think the answer lies not in the lyrics of the song, but its source. I recently found myself interested in folk music, went to my local massive academic library, dived into the deep basement stacks, and checked out several books on American folk music. I serendipitously still have them so I looked up this song. It is the first song in the "Railroaders and Hoboes" section of the book ("Folk Songs of North America" by Alan Lomax). According to the caption of the song, "in the early days when hoggers of temperament and daring like Casey Jones were risking their lives to set records, every famous engineer designed his own whistle. When the steam ripped through his four, five or six barrel quill, everybody knew who had his hand on the throttle that day."

Doesn't really answer the question, but at least provides some tie to the railroad.

FYI, other railroad songs (most I've never heard of):
A railroader for me
jerry, go an' ile that car
Drill, ye Tarriers
Wand'rin'
Around a Western Water Tank
The Wabash Cannon Ball
The Big Rock Candy Mountains
Pie in the Sky
Willie the Weeper

It's a great book.
5.14.2006 3:23pm
Rick Shmatz (mail):
My only response is: WHY WERE YOU LISTENING TO THAT SONG??
5.14.2006 4:02pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Mr. Shmatz: Come now -- why would a grown man be listening to that song? Think, think, there's an answer out there.
5.14.2006 4:04pm
Rick Shmatz (mail):
OK--I know, you have kids. I was only kidding.
5.14.2006 4:06pm
Wilson (www):
I only recall a version with "yee-haw" exclamations.
5.14.2006 4:22pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Mr. Shmatz: Got it in one . . . .
5.14.2006 4:27pm
Harry:
I don't know, but I thought the song was about a race between wagon and railroad.
5.14.2006 5:16pm
Fub:
The Official U.S. Gubmint version doesn't have that pesky "toot-toot" to inspire the imaginations of free speech libertines.

Furthermore it doesn't conflict with Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003) in its last verse.

Stephen Paulus' American Vignettes for 'cello and piano, No. 6 does include the "toot-toot" however. But it was composed for Roosky performers, so the subversion is self-evident.

Here is a version more appropriate for inspiring capitalist sensibilities in the young.

Every time somebody sings "toot-toot" the terrorists have won.
5.14.2006 5:22pm
cp:
Thats weird, I used to wonder about that when I was younger, but I haven't thought about it in years.
5.14.2006 6:39pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Also, why would she be wearing red (or any other color) pajamas while driving six white horses? That form of dress seems quite inappropriate for the activity.
5.14.2006 7:20pm
bornyesterday (mail) (www):
"Big Rock Candy Mountain" is one of the songs on the "O, Brother Where Art Thou" soundtrack.

And "Wabash Cannonball" is a great song by Doc Watson.
5.14.2006 7:22pm
therut:
It is the yankee version. As someone noted "Yee HAW" is the southern version. Yankeees changed it to 'toot toot" to let everyone in the South know they were presumably more sophicated. I think they were just pissed as usual. When they sing the "Toot,Toot" they do it in a winney voice with their nose in the air. At least that is what my Momma told me and Momma is always right.
5.14.2006 7:27pm
Sarah (mail) (www):
I grew up in CA in the 80s and I heard neither "toot, toot" nor "yee haw." I'm not even sure where those are supposed to go in the song.
5.14.2006 8:46pm
SLS 1L:
Also, what does she have against the old red rooster? What did it ever do to her?
5.14.2006 9:13pm
Randy R. (mail):
Let's not forget that old jingle for Beneficual Insurance:

At Beneficial (toot-toot), you're good for more.
(Repeat until fadeout)

Unbelieveably, I remember getting drunk at a law school party and started singing that....
5.14.2006 9:23pm
Eddie Thomas (mail) (www):
I'm familiar with a different way of singing it:

"She'll be coming round the mountain when she comes
(When she comes)
She'll be coming round the mountain when she comes
(When she comes)
She'll be coming round the mountain,
She'll be coming round the mountain,
She'll be coming round the mountain,
When she comes (when she comes)"
5.14.2006 9:58pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
SLS 1L: I'd assumed that it had something to do with them all having chicken and dumplings, when she comes.
5.14.2006 10:19pm
Sam (mail):
Sure, now we all think that this is a cute folkie song suitable for kids. But you should hear the Roan Mountain Hilltoppers' recording of it as an instrumental -- it's really a scary bad-ass fiddle tune. No "toot toot" there for sure.
5.14.2006 10:22pm
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
"Also, why would she be wearing red (or any other color) pajamas while driving six white horses? That form of dress seems quite inappropriate for the activity."

The dress might not be inappropriate, depending if the horn was a foxhunter horn (or some variation of it), since the origin of the red coat (we now see in American show jumping) was worn by British foxhunters.

Why the red hunt coat was transformed into pajamas, I cannot say. Maybe she came round the mountain at nite? Chicken and dumplings would seem to be offered for dinner, not breakfast.
5.14.2006 10:38pm
therut:
I figure she had nothing aganist the rooster. Of coarse maybe it was the only chicken they had to eat. Must have been cause anyone who has killed a chicken knows Old Roostera are tough.. You need a young hen. However, if the Old Rooster is like most she could just be mad at it. Roosters in general have a very painful way of Sneakin up on you sideways and spurring you. I had to outrun one everyday when I was a child trying to get in the house.
5.14.2006 10:41pm
Steve Lubet (mail):
Bornyesterday is certainly living up to his or her name. Doc Watson has recorded Wabash Cannonball, but it is Roy Acuff's song.
5.14.2006 10:41pm
Dick King:
I had always assumed that she came in a train with a six horsepower engine and this was a poetic way of saying that.

-dk
5.15.2006 12:21am
meow:
I've always heard that "six white horses" = the six steam spewing pistons of the locomotive.
5.15.2006 1:10am
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
The Official U.S. Gubmint version doesn't have that pesky "toot-toot" to inspire the imaginations of free speech libertines.


But it does suggest that she will be wearing *red* pajamas and sleeping with grandma when she comes, a plain enticement to socialism and lesbianism. As is usual, the government has been infiltrated by Trostkyite alternative lifeystyles.
5.15.2006 2:20am
KevinM:
One word, Seinfeld fans: Beef-a-rino.
5.15.2006 11:29am
Nony Mouse:
Born Yesterday,
The Big Rock Candy Mountain is a Depression Era song. Which might explain the longed-for handouts grown on bushes, empty boxcars, and lack of wind, rain and snow when you sleep out [outside] every night.

As for the six white animals and pajamas, don't you believe Wikipedia?
5.15.2006 12:47pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
The Yeh Haw sounds suspiciously like Gee Haw, which is apparently what you said to mules to get them to go left or right (or the reverse - my father thinks it was left/right, but wasn't sure - he hadn't driven a team since the 1930s). It wouldn't be that far of a jump for these words to be used with horses.
5.15.2006 2:15pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I should add that he learned about Gee and Haw from his OK ancestors, but they had migrated there via MO, TN, KY, and VA throughout the 19th Century (and MA to VA in the 17th or 18th). My guess is that they were somewhere between TN and MO when this song was written.
5.15.2006 2:19pm
Cyg:
Maybe she came around the mountain the way the Grinch descended Mount Crumpet: cheerily blowing "who who" on his trumpet.
5.15.2006 2:42pm
R. Gould-Saltman (mail):
MEOW's clearly not getting her info from any serious rail-fans: almost no steam locomotives HAD six pistons.

Most had two; big "compound" locos had four. See the nifty animation at Wikipedia:
Locomotive pistons working



The Erie "triplex"
had six but very few were built, and they certainly weren't part of the common lingo.
5.15.2006 2:49pm
leucanthemum b (www):
Somewhere in the dark recesses of one of my closets, I have the sheet music printed in the 1930s, with a picture of a train on the front cover.

I dunno about the "six white horses" (I always thought it had some obscure ties to the railroad, so to speak), but when I was a kid, we added to the song after the "chicken and dumplings": "Oh, we'll all drink Pepto-Bismol when she comes...."
5.15.2006 7:02pm
Jeff R.:
Isn't this, like most folk-songs, secretly about sex? With the old red rooster actually being the woman in question's maidenhead, the rupture of which is going to lead to the red pyjamas, etc. etc.?
5.15.2006 7:17pm
markm (mail):
"SLS 1L: I'd assumed that it had something to do with them all having chicken and dumplings, when she comes." Yes, but an old rooster would be as tough as a rubber chicken, not the first choice to feed an honored guest.

"She'll have to sleep with Grandma" is reasonable. Not that many families had extra beds or rooms in their houses, and whoever "she" is, she doesn't sound like anyone you'd want to put in the hayloft...

True white horses are pretty rare; six white horses would be an extravagantly expensive and showy team. But there's another aspect here; the difficulty of controlling a team goes up almost exponentially with the number of horses. Four horse teams such as were usually used on stagecoaches were rarely used except by professional teamsters. A woman who could drive six would be a rarity indeed.

Or maybe the song was intended to be humorous, with such unlikely things as eating an old rooster, albino horses, a woman driving a six horse team, and the red pajamas.

And the version I remember hearing as a kid was with "(when she comes)" echoed, no tooting or YeeHaws.
5.15.2006 7:47pm
Just:
"And the version I remember hearing as a kid was with "(when she comes)" echoed, no tooting or YeeHaws."

You must be a Protestant.
----
Did you try singing the Hot Damn! version with the boys?
Really, kids love that kind of stuff.
5.17.2006 8:32am