By Leslie Lindsay
I have a senior basset hound named Sally. She has a kidney issue and that means she has some house-training accidents from time to time. Okay, a lot. Was it because little Sally was peeping on the floor that my brain recalled this old nursery rhyme, Little Sally Water or was it the muses at play?
In any case, this old childhood game, jingle, rhyme–what have you–has been floating through my head of late. So I got curious, like all good writers do and did a little research. Here’s the rhyme/song:
Little Sally Waters sitting in the sun
Trying to find her love
The one & only one
Rise Sally rise
Open up your eyes
Look to the east
Look to the west
Maybe you’ll find the one that you love best
The lyrics actually continue and are quite extensive.
Seems the rhyme/children’s yard game has something to do with marriage. Little Sally Water is sitting in her saucer. In fact, the real story goes: Sally was on her way to her wedding, when she had to step over a saucer of water. Now, is this akin to jumping over broom handles or some other marriage tradition, I don’t really know. Folks believe this nursery rhyme originated in the 1800s–England and has been in the U.S. since at least 1848.
Yet, more contemporary interpretations indicate a name change for Sally. She was Sally Walters in more northern climes of the US, Pennsylvania and New York, for starters. In the South, Little Sally Ann(e). Others say, no, no, no Sally had a last name and it wasn’t Walters, but Waters.
Still others maintained that Sally was of African American (black) heritage. But then that goes to dissuade the England-Marriage version. So, it’s really hard to tell what the meaning and interpretation of this nursery rhyme is.
Little Sally fits into my WIP because, well I found the sing-song sound of it haunting. There’s also a water aspect to my WIP, so it just worked:
“Well, then maybe I’m not alive,” she responded.
Don’t be silly! You’re as much alive as I am.” I reached my toe forward, a playful nudge, a sideways grins.
My toe went right through her.
I startled, glanced back at Leelah and gasped, a surge of panic racked my body as her leg began disintegrating. Help! She needs help. My words would not come forth. Leelah smiled coyly, a smattering of freckles splayed across her face, and a glint in her eye I’d never noticed before. I couldn’t tell if she was crying or laughing.
She heckled and tossed her head back, the wavy hair breaking off in a wisp of clouds. A sinister stare penetrated my gaze. But Leelah, you’re my friend.
My brow furrowed. I screwed my face into a pinched pout, my stomach twisted, my ears rang. “Why? Why are you doing this to me?” I shouted, grabbing my bike, leaving the food, mad as a hornet.
She didn’t respond in words, yet her voice sang softly, deep within my head and yet all around me at the same time. Some childhood song. Little Sally Water…turn to the one you love best. Bye baby bunting. Father’s gone a-hunting. ”
- See this very thorough examination of “Little Sally Water” by fellow blogger: http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2011/09/little-sally-walker.html
- Smithsonian Ring Games http://www.folkways.si.edu/TrackDetails.aspx?itemid=18673
- Little Sally Water lyrics from http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/a/andrews_sisters/little_sally_waters.html
- Story behind the song/history and interpretation http://www.alabamafolklife.org/content/history-behind-songs
- Image source: http://pdsh.wikia.com/wiki/Little_Sallie_Waters and also: www.americaslibrary.gov
[this is a work of original fiction. Comments appreciated. Sharing and copying as your own is not. (c)]