“On the Bluff (Alligator Song)”


"'Twas on the bluff In the state of Indiana, Dat's where I useter lib." The singer is a good fisherman, but partial to drink; he fights with an alligator, only to find it is a log. He hides from a white man by playing a mile-post. At last he buries master

Supplemental text

On the Bluff (Alligator Song)
  Partial text(s)

          *** A ***

'Twas on de Bluff

From Dorothy Scarborough, On the Trail of Negro Folk-Songs,
p. 72. From Virginia Stait, but with no indication of origin
beyond that.

'Twas down on de bluff, in de state of Indiana,
Dat's where I uster lib, chick up in de banner,
Every mornin' nearly, my marster gib me liquor,
An' I took a little boat an' pushed out de quicker.

Oh, 'twas up de river drif' an' 'twas in er little skiff,
An' I caught as many cat-fish as any nigger lif'!

(3 additional stanzas plus 2 additional choruses)


There is a song in the Edith Fowke collection which appears to be a version of this, so it appears to have been known in Canada as well as wherever it was that Scarborough located it. But I can't absolutely prove it at this time.

It might be objected that Indiana is not a slave state, and this is true -- but it was also quite anti-Negro, and locals might have looked the other way at a slaveholder. Or, of course, the actual location of the song might have been Kentucky, across the river from Indiana. Though it's hard to imagine alligators on the Ohio River.

In any case, this looks more like a minstrel piece than a real folk song. - RBW


  1. Scarborough-NegroFS, p. 72, "'Twas on de Bluff" (1 text)
  2. ST ScaNF072 (Partial)
  3. Roud #7493
  4. BI, ScaNF072


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1925 (Scarborough)
Found in: US