Old Field Rabbit

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OLD FIELD RABBIT. Old-Time, Breakdown. USA, Mississippi. A Major. AEae. ABABCBCB. The tune is from the fiddle playing of Jim Myers, Mississippi, recorded in 1939 for the Library of Congress. Tom Rankin (1985) states that this tune was evidently a song in the African-American tradition, and that no other printed or recorded source could be found save for a song recorded by Mrs. Jessie Buchanan, of Magee, Mississippi [AFS 03057 B03, field recording by Herbert Halpert, 1939]. It was categorized on the card as "Negro holler."

An interesting, if tangential, note about 'old field rabbits' appears in Arthur Franklin Rapper's Preface to Peasantry: A Tale of Two Black Belt Counties (1936), and relates to Greene County, North Carolina:

The "Old Field" Rabbit Industry.--Another sequel of the (boll) weevil and exodus was the emergence, in the middle (nineteen-)twenties, of a new industry in Greene County--the trapping of "old-field" rabbits. In the winter of 1927-1928 over fifty thousand wild rabbits were shipped from Greene, locally proclaimed the nation's one rabbit-shipping county. More than two-thirds of them were sent from Penfield, the site of Mercer University prior to 1860, in the area where cultivation had been abandoned because of the boll weevil. Here the sedge, brambles, young pines, and blackberry thickets which soon sprang up provided excellent coverage for rodents and other game.

By 1929 enterprising storekeepers in Greene and adjoining counties were showing boys and men how to trap the rabbits, but the supply was exceeding the demand and the price was falling. Soon thereafter the rabbit industry was wiped out by the outbreak of tularemia, the "rabbit sickness." Since then the rabbits have been largely decimated by some distemper: "Things have changed, not even but a few rabbits now, and them mostly sick," was the heavy compliant in 1934 of an elderly Negro man living in a depopulated area in 1927 preferring rabbit to pork--"more fun to get it, and cheaper besides."

Source for notated version:

Printed sources:

Recorded sources: Mississippi Department of Archives and History AH-002, Jim Myers - "Great Big Yam Potatoes: Anglo American Fiddle Music from Mississippi" (1985. Originally recorded for the Library of Congress in 1939).

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