Thursday, November 6, 2014

"All Hid?" - African American Hide & Go Seek Chant & The Gullah Concept Of Play

Edited by Azizi Powell This post showcases an African American chant that was used as a prelude to the chasing portion of "Hide & Seek".

"All Hid?" is included in Step It Down: Games, Plays, Songs, Stories from Afro-American Heritage (University of Georgia Press, originally published in 1972, Brown Thrasher Edition, 1987)

Here's the text of that chant and Bessie Jones' comments as they are found in the Step It Down book. (pp. 182-184

"Children these day don't play like they used to play-nowhere-mine and no one else's. In "Hide and Go Seek" the children nowadays play it right quick and angry - I say angry, because if the one that's counting ask them, "Is all hid? sometimes the'll holler, "Not yet!" and sometimes they'll just throw off and give a kind of a "No!" and all that way...

But in my time coming up, when the person says, "Is all hid? hee said it in a tone and the children answered him a tone. And those tones would combine together, which would make a beautiful play. And the children don't count now-well, they really does count-nothing but counting. They says "Onetwothreefourfivesixseveneightnineten!" But in those days, we had a rhyme that we called counting. Such as, one would go to the base and lean up against a tree and not peeping, because it's not fair, you know, they would hide ther eyes and lean against the base and he would say,

Honey, honey, bee ball,
I can't see y'all. All hid?

And those children would holler back.
“No-o-o!”

And the counter would say,
Is all hid?

And the children would say
“No-o-o!”

And sometimes those children be right close to there-but not too close,you know, not too close for the law of the base, ten feet-but they don't be too far and they put their hands up to their mouth or put their heads down and say "No-o-o!" real soft. You see, that make him think they're way off! They sound like a panther!...And then it go on like this (singing):

I went to the river, I couldn't get across.
I paid five dollars for an old blind horse.
One leg broke, the other leg cracked,
And great Godamighty how the horse did rack.
Is all hid?
“No-o-o!”
Is all hid?
“No-o-o!”

I went down the road,
The road was muddy.
Stubbed my toe
And made it bloody.
Is all hid?
“No-o-o!”
Is all hid?
“No-o-o!”

Me and my wife and a bobtail dog,
We crossed that river on a hickory log.
She fell in,
And I fell off,
And left nobody but the bobtail dog.
Is all hid?
“No-o-o!”
Is all hid?
“No-o-o!”

One, two,
I don't know what to do.
Three, four,
I don't know where to go.
Five, six,
I'm in a terrible fix.
Seven, eight,
I made a mistake.
Nine, ten
My eyes open, I'm a looking!

And they know he's looking. In other words, he could stop right there at "one, two", and when he stop there, they know they better lay close because he maybe done left the base then because he say "One, two, I don't know what to do"! He's looking around then, see, let you know he'a about to leave the base. "Three, four, I don't know where to go", because they are all hid, see? "Five, six, I'm in a terrible fix"; see, he's looking someplace. "Seven, eight"-he didn't find nobody there-"I made a mistake!-see? Then he say, "Nine, ten, my eyes [are] open, I'm a-looking!" and he's going everywhere then, see?

But theee children now don't have that kind of counting...and they won't leave the base! It worries me. I look at them and they won't leave the base, and when the others come, they expect to get their hundred-we called it a "hundred". The call it a base, but in my day, we called it "my hundred". If you make it to the base, if you outrun thee counter and get to the base, we called "my hundred". And you know, when they ask if all is hid, they ask, "All hid?" and they holler back "No!" and all that ....You know, it's no play. It's justa snap all the way through. It's no play in it....But we played.
-snip-
The following comments written by Bess Lomax Hawes in the introduction to Step It Down explain what Bessie Jones meant when she used the word "play":
"By far the bulk of [Bessie Jones'] repertoire...she called "plays". Suddenly it occurred to me that the nown "play" has more than one meaning; in addition to being, according to Webster's, "excercise or action for amusement or diverson", it can also be "a drama...a composition...portraying life or character by means of dialogue and action.

Using this second definiton as a starting point, the special quality of fun the [Georgia] Sea Islanders were having became clearer. When they "played", they were constructing over and over again small life dramas; theey weree taking on new peersonalities for identification or caricature. They were acting. [Step It Down, pp xiv-xv]

Bessie Jone's "All Hid?" chant is also included in Old Mother Hippletoe: Rural and Urban Children’s Songs New World NW 291 (1978). The text is almost exactly the same as that found in Step It Down except that record gives the line as "I paid five dollars for an old gray horse" instead of "old blind horse". That record's text also doesn't include Bessie Jones' comments about that chant. However, Old Miss Hippletoe... includes the following album notes written by Kate Rinzler about "All Hid?":
"Hide-and-seek is one of the most widely played hiding games in this country and is known in a multitude of variations around the world. A nineteenth-century English count out for hide-and-seek is chanted:
One a bin, two a bin, three a bin, four,
Five a bin, six a bin, seven gie o'er:
A bunch of pins, come prick my shins,
A loaf of brown bread, come knock me down. I'm coming.
(Gomme, p.211: see Bibliography)

Black children playing hide and- seek in the South borrowed and revised such verses to sing as the seeker waited for the other children to hide.

The words of “All Hid” derive from three sources. The variations of the query “All hid?,” the responses from hiding children, and the counting out by ones, twos, and so on are commonplaces in hide-and-seek as played in England and America; the countout formula (“One, two...”) is a counting rhyme like the well-known “One, two, buckle my shoe”; and the verses about acquiring a lame horse to cross a river are borrowed from humorous songs of black tradition.

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End of quotes.

Note: The Georgia Sea Islanders refer to themselves (and are called by others) "Gullahs" or "Geeches". Click for information about this sub-set of African American culture: http://www.yale.edu/glc/gullah/04.htm "Origin of the Gullah".

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This content is provided for folkloric and recreational purposes.
All copyrights remain with their owners.
Thanks to Bessie Jones, Bess Lomax Hawes, Kate Rinzler and all others who are responsible for preserving and sharing this chant and these comments.

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