Miss Mary Mack and the jumping elephants

Published 3:00 am Saturday, July 2, 2016

Miss Mary Mack Mack Mack

All dressed in black, black, black.

With silver buttons, buttons, buttons

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All down her back, back, back.

She asked her mother, mother, mother

For fifteen cents, cents, cents.

To see the elephants, elephants, elephants

Jump the fence, fence, fence.

They jumped so high, high, high

They touched the sky, sky, sky

And, they never came back, back, back

Until the Fourth of July, ly, ly.


During the time of my childhood, Miss Mary Mack and fence jumping elephants were all most children knew about the Fourth of July.

There were no grand parades or fireworks displays. There were no band concerts or pontoons on the pond, no hot-dog eating contest or hot air balloon races. The Fourth of July was just about Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack and those highflying elephants.

But, looking back to the 1950s, for us young’uns, the Fourth of July was one long parade that lasted all summer long – June, July and August.

We were on parade from early morning until way after dark. We paraded all around town on bicycles, on roller skates, on push scooters, Tom-walkers and stilts. We paraded with patched inner tubes hooked over our shoulders on the way to the city swimming pool. We paraded with buckets full of just picked plums, blackberries and bullaces to eat and too sell and with boxes of funny books to swap on rainy days.

We paraded with wooden bats on our shoulders on the way to play flies, hops and skinners on a fresh-cut hayfield or to a backyard baseball game.

In early morning and late afternoon, we shouldered cane fishing poles with hooks a-dangling and cricket cages a-swinging.

The parade route often took us to places of great adventure – to bamboo thickets to hide from the hot afternoon sun, into the deep woods to ride sapling trees, to muddy ponds to catch minnows in the shallows and to the creek to cool off to soft patches of grass for watching the clouds make pictures in the sky.

If our parade just happened to venture through a summer garden and a tomato or carrot needed picking …well. Or, if we just happen upon a watermelon patch and just happened to have our Tuff-Nut knives along, we would cut to melon into rashers, eat the red meat down to the rinds and carve the rinds to little boats to float in the puddles rain had made.

Our mamas’ calls of “Come to dinner!” would bring us home at noon and “Suppers ready!” just before nightfall.  But then we were back on parade, catching lightning bugs and playing “hide and seek” and “ain’t no boggers’ out tonight” while the grownups sat on the porch and talked.

But the Fourth of July parades often ended with us lying on our backs in the soft green grass in the back pasture, watching the setting sun paint the sky colors of yellow, orange, red and purple. The moon would show its waning and waxing shapes or shine bright and full. With the darkening of the night, hundreds and thousands of stars would begin to twinkle in the sky.

The skyworks would go on all night long but young’uns had to get to bed. Tomorrow would be another day and yet another Fourth of July parade.