Pa's Fiddle Music

Pa's fiddle was an important part of Laura's childhood, and his music is mentioned quite frequently in her books. Pa had a song to fit every occasion, whether happy or sad. Some of the songs Pa sang are still commonly known today, and others are not. Here, you can listen to midi files of several songs he often played, as well as a few other songs mentioned in Laura's books that were not played on the fiddle. While the music on this page is not truly played on a fiddle, as it is computer-generated, you can at least hear the tunes to the songs Laura clapped and danced to so often as a child.

Pop Goes the Weasel

And that night, for a special birthday treat, Pa played "Pop Goes the Weasel" for her.

"Pop! (said Pa's finger on the string)
Goes the weasel! (sang the fiddle, plain as plain.)"

But Laura and Mary hadn't seen Pa's finger make the string pop.

Little House in the Big Woods, Sundays

The Devil's Dream, Money Musk, and Arkansas Traveler

The room was still and warm and full of firelight. Ma's shadow, and Aunt Eliza's and Uncle Peter's were big and quivering on the walls in the flickering firelight, and Pa's fiddle sang merrily to itself.

It sang "Money Musk," and "The Red Heifer," "The Devil's Dream," and "Arkansas Traveler."

Little House in the Big Woods, Christmas

Nelly Gray

And Laura went to sleep while Pa and the fiddle were both softly singing:

"My darling Nelly Gray, they have taken you away,
And I'll never see my darling any more..."

Little House in the Big Woods, Christmas

Buffalo Gals

Laura watched Ma's skirt swaying and her little waist bending and her dark head bowing, and she thought Ma was the loveliest dancer in the world. The fiddle was singing:

"Oh, you Buffalo gals,
Aren't you coming out tonight...

Little House in the Big Woods, Dance at Grandpa's

Irish Washerwoman

Laura watched the dancers again. Pa was playing "The Irish Washerwoman" now. He called:

"Doe see, ladies, doe see doe,
Come down heavy on your heel and toe!"

Laura could not keep her feet still.

Little House in the Big Woods, Dance at Grandpa's

Auld Lang Syne

Then Pa began to play again the song about Old Grimes. But he did not sing the words he had sung when Ma was making cheese. These words were different. Pa's strong, sweet voice was softly singing...

When the fiddle had stopped singing Laura called out softly, "What are the days of auld lang syne, Pa?"

"They are the days of a long time ago, Laura," Pa said.

Little House in the Big Woods, Deer in the Wood

Yankee Doodle

Pa was keeping time with his foot, and Laura clapped her hands to the music when he sang,

"And I'll sing Yankee Doodle-de-do..."

Little House in the Big Woods, Winter Days

Laura stood up on the board and Pa held her safe by the arm, so she could see the town. When she saw it, she could hardly breathe. She knew how Yankee Doodle felt, when he could not see the town because there were so many houses.

Little House in the Big Woods, Going to Town

Rock of Ages

Laura and Mary lay in their trundle bed and listened to the Sunday hymns, for even the fiddle must not sing the week-day songs on Sundays.

"Rock of Ages, cleft for me," Pa sang, with the fiddle.

Little House in the Big Woods, Sundays

Am I a Soldier of the Cross?

Then he sang:

"Shall I be carried to the skies,
On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize,
And sailed through bloody seas?"

Laura began to float away on the music, and then she heard a clattering noise, and there was Ma by the stove, getting breakfast.

Little House in the Big Woods, Sundays

Oh Susanna!

She sat down beside Pa at the fire, and Pa took his fiddle out of the box and began to play.

"Oh, Susanna, don't you cry for me," the fiddle wailed, and Pa began to sing."

Little House on the Prairie, Going Out

Old Dan Tucker

"Play, Ingalls!" he said. "Play me down the road!" So while he went down the creek road and out of sight, Pa played, and Pa and Mr. Edwards and Laura sang with all their might...

Far over the prairie rang Pa's big voice and Laura's little one, and faintly from the creek bottoms came a last whoop from Mr. Edwards.

"Git out of the way for Old Dan Tucker!
He's too late to get his supper!"

Little House on the Prairie, The House on the Prairie

Green Grows the Laurel

But when they were in bed he took down his fiddle. Softly he played and softly sang,

"So green grows the laurel,
And so does the rue,
So woeful, my love,
At the parting with you."

Ma turned toward him and smiled.

Little House on the Prairie, Fire in the Chimney


Then Ma laughed, and Pa and the fiddle sang again.

"In Dixie land I'll take my stand,
And live and die in Dixie!
Away, away, away, away,
Away down south in Dixie!"

They sang with a lilt and a swing that almost lifted Laura right out of bed.

Little House on the Prairie, Going Out

Rally Round the Flag

The fiddle began to play a marching tune, and Pa's clear voice was singing like a deep-toned bell.

"We'll rally round the flag, boys,
We'll rally once again,
Shouting the battle-cry of Freedom!"

Laura felt that she must shout too.

Little House on the Prairie, Going Out

Wait for the Wagon

Pa was whistling, and when Sam and David started he began to sing.

"Oh, every Sunday morning
My wife is by my side
A-waiting for the wagon,
And we'll all take a ride!"

"Charles," Ma said, softly, to remind him that this was Sunday.

On the Banks of Plum Creek, Going to Church

Jerusalem, the Golden

After that everyone stood up. They all opened their mouths and tried to sing "Jerusalem, the Golden." Not many of them knew the words or the tune. Miserable squiggles went up Laura's backbone and the insides of her ears crinkled. She was glad when they all sat down again.

On the Banks of Plum Creek, Going to Church

Ring Around the Rosy

The little girls always played ring-around-a-rosy, because Nellie Oleson said to. They got tired of it, but they always played it, till one day, before Nellie could say anything, Laura said, "Let's play Uncle John!"

On the Banks of Plum Creek, Nellie Oleson

The Campbells Are Coming

He played "The Campbells Are Coming, Hurrah! Hurrah!"

On the Banks of Plum Creek, Grasshopper Eggs

The Girl I Left Behind Me and When Johnny Comes Marching Home

After supper, when night and lamplight came, Pa took his fiddle out of the box and tuned it lovingly.

"I have missed this," he said, looking around at them all. Then he began to play. He played "When Johnnie Comes Marching Home." He played "The sweet little girl, the pretty little girl, the girl I left behind me!"

On the Banks of Plum Creek, Going to Town

My Old Kentucky Home and Swanee River

He played and sang "My Old Kentucky Home" and "Swanee River."

On the Banks of Plum Creek, Going to Town

Lily Dale

Then the fiddle changed the tune and Pa began to sing about sweet Lily Dale.

"Twas a calm, still night,
And the moon's pale light
Shone soft o'er hill and dale...

On the Banks of Plum Creek, Christmas Eve

Polly, Put the Kettle On

Pa glanced at Ma, busy at the stove, while Mary and Laura sat listening, and the fiddle slipped into frolicking up and down with his voice.

"Mary put the dishes on,
The dishes on, the dishes on,
Mary put the dishes on,
We'll all take tea!"

"And what shall I do, Pa?" Laura cried, while Mary ran to get the plates and cups from the cupboard. The fiddle and Pa kept singing, down all the steps they had just gone up.

"Laura take them off again,
Off again, off again,
Laura clear the table when
We've all gone away!"

So Laura knew that Mary was to set the table for supper and she was to clear away afterward.

On the Banks of Plum Creek, Christmas Eve

Buy a Broom

But Laura liked the waltz songs best. She loved the Broom song, though they had to sing "broom" so many times to make the tune swing.

"Buy a broo-oom, buy a broom, broom!
Buy a broom, broom, buy a broom, broom!
Will you buy of this wandering Bavarian a broom?

By the Shores of Silver Lake, Wonderful Afternoon

Hail, Columbia

Ma rocked Grace slowly to and fro, and Laura brought Pa the fiddle box. Now the happy winter evenings were begun.

"Hail, ye heroes, Heaven born band!
Firm, united let us be,
Rallying 'round our liberty,
As a band of brothers joined
Peace and safety we shall find.
Hail, Columbia, happy land!" (Pa sang with the fiddle.)

By the Shores of Silver Lake, Last Man Out

Highland Mary

He looked at Mary sitting quietly with beautiful empty eyes and folded hands in her rocking chair by the oven. "What shall I play for you, Mary?"

"I would like to hear 'Highland Mary', Pa."

Softly Pa played a verse. "Now, Mary! Help sing!" he said, and they sang together.

By the Shores of Silver Lake, Last Man Out

Bonnie Doon

Laura had never been so happy, and for some reason she was happiest of all when they were singing,

"Ye banks and braes of Bonny Doon,
How can ye bloom sae fresh and fair?

By the Shores of Silver Lake, Happy Winter Days

Coming Through the Rye

So gaily all together they sang the lively song. And Laura got up and pretended to be wading across a creek, holding her skirts above her ankles and laughing back over her shoulder, singing:

"Ilka lassie has her laddie,
Nane, they say, ha'e I,
Yet all the lads they smile at me
When coming through the Rye."

By the Shores of Silver Lake, Last Man Out

Merry Christmas Everywhere

He raised the fiddle again from its nest in the box and tried it to see that it was in tune. "What'll it be, Boast?"

"'Merry Christmas Everywhere,'" said Mr. Boast. His tenor voice joined Pa's bass. Mrs. Boast's soft alto and Laura's soprano and Mary's followed, then Ma's contralto. Carrie's little treble piped up happily.

By the Shores of Silver Lake, Night Before Christmas

Keep the Horseshoe Hung Over the Door

Over the door Pa hung his rifle and his shotgun, and then he hung on a nail above them a bright, new horseshoe...

Ma's eyes smiled into his eyes, and he said to Laura, "I could sing you a song about that horseshoe."

She brought him the fiddle box, and he sat down in the doorway and tuned the fiddle. Ma settled in her chair to rock Grace to sleep. Softly Laura washed the dishes and Carrie wiped them while Pa played the fiddle and sang...

"Keep the horseshoe hung over the door!
It will bring you good luck evermore.
If you would be happy and free from all care,
Keep the horseshoe hung over the door!"

"It sounds rather heathenish to me, Charles," Ma said.

By the Shores of Silver Lake, Where Violets Grow

Billy Boy

His eyes twinkled at Ma while the music laughed and whirled and then he would sing:

She can make a cherry pie,
Billy boy! Billy boy!

By the Shores of Silver Lake, Happy Winter Days

Camptown Races

The music would go rollicking while only Pa and Mr. Boast sang:

"I bet my money on the bob-tailed mare
And you bet yours on the gray!"

Even in songs Ma did not approve of gambling, but her toe could not stop tapping while Pa played such tunes.

By the Shores of Silver Lake, Happy Winter Days

Three Blind Mice

Then every evening they all sang one round. Mr. Boast's tenor would begin, "Three blind mice," and go on while Mrs. Boast's alto began, "Three blind mice," then as she went on Pa's bass would join in, "Three blind mice," and then Laura's soprano, and Ma's contralto, and Mary and Carrie. When Mr. Boast reached the end of the song he began it again without stopping, and they all followed, each behind the other, going round and round with words and music.

By the Shores of Silver Lake, Happy Winter Days

Ben Bolt and Oft in the Stilly Night

And then Pa would play some of the old songs, "to go to sleep on," he said....

"Oh, do you remember sweet Alice, Ben Bolt?
Sweet Alice with eyes so brown
Who wept with delight when you gave her a smile,
And trembled with fear at your frown?"


"Oft in the stilly night,
Ere slumber's chain has bound me,
Sweet memory brings the light
Of other days around me.

By the Shores of Silver Lake, Happy Winter Days

Barbary Allen

Pa was singing with the fiddle:

"In Scarlet town where I was born,
There was a fair maid dwellin'
And every youth cried 'Well-a-wa.'
Her name was Barbary Allen.

By the Shores of Silver Lake, Evening Shadows Fall

Home Sweet Home

And, as she fell asleep still thinking of violets and fairy rings and moonlight over the wide, wide land, where their very own homestead lay, Pa and the fiddle were softly singing:

"Home! Home! Sweet, sweet home,
Be it ever so humble,
There is no place like home."

By the Shores of Silver Lake, Evening Shadows Fall

I am as Happy as a Big Sunflower

Laura woke up suddenly. She heard singing and a queer slapping sound.

"Oh, I am as happy as a big sunflower (Slap! Slap)
That nods and bends in the breezes, Oh! (Slap! Slap!)
And my heart (Slap!) is as light (Slap!) as the wind that blows (Slap! Slap!)
The leaves from off the treeses, Oh! (Slap! SLAP!)"

Pa was singing his trouble song and slapping his arms on his chest.

The Long Winter, October Blizzard

All the Blue Bonnets Are Over the Border

Round and round they marched, Laura and Carrie and Grace, singing with all their might, thumping loud thumps of their shoes on the floor.

"Mount and make ready, then,
Sons of the mountain glen,
Fight! for your homes and the old Scottish glory!"

They felt that banners were blowing above them and that they were marching to victory. They did not even hear the storm. They were warm to the tips of their toes.

The Long Winter, October Blizzard

The Old Gray Mare and Highland Fling

Pa played and sang "Little Annie Rooney is my Sweetheart!" and "The Old Gray Mare, She Ain't What She Used to Be," till even Ma's toes were keeping time to it. He played the Highland Fling, and Irish jigs, and out on the clickety-clattering floor Laura and Carrie danced till their breath was gone.

The Long Winter, Alone

Sweet By and By and A Shelter in the Time of Storm

After dinner Pa played hymn tunes on his fiddle, and all the afternoon they sang. They sang:

"There's a land that is fairer than day,
And by faith we can see it afar..."


"Jesus is a rock in a weary land,
A weary land, a weary land
Jesus is a rock in a weary land,
A shelter in the time of storm."

The Long Winter, We'll Weather the Blast


No one cheered. It was more like a moment to say, "Amen." But no one quite knew what to do.

Then Pa began to sing. All at once everyone was singing,

"My country, 'tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing..."

Little Town on the Prairie, Fourth of July

Polly Wolly Doodle

His mood changed, and so did the fiddle's. They sang,

"Oh, I went down south for to see my Sal,
Sing polly-wolly-doodle all the day!

These Happy Golden Years, The Perry School

Jingle Bells

The sleigh bells were ringing, the sleigh runners squeaking on the hard-packed snow, and Laura was so happy that she had to sing.

"Jingle bells, jingle bells,
Jingle all the way!
Oh what fun it is to ride
In a one-horse open sleigh."

All along the speeding line, other voices took up the tune. Swinging out on the open prairie and back, fast up the street and out on the prairie and back again, the bells went ringing and the voices singing in the frosty air.

These Happy Golden Years, Jingle Bells

The Star Spangled Banner

Then the band tuned up again and everybody rose. Men and boys took off their hats. The band played, and everybody sang.

"Oh, say, can you see by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming..."

From the top of the flagpole, up against the blue sky, the Stars and Stripes were fluttering. Everybody looked at the American flag, and Almanzo sang with all his might.

Farmer Boy, Independence Day

Laura Ingalls Wilder, Frontier Girl

Copyright © 1996 - 2008
Rebecca Brammer & Phil Greetham
Do not use without permission.