Smith Mountain Lake Mystery Writer

Contemplations from a quiet cove on Smith Mountain Lake.

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Location: United States

I'm a Southern gal who loves life, my husband and our family (which, to date, includes 13 grandchildren). I enjoy being with friends and family. But I also like being alone and thinking up plots for future books. I've published two novels, both mysteries, and I'm working on my third. For more about my books, visit me at If you ever hear me say, "I'm bored," please get me to the ER immediately! Paddling my kayak and snapping pictures of the critters I see relaxes me. Beach music has the opposite effect--when I hear those old "doo-wops" I want to dance.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Aaarrrggghhh! Help!

Before I opened my eyes Sunday morning, I knew I was in trouble. So were our house guests and my husband. I crawled out of bed, washed my face, dressed, swiped at my hair with a brush, and hurried to the kitchen to help hubby cook a big breakfast.

From my mouth came the words, When I was a little bitty baby, my momma would rock me in my cradle in them old cotton fields back home.… I sang all the lyrics I could remember, then repeated them.

“So what’s that song you’re singing?” hubby asked as he stuck apple muffins in the oven.

“I’m not sure of the name. You don’t recognize it?” I knew that if someone who was not vocally challenged were singing it, Ron would recognize the song instantly. He shook his head no. Does that tell you something about my voice?

“Who sings it?” he asked.

“I don’t know, and it’s driving me crazy!”

Three hours later I was still singing—and getting frustrated. You know how irritating it is when you’re in the middle of singing a song or telling a joke and you can’t remember the next line? Well, I was there. Aaarrrggghhh!

By the time our guests left to drive back to South Carolina, they had memorized the tune and the lyrics they’d heard me singing—and they’d never heard THE SONG before.

Usually I can be distracted by another song, forget about the current one playing in my head. Not this time. All day Sunday I sang THE SONG, sometimes aloud, usually to myself. Then a brilliant idea hit me. I hurried to my computer and sent an “Aaarrrggghhh! Help!” message to some of my knowledgeable and musical friends. Lying in bed that night, I tried humming other tunes and singing their lyrics to myself. Blessed relief—I fell asleep.

At 2:30 a.m. on Monday I awoke. Guess what! THE SONG blasted away in my brain. I groaned, rolled over, closed my eyes and tried to go back to sleep. Not! Finally at 5:00 I pulled myself out of bed and tip-toed to the great room, put on a pot of STRONG coffee, picked up my bible and settled down to read.

After breakfast I checked the messages on my computer. Yay! My friends hadn’t failed me! Several said the title was "Cotton Fields" or "Cotton Fields Back Home." Some remembered the same lyrics I’d been singing; some gave me web sites to check (i.e., google “Cotton Fields” or go to And I learned the last two verses, the ones I’d been trying to recall!

“Cotton Fields” was written by Huddie William Ledbetter (known as Lead Belly), a black American folk and blues musician. Born in Louisiana, Ledbetter lived from January 1888 to December 1949. This particular song, as well as many others he wrote, was sung by lots of different artists, including Creedence Clearwater Revival (1969), the Beach Boys (1969), and even Johnny Cash.

So remember, folks: if you have a problem, ask your friends for help. Mine helped me, except for one little thing . . .

It’s now 4:00 on Tuesday afternoon—and “Cotton Fields” is still playing in my head!

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