When I got older, I didn’t want my mother to sing it to me. She’d jokingly begin the song, and my little brother and I would shout, “Not Mr. Frisk! Not Mr. Frisk!” We knew how the song would end. I wonder if my brother chimed in with the protests to avoid arguments from me.
Even the months before my mother was dying, I could not listen to her sing it. But what I wouldn’t give to have her voice on a recording doing it now. Alas, it is in my head. Her beautiful singing voice will always be in my memory.
This song was taught to her by her mother, who also taught it to her daughter-in-law. I have found 3-4 versions online. It’s apparent that others also believed it to be their family song. But from where did it originate? Is it an old Colonial American folk song? Did it come from Europe or the British Isles? I don’t know if we will ever know. Maybe one of you reading it has had a version in your family, too.
In the woods, in the woods in an old hollar tree
lived Mr. Frisk, his wife and squirrels three.
The mother stayed home and kept the house neat
while Mr. Frisk gathered nice nuts to eat.
One summer’s day Mr. Frisk did not come.
The mother said, “Children, I must bring him home.
Some very bad people are traveling about.
Lie still in your nest and don’t you stir out.”
She put on her cap and she started to run.
Along came a man carrying a gun.
He raised the gun that was loaded with lead
and shot Mrs. Frisk, the poor squirrel was dead.
He took home the skin and cut off the tail.
He hung it up on the wall on a nail.
When it was dry and quite tough,
he made Betsy, his daughter, a muff.
Now the three little Frisks cried and they cried.
No one came near, and soon they all died.
In the cold winter months when the winter winds whirl,
little Betsy keeps her hands warm in the skin of a squirrel.