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15. Hog-eyed Man

Here's a term fraught with double meanings down through the ages. Small flat-bottom river and canal boats were referred to as “hog-eyes” and the men who rowed them, “hog-eyed men.” Early sea shanties used hog-eye as a euphemism for the male sex organ, while early blues songs used the term as a veiled reference to female genitalia. This setting of the common tune comes from Theophilus Hoskins (1879- ?) and was recorded in Hyden, Kentucky in 1937 by Alan Lomax on his first recording trip for the Library of Congress without his father John. Hoskins was a barber in Hyden and often played fiddle in his barbershop. He learned from one-armed fiddler Charles Edward (Charlie) Page, who used to come into Hyden to entertain the children. Married to Elizabeth in 1897, Theophilus and his new wife moved to Leslie, Kentucky. They were childless. He accidentally shot himself through the chin, though some say it was suicide. Family tradition says he was murdered in 1966 by someone he had taken in, for a paltry sum of money, even in those days. (descendent John Hoskins) Unusual are the “wild notes” at certain points of the tune, perhaps indicating an early provenance.

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