Louisiana Voices Educator's Guide  
Getting Started With This Guide  
Study Guide Summary  
Outline of the Study Guide  
Study Unit I Defining Terms  
Study Unit II Fieldwork Basics  
Study Unit III Discovering the Obvious: Our Lives as "The Folk"  
Study Unit IV The State of Our Lives: Being a Louisiana Neighbor  
Study Unit V Oral Traditions--Swapping Stories  
Study Unit VI Louisiana's Musical Landscape  
Study Unit VII Material Culture-The Stuff of Life  
Study Unit VIII The Worlds of Work and Play  
Study Unit IX The Seasonal Round and Life Cycles  
Educator's Links  
Educator's Guide Glossary  
Educator's Guide Credits  
Educator's Opportunities For Professional Development  
Join The Community
Louisiana Folklife website Homepage  
Louisiana Folklife Program Home  
Louisiana's Living Traditions: Articles, Photos and Virtual Exhibits about Louisiana Folklife  



"Swapping Stories: You Think I'm Working, But I Ain't," #70 Swapping Stories
Robert Albritton, Ruston, Louisiana


Then I got another one. This is a true one. . . .

This guy, he was working on this farm for this guy, you know? And, they had what you call a big house. And this is where they kept all the farm tools--in the big house, okay? So, he had to get up every morning and go to the big house, and he'd hook up the mule and the old plow and he'd go out in the field and work, plow for them.

He had him a big old shade tree down there in the field, you know, and every morning he'd hook [his mule] up. Boss Man thinking he's going to work. He'd go out and get under that shade tree; he had a guitar with him out there. His guitar, his back up against the tree, get to singing a little song about [sings] "You think I'm working, but I ain't" -- oh, he did that for I don't know how long.

One of the Boss Man's [laughs] neighbors passed by one evening and heard him out there. So, he goes down and he tells the guy, "Well, you're just paying him for nothing," he said. "Because he ain't working," he said, "He's sitting under the tree, singing."

So [the Boss] said, "Well, that's all right. I'll catch him."

Next morning before day, he got up, Boss Man did, went out there and got up in the tree. Workman hooked up the mule, plow, then he comes by. Ties the mule up. Get right by that tree in back, he starts [playing] his guitar, [sings] "You think I'm working, but I ain't --" he says about two or three times.

Then the Boss Man fell out the tree, "Um-hm." He said, [sings] "And you think I'm going to pay you, but I ain't." [Laughs.] Yeah.


Notes to the Teacher: This is part of the popular "John and Old Master" series of African-American narratives, among the oldest extant American joke cycles. John is a clever old slave or servant who is continually finding ways of impressing his master.

About the Transcriptions


National Endowment for
            the Arts.

Folklife in Louisiana Home | Living Traditions Home | Louisiana Voices Educator's Guide
Overview of Louisiana's Traditional Cultures | Folklife Program Introduction |
Planning and Funding Folklife Projects | Opportunities for Professional Development
Links | Credits | Contact Us/Link to Us
Louisiana Division of the Arts | Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism
© 1999-2012 Louisiana Division of the Arts,
PO Box 44247, Baton Rouge, LA 70804, tel 225-342-8180

Questions about this site? Contact Maida Owens, folklife@crt.la.gov.