Brush away the blue-tailed skink

From Chris Zable on Facebook on August 3rd, a photo from her family’s holiday in Florida, with her comment:


“Spotted this little lizard with a bright blue tail on a fence rail at the Tallahassee Museum. Much of their space is a zoo of local native species in generously-sized enclosures that are just fenced off bits of native habitat. We saw pumas, red wolves, and foxes among other critters.”

As good a photo of a blue-tailed skink as any you can find on the net. To come: on skinks; on the “Blue Tail Fly” song; and on my gay highjacking of the song, as “Blue Tailed Skink” (with skink as a portmanteau, skank + twink) — taking things far from Chris’s original child-friendly travel report.

Skink things. From Wikipedia:

The (American) five-lined skink (Plestiodon fasciatus) is a species of lizard endemic to North America. It is one of the most common lizards in the eastern U.S. and one of the seven native species of lizards in Canada.

… Other common names include blue-tailed skink (for juveniles) and red-headed skink (for adults). [With, of course, blue-tail skink as a t/d-deletion variant of blue-tailed skink.]

… The American five-lined skink is small to medium-sized, growing to about 12.5 to 21.5 centimetres (4.9 to 8.5 in) total length. Young five-lined skinks are dark brown to black with five distinctive white to yellowish stripes running along the body and a bright blue tail. The blue color fades to light blue with age, and the stripes also may slowly disappear. The dark brown color fades, too, and older individuals are often uniformly brownish.

… The range of the five-lined skink extends in the north to southern Ontario, Michigan and eastern New York. The western border is in Minnesota, Missouri and eastern Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. These skinks tend to be most abundant on the coastal plain in the southeastern United States and along the Gulf Coast.

Skinks avoid predation by shedding their tails (which will then grow back) and by biting (they’re not venomous, but they can inflict some pain). They’re often kept as pets; you feed them small insects, spiders, and mealworms.

“Jimmy Crack Corn”. From Wikipedia (with an exceptionally long and detailed discussion of the song and its interpretation):

(#2) A Chainsawsuit cartoon (one of a number of strips by Kris Straub; this one is a gag-a-day three-panel strip), from 3/5/10:, with the follow-up: … and I loved him

“Jimmy Crack Corn” or “Blue Tail Fly” is an American song which first became popular during the rise of blackface minstrelsy in the 1840s through performances by the Virginia Minstrels. It regained currency as a folk song in the 1940s at the beginning of the American folk music revival and has since become a popular children’s song. Over the years, several variants have appeared.

Most versions include some idiomatic African English, although sanitized General American versions now predominate. The basic narrative remains intact. On the surface, the song is a black slave’s lament over his white master’s death in a horseriding accident. The song, however, can be — and is — interpreted as having a subtext of celebration about that death and of the slaves having contributed to it through deliberate negligence or even deniable action. [You can listen here (#3) to a performance by the great bluesman  Big Bill Broonzy (born Lee Conley Bradley, 1903 – 58):

(verse 1:)
When I was young I used to wait
On the master and hand him his plate
And pass the bottle when he got dry
And brush away the blue-tailed fly

Jimmy crack corn, and I don’t care
Jimmy crack corn, and I don’t care
Jimmy crack corn, and I don’t care
My master’s gone away

… [The fly] is possibly the blue-bottle fly (Calliphora vomitoria or Protophormia terraenovae), but probably the mourning horsefly (Tabanus atratus), a bloodsucking pest with a blue-black abdomen found throughout the American South.

… The chorus can be mystifying to modern listeners, but its straightforward meaning is that someone is roughly milling (“cracking”) the old master’s corn in preparation for turning it into hominy or liquor. There has been much debate, however, over the subtext. In the 19th century, the singer was often considered mournful and despondent at his master’s death; in the 20th, celebratory: “Jimmy Crack Corn” has been called “the baldest, most loving account of the master’s demise” in American song.

(Meanwhile, the title “Jimmy Crack Corn” has been the vehicle for play — on each of its three words.)

On the appalling black, or mourning, horsefly (Tabanus atratus), from the BugGuide site:


Females feed on mammalian blood; males, which lack mandibles, feed on nectar and plant juices … Especially prone to attack cattle and other livestock.

… Does not often bite humans but leaves painful memories when it does. Can transmit bacterial, viral, and other diseases such as surra and anthrax, to humans and other animals through its bite.

The effect on livestock can be a serious problem. Blood loss and irritation from the flies can severely affect beef and milk production, as well as grazing. Livestock usually have no way of avoiding the painful bites, and millions of dollars have been spent trying to control these pests.

The gay BDSM version. Shift fly to skink, interpret skink as skank + twink, adjust the words of the first verse to keep the rhyme, but keep the slave and master relationship.

twink is an old acquaintance on this blog, but I haven’t looked at skank. From NOAD, which puts the currently more widespread sense first:

noun skankNorth American informal [a] a sleazy or unpleasant person. [b] derogatory a promiscuous woman: the office skank.

And from GDoS, with senses in their order of development:

skank 1 (orig. US black) ‘an unattractive, easily available woman’, from 1966 on, and 4 (US campus) ‘a repulsive person of either sex’, from 1988 on

On to the blue-tailed skink, that skanky twink:

(#5) Skinky working the street, after Jimmy brushed him away from M

And here’s Jimmy, happy slave, alone with M in the old days:


When I was young I used to wait
On the master and hand him his plate
And pass the bottle for him to drink
And brush away the blue-tailed skink

But now M has gone away, taken in chains, and Jimmy is his own master. He’s grooming Skinky, taming the vicious bitch. Soon S, born anew, will beg to be collared and caged; will wait on Jimmy, hand him his plate, and pass the bottle for him to drink; and will celebrate with him the humiliation of M and the disappearance of the blue-tailed skink. The world turns.

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