Arta M. Bortner

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Pennsylvania Dutchman, York County, games, rhymes, bear, sheep


A handwritten letter from Arta M. Bortner addressed to the Pennsylvania Dutch Folklore Center, dated March 30, 1951. Within, Bortner provides details on a childhood school game and rhyme that young children used to play involving a bear and stolen sheep.


Arta M. Bortner


Pennsylvania Dutch Folklore Center

Corresponds to:

Packet 39-53


Wilmington, Delaware


516 N. Bancroft Pkwy.,

Wilmington, Del.

March 30, 1951.

Penna. Dutch Folklore Center, Inc.,

Fackenthal Library,

F. + M. College

Lancaster, Penna.


Last summer I was given several copies of “The Pennsylvania Dutchman” by a friend of mine, and being a Penna. Dutchman myself (York County- ach ya!) I was very interested. Will you please let me know whether you are still publishing this paper, and whether the subscription rate of $3.00 per year still is the same?

In the August 1950 issue (one of those given me) your Don Yoder asks information on a game - “Sheep, Sheep, Come Home.” I am enclosing a separate sheet on which I have tried to write, in Dutch, how the rhyme was said, as we played the game at school. Will you please pass this on to him, and thank you.

Very truly yours,

(Miss) Arta M. Bortner.

Shafely, goy home!

We formed a large circle, holding hands, and one of the group was the bear, and as he kept walking around the circle we kept reciting:

Was dribbled und drobbled my heisley room?

The bear answered: An grosser, schwartzer bear!

Then we recited: Nem kens fun meina shafelen.

And the bear answered: Ich du net!

At that instant he took one out of the circle, which closed up again, and the same thing said over until every sheep was “stolen”.

Because those of “us sheep” in the circle weren’t allowed to look around, none of us knew just when the Bear would take us, and those who could see from the opposite side, didn’t dare to tell, making it all the more deliciously and thrillingly “dangerous” and exciting because we knew we would be “carried off” by the big black bear but we didn’t know when.

The “bear” with some sense of the dramatic could make his answers real menacing and thrilling and how the poor little sheep screamed!


English and Pennsylvania German

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Letter From Arta M. Bortner to the Pennsylvania Dutch Folklore Center, March 30, 1951



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