Virginia Smith Rice
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[high ridin’ woman]

But if someone could break her
And take her whip away –
Someone big, someone strong, someone tall –
You may find that the woman with a whip
Is only just a woman after all. (Repeat and fade.)

from “High Ridin’ Woman,”a song by Harold Adamson & Harry Sukman as sung by The Sons of the Pioneers, 1957

  1. Define ‘woman’ using only tertiary colors. Use both primary and secondary reasoning to support your answer.
  2. Explain the purpose of the whip as it is presented in the excerpted verse. Be specific.
  3. Interpretive dance is often used to explore kinetic concepts within a work of art. It will play no role here.
  4. To whom in the song does ‘someone’ refer? A man or a bigger woman?
  5. If ‘someone’ is a woman, are we to presume she has a bigger whip?
  6. What complications might a bigger woman with a whip present to the group of singing men? Give examples. Reminder: no interpretive dance allowed.
  7. Do these potential complications seem more or less desirable to the singing men than a man with a whip? Plot your argument through use of a Venn diagram.
  8. Compare and contrast the figure of ‘someone’ with Emily Dickinson’s ‘master.’ Include advantages and disadvantages of a whip versus a loaded gun.
  9. If the whip were a tree, what type would it be? List at least three possible species, including both fruit and non-fruit bearing. Describe other uses of trees in American history, both literal and metaphorical.
  10. My grandfather used to hang sticks of chewing gum on the willow tree in his backyard and called it ‘the gum tree.’ Make this statement relevant to the sexual politics implied in the term ‘high-ridin’ as used in the song title. Bubbles and construction foam are allowed.
  11. Consider and list four reasons why these ‘sons of pioneers’ might wish for the appearance of another man, who will, if successful, usurp their position with said woman and her whip. Consider also the use of a saxophone. Alternatively, simply consider the saxophone. (See also: twentieth-century American male, impotence of.)
  12. Outline legal ramifications for all parties if the woman’s whip is used as a weapon against a group of men who appear to be stalking her with the intent of stealing her property.
  13. What does the title imply about the woman’s position at the start of the song? Use hand puppets, floral arrangements, and Star Wars references to illustrate your reasoning.
  14. What does the phrase ‘break her’ refer to in terms of position shift? Use of visuals is allowed, but may not include hand puppets, floral arrangements, or any reference to Star Wars.
  15. List all possible positions for the cowboy-garbed men as the song progresses. Rank in order of preference.
  16. By the close of the verse, what has happened to the horse? Who is the whip?

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Virginia Smith Rice received her MFA in Creative Writing from Northwestern University. Her poems appear in BathHouse JournalCincinnati ReviewDenver QuarterlyMeridianRattleThird Coast, and Weave, among other journals. Her first full-length poetry collection, When I Wake It Will Be Forever, is forthcoming in 2014 from Sundress Publications.