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(learned from Tom Juster in 1962 and from Sing Out, written by Wade Hemworth)

staff with melody

'Twas early in the spring when I decide to go
For to work up in the mountains in north Ontario
The unemployment office said to send me through
To the little Abitibi and the survey crew,
    And the black flies, the little black flies
    Always the black fly no matter where you go
    I'll die with the black fly pickin' my bones
    In north Ontario,
    In north Ontario.

The man Black Toby was the captain of the crew
And he said, I'm gonna tell you, boys, what we're gonna do
We want to build a power dam and we must find a way
For to make the Abitibi flow round the other way.
    And the black flies, (etc.)

We surveyed to the east and surveyed to the west
Tryin' to make our minds up how to do it best
Little Ab, little Ab, what can I do
I'm all but goin' crazy on the survey crew,
    And the black flies, (etc.)

It's black fly, black fly everywhere,
Crawlin' in your whiskers and crawlin' in your hair,
Swimmin' in the soup and swimmin' in the tea,
The devil take the black fly and let me be,
    And the black flies, (etc.)

Black Toby fell to swearin' 'cause the work were goin' slow
And the state of our morale was gettin' mighty low
The flies swarmed heavy, it was hard to catch a breath
As you staggered up and down the trail, chokin' half to death,
    And the black flies, (etc.)

The bull cook's name was Blind Reaper Joe,
If it hadn't been for him we'd'a never pulled through.
He bandaged up our bruises and kidded us for fun
And lathered us with bacon grease and balsam gum,
    And the black flies, (etc.)

At last the job was over, Black Toby said we're through
With the little Abitibi and the survey crew.
'Twas a wonderful experience but this I know,
I'll never go again to north Ontario,
    With the black flies, (etc.)

(from miriam berg's folksong collection)