One, Two, Buckle My Shoe: How High Can You Do?

Buckle My Shoe Illustration

In my last blog post, I gave a couple of variations of One, Two, Buckle My Shoe that go up to the number twenty. It’s rare that this rhyme goes past that. When it does, it seems to be to play it as a ball bouncing game… how high can you go bouncing the ball?

This whole search for different variations of the One, Two, Buckle My Shoe rhyme, was all inspired by an email I received from Fran. She wrote…

Lisa, We used to do this rhyme up to 40 when we were kids. Have you ever heard the second part? I am trying to find the parts I can’t remember. Thanks, Fran

As I mentioned in my last post, most people know One, Two, Buckle My Shoe up to 10. Some people know it up to 20. Most people don’t know it past that. I myself had a hard time finding versions beyond 20. After some research, the highest I was able to find was 30. Given Fran’s email, there seems to be a version of this rhyme that goes up to forty. Do you know any versions that go that high?

Below are the different versions I found that go higher than twenty…

First are two versions that go up to twenty-four. They’re from Southern California Jump-Rope Rhymes: A Study in Variants by Ray B. Browne (Western Folklore, Jan. 1955). The first one was “Given as a ball bouncing game”…

One, two,
Buckle my shoe.
Three, Four,
Open the door.
Five, Six,
Pick up sticks.
Seven, Eight,
Lay them straight.
Nine, Ten,
A big fat Hen.

Eleven, twelve,
Mind your self (or, roast ‘er well).
Thirteen, fourteen, maids are sporting.
Fifteen, sixteen, maids are kissing.
Seventeen, eighteen, maids are waiting.
Nineteen, twenty, maids are plenty.
Twenty-one, twenty-two,
If you love me as I love you
My knife can cut our love in two.
Twenty-three, twenty-four,
Mary at the kitchen door
Eating apples by the score.
One, two, three, four.

[Original Source: Nebraska: Sue Hall, “That Spring Perennial-Rope Jumping!” Recreation, XXXIV (March, 1941), 713-716. (verbal changes only, 11. 1-2)]

Here’s a variation Brown gave on the second verse:

Eleven, twelve, in the well.
Thirteen, fourteen, boys are courting.
Fifteen, sixteen, maids in the kitchen.
Seventeen, eighteen, maids in waiting.
Nineteen, twenty, my plate is empty
(and sometimes ends,…
Twenty-four, Mary’s at the cottage door
Eating grapes upon a plate,
Five, six, seven, eight.)

[Original Source: Paul G. Brewster, “Rope-Skipping, Counting-out, and other Rhymes of Children,” SFQ, III (1939), 173-185. (verbal changes only, 11. 1-2)]

Western Folklore by California Folklore Society (1954) has the ending simply as:

Twenty-one, twenty-two,
If you love me as I love you
My knife can cut our love in two.

The book 10,000 reasons for everything; How to win; Why you lost; Folklore supporting our best superstitions (1998), by William Carroll, has the ending as:

Twenty-one, twenty-two,
That will do.

Beverly Flanigan, from the American Dialect Society, posted this: “I only know the 4-and-20 rhyme as the ending of ‘One, two, buckle my shoe’ which we chanted while trying to bounce a ball non-stop without grasping it or losing it (I can still do it!)”…

One, two, buckle my shoe
Three, four, shut the door
Five, six, pick up sticks
Seven, eight, lay them straight
Nine, ten, a big fat hen
Eleven, twelve, dig and delve
Thirteen, fourteen, maids a-courting
Fifteen, sixteen, maids a-kissing
Seventeen, eighteen, maids a-waiting
Nineteen, twenty, the larder is empty
Twenty-one, twenty-two, my old shoe,
Dressed in blue, died last night at half-past two,
Twenty-three, twenty-four, last night at half-past four,
Twenty-four burglars came up to my door;
I opened the door and let them in;
I knocked them down with a rolling pin!

Finally, here’s an incomplete version of the rhyme that goes up to thirty. It’s from The Counting-out Rhymes of Children by Henry Carrington Bolton (1888). Bolton wrote that it was “Used in Wrentham Mass as early as 1780″…

One, two, buckle my shoe

Three, four, open the door
Five six, pick up sticks
Seven, eight, lay them straight
Nine, ten, kill a fat hen
Eleven, twelve, bake it well
Thirteen, fourteen, go a courtin’
Fifteen, sixteen, go to milkin’
Seventeen, eighteen, do the bakin’
Nineteen, twenty, the mill is empty
Twenty-one, charge the gun
Twenty-two, the partridge flew
Twenty-three, she lit on a tree
Twenty-four, she lit down lower
Twenty-nine the game is mine,
Thirty make a kerchy.

*Asterisks denote portions forgotten by the aged contributor.

If anyone knows of any other versions of One, Two, Buckle My Shoe that go higher than twenty, please let us know about it in the comments below.


Mama Lisa

Illustration from “National Rhymes of the Nursery” (circa 1895), illustrated by Gordon Browne (with a little graphical editing by Lisa Yannucci).

This article was posted on Thursday, November 6th, 2008 at 12:41 pm and is filed under American Kids Songs, Australia, Australian Kids Songs, Ball Bouncing, Ball Bouncing Rhymes, British Children's Songs, Canada, Children's Songs, Countries & Cultures, England, English, English Children's Songs, English Nursery Rhymes, Games Around the World, Jump Rope, Jump Rope Rhymes, Languages, Nursery Rhymes, One, Two, Buckle My Shoe, Questions, Rhymes by Theme, United Kingdom, USA. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

10 Responses to “One, Two, Buckle My Shoe: How High Can You Do?”

  1. Fran Says:

    Lisa, we played this bouncing a ball. My grandmother taught it to us and we would bounce for hours when she was babysitting. The lines got progressively longer. These are the ones I can remember– obviously there are many variations!


    1 2 Buckle my shoe
    3 4 Shut the door
    5 6 Pick up sticks
    7 8 Lay them straight
    9 10 A good fat hen
    11 12 Who will delve
    13 14 Maids a-courting
    15 16 Maids a-kissing
    17 18 Maids a-waiting
    19 20 My plate is empty, Papa please give me some more to eat
    21 22
    23 24
    25 26 Mother bakes her bread and cakes on red hot bricks
    27 28 Father goes to work at eight and comes home late.
    29 30 Your face and hands are dirty dirty dirty
    31 32 Mother lost her shoe in the year of eighteen hundred and two and found it behind the kitchen door in the year of eighteen hundred and four.
    33 34 Last night the night before thirty four robbers came to my door. I opened the door to let them in and they knocked me down with a rolling pin. I went upstairs to get my gun, you ought to’ve seen those robbers run. One flew east, one flew west, and one flew over the cuckoo’s nest
    35 36
    37 38
    39 40

    Can you count to 40?

  2. Lisa Says:

    That’s neat! I’d be curious to hear where your grandmother was from (and thus where she may have learned it).

    Can anyone fill in any of the blanks in the version above?

    -Mama Lisa

  3. Tim Higgins Says:

    Since I was a little kid I’ve sometimes had this rhyme stuck in my head. I believe I got it from my sister when we were little. The only version I’ve ever heard involved 1-10. I believe the rhyme refers to a plague. As ring around the rosie refers to polio.

  4. Doug Drake Says:

    My Minnesota mother taught me this rhyme up to twenty four (the rhyme you have for thirty four). 11, 12 was “mind yourself” and 19-20 was “I’ve got plenty.” Of course, Ken Kesey took the twenty-four rhyme as the basis for his book (later Jack Nicholson’s breakthrough) as One flew over the cuckoo’s nest. I am amazed that most people only know it to ten. Tim is wrong. The rhyme is just a counting aid for young children (at least until Kesey got a hold of it). Ring around the rosey refers not to polio, but the black plague. Ring around the rosey refers to the sores. Pocket full of poseys refers to what was thought to be a preventative–they thought it was bad air that caused the plague and the smell of poseys would prevent that. Ashes, ashes is the sound of a sneeze and we all fall down refers to the ultimate fate of the infected. However, disagrees because the first written version of the rhyme they could find was in the 1881 version of “Mother Goose.” and they find it incredulous that the rhyme could existe for 300 to 500 years before it was written down. Of course, that same reasoning, if applied to the Gospel of Luke, the earliest confirmed writing dating about 200 AD, means that Luke didn’t exist either. Balderdash to Snopes!

  5. elaine Says:

    I have been searching high and low for ball bouncing rhymes and skipping rope rhymes…help

  6. Lisa Says:

    Hi Elaine,

    We have Ball Bouncing Rhymes here.

    You’ll find Skipping & Jump Rope Rhymes here and Jump Rope Songs here.

    They’re from around the world, so you’ll find them in various languages, including many in English.

    Does that help?

    Mama Lisa

  7. Rita VanBuskirk Says:

    My Bohemian grandmother used to sing this to us in the early 60’s. 21, 22 my old shoe, dressed in blue, died last night at half-past two, 23, 24 mama scrubs the kitchen floor, floor dries, baby cries, mama wipes his little blue eyes, 27, 28, 28 robbers came to the gate, let ’em in, knocked ’em down with a rolling pin. I can’t remember the rest.

  8. Mike Wells Says:


    1 2 Buckle my shoe
    3 4 Shut the door
    5 6 Pick up sticks
    7 8 Lay them straight
    9 10 A big fat hen
    11 12 Dig and delve
    13 14 Maids a-courting
    15 16 Maids in the kitchen
    17 18 Maids a-waiting
    19 20 Food-a plenty but my plate is empty
    21 22 No knife can cut our love in two
    23 24 Last night and the night before twenty four robbers came to my door. I went to the door to let them in and they hit me in the head with a rolling pin. I went upstairs to get my gun, you should have seen those robbers run. One flew east, one flew west, and one flew over the cuckoo’s nest

    My grandmother from West Virginia taught me this version of the rhyme when I was a child.

  9. Lisa Says:

    I love it! Thanks for sharing! -Mama Lisa

    PS Would you like to record it for us? :)

  10. Rebecca Yoho Says:

    I happen to have a small, illustrated children’s book for “1-2 Buckle My Shoe” that was my mother’s (she was born in 1932). I remember this book from my own childhood and have been reciting it to my 2 young grand daughters.

    My book no longer has a cover and is presumably missing the first 2 and last 2 pages. So, I have no idea when this version was published, etc. But the illustrations are in full color. It is the size of the old miniature golden books.

    Everyone is in agreement that the poem begins:

    “1-2 buckle my shoe.
    3-4 . . .”

    My book begins here:

    “Knock on the door.
    5-6 Pick up sticks.
    7-8 Lay them straight.
    9-10 A good fat hen.
    11-12 Dig and delve.
    13-14 Climb with me. We’ll go higher than the Oakabob tree.
    15-16 Lunch on the hill. Bird comes a calling, cherry in his bill.
    17-18 Chicken in a Dish. Let’s have the wishbone. Let’s make a wish.
    19-20 Ummmm! Oh, my! I just finished my apple pie.
    21-22 We have lots of work to do.
    23-24 Wash the dishes, sweep the floor.
    25-26 Come on puppy, do some tricks.
    27-28 . . . .”

    On the 27-28 page the accompanying illustration shows children climbing up the stairs in their pajamas. So, I do imagine words like:
    “Time for bed it’s getting late” are plausible.
    My book presumably went to 29-30, but, again that page is completely missing.

    As an aside, I have always wondered just what an “Oakabob” tree is? :-). I’m hoping someone has heard of this version and also knows the words to 27-28 and 29-30.

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