The Cougar of Haycock Woods

Nature songs for kids, parents, and teachers

The Theme

The cougar (a.k.a. mountain lion, panther, puma, etc.) was once found throughout North America and much of South America. This fierce predator is now one of the most popular school mascots. No doubt, a real cougar once presided over Haycock ridge.

Last week someone thought they saw a big cat in these woods
Ah but there aren’t any mountain lions in our neighborhood
But someone found a tuft of fur
Then there were the tracks
Is it really possible the cougar’s coming back?

The Process

The band played several live concerts at Haycock and captured lots of audio.


"Drifting Away" rehearsal captured on digital camera.


Linda White contributed a song written for the inaugural Cougar Woods tree planting back in 2001. Third-graders sang for the recording.


Judy Thompson plays violin for "Cloud Shape Animals" and "Drifting Away"


John Glover adds his 19th century pizz bass to "Drifting Away"


Steve burns barrels of midnight oil editing and mixing.


Gary Jaffe puts a professional polish on the mix.



I loved it on so many levels! What a wonderful way to introduce tomorrow's generation to the mysteries & beauties of this planet while simultaneously teaching them custodial values for its care. It is done with a joy that really captures being a child with all the sense of wonder that unique time holds. Your "Cloud Shape Animals" brought tears to my eyes remembering and missing similar times with my own parents. – Cara Cammaroto, voice instructor, Foxes Music

The Cougar of Haycock Woods is a solid collection of nature-based songs, a highly recommended choice for a nature-based curriculum in schools or Earth Day. But it's got enough charm that it's worth a spin at other times and in other places. And maybe it'll even inspire a few more PTAs to give up their chocolate bar sales for something more fulfilling. Recommended. – Stefan Shepherd,

You're a great songwriter! --Judy Thompson, music instructor and touring violinist

For “The Snake Song” and “The Courtship of Miss Mouse”: “Finalist” – Mid-Atlantic Song Contest

For “Drifting Away”: --This sounds great. The tone on the guitar is beautiful. The viola, violin and bass add a lot. Save this one. This is nice. – Eric Waters, guitarist, composer, instructor.

Editorial Review

Calling the Cougar of Haycock Woods a children’s album is like calling The Lion King a kids’ movie: accurate, but hardly adequate. This first outing by the Northern Virginia-based Harley String Band is adventurous and eclectic, genre-hopping from bluegrass to pop and beyond, ever grounded by the acoustic guitar, banjo, mandolin, and bouzouki.

Consider for example the “Courtship of Miss Mouse,” penned by Jim Johnson. Beneath this old-fashioned barnyard folk tale, the banjo and the African thumb piano stir up a tasty Afro-Appalachian gumbo, driving a minor-modal mood that somehow both haunts and cooks.

Consider also the sentimental and decidedly parental “Cloud Shape Animals,” written by Steve Coffee. In this violin-tinged musing on impermanence, the ever changing clouds reflect both the all-too-fast passing of childhood and the vast changes we’ve wrought in our brief term on the planet.

Nature is the theme of the disc, but more often than not it’s nature that has the last laugh. Jim Clark’s “The Snake Song” is a playful folk tune about eating snakes—and the likelihood that you may end up dinner yourself. Coffee’s countrified “Chiggers, Ticks, Spiders and Snakes,” reminds us grownups that our childhood probably wasn’t as idyllic as we might like to remember.

Call it “the vermin album.”

The title tune tells a 10,000-year history of the cougar’s relationship with the eastern U.S. and its human inhabitants. Against these long odds, the song actually works, and it leaves us wondering whether the cougar will also beat the long odds against its mortal enemy.

The plant kingdom is not overlooked either. We hear the call of the wild coming from the direction of the poison ivy, and we hear the monarch caterpillar’s love song for its milkweed. (It’s like a weekend at the Dairy Queen.)

Children make occasional vocal appearances. Fourth-graders sing a chorus of the ubiquitous “This Land Is Your Land,” but it fades into a decidedly minor key as Native American flute and drum take ownership of the song and turn it completely on its head.

The disc ends (almost) with “Drifting Away,” a lovely and disarming lullaby infused with violin, viola, and string bass.

It should be admitted that the disc is a home studio production, but this is only apparent around the edges. And true, the concept began as a PTA fundraiser, but the scope and ambition of the songwriting and arranging make it easy to forget these humble beginnings.

Buy the CD

The Cause

Through Cougar Woods, students have hands-on, nature-based, outdoor learning experiences that support and augment the regular curriculum. Such “real world” experiences are very effective at rounding out and consolidating the learning process while also cultivating curiosity, responsibility, and inquiry skills. They give the future stewards of the planet opportunities to develop their personal understanding of how it works. Cougar Woods is a project of the Haycock Elementary PTA.

The Songs

Samples of all songs are available on the CD Baby page.

Running in the Poison Ivy
©2006 Stephen R Coffee

The Snake Song
©2006 James D. Clark and Joel Pomerantz

The Cougar of Haycock Ridge (mp3)
©2006 Stephen R Coffee

©1982 Bill Oliver

The Courtship of Miss Mouse
©2006, Jim Johnson

Somebody Lives Down There
©1996 Stephen R Coffee

Cloud Shape Animals
©2002 Stephen R Coffee

House at Pooh Corner
Ken Loggins

Ode to Milkweed
©2006 Stephen R Coffee

This Land is Your Land
Woody Guthrie, with liberties

Chiggers, Ticks Spiders and Snakes (mp3)
©2002 Stephen R Coffee

Plant a Tree
©2001 Linda White

Free Little Bird

Once I Caught a Firefly
©2006 Stephen R Coffee

Drifting Away
©2006 Stephen R Coffee

Habitat Reprise


Running in the Poison Ivy
Stephen R Coffee ©2006

Two times two and four times four
What’s outside the classroom door
Three times three and five times fivey
Let’s go running in the poison ivy


Itcha itcha gotta scratcha itcha gotta itcha scratcha
nothing itcha itcha like poison ivy

Who’s on first and who bats last
tell my future and I’ll tell your past
Hi de doe and ho de hidey
Who hit the ball in the poison ivy?

Point your finger and wag your tongue
Bossin me around till the bell is rung
Well don’t go getting all high and mighty
Look, you’s standing in poison ivy

Walk on the left and stand on the right
Plant watermelon by the full moonlight
Lefty loosey and righty tighty
Don’t go running in the poison ivy

The unfortunately named Toxicondendron radicans is an adaptable vine native to North America. Its ornamental berries are an important source of food for many of our songbirds. The poison ivy deserves our respect, and admiration.

Leaves of three and hairy vine
Send you running for the calamine
Your rash has a rash and your hives are hivey
You been a running in the poison ivy


The Snake Song
© 2006, James D. Clark and Joel Pomerantz

Heaven sakes
Were having snakes
Snakes for breakfast
Snakes for lunch
Snakes for even Sunday brunch
Tastes like chicken with a crunch

When you dine on boa constrictor
Will you find that you’re the victor
For there’s not a sure predictor
Of your fate
Beware that snakes a trickster
You’ll find you’re in a fix, sir
As a culinary mixture On his plate

So you see a simple garter
Gets my gustatory ardor
And you know it fills my larder
With such ease
Some say that I’m a martyr
I should be a little smarter
Just pass the cream of tartar If you please

When you cook an anaconda
Bigger than a Honda
You may find you’re kinda fonda
Of the taste
When cooking anaconda
Don’t ever let him wanda
Hell squeeze and finely grindya Into paste

If you choose to eat a python
Not that I’m implyn
Its a dish that I’m supplyn
Whole or ground
But if you eat a python
You’re sure to leave me cry’n
For there’s not a rhyme for python To be found


The Cougar of Haycock Woods
Stephen R Coffee © 2005

Imagine you’re a cougar
with a cougar attitude
You slink along on padded paws,
you’d like to find some food

The bison and the antelope
The rabbit and the deer
Each one has a name for you
And every name means fear

One day you spy a creature
That you’ve never seen before
It walks upright on two legs
You wonder if there’s more

It wears the skins of animals
And decorates its face
This one could be dangerous
You’d better give it space


You run to the top of the highest ridge
Climb the highest tree
And the cougar bides its time
It watches the people come and go
From on high

A hundred centuries go by
And still you rule the land
Humans sometimes cross your path
But they know where they stand

Iroqouis, Algonquian
The Dogues and Manohoac
Each tribe has a name for you
And each name means respect

Then everything begins to change
Your world slips from your claws
Wave on wave of humans come
With wagons guns and saws

A man named Haycock claims your ridge
And cuts down all the trees
He plows the ground and plants some seeds
To feed his family


You run far away to the mountain west
Climb the highest tree…

From your rocky hiding place
You haunt the people’s dreams
They hear your eerie cry at night
And wonder what it means

Panther, puma, mountain lion
Each name breathed in fear
A cougar’s still a cougar
After all these years

Last week someone thought they saw
A big cat in the woods
But there aren’t any mountain lions
In our neighborhood

Then someone found a tuft of fur
And then there were the tracks
Is it really possible
The cougar’s coming back?


So you run to the top of Haycock Ridge
Climb the highest tree
And the cougar bides its time
It watches the people come and go
From on high

Yeah it’s watching everything we do
From on high

The Coutship of Miss Mouse
© 2006, Jim Johnson

Dear Miss Mouse, will you talk with me?
In the field beneath the hay
And whisper till the farmer comes
To frighten us away

We’ll speak of cheese and mysteries
Secrets we’ll confide
If the cat comes round, my burrow’s near
Together we will hide

Dear Miss Mouse, will you dance with me?
To a bluebird serenade
In the barnyard down, between the weeds
And watch the daylight fade

We’ll dance as if the world was new
And if the owl stays home
Then I’ll court you all night through
Come morning, greet the dawn

I have a fine house
And there’s room for you
My dear Miss Mouse
Make room for me too

Dear Miss Mouse, will you marry me?
In the garden afternoon
We’ll invite the katydid
Perhaps the old raccoon

Later in the evening still
A cricket symphony
If the snake is gone, I’ll steal a kiss
Beside the willow tree


Somebody Lives Down There
Stephen R. Coffee ©1996

See that hole beside the road
The one where all the water flows
Don’t you wonder where it goes
Somebody lives down there

When the rain comes fallin down
Some of it soaks in the ground
But some of it runs underground
Somebody lives down there

Down there
There’s a whole world in motion
Down there
All the way to the ocean
There’s salamanders washing their hair
Turtles in their underwear
Here’s a secret you can share
Somebody lives down there

all the trash that people throw
doesn’t disappear you know
it washes down the sewey hole but
somebody lives down there

A calling card from me and you
Plastic trash and doggie doo
Rolling down the avenue
Somebody lives down there

herons eels and octopus
live downstream from all of us
I wonder what they think of us
Somebody lives down there

So when I’m walking down the street
I tell everyone I meet
Don’t throw litter at your feet ‘cause
Somebody lives down there

Cloud Shape Animals
Stephen R. Coffee ©2002

Noses and toeses
Point to the sky
Backs on the grass
My daughter and I
Watch as all the beasts of heaven
Go floating by
And oh what a memory we’ve made
It’s a cloud shape animal parade

I see a panda, I see a whale
I see a tiger, but he’s got a funny tail
The more I look up the more animals I see
I think clouds have made a monkey out of me

Here comes an elephant
You can tell by his size
Whoops, he turned into a rabbit
Before our very eyes
A hippo dances into view
Then metamorphosize
It seems as though nothing stays the same
Is it me, or is this mother nature’s game

From antelope to zebra
My daughter finds them all
She has amazing powers
For someone three feet tall
My poor eyes struggle
Just to see over the wall
And like a shadow slips into the shade
I look away, the image starts to fade

But what about the tiger that walks upon the earth?
And the dolphin that swims beneath the sea?

And all the great beasts of the field
Will they still be around
When my daughter with her children
Lies here on the ground?
Will she find they’ve slipped into the sky without a sound
Should our imaginations fail
The tiger, the panda and the whale?

Ode to Milkweed
Stephen R. Coffee ©2006

It’s everything a future monarch needs
A case of satisfaction guaranteed
Hear me plead for
It’s like a weekend at the Dairy Queen
A simple ordinary weed it’s not
Have you got
Milk... Weed?

When you’re a butterfly you’ve got it made
Sipping from flowers of every shade
Pink purple yellow red they all taste good
You slurp around the neighborhood
Be careful where you lay your eggs
So your babies don’t have to beg, beg for…

When you’re a caterpillar you can’t cavort
Your legs are many, but they’re short
If you don’t eat vegetables you’re out of luck
‘cause where life puts you, you’re stuck
We picky eaters need love to
Only one kind of food will do

Don’t call us larvae ‘cause it’s not polite
I just might pupate tonight
And when I emerge I’ll spread my wings
And I’ll remember everything
I learned to fly oh yes indeed
Watching the fluffy seeds of the…

Chiggers, Ticks, Spiders and Snakes
Stephen R Coffee ©2002

Is it hot enough for you?
Can’t you set a spell?
Have a tall glass of water from the drinking well
We got fat to chew we got tales to tell
About chiggers, ticks, spiders and snakes
Well you like to go on about the good old days
Helping out Grandma on the old home place
Blackberry juice dripping down your face
Well don’t you think you might have forgot? There were…

Chiggers and ticks
Spiders and snakes
Itching so bad got to throw you in the lake
There’s berries to pick
We got cobbler to bake
Chiggers ticks spiders and snakes

Who wants to eat? Hey that’s the ticket
But if you want food well you go to pick it
Or catch it or shoot or gig it or lick it
Or trick it into jumping in the pan
Well the moccasins they stay down by the water
The spiders they’d just as soon not bother
But a berry picker’s Grade A chigger fodder
And you oughta check for ticks right now. Cause there’s…

Well you’re bound to leave bound to move away
Maybe go to the city find a job that pays
Got to find out if you’ve got what it takes
But now the berries are shining in the morning light
And you know some varmint is just waiting to bite
But you know something good will be cooking tonight

The catfish are jumping. The bullfrogs they just
Set real still like the rock of ages
The worms are getting restless. They’re banging on their cages
They may just have to take a little swim
Y’all quit your fussing and don’t let me catch you
Messing around down in the berry patch
If you cross your grandpa well you’ve met your match
You better scratch that mad spot and get glad. Cause there’s…

Plant a Tree
Linda White ©2001

Plant a tree
Watch it grow
And in time
It will know
How to stand
Straight and high
Branches spread
To the sky
Fed by rain
Warmed by sun
There to shelter
For the future
Plant a tree
Plant a tree

Plant, plant a tree
Watch, watch it grow
Plant, plant a tree
And watch it grow

Once I Caught a Firefly
Stephen R Coffee ©2006

Once I caught a firefly
I put him in a jar
I thought he’d be my flashlight
My little lucky star
But he wouldn’t eat my lettuce
He said I broke his heart
He said Oh, let me fly
Oh, let me shine

Once a firefly caught me
He took me to the park
He left me in a treetop
A swaying in the dark
But I couldn’t eat his ivy
And his mattress was too hard
I said Oh, let me fly
Oh, let me shine.

One night a million fireflies
Were dancing in my yard
That made a silent music
Of flashing yellow arcs
I ran to try and catch one
Got lost among the sparks
I said Oh, let me fly
Oh, left me shine

Drifting Away
Stephen R Coffee ©2005

Through the darkest night
Shines the promise of morning
On the wings of light
Comes a day a-dawning
But now we nestlings, yearlings,
Creatures great and small

Are drifting away
Forgetting all our sorrows
Drifting away
‘cross oceans of tomorrows
Slipping away
Falling away
We’re drifting away

Through the coming years
I will keep the fire burning
You can find me here
Waiting for your returning
May you fly east, fly west
Circle back to me

We’re drifting away
Forgetting all our worries
Drifting away
No longer in a hurry
Slipping away
Falling away
We’re drifting away

Listen to the breeze
Whispering at the window
Shadows of the trees
Dancing in the moonglow
Is it your dream, my dream,
Do we dream the same?

We’re drifting away
Forgetting all our sorrows
Drifting away
We’ll work it out tomorrow
Slipping away
Falling away
We’re drifting away