Fragments of this American shanty are given in several collections. It has been described for use at the pumps or capstans and even when raising halyards. "In other words," wrote Stan Hugill, "it appears to have been used for every shipboard job with perhaps the exception of tacks and sheets, and hand-over-hand!"
Hugill elaborated that the verses he knew were "mainly obscene and much the same as those used in the bawdy version of A-rovin'". Some versions also share similarities with Abel Brown the Sailor, but the extent of the Huckleberry adventure varies considerably from singer to singer. The chorus traditionally invokes the nonsense words (or potential mondegreens) Ranzo and Hilo (both of which appear in other shanties).
Early collectors pointed to a Down East (eastern coastal US/Canada, e.g. Maine) origin for this tune, especially due to the words "beau" and "feller". On the other hand, Mudcat user Gibb Sahib has done an admirable job finding additional sources and arguments for a Southern US birthplace, including 1908 recordings in Georgia.