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Friday, July 11, 2008

Friday PSTSS: "A Month of Sundays"

Having just written something (an, as usual, much-too-lengthy something) on farming and food, here's short, oft-overlooked, beautiful pop creation by Don Henley off his 1984 album, Building the Perfect Beast. People know the big hits off this record, now nearly 25 years old--"The Boys of Summer," "All She Wants to Do is Dance," "Sunset Grill"--but I like best of all this musically slight, haunting, minor-key, stream-of-consciousness number, the only tune on the album Henley wrote entirely by himself. I'm a lot wiser than when I first heard to the ways the struggles of farmers and others close to the land can be turned into stereotypical liberal agitprop, but amid all the tropes Henley wheels out for their usual sad effect, the song's lyrics still say something worth hearing: something about growing food and growing children, about banks and machines and wars, about transformations social and economic, and most of all about the passing of seasons--how it always happens, and how it always hurts.

I used to work for Harvester;
I used to use my hands.
I used to make the tractors and the combines
that plowed and harvested this great land.

Now I see my handiwork on the block
everywhere I turn.
And I see the clouds cross the weathered faces
and I watch the harvest burn.

I quit the plant in '57;
had some time for farmin' then.
Banks back then was lendin' money--
the banker was the farmer's friend.

And I've seen dog days and dusty days;
late spring snow and early fall sleet;
I've held the leather reins in my hands
and I've felt the soft ground under my feet.

Between the hot, dry weather and the taxes and the Cold War
it's been hard to make ends meet.
But I always put the clothes on our backs;
I always put the shoes on our feet.

My grandson, he comes home from college;
he says, "We get the government we deserve."
My son-in-law just shakes his head and says,
"That little punk, he never had to serve."

And I sit here in the shadow of the suburbia
and look out across these empty fields.
I sit here in earshot of the bypass and all night
I listen to the rushin' of the wheels.

The big boys, they all got computers:
got incorporated, too.
Me, I just know how to raise things;
that was all I ever knew.

Now, it all comes down to numbers;
now I'm glad that I have quit.
Folks these days just don't do nothin'
simply for the love of it.

I went into town of the Fourth of July.
Watched 'em parade past the Union Jack;
watched 'em break out the brass and beat on the drum--
one step forward and two steps back.

And I saw a sign on Easy Street,
it said "Be Prepared to Stop.
Pray for the Independent Little Man."
But I don't see next year's crop.

And I sit here on the back porch in the twilight
and I hear the crickets hum.
I sit and watch the lightning in the distance
but the showers never come.

I sit here and listen to the wind blow;
I sit here and rub my hands.
I sit here and listen to the clock strike,
and I wonder when I'll see my companion again.

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