Вуди Гасри. Bound for glory (engl)


       First Plume Printing, September, 1983

       Copyright ╘ 1943 by E. P. Dutton
       Renewed copyright ╘ 1971 by Marjorie M. Guthrie

       Guthrie, Woody, 1912-1967.
       Bound for glory.
       Reprint. Originally published: New York: E. P. Dutton, 1943.

     Scan, OCR  & proofreadin':  T.A.G.  a.k.a. Copper Kettle,  November
2002, Ekaterinburg
     Орфография  сохранена.  Все  грамматические ошибки - автора. Рисунки  -
     Просьба  не исправлять. Наслаждайтесь - это одна из лучших книг из тех,
что я прочел..

     Woody Guthrie, 1912-1967
     0x08 graphic
     One of Woody Guthrie's last songs, written a year  after he entered the
hospital,  was  titled I  Ain't  Dead  Yet.  The  doctors  told  him he  had
Huntington's chorea, probably inherited, a  progressive  degeneration of the
nervous system for which there was no cure known. For thirteen more years he
hung on,  refusing to give up.  Finally he could no longer walk nor talk nor
focus his eyes nor feed himself, and his great will to  live was  not enough
and his heart stopped beating.
     The news reached me while I was on tour in Japan. All I could  think of
at first was, "Woody will never die, as long as there are people who like to
sing  his songs."  Dozens of  these are known by  guitar pickers across  the
U.S.A., and one of them has become loved by tens of millions of Americans:

     This land is your land, this land is my land,
     From California to the New York island,
     From the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters,
     This land was made for you and me.

     He was a short,  wiry guy with a mop of  curly hair under a cowboy hat,
as I first saw him. He'd stand with his guitar slung  on his  back, spinning
out stones like Will Rogers,  with a  faint,  wry grin. Then he'd hitch  his
guitar around  and  sing the  longest long  outlaw ballad you ever heard, or
some Rabelaisian fantasy he'd concocted the  day before and might never sing
     His songs are deceptively simple. Only after they have become  part  of
your  life do  you  realize  how  great  they are. Any  damn  fool  can  get
complicated.  It  takes genius  to  attain  simplicity.  Woody's  songs  for
children are now sung in many languages:

     Why can't a dish break a hammer?
     Why, oh why, oh why?
     Because a hammer's got a pretty hard head.
     Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.

     His music stayed rooted  in the blues, ballads and breakdowns he'd been
raised on in the Oklahoma Dust  Bowl. Like  Scotland's  Robert Bums and  the
Ukraine's Taras  Shevchenko, Woody was  a national  folk poet Like  them, he
came  of a  small-town background,  knew poverty, had a burning curiosity to
learn. Like them,  his talent brought him to the city, where he was lionized
by the  literati but from whom he declared his independence and remained his
own profane, radical, ornery self.
     This honesty  also  eventually  estranged him  from  his  old  Oklahoma
cronies.  Like  many an Oklahoma  farmer, he had  long taken  a dim  view of
bankers.  In  the desperate early Depression  years he developed a religious
view of Christ  the Great  Revolutionary. In the cities  he threw in his lot
with the labor movement:

     There once was a Union maid.
     She never was afraid
     Of goons and ginks and company finks
     And the deputy sheriff that made the raids.

     He broadened  his feeling to include  the  working  people  of  all the
world, and it may come as a surprise to some readers to know that the author
of This Land Is Your Land was in 1940 a columnist for the small newspaper he
euphemistically called  The  Sabbath  Employee.  It  was The  Sunday Worker,
weekend edition  of the Communist  Daily Worker.  Woody  never argued theory
much, but you can be quite sure that today he would have poured his fiercest
scorn on the criminal fools who sucked America into the Vietnam mess:

     Why do your warships sail on my waters?
     Why do your bombs drop down from my sky?
     Why do you burn my towns and cities?
     I want to know why, yes, I want to know why.

     But Woody always  did more  than condemn. His  song Pastures of  Plenty
described  the life  of the  migrant fruit pickers,  but ends  on a note  of
shining affirmation:

     It's always we've rambled, that river and I.
     All along your green valley I'll work till I die.
     My land I'll defend with my life if it be,
     For my Pastures of Plenty must always be free.

     A  generation of  songwriters  have  learned from  him--Bob Dylan,  Tom
Paxton, Phil Ochs and I guess many more to come.
     As we scatter his ashes over the waters I can hear Woody hollering back
to us, "Take it easy--but take it!"

       The Secretary of the Interior
       April 6, 1966
     Dear Mr. Guthrie,
     It gives  me  great  pleasure  to  present you the  Department  of  the
Interior's Conservation Service Award. In conjunction with this award we are
also naming  a Bonneville  Power Administration substation in your honor. It
will  be known  hereafter as the Woody Guthrie Substation in  recognition of
the fine work you have done to make our  people aware of  their heritage and
the land.
     You sang that "this land belongs to you and me," and  you sang from the
heart  of  America that feels this about its  land. You have articulated, in
your songs,  the sense of identification  that each  citizen  of our country
feels toward this land and  the  wonders which it holds. You brought to your
songs a heart  as big as all  outdoors, and we are  fortunate to  have music
which  expresses the  love and affection  each of us feels,  though  we  are
unable to express it so eloquently, toward this land . .  . "from California
to the New York Island-- from the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters."
     Yours was  not  a  passing  comment on the  beauties  of nature,  but a
living, breathing, singing force in our struggle to use our land and save it
too.  The greatness of this  land  is that people such as you, with creative
talent, worked on it and that you told about that work--told about the power
of the Bonneville Dam and the men  who harnessed it, about the length of the
Lincoln  Highway and  the men  who  laid  it out.  You  have  summarized the
struggles and the deeply held convictions of all those who love our land and
fight to protect it.
     Sincerely yours,
     Stewart L. Udall
     Secretary of the Interior
     Mr. Woodrow W. Guthrie
     Brooklyn State Hospital
     681 Clarkson Avenue
     Brooklyn, New York

     0x08 graphic


     foreword: "So Long, Woody, It's Been Good To Know Ya" by Pete Seeger


     a  tribute to  woody  guthrie  by Stewart  L. Udall, Secretary  of  the
     soldiers in the dust
     empty snuff cans
     i ain't mad at nobody
     new kittens
     mister cyclome
     cain't no gang whip us now
     fire extinguishers
     a fast-running train whistles down
     the junking sack
     boy in search of something
     trouble busting
     off to california
     the house on the hill
     the telegram that never came
     stormy night
     extra selects
     train bound for glory


     Chapter I

     I could see  men of all  colors bouncing along in the  boxcar. We stood
up. We laid down. We  piled around on  each other. We used  each  other  for
pillows. I could  smell  the sour  and bitter  sweat  soaking through my own
khaki shirt and britches, and the  work clothes, overhauls  and saggy, dirty
suits of the other guys. My mouth was full of some kind of gray mineral dust
that was about  an inch deep all over  the floor. We looked  like a  gang of
lost corpses heading back to the boneyard. Hot in the September heat, tired,
mean and mad, cussing and  sweating, raving and preaching. Part of us  waved
our hands in the cloud of dust and  hollered out to  the whole crowd. Others
was too weak, too  sick, too hungry or too drunk even to stand up. The train
was  a highball and had the right of way. Our car was  a rough rider, called
by hoboes a "flat wheeler." I was  riding in the  tail end where I  got more
dust, but less heat. The wheels were clipping it off at sixty miles an hour.
About all I could  hear above the raving and cussing and the roar of the car
was the jingle and clink on the under side every time the wheels went over a
rail joint.
     I guess ten or fifteen of us guys was singing:

     This train don't carry no gamblers,
     Liars, thieves and big-shot ramblers;
     This train is bound for glory,
     This train!

     "We  would  hafta git  th' only  goddam  flat wheeler on th'  whole dam
train!" A heavy-set boy  with a big-city accent was rocking along beside  me
and fishing through his overhauls for his tobacco sack.
     "Beats  walkin'!" I was  setting down  beside  him. "Bother you fer  my
guitar handle ta stick up here in yer face?"
     "Naw. Just long as yuh keep up th' music. Kinda songs ya sing? Juke-box
     "Much oblige, just smoked." I shook my head. "No. I'm 'fraid that there
soap-box music ain't th' kind ta win a war on!"
     "Little too sissy?" He licked  up the side of his cigaret. "Wisecracky,
     "Hell yes." I pulled my guitar  up on my lap and told him, "Gonna  take
somethin' more'n a dam bunch of silly wisecracks ta ever win this war! Gonna
take work!"
     "You don't look like  you ever broke  your  neck at no  work,  bud!" He
snorted some fumes out of his nose and mashed the match  down into the  dust
with his foot. "What th' hell do you know 'bout work?"
     "By God, mister, I work just as hard as  you er  th'  next guy!" I held
the ends of my fingers up in his face. "An` I got th' blisters ta prove it!"
     "How come you ain't drafted?"
     "I never did get by those medical  gents. Doctors and me don't  see eye
to eye."
     A blond-headed man about forty nudged me in the ribs with his elbow  on
my left side and said, "You boys talkin' about a war. I got a feelin' you're
goin" to see a little spell of war right here in just a few minutes."
     "Makes ya think so?" I looked around all over the car.
     "Boy!" He stretched out his feet to prop his  self back up against  the
wall and I noticed  he  was wearing an iron brace on his leg. "They call  me
Cripple Whitey, th' Fight Spotter!"
     "Fight spotter?"
     "Yeah. I  can spot a  fist  fight  on the streets three blocks before I
come to it. I can spot a gang  fight an hour before it breaks out. I tip off
the boys. Then they know how to lay their bets."
     "Ya got a fight spotted now?"
     "I smell  a  big one.  One  hell of a big one.  Be some blood spilt. Be
about ten minutes yet."
     "Hey! Heavy!" I  elbowed  the big boy on my right. "Whitey here says he
smells a big fight cookin'!"
     "Awwww. Don't pay no  'tention to that crippled rat.  He's just full of
paregoric. In Chicago we call 'im P. G. Whitey'! I don't know what they call
him here in Minnesota!"
     "You're  a goddam lyin' rat!"  The cripple got  up and swayed around on
the floor in front of us. "Get up!  I'll cave  your lousy  dam head in! I'll
throw you out inta one of these lakes!"
     "Easy, boy, easy." Heavy put the sole of his shoe in Whitey's belly and
held him back. "I don't wanta hit no cripple!"
     "You guys watch out! Don't  you stumble an' fall on my guitar!" I eased
over  a  little. "Yeah! You're some fight spotter! If  you spot a  fight an'
then it don't  happen just when you said, why, you  just pitch in and  start
one yer self!"
     "I'll crack that box over your dam curly head!" The cripple made a step
toward  me, laughing and smearing cement dust down across  his face. Then he
sneered and told  me, "Goddam right! Hell yes! I'm a  bum! I  gotta right ta
be. Look at  that gone leg.  Withered  away! You're  too dam  low  down  an'
sneakin'  to make an honest livin' by hard work. Sonofabitch. So you go into
a saloon where th' workin' stiffs  hang out, an' you put down your kitty box
an' play for your dam tips!"
     I told him, "Go jump in one of these lakes!"
     "I'm settin' right there!" He pointed  at my guitar in my lap.  "Right,
by God, on top of you!"
     I grabbed my guitar and rolled over three or  four other fellows'  feet
and got  out  of Whitey's  way  just  as  he turned  around and  piled  down
backwards yelling and screaming at  the top of his lungs. I stumbled through
the car trying to keep my balance and hold onto my guitar. I fell up against
an old man slumped with  his  face rubbing up against the  wall. I heard him
groan and say, "This is  th' roughest bastardly  boxcar  that  I  ever swung
     "Why doncha lay down?" I  had to lean up against the wall to  keep from
falling. "How come ya standin' up this a way?"
     "Rupture. It rides a little easier standin' up."
     Five or six  guys dressed like timberjacks brushed past us cussing  and
raving. "I can't stand  this dust no longer!" "Out of our way, men!" "Let us
by! We want to get to the other end of the car!"
     "You  birds won't  be no  better off in th' other  end!" I hollered  at
them. The dust stung the roof of my mouth. "I tried it!"
     A big  husky gent with  high boots and red wool  socks rolled back on a
pair of logger's britches stopped and  looked' me over and asked me, "Who in
the hell are  you? Don't you think I  know how to ride a boxcar, sonny?  I'm
gettin' out of this wind!"
     "Go ahead on, mister, but  I'm tellin'  ya, ya'll burn  up back in that
other end!" I turned again to the old man and asked him,  "Anything I can do
ta help ya?"
     "Guess not, son." I could see by  the look on his face that the rupture
was tying him up in knots. "I was  hopin'  ta ride this  freight on  in home
tonight.  Chicago. Plumber there. But looks like I'll have ta get off at the
next stop an' hit the highway."
     "Purty bad. Well, it ain't a dam bit lonesome in here, is it?"
     "I  counted  sixty-nine  men in  this car."  He  squinted his  eyes and
gritted his teeth  and  doubled over a little farther. "Might be, I  counted
wrong. Missed some of th' ones layin' down or counted  some  of them  twice.
Pretty close ta sixty-nine though."
     "Jest like a car load of sheep headed fer th' packin` house."  I let my
knees bend in the joints  a little  bit to keep the  car from shaking me  to
     A  long  tall Negro boy  walked  up and asked us, "You men know  what's
makin' our noses burn?" He was wearing a pair of work shoes that looked like
they had seen Civil War service. "Eyes, too?"
     "What?" I asked him.
     "Cement dust. This heah cah wuz loaded down wid sack cement!"
     "Shore 'nuff?"
     "I bet I done sucked in three sacks of th'  damn stuff!" He screwed his
face up and mopped across his lips with his hands.
     "I've  breathed in  more'n  that!  Hell,  friend! You're talkin'  to  a
livin', breathin' stretch of concrete highway!"
     "Close as we is jammed an'  packed in heah, we'z all gonna be stuck 'n'
cemented together time we git outta dis hot box."
     "Boys," the  old man  told both of us, "I hope we don't have no trouble
while  I'm in here. If somebody was ta fall  on me or  push me  around, this
rupture, I know, it would kill me."
     "I'll he'p see to  it  dat  nobody  don't  push  nobody  on toppa  you,
     "I'll break 'em of th' habit," I told both of them.
     "What time of day is it? Must be fightin' time?" I looked around at the
     "Mus' be 'roun'  about two or  three o'clock," the Negro boy  told  me,
"jedgin' from that sun shinin' in th' door. Say! What's them two  boys doin'
yondah?" He craned his neck.
     "Pourin` somethin' out of a bottle," I said, "right by that old colored
man's feet. What is it?"
     "Wettin` th' cement dust wid it. Strikin` a match now."
     "Ol` man's 'sleep. They's givin' 'im de hot foot!"
     The  flame rose up  and  burned in a  little spot  about the size of  a
silver dollar.  In a few seconds the old man  clawed at  the  strings of his
bundle where  he was resting his  head. He  kicked his feet in the  dust and
knocked little balls of fire onto  two or three other men playing some poker
along the back wall. They fought the fire off  their clothes and laughed and
bawled the kids and the old man both out.
     "Hey! You old bastard! Quit bustin' up our card game!"
     I saw one of the men draw  back to hit the  old man. Another player was
grinning and  laughing  out to the whole crowd, "That wuz th'  funniest  dam
sight I ever seen!"
     The two boys, both dressed in overhauls, walked back through the crowd,
one holding  out the  half-pint  bottle.  ''Drinka likker,  men? Who  wantsa
drinka  good likker?"  The  boy  with the bottle shoved it up under my  nose
saying, "Here, mister  music man! Take a little  snort!  Then play somethin'
good an' hot!"
     "I been a  needin' a little  drink  ta ease  me on down ta Chicago."  I
wiped my hand across my face and smiled around at everybody. "I  shore thank
ya fer thinkin' 'bout me." I took the  bottle and  smelled of  the gasoline.
Then I sailed the bottle over a dozen men's heads and out of the door.
     "Say, stud! Who daya t'ink youse are? Dat bottle was mine, see?" He was
a boy about twenty-five, wearing a flop hat soaked through with some kind of
dime-store hair oil. He braced his self on his  feet in front of me and said
again, "Dat bottle was mine!"
     "Go git it." I looked him straight in the eye.
     "Whattaya tryin' ta pull?"
     "Well, since yer so  interested, I'll  jest tell ya. See, I might wanta
lay down after while an' git a  little sleep.  I don't wanta wake up with my
feet blistered. 'Cause then,  dam  yer hide, I'd  hafta throw  ya outta this
     "We was gonna use dat gas ta start a fire ta cook wid."
     "Ya mean ta git us all in jail with."
     "I said cook an' I mean cook!"
     Then my colored friend looked  the two  boys over and said,  "You boys,
how long you been goin' 'roun' cookin' people's feet?"
     "Keep outta dis! Stepinfetchit!"
     "You cain't call me dat an' git by wid it, white boy!"
     I put my shoulder against the colored boy and my hand against the white
boy's  arm, and told them,  "Listen, guys! Goddamit! No matter  who's mad at
who, we jest  cain't  start  a fight of  no kind on  this freight! These big
Burlington dicks'll jail th' whole bunch of us!"
     "Yaaa. Skeerd!"
     "You're a dam liar!  I ain't afraid of you ner twenty more like ya! But
do you know what would of happened if these railroad  bulls shook us down ta
look  at our draft  cards, an` found you with that bottle of gasoline on ya?
It'd be th' lockup fer you an' me an' all of th' rest of us!"
     The old  man with the rupture bit  his lips and asked me,  "Son, do you
suppose  you could get one of the men to move up out of the  door and let me
try to get a  little breath of that fresh air? I feel like I've just got  to
get a little air."
     The colored boy held the old man up while I walked over to the door and
tapped a nice healthy-looking boy on the back. "Would you mind  lettin' this
old  man  ride in  yer  place there in  th' door fer a  little while?  Sick.
Rupture trouble."
     "Not at all." The boy  got up and set down back where  the old man  had
been  standing. He acted  friendly  and hollered at us, "I  think it's about
time we took turns ridin'  in the doors.  Let everybody have a whiff of that
fresh air!"
     Almost everybody in  the car rolled over or stood  up and yelled, "Hell
yes!" "Turn about!" "I'm ready." "Too late, boys, I been  dead an' buried in
solid  cement  for  two  hours!"  "Gimme  air!" "Trot out  yer  frash airr!"
Everybody  mumbled and  talked,  and  fifteen or twenty men pushed their way
through the others to stand close to the doors, hoping to be first.
     Heavy walked through a bunch of them saying, "Watch out.  Men, let this
Negro boy through with this old man. He's sick. He's  needin' air. Back up a
little. Make room."
     "Who'n th' hell are you? Tubba lard! Dictater 'round here?" one old boy
popped off.
     Heavy started  for the man,  but he slipped back  in through the crowd.
"All of you men get up! Let a new bunch get  cooled off! Where's the old man
that the boys  put  the hot  foot on a few minutes ago?  There you are! Hey!
Come on! Grab yourself a hunk  of this nice, fresh,  cool climate! Set right
there! Now, who's to be next?"
     A red-eyed vino drunkard took a man  by the  feet  and pulled him along
the deck to the door.  "My buddy. Ain't  said a word since I  loaded  'im in
last night in Duluth. Bummed th' main stem fer two bits, then he scooped his
     A Mexican boy rubbed his head and got up from somewhere along the wall.
He drank half of a quart vinegar jug of water and then sailed the bottle out
the door. Then he set down  and  hung his  feet out  the door and rode along
holding his head in his hands vomiting into the wind. In each door there was
room for five men. The first ten being sick and weakly, we let them ride for
about half an hour.  Then they got up and ten more  men  took their seat for
only fifteen minutes.
     I was  watching  a  bunch of  men hold their fingers to their  lips and
shush each  other to keep quiet. Every one of them haw-hawing and  tittering
under  their breath and pointing to a kid asleep on the floor. He  was about
twenty. Little  white  cap  from  the ten-cent store,  a  pair  of  old blue
washed-out  pants, shirt to  match, a set of dirty heels caked over with the
dust of many railroads, and a run-over pair of low-cut shoes. He was hugging
his bed roll and moving his lips against the wool blanket. I saw him dig his
toes in the dust and kiss the bundle.
     I walked over and put my foot in the middle of his back and said, "Wake
up, stranger. Git ya some fresh air there in th' door!"
     The  men cackled  and rolled  in the dirt.  They rared  back and  forth
slapping  their hands  against their legs. "Ddrrreeeeeeeaaaammming of youuuu
with your eyes so bluue!" One man was grinning like an ape and singing worse
than that.
     "What's th' boy dreamin' about so purty, music man?" another
big guy asked me with his tongue in his cheek and eyes rolling.
     "Leave  th'  boy alone," I told him back.  "What th' hell  do you dream
about, freight trains?"
     0x08 graphic
     I  set  down with  my back against  the wall  looking all  through  the
troubled, tangled, messed-up men.  Traveling the hard way.  Dressed the hard
way. Hitting the long old lonesome go.
     Rougher than a cob. Wilder than a woodchuck. Hotter than a depot stove.
Madder than nine hundred  dollars.  Arguing worse than a tree full of crows.
Messed  up. Mixed-up, screwed-up people. A  crazy boxcar  on a  wild  track.
Headed  sixty  miles an  hour in  a big cloud of poison dust due straight to
     I  saw ten men getting up out of the door and I took my guitar over and
set down and stuck my feet out. The cold air felt  good whipping up my pants
leg. I pulled my shirt open to  cool off across my waist and chest. My Negro
friend took  a seat  by my side and told me,  "I reckon  we's 'bout due some
frash air, looks like."
     "Jest be careful ya don't use it all up," I kidded back at him.
     I held my head in the wind and looked out along the lake shoreline with
my ear cocked listening to the men in the car.
     "You're a lyin' skunk!" one  was saying. "I'm just as hard a worker  as
you are, any old day!"
     "You're a big slobbery loafin' heel!"
     "I'm th' best dadgum blacksmith in Logan County!"
     "You mean you use ta was! You look like a lousy tramp ta me!"
     "I c'n put out more manly labor in a minnit then you kin in a month!"
     "Hay, there, you sot! Quit spittin' on my bed roll!"
     "Yeah! Yeah! I know! I'm  woikin' stiff, too, see? But I ain't  no good
here! Yeah! I woiked thirteen years  in th' same weave room! Breakout  fixer
on th' looms! Poil Harbor comes along. Big  comp'ny gits alla de war orders.
My place is a little place, so what happens? Just like dat! She closes down.
An' I'm  out on de freights. But I  ain't nuttin' when I  hit th'  freights.
Takes it all outta me. Nuttin`. But a lousy, dirty tramp!"
     "If you're such a good weaver, mister, you  can come back  here and sew
up my drawers! Ha! Ha! Ha!"
     "Fancy pants! Whoooeee!"
     "I plowed th' straightest row of corn in Missouri three year ago!"
     "Yaaa!  But, mister  big  shot,  dey don't  grown no corn in  dese here
boxcars, see! Yaaa! Dat's de last bitta woik yez ever done!"
     "No Swede cut much timber as me, Big Swede! I cutta 'nuff of that white
pine ta build up da whole town!"
     "Quiet down! You dam bunch of liars, you! Blowin'  off at yer head what
all you can do! I hear this talk  all up and down these railroads! You had a
good job somewhere once  or  twice in your life, then you go around blabbin'
off  at  your  mouth  for fifteen  years! Tellin' people what all  kinds  of
wonders you done! Look  at you! Look at your clothes! All  of the clothes in
this car ain't worth three dollars! Look at your  hands! Look at your faces!
Drunk! Sick! Hungry!  Dirty! Mean! Onery! I  won't lie like you  rats! An` I
got on the best suit of clothes in this car! Work?  Me work? Hell, no! I see
somethin' I want, an' I just up an' take it!"
     Looking back  over  my  shoulder,  I saw  a  little man, skinny,  puny,
shaking like he had  a machine gun in his hands, raise up on his  knees from
the  other end of  the  car and sail a brown  quart bottle through the  air.
Glass shattered against the  back of  the well-dressed man's  head. Red port
wine rained all  over me and my guitar  and  twenty  other men that tried to
duck. The man in  the  suit of clothes keeled over and hit  the floor like a
dead cow.
     "I got my papers! I got my job already signed up!" The  guy that  slung
the bottle was tromping through the car patting his chest and preaching.  "I
had a brother in Pearl Harbor! I'm on my way right this minute to Chicago to
go to work rollin' steel to lick this Hitler bunch! I hope the gent with the
nice suit on is restin` comfortable! But I ain't apologizing to none of you!
I throwed that bottle! Want to make anythin' out of it?" He shook both fists
and stood there looking at all of us.
     I  wiped my  hands  around over me  where the wine  was spilled. I  saw
everybody  else was picking chips of glass out of their clothes and mumbling
amongst themselves. "Crazy lunatic." "Hadn't ought  ta done that." "Might of
missed 'im, hit one of us."
     The  mumble got loud  and  broke  into  a crack like zigzag  lightning.
Little  bunches of men circled around arguing. A few guys  walked from bunch
to  bunch preaching  over  other fellows'  shoulders.  At  the  side of me a
husky-looking man got up and said, "What all  he says about Pearl Harbor and
all is okay, men, but still he hadn't ought to have thrown that wine bottle.
I'm going to walk back there and kick his rear good and proper just to teach
him a lesson!"
     Then  from somewhere at my back a  half-breed  Indian boy dove  out and
tackled  the husky  man around  the ankles and they  tangled into a knot and
rolled around over the floor, beating,  scratching,  and clawing. Their feet
kicked  other men in the face and other men kicked them back and jumped into
the fight.
     "You're not gonna hurt that little fella!"
     "I'll kill you, Indian!"
     "Hey! Watch who th' hell you're kickin'!"
     Heavy  split through  the car  knocking men out of  his way  hollering,
"Hey! Cut it! Cut!"
     "You  fat pimp,  keep  outta dis!" A dirty-looking, dark-complected man
was pulling a little oily cap down over his eyes and making for Heavy.
     Heavy grabbed him by  the  throat  and busted the  back of his head  up
against the wall about  a dozen  times cussing,  "I'll teach  you  that  you
cain't call no decent man a pimp! You snaky-looking hustler!"
     All down the line it started and  spread, "You said I wouldn't work fer
my livin', huh? I'll bat your eyes out!"
     "Who wuz it yez called da loafer?"
     Shirts and pants ripped and it sounded like everybody was getting their
duds tore off them.
     "I didn't lak ya dam looks frum da very start!"
     Five and then ten other couples dove in.
     "Where's that low-life bastid that called me a bum?"
     Men walked up and down the car pushing  other  men  off  of their feet,
heaving  others  to one side, looking at the few that was still riding along
on the floor.
     "They're goin' an' blowin'!"
     'There ye air, ye foul-mouth cur, you!"
     I saw  six or  eight reaching down  and  grabbing others by their shirt
collars, jerking them to the middle of the floor. Fists sailing  in the  air
so fast I couldn't see which fist was whose.
     "I knowed you was nuthin' but a lousy chiselin' snake when I first seen
yuh climb on this train! Fight! Goddam yuh! Fight!"
     Shoe soles cracked all around over the car and heads banged against the
walls. Dust flew up in the air as if somebody was dumping it in with trucks.
     'I'm a tramp, am I?"
     Men's heads  bobbed around in  the dust like balloons  floating on  the
ocean. Most everybody shut their eyes and gritted their teeth and swung wild
haymakers up  from  the  cement and  men flattened out  on the floor.  Water
bottles flew through the air and I could  see a  few flashes that I knew was
pocketknife  blades. Lots of the men jerked other  men's coats up over their
heads to where they couldn't see nor use their arms, and they fought the air
like windmills,  blind  as  bats.  A  hard fist  knocked a  fellow stumbling
through the dust.  He waved his hands trying  to  keep balanced,  then fell,
spilling  all  kinds of junk and trash out of his  pockets over five or  six
other men  trying to keep  out  of the fight.  For every man who got knocked
down, three more jumped up and roared  through the mob  taking  sidelicks at
any head that popped up.
     "Boy!" My colored friend was shaking his head and looking worried. "You
sho' as hell bettah not git yo' music box mixed up in dis!"
     "I've got  kicked  in th' back about nine times. 'Nother  good poke an'
I'll sail plumb out this door inta  one of them there lakes!" I was fighting
to get  myself braced again. "Here, let's me an' you hook our arms  together
so  we can hold each other in th' dam  car!"  I clamped my hands together in
front of  me holding the  guitar on  my lap. "Be hell of a thing if a feller
was ta git knocked outta this dern boxcar goin' this pace, wouldn't it? Roll
a week. Hey! Look! Tram's slowin' down."
     "Believe she is at that." He squinted his eyes  up and looked down  the
track. "She's slowin' down ta make a switch."
     "I been lookin' fer you, mister music  maker!" I heard somebody talking
behind me. I felt a knee  poking me in my  back,  each  time hard  enough to
scoot me a little more out the  door.  "So  уa  thought I'd forgot about  da
bottla gas, huh? I t'ink I'll jist boot yez offa dis train!"
     I tried to hold onto the colored boy's arm.  "Watch out there, ya silly
dam  fool! What're уa tryin' ta do? Kick me out? I'll git up from  here  an'
frail yore knob! Don't ya kick me again!"
     He put his foot flat up against my shoulder blade and kicked me out the
door. I swung onto the Negro's arms  with both hands, and  the leather strap
of my guitar slipped out of my hold. I was  holding both feet  clear of  the
cinders down on the ground. When  my guitar fell,  I had to  turn loose with
one hand and grab  it by the handle. The Negro had  to hold onto the side of
the door to hold his own self in the car. I seen  him bend backwards as  far
as he could and lay down flat on the floor. This pulled me up within an inch
or so of the edge of the  door again, and I was about to get one arm inside.
I knew  he could pull me back in if  I could make it that far. I looked down
at the ground going past under me. The train was slowing down. The Negro and
me made one more hard pull together to swing me back inside the door.
     "Ноl' on! Boy!" he was grunting.
     "No ya don't!" The  young fellow bent  down into a squatting  position,
heaving at the Negro's shoulders with both hands. "I'll jist kick da pair of
yez out!"
     The colored man yelled and screamed, "Hhhaaaayyy! Hheeelllpp!"
     "Goddam it, donnn't!" I was  about to lose all  of my  strength in  the
left arm locked around the Negro's, which was the only thing between  me and
the six-by-three grave.
     "Dis  is  where  da  both of  yez hits de cinders! Good-bye! An'  go ta
hell!" He stuck his tongue out between his teeth and throwed every ounce  of
his weight against the colored man's shoulders.
     Slowing down, the  train jammed its  air brakes and jarred every man in
the  boxcar off his feet.  Men  stumbled  against  each other,  missed their
licks, clawing and swinging their fists through the  air.  Two dozen hit the
floor  and  knocked hide and hair and all off each other's heads. Blood flew
and spattered everybody. Splinters dug into hands  and faces  of men tromped
on the  floor.  Guys dove  on their  faces on  top  of strangers and grabbed
handfuls  of loose  skin in their fingernails, and twisted  until  the blood
caked  into the dust. They rolled across  the  floor  and busted their heads
against the walls, knocked blind by  the jar, with  lungs  and eyes and ears
and teeth full of  the cement. They  stepped on the  sick ones, ruptured the
brave ones, walked on top of each other with loggers' and railroaders' spike
shoes. I felt myself falling out of the Negro's hand hold.
     Another tap on the brakes jerked a kink in  the train and  knocked  the
boy loose from his hold  on the Negro's shoulders. The  jar sent him jumping
like  a  frog from where he was squatting, over me and  the Negro both,  and
over the  slope of the steep cinder  grading,  rolling, knocking and plowing
cinders  twenty feet to each  side till  like a wild,  rolling truck tire he
chugged into the water of the lake.
     I pulled  the Negro friend over the edge with  me  and  both of us  lit
running  with  our feet on  the cinders. I stumbled and took a little spill,
but the colored boy run and managed to stay on his feet.
     I made  a  run for the door of the  same boxcar again, and  put my hand
down on an iron bolt  and tried to run along with the train and swing myself
up again. Men's hands reached out the door trying to grab me and help me in,
but my guitar was going  wild and I had to drop my hold on the bolt and trot
off to  the edge of the cinders. I was giving  up all  hopes of getting back
in,  when I looked  behind me  and saw my colored partner  gripping onto the
iron ladder on the  end of the car. Holding the ladder with one hand, he was
waving his other one in the air and yelling, "Pass me yo' guitah!"
     As  he went  by me I got  a running  start on the cinders and held  the
guitar up to him. He caught it by the neck and clumb up onto the roof of the
car. I swung the ladder and went over the top just at his heels.
     "Hurry on up heah! You wanta see dat fella in th' lake?"
     He pointed back down along the string of cars picking up speed again.
     "Off at  d' side of dat  little clump of trees there, there! Wadin' out
yondah? See 'im? See! Boy, I bet you dat dip sobered i'm up!"
     Both of us was standing side by side propping  each other up. The  roof
of the car moved and bounced rougher than the floor inside.
     The Negro  friend grinned over at me with the sun in his eyes. He still
hadn't lost his little greasy brown cap and was holding it down  on his head
while the wind made a few grabs at it.
     "Whoooee! Dat  wuz a  close one! Boy,  you set fo' a good fas' ride  on
top? Sho'  ain't  no way  gettin' back down inside dat cah when  this roller
gits ridin' ag'in!"
     I squatted down cross-legged and took hold of the boards on the runwalk
on top of the car.  He laid down with his  hands folded back of his head. We
laughed at the  way our faces looked with the cement all over them, and  our
eyes watering.  The black  coal dust from the  locomotive  made us look like
white ghosts with black eyes. Lips chapped and cracked from the long ride in
the hot sun and hard wind.
     "Smell dat cool aih?"
     "Smells clean. Don't it? Healthy!"
     "Me 'n' you's sho' in fo' a soakin', ourselves!"
     "Makes ya think?"
     "I knows. Boy, up heah in dis lake country, it c'n cloud up an' rain in
two seconds flush!"
     "Ain't no rain cloud I can see!"
     "Funny  thing 'bout  dese Minnesoty  rain clouds. Evah  cloud's a  rain
     "Gonna go hard  on my guitar."  I played  a few  little  notes  without
really  noticing  what I was doing. The air turned off cooler as  we  rolled
along.  A  second later I looked up and saw two kids  crawl from an open-top
car  just behind  us: a tall skinny one  about fifteen, and a little scrawny
runt that couldn't  be over  ten  or eleven. They  had  on Boy Scout looking
clothes. The older one carried a pack on his back, and the little  kid had a
sweater with the sleeves tied together slung around his neck.
     "Hiyez, men?" The tall one saluted and dumped his pack down a couple of
feet from us.
     The little feller hunched down and set picking his  teeth  with a rusty
pocket knife, talking, "Been wid 'er long?"
     I'd  seen a thousand  kids just like them. They seem to come from homes
somewhere that they've run away from. They seem to come to take the place of
the old stiffs that slip on a wet  board, miss a ladder, fail out a door, or
just  dry up and shrivel  away  riding the mean freights; the old souls that
groan somewhere in the darkest corner of a boxcar, moan about a twisted life
half lived and nine tenths wasted,  cry as their souls hit  the highball for
heaven, die and pass out of this world like the echo of a foggy whistle.
     "Evenin',  gentulmen, evenin'."  The Negro  boy raised up to a  sitting
position. "You gents is a little shade yo'ng t' be out siftin'  th' cinders,
ain't you?"
     "C'n we help how old we  are?"  The biggest kid spit away into the wind
without even looking where it would land.
     "Me ole man's  fault. Oughtta been bornt sooner," the little runt piped
     The big one didn't  change the expression on his face,  because if he'd
of looked any tougher, something would have busted. "Pipe down, squoit!"  He
turned toward us. "Yez hittin' fer de slaughter-house er Wall Street?"
     "I don't git ya." I looked over at him.
     "Chi? Er N'Yok?"
     I tried  to keep from busting  out laughing in the kid's  face.  And  I
could see the  colored boy turning his head the other way to hide a snicker.
"Me," I answered the kid, "me, I'm headed fer Wall Street, I reckin." Then I
thought for a minute and asked him, " 'Bouts you boys goin'?"
     "On da fly."
     "Kin ya really beat it out on dat jitter box dere, mister?"
     "I make a rattlin' noise."
     "Sing on toppa dat?"
     "No. Not on top of it. I stand up  and hold it  with this leather strap
around my shoulder, or else  I set  down and  play it in my lap  like  this,
     "Make anyt'ing wid it?"
     "I've  come purty close  ta starvin' a couple of times, boys, but never
faded plumb out of th' picture yet so far."
     "Dat's bad."
     I  come down  on some running notes and threw  in  a few sliding  blues
notes,  and  the kids  stuck  their  ears  almost  down  to the  sound-hole,
     "Say ya hit da boog on dere, don'tcha?"
     "Better boog all yez wants, sarg," the older kid said. "I dunno how dat
box'll sound fulla wadder, but we gon'ta be swimmin' on toppa dis train here
in about a minnit."
     The Negro boy turned  his head around toward the engine and whiffed  of
the damp air. "About one minnit's right!"
     "Will it wreck dat music box?" The biggest kid  stood up and  threw his
pack on his back.  The coal dust had covered his face over  in the days when
this  railroad was first laid, and a few drops of the spit and moisture from
the lower  streets  of a lot  of towns had  been  smeared like brushmarks in
every direction  around his mouth,  nose and  eyes. Water and sweat  had run
down his neck  and dried there in long  strings. He said it  again: "Will de
rain wreck dat rackit box?"
     I  stood up and  looked  ahead  at the  black smoke rolling out  of the
engine. The air was cool and heavy and held the big coil of smoke low to the
ground  along the side of the train. It boiled and turned, mixed in with the
patches of heavy fog, and spun into all kinds of shapes. The  picture in the
weeds  and  bushes alongside the  tracks  was  like ten  thousand  drunkards
rolling in the weeds with the bellyache. When the first three or four splats
of rain hit me in the face I said to the kids, "This  water won't exactly do
this guitar any good!"
     "Take  dis ole sweater," the smallest kid yelled at me, " 'S all I got!
Wrap it aroun' yer music! Help a little!" I blinked the water out of my eyes
and waited a jiffy for him to pull the sweater from around his neck where he
had tied the sleeves. His face  looked like a quick little picture, blackish
tobacco brown colors,  that somebody was wiping from a  window  glass with a
dirty rag.
     "Yeah," I told  him, "much oblige! Keep out  a few drops, won't it?"  I
slipped the sweater over the guitar like a man putting clothes on a dummy in
a window. Then I skint out of my new khaki shirt and  put it on  the guitar,
and buttoned the buttons up, and tied the sleeves around the neck. Everybody
laughed. Then we all squatted down in a little half circle with our backs to
the rain and wind. "I don't give a dam how drippin' I git, boys, but I gotta
keep my meal ticket dry!"
     The wind struck  against our boxcar and the  rain beat itself to pieces
and blew over our  heads like  a spray from a fire hose shooting sixty miles
an hour. Every drop that blew against my skin stung and burned.
     The colored  rider  was laughing and saying, "Man!  Man! When th'  good
Lord was workin' makin' Minnesoty, He couldn'  make up  His mind whethah  ta
make anothah ocean or some mo' land, so He just got 'bout half done an' then
He  quit an' went  home!  Wowie!" He  ducked  his head and shook it and kept
laughing, and  at  the  same time,  almost without me noticing  what  he was
doing,  he had slipped his blue work  shirt off  and jammed  it over into my
hands."One mo' shirt might keep yo' meal ticket a little bettah!"
     "Don't you need a shirt to keep dry?"
     I don't know why I asked him that. I was already dressing the guitar up
in the shirt. He  squared his  shoulders back  into the  wind and rubbed the
palms  of his hands  across his  chest  and  shoulders,  still laughing  and
talking, "You  think  dat  little  ole  two-bit shirt's gonna keep out  this
     When  I looked  back around  at  my guitar on  my lap, I seen one  more
little filthy shirt piled up on top of it.  I don't know  exactly how I felt
when  my hands  come  down and touched this  shirt.  I looked  around at the
little  tough guys and saw them humped  up with  their naked backs splitting
the wind and the rain glancing  six feet in  the air off their  shoulders. I
didn't say a  word. The little kid pooched his lips  out  so the water would
run down into his mouth  like a trough, and every little bit he'd  save up a
mouthful and spit it out in a long thin spray between his teeth. When he saw
that I  was keeping my eyes nailed on him, he spit the last of his rainwater
out and said, "I ain't t'oisty."
     'I'll wrap this  one  around  the handle an' the strings  will keep dry
that way. If they get  wet, you know, they rust out." I wound the last shirt
around and around  the neck of  the guitar handle. Then I  pulled the guitar
over to where  I was laying down. I tied the leather strap around a plank in
the boardwalk,  ducked my head down  behind the guitar and tapped  the runty
kid on the shoulder.
     "Hey, squirt!"
     "Whaddaya want?"
     "Not  much  of  a windbreak,  but  it  at least knocks a little  of th'
blister out of that  rain! Roll yer head over here an'  keep it  ducked down
behind this music box!"
     "Yeeehh." He  flipped over like a little frog  and smiled all  over his
face and said, "Music's good fer somethin', ain't it?"
     Both of us stretched out full length.  I was laying on my  back looking
straight up into the sky all gray  and tormented and blowing with low clouds
that whined when they got sucked under the wheels. The wind whistled funeral
songs for the railroad riders. Lightning struck and crackled in the air  and
sparks  of electricity  done little dances  for  us  on the  iron beams  and
fixtures. The  flash of the lightning  knocked the clouds full of holes  and
the rain hit down on us harder than before. "On th'  desert, I use this here
guitar fer a sun shade! Now I'm usin' the' dam thing fer a umbreller!"
     '"Pink I  could eva' play one uv  dem?" The little kid  was shaking and
trembling all over, and I could hear his lips and  nose blow  the rain away,
and his teeth chatter like a jack-hammer. He scooted his body closer  to me,
and I  laid an arm down so he could rest his head. I asked  him, "How's that
fer a pillow?"
     "Dat's betta." He  trembled all over  and moved a  time or two. Then he
got still and I didn't hear him say anything else. Both of us were soaked to
the skin a hundred times. The wind and the  rain was running  a race  to see
which  could whip us the hardest. I felt the roof of the car  pounding me in
the back of the head. I could stand a little of it,  but not long at a time.
The guitar hit against the raindrops and sounded like a nest of machine guns
spitting out lead.
     The force  of the  wind  pushed the sound box  against the tops of  our
heads, and the car  jerked and buckled through the clouds like a coffin over
a cliff.
     I looked at  the runt's head resting on my  arm, and thought to myself,
"Yeah, that's a little better."
     My own  head ached and pained inside. My brain  felt like a crazy cloud
of  grasshoppers  jumping over  one another  across  a field. I held my neck
stiff  so my  head was  about two inches clear  of the roof; but that didn't
work. I got cold and cramped and a dozen kinks tied my whole body in a knot.
The only way I  could rest was to let  my head and neck go limp;  and when I
did this, the jolt of the roof pounded the back of  my head. The cloudbursts
got madder and splashed through all of the lakes, laughing and singing,  and
then a wail in the wind would get a low start and cry in the timber like the
cry for freedom of a conquered people.
     Through  the roof, down inside  the  car,  I heard  the voices  of  the
sixty-six hoboes. There had been sixty-nine, the old man said, if he counted
right. One threw his own self into the lake. He pushed two more out the door
with him, but they lit easy and caught onto the  ladder again. Then the  two
little  windburnt, sunbaked brats had mounted  the top  of our car  and were
caught in  the cloudburst like drowned rats. Men fighting against men. Color
against color.  Kin against kin.  Race pushing  against race. And all of  us
battling against the wind and  the rain  and that bright crackling lightning
that booms  and  zooms, that bathes his  eyes in the  white  sky, wrestles a
river to a standstill, and spends the night drunk in a whorehouse.
     What's that hitting me  on the  back  of the h