CHILDISH THINGS

  James McMurtry 2005
 Compadre Records
 
   

 1   See the Elephant  

7   Memorial Day

 2   Childish Things

8   Six Year Drought

 3   We Can't Make it Here

 Old Part of Town
 4   Slew Foot 10 Charlemagne's Home Town
 5   Bad Enough 11 Pocatello
  Restless 12 Holiday
 
Thanks Dawn!


1


See the Elephant


 
I saw Pete and Johnny too
Dressed up in their Sunday suits
Getting themselves all up to go
Down to Richmond to the traveling show

I fixed the gate like you told me to
Done my chores like I always do
And I won’t tell mama you let me go
Down to Richmond to the traveling show

Please Papa can I go
Down to Richmond to the traveling show
Please Papa don’t you say I can’t
I just want to see the elephant

I’ll borrow the truck from uncle Phil
You know I can drive it well
He won’t need it now that the hay’s all in
Just let me go and see the elephant

Sister she can’t go with me
This is not for her to see
Little brother you’ll get your chance
To go down and see the elephant

Little brother you’ll get your chance
To go down and see the elephant

They’re looking for a few good men
Could be war by summer’s end
Sure would hate it if I went
And never got to see the elephant

I saw Pete and Johnny too
Dressed up in their Navy Blues
Gettin’ themselves all up to go
Down to Richmond to the traveling show


 
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
       

2
Childish Things


Aunt Clara kept her Bible Right next to the phone in case she needed a quote
While she talked to someone
In my memory she smiles While the blessing is said
And visions of freeze tag dance in my head
She says I’ll grow up bigIf I eat all my roast
I’ll still believe in heaven
But I won’t believe in ghosts anymore

I’ll put away childish things


Every other weekend at the age of thirteen
With my fishing pole and my Field and Stream
Ridin’ back home on the Trailways bus
I looked out the window
‘Til I saw too much
And I called my parents by their own first names
I played in the alley
But I didn’t play the game anymore

I put away childish things

The wolves howl all night long
They won’t stop and they won’t go home
Beneath my window they run
Probably it’ll be alright
If I keep it all locked up tight And wait ‘til daylight comes

Now my boy goes like a house on fire
He’ll never burn out and he’ll never retire
And I remember when I used to think like that
When I was young and the world was flat
But I’m forty some years old now and man I don’t care
All I want now is just a comfortable chair
And to sell all my stock
And live on the coast
I don’t believe in heavenBut I still believe in ghosts.

 

 
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
       
3


We Can’t Make It Here


There’s a Vietnam Vet with a cardboard sign
Sitting there by the left turn line
Flag on his wheelchair flapping in the breeze
One leg missing and both hands free
No one’s paying much mind to him
The V.A. budget’s just stretched so thin
And now there’s more coming back from the Mideast war
We can’t make it here anymore



That big ol’ building was the textile mill that fed our kids and it paid our bills
But they turned us out and they closed the doors
We can’t make it here anymore


See those pallets piled up on the loading dock
They’re just gonna sit there ‘til they rot
‘Cause there’s nothing to ship, nothing to pack
Just busted concrete and rusted tracks
Empty storefronts around the square
There’s a needle in the gutter and glass everywhere
You don’t come down here unless you’re looking to score
We can’t make it here anymore

The bar’s still open but man it’s slow
The tip jar’s light and the register’s low
The bartender don’t have much to say
The regular crowd gets thinner each day
Some have maxed out all their credit cards
Some are working two jobs and living in cars
Minimum wage won’t pay for a roof, won’t pay for a drink
If you gotta have proof just try it yourself Mr. CEO
See how far $5.15 an hour will go
Take a part time job at one your stores
Bet you can’t make it here anymore

There’s a high school girl with a bourgeois dream
Just like the pictures in the magazine
She found on the floor of the laundromatA woman with kids can forget all that
If she comes up pregnant what’ll she do
Forget the career, forget about school
Can she live on faith? Live on hope?
High on Jesus or hooked on dope
When it’s way too late to just say no
You can’t make it here anymore

Now I’m stocking shirts in the Wal-Mart store
Just like the ones we made before
‘ Cept this one came from Singapore
I guess we can’t make it here anymore

Should I hate a people for the shade of their skin
Or the shape of their eyes or the shape I’m in
Should I hate ‘em for having our jobs today
No I hate the men sent the jobs away
I can see them all now, they haunt my dreams
All lily white and squeaky clean
They’ve never known want, they’ll never know need
Their shit don’t stink and their kids won’t bleed
Their kids won’t bleed in their damn little war
And we can’t make it here anymore

Will work for food will die for oil
Will kill for power and to us the spoils
The billionaires get to pay less tax
The working poor get to fall through the cracks
So let ‘em eat jellybeans let ‘em eat cake
Let ‘em eat shit, whatever it takes
They can join the Air Force, or join the Corps
If they can’t make it here anymore

So that’s how it is, that’s what we got
If the president wants to admit it or not
You can read it in the paper, read it on the wall
Hear it on the wind if you’re listening at all
Get out of that limo, look us in the eye
Call us on the cell phone tell us all why

In Dayton Ohio or Portland Maine
Or a cotton gin out on the great high plains
That’s done closed down along with the school
And the hospital and the swimming pool
Dust devils dance in the noonday heat
There’s rats in the alley and trash in the street
Gang graffiti on a boxcar door
We can’t make it here anymore


 
 
   
   
   
   
   
   
       
4


Slew Foot

(Howard Hausey, James C. Webb)


Coming down the mountain boys what do I see
Bear tracks bear tracks coming after me
Better get your rifle before it’s too late
The bear’s got a pig and he’s headed for the gate

He’s big around the middle and he’s broad across the rump
Making ninety miles an hour taking thirty feet a jump
He ain’t never been caught he ain’t never been treed
Some folks say he looks a lot like me


I took all my money and I bought me some bees
They started making honey way up in the treesI cut down the tree but my honey’s all gone
Old Slew Foot done made himself at home

The winter time’s coming and it’s twenty below
The river’s froze over, where can he go
We’ll chase him up the holler, run him in the well
And shoot him in the bottom just to listen to him yell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 5
Bad Enough

 

Where have been? I don’t want to know
Probably some place I wouldn’t want to go
Who were you with? What did you see?
Whatcha talk about? Whatcha say about me?

Where have you been? I won’t let it drop
What were you thinking? When you gonna stop?
What were you thinking? When you gonna learn?
When you gonna give anything in return?
What were you thinking? It better be good
When you gonna act like you know you should?
When you gonna act like you know you should?
When you gonna do like you said you would?

Well it goes all night like a broken record
You know it wouldn’t take all that much To bring me down from all that pressure I guess you just know when it’s bad enough

Well it goes all night like a broken record
We come right back to the same old stuff
We don’t back down and it don’t get better I guess you just now when it’s bad enough

The car’s on the curb, the key’s in the lock
Houses all dark up and down the block
Swaying on the sidewalk, sneaking through the door
Waitin’ for the sound of your shoes on the floor
Waiting for the gallows, waiting for the noose
Waiting for the sound of your combat boots
‘Cause the order’s come down to launch the attach
Scheduled to commence the minute I get back
 
 
   
   
   
   
   
   
       
6
Restless
She gets a little restless in the spring
She might follow the lines you sing
Bullshit though they are
‘Cause sometimes that’s just the thing
If delivered with panache and a certain graceFingertips on satin lace
Cutting cards and quoting Proust
Whatever turns her wild mare loose

She gets a little restless now and then
She feels the changes in the wind
Way down deep where I can’t see
She can get clean away from me
With a side step and subtle shift
And the turning of a key
Locks me out and lets me drift
She’ll come back if I let her be
She’ll come back if I let her be

And I’m just a little down tonight
I’m just a little down
A little messed up is all I’m saying
Just a little down tonightI’m just a little down
But I believe I’ll make it
Believe I’ll make it

She gets a little restless I can tell
When she goes back up inside her shell
And the conversation slows
To a stop and I might as well
Be out alone on the highway
Way off in the Utah sage
Waving to the railroad crew
That’s when I get restless too

She gets a little restless in the spring
She might follow the lines you sing
Bullshit though they are
Sometimes that’s just the thing

 

 
 
   
   
   
   
   
   
         

 

7
Memorial Day


 
Mama keeps tryin’ to get the game on the radioDaddy’s gotta know the score
There’s a big yellow thing on a flat bed trailer
Wonder what that thing’s forWe got towels rolled up in the back seat window
Keeping us out of the sunJust a hundred more miles and we’ll be at grandma’s
Sure is gonna be fun
Maybe she’ll take us fishin’
Maybe she’ll bake us a pieRemember like she did that one time
Back before grandpa died

It’s Memorial Day in America
Everybody’s on the road
Let’s remember our fallen heroes
Y’all be sure and drive slow

Ninety eight degrees in the shade of the tool shed
Can’t go back in the house
They’re all in the kitchen yellin’ ‘bout something
Don’t know what it’s about
Joey ‘n Mary said not to worry
Said it’s just the same old figh
tHappens whenever they all get together
Everything’s really alright

It’s Memorial Day in America
This is how it’s supposed to be
Let’s remember our fallen heroes In the land of the free


Daddy’s in the big chair sippin’ on a cold beer
Grandma’s cuttin’ a switch
She overheard Mary cussin’ her brother
Called him a son of a bitch
She got a good green limb off a sweet gum sapling
Man that’s bound to sting

But Mary don’t cry just stands there and takes it
Doesn’t seem to feel a thing
No Mary don’t cry, you know she’s a big girl
Wonder what made her so mad
She takes those licks looking in through the den door
Staring right straight at her dad

There’s a big yellow thing on a flat bed trailer
Daddy nearly hit that bird
They’re both in the front seat
Starin’ right straight ahead
Neither one saying a word
The sun’s going down in the rear view mirror
Gonna be driving all night
Wonder if the neighbor’s fed the canary
Wonder if the cat’s alright


 
 
   
   
   
   
   
   
       


9
Old Part of Town

(Peter Case)

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Last night I wandered punch drunk & enraptured
Out on the beltway where the business is done
As I lay on the asphalt ‘neath the glow of light boxesI heard somebody say “bet I know where he’s from”

When the town is so quiet you can hear the bell tower tickin’
Out on the beltway they’re sellin’ the chicken
Where the tempers are short & the hours are longDarlin’, won’t you meet me in the old part of town?

Old part of town You can still hear the footsteps of the old mystery
Old part of town You can still feel the heartbeat of our whole history When the heat on the street is wearin’ you down
Darlin’, won’t you meet me in the old part of town?


Saw two red high heel shoes split up around midnight
They said they’d meet later by the fountain at Third
Four tires came screeching from different directions& picked ‘em both up ‘fore they stepped off the curb

‘Cause in the hours past midnight they stop keeping tabs
The carnival quarters are vacant & sad
But darlin’ I think there’s still a time to be hadIn the old part of town where your mom met your dad
Darlin’ won’t you meet me in the old part of town?

Saw a newspaper with big headlines
That seemed to stare right through ya
Jump off a boxcar and blow into town
Pick a fight with two beer cans and a torn candy wrapper
The broom sweeping up the alley swore she never heard a sound

Meanwhile back on the beltway the cars are waiting in lines
Stars are blocked out by the shine of the signs
You might want to say “It’s a sign of the times”
But darlin’ won’t you meet me in the old part of town
Darlin’, won’t you meet me in the old part of town


 
 
   
   
   
   
   
   
     

8


Six Year Drought

I guess you had your reasons
For the way you used to be
Don’t why I couldn’t please you
You just never had much faith in me
There’s fine dust in the tire ruts now
Along the old feed road
They’re workin’ on a six year drought
Just so you know

I can pull my weight I can hold my own
I can sling that blade all summer long
‘Til the thistles fall And the pasture’s clear
And the work’s all done for another year
I can hold my own


The world was like a distant storm
I could feel it on the breeze
But it made so little difference here
Just a whisper in the trees
Mending fence for room and board
Was mostly all I’d done
For I was still a prisoner here
In 1961

The sucker rod on the windmill creaks
Now and then you hear a car
There’s thunderheads across the southern sky
But they won’t get this far
There’s red ants by the graveyard gate
They’re nearly all that moves 
And they carry on despite this heat
I bet you’d tell me what that proves
There’s fine dust in the tire ruts now
The creeks no longer run
But I am just a visitor here
The drought won’t hurt me none

 
 
   
   
   
   
   
   
       


10
Charlemagne’s Home Town


I’ve got it all to myself now
Crack the window just a hair
Dark and close, the way I like it
Black tobacco chokes the air
I keep to myself, I lack the language
I measure out my life with coffee grounds
The trees are the color of ashes
In Charlemagne’s home town

I said I didn’t fear the distance
As if I’d ever been that tough
I can hear your voice across the water
But that’s nowhere near enough

Won’t you fly across that ocean
Take a train on down
Because the night’s growing lonesome
In Charlemagne’s home town


The fortune teller told me nothing
That I wouldn’t have found out on my own
She read my palm and she took my money
She looked at me with eyes of stone

She said the odds are long and stacked against us
Still we try because we must
To keep from leaving our senses
Long forgotten in the dust

Like the bones of some saint
Beneath a church floor
Who must have died for lack of light
The color snapshots I sent you
All came out in black and white

There’s a lonely child on a snow white pony
On a carousel in the market place
He sits on that horse and he looks right through me
A shadow falls across his face
What will I do when my glass is empty
What will I do when it all comes down
What will I do when it comes to nothing
In Charlemagne’s home town


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11
Pocatello


 

Picked you up in Pocatello
In some truck stop parking lot
Out beside that burned up Volvo
With the smoking engine shot
And you just left that Volvo lying
You never gave it half a thought
Faithless, fine, and gone

You said you came from Randolph
Up across the Wasatch Range
You kept talking clear to Salt Lake
Liked to drove us all insane
But now I’m flying down
That four lane highway screaming out your name
Faithless, fine, and gone

Batten down the hatches I can hear my grandma say
Boy you like to play with matches
Gonna burn yourself someday


I’m gonna haul on back to Denver
Just as soon as I get through
And I’m burnt down to smoldering embers
But I guess I can make do
And now I hear some guy that used to
Manage some band I never heard of
Is trying to manage you
Faithless, fine, and gone

 

 
 
   
   
   
   
   
   
         
 

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12


Holiday

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The in-laws are waiting the games have begun
The cell phone keeps ringing “don’t answer it hon”
The whole thing’s arranged just to aggravate Dad
And it’s amateur day on the old super slab
The kids are strapped down like a half load of pipe
All safe in their car seats they fuss and they gripe
Well you can’t hardly blame ‘em it must be a bitchCounting the crosses off down in the ditch
This one’s got flowers, this one’s got a wreath
This one’s got a name painted down underneath
Was the road all iced up, were they going too fast
Here’s five in a circle left from the last holiday
Holiday

There’s a three-trailer rig just a throwin’ up spray
Not legal to run on this kind of a day
But god damn the smokies and the four wheelers too
Stay offa my bumpers or the same goes for you
There’ll be none for him
He that wants it the most
As he hauls it on out to the Oregon coast
No turkey no gravy no Zinfandel wine
You just stay over right and we’ll get along fine
He’s missing the football, missing the fun
He’d play with the grandkids but he’s off on a run
And some hat’s on the radio singing his song
But it don’t make a damn
He’s in for a long holiday
Holiday

Now granny she’s yelling
She’s ready to eat
She’s havin’ conniptions
‘Cause they won’t take their seats
But she’s got ‘em all gathered now under one roof
With her camcorder loaded
She’s gonna get proof
But do you have to wear that
Well I just don’t see why
Please pass the potatoesAw eat shit and die
Did you hear about Ellen, she’s leaving, you know
How ‘bout those Packers, think it’ll snow?
And the minute it’s over they’ll scatter like quail
Off down the freeway in the teeth of a gale
Silent and shattered And numb to the core
They count themselves lucky
They got through one more holiday
Holiday

The highway patrolman
He stands in the rain
He just lets it run down to soften the stain
Of the blood on his pant leg
From working that wreck
And he won’t forget it
In time for the next holiday

Departing Chicago at 9:52
In clean desert camo all baggy and loose
Sits an Iowa Guardsman alone by the gate
The place sure looked different, in 1968

When he traveled with mom, first time on a plane
To visit some kin, he’s forgotten their names
But he remembers the soldiers, still in their teensIn their spit polished boots and their pressed army greens
With the creases so sharp, and their faces so smooth
But their eyes looked so heavy, he wondered   how they could move
Now he’s got that same look, like his insides are black
He’s in his mid forties and he has to go backAnd he can’t even smoke while he waits for his plane
The uniform’s different, but the mission remains
To do like they tell you, don’t make a fuss
Why’s not an issue, so don’t think too much
You just do what you have to, shut up and drive
If you come apart later, well at least you’re alive
You can get you some help, you can deal with it then
And life will be better, ‘til it happens again

‘Cause there’s something inside us that won’t let us beIn stalks through our days ‘til it’s too dark to see 
And it’s damn near as deadly as Texans on ice
Lord don’t they beat all
Y’all have a nice holiday


 

 
 
   
   
   
   
   
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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