This time of year when leaves rustle in the wind and tumble down from the trees, when shadows, cast from the glimmer of Autumn sunshine, dance in odd ways. The season is alive with change. Animals spook and scurry! Strange sounds emit from the forest….
In the spirit of ghosties and ghoulies and all other spooky things, I offer the lyrics from an old Tommy Faile song. The country singer, Red Sovine made the tune popular long ago and you can hear it here. On his “Nighthawks at the Diner” album, Tom Waits delivers a favorite version of the ballad in his sultry narrative style, a rambling reflective monologue…as only Tom Waits can deliver. It is unfortunate that I am not able to locate and link to a live performance by Waits.
For someone who has done a fair amount of hitch-hiking this song always strikes a nerve. The lyrics, like, “that cold lonely crossroad”, impart some of that sense of being out on the road –sometimes facing circumstances of great inconvenience or even tragedy, yet finding compassion and kindness in odd or mysterious places. Many people get a chill when they hear this old song. I know I do!
The lyrics are also filled with idioms, collocations and interesting slang that give greater meaning to the song in the context of culture.
“Big Joe And Phantom 309”
a few years back tryin’ to make me a buck,
and I got tired of just roamin’ and bummin’
around, so I started thumbin’ my way
back to my old hometown.
You know, I made quite a few miles
in the first couple of days, and I
figured I’d be home in a week if my
luck held out this way,
but you know it was the third night.
I got stranded.
the lights of an old semi topped the hill.
You should of seen me smile when I
heard them air brakes come on, and
I climbed up in that cab where I
knew it’d be warm.
I’d have to say he must of weighed 210
the way he stuck out a big hand and
said with a grin “Big Joe’s the name
and this here rig’s called Phantom 309”.
Well, I asked him why he called his rig such a name,
and said “Why son don’t you know this here
rig’ll be puttin’ ’em all to shame?
that’s seen nothin’ but the taillights of Big Joe and Phantom 309″!
and I told my stories and Joe told his and
I smoked up all his Viceroys as we rolled along
he pushed her ahead with 10 forward gears.
Man that dashboard was lit-up like the old
Madam La Rue pinball.
lights of a truck stop that rolled into sight.
Joe turned to me and said “I’m sorry son but I’m afraid this is just as far as you go.
You see I kinda gotta be makin’ a turn just up the road a piece,”
on Big Joe”
and when Joe and his rig pulled off into
clean outa sight.
“Big Joe’s settin’ this dude up” but
it got so deathly quiet in that
place, you could of heard a pin drop.
tell you what happened just 10 years ago,
Out there at that cold lonely crossroads
where you flagged Joe down.
and they were just comin’ from school
and they were right in the middle when
Joe topped the hill, and could
have been slaughtered except
Joe turned his wheels, and
he jacknifed, and went
into a skid.
yea, every now and then,
just like you, some hitchhiker will be comin’ by”…
“So, here son,” he said to me,