Monday, October 15, 2018

My Father Sings . . . The Working Man Blues

My dad would sing with a laugh in his eyes and a teasing voice, "It's a big job just gettin' by with four kids . . . " (five kids, six kids, seven . . . ) and after that long day working so he could "buy his kids a brand new pair of shoes," it was always "drink a little root beer, sing a little bit of these workin' man blues." (In my dad's songs, people drank a lot of root beer,  A&W probably, when they couldn't get Hires.)

Sometimes I'd find myself humming this song when I clicked the heels of my own new pair of shoes together and then jumped as high as I could to see if they worked right. "Working right" was, after all,  the highest praise possible.

The truth is, I think my dad loved to work -- I believe he still does.  He would get twitchy when we were on vacations that went on too long or required "bummin' around." My sharpest memories of him are his evident pride and pleasure taking us around the shop, showing us how his designs worked in the real world -- like the eviscerator that ground a red rag into pink water when he was designing sewage pumps, or when we'd visit his office after hours and he'd roll out intricate blueprints or show how he set up his desk -- always tidy and efficient in the extreme -- for the next day's work. On his days off, he never sat around,  instead I'd bring him out a glass of water, his face grimed with oil, sliding out from under one of the many cars he rebuilt through the years of my growing up, on one of those creeper trolleys.  He'd spend his Saturdays with sweat dripping off his sunburned face and a grin of effort while banging at this or lifting that into place,  stomping a shovel blade deep into garden soil.  His "retirement" has been spent rebuilding (rewiring, tiling, framing, drilling, sanding, drilling, painting) his childhood home, followed by early mornings in his home office with plaques of the patents he holds on the walls around him, drafting designs of oil pumps for a Scottish oil company as a consultant,  alternating with plowing a garden, planting an orchard, laying pipes for irrigation and hauling hay.

Because as long as his two hands are fit to use . . . he'll be working.


* * *



It's a big job just gettin' by with nine kids and a wife.
I been a workin' man dang near all my life.
But I keep on working long as my two hands are fit to use.
I'll drink my beer in a tavern,
Sing a little bit of these working man blues.

I keep my nose on the grindstone. I work hard every day.
Might get a little tired on the weekend, after I draw my pay
But I'll go back workin, come Monday morning I'm right back with the crew.
I'll drink a little beer that evening,
Sing a little bit of these working man blues.

Sometimes I think about leaving, do a little bummin around
Throw my bills out the window, catch a train to another town
But I go back working. I gotta buy my kids a brand new pair of shoes.
Yeah drink a little beer that evening,
Sing a little bit of these working man blues.

Hey hey, the working man, the working man like me
He ain't never been on welfare, that's one place he won't be.
He'll be working, long as his two hands are fit to use.
He'll drink a little beer that evening,
Sing a little bit of these working man blues

Songwriter - Merle Haggard

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