The Great Dam Disaster a Ballad

From: The Works

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162 THE GREAT DAM DISASTER A BALLAD to Kathy Have you heard of the great dam disaster When the flood control project gave way? They were searchin’ for seven days after. Then the search party called it a day. Then the Sheriff drove up in his flivver. Then the widow collapsed and despaired, While a couple of miles down the river An attractive young neighbor declared: “There’s a somethin’ keeps bumpin’ them willers. There’s a somethin’ humped up in the brush. You be brave an’ hang on to your pillers. Sleep along little darlins an’ hush. I’ll be back when I’ve doubled the jinglers On the stakes by the stormcellar door. When them dead men feel that in their fingers They jes’ whimper an’ head for the shore.” Light she ran with her housecoat a-flappin’, Where the waters was roilin’ an’ high. There was somethin’ a-waitin’ to happen, By the strobe-lighted look of the sky. If you drift like a mist through the meadow, If you curl to the edge of the draw, You could nudge yourself up to a knothole, But you might not believe what you saw. On the bank where the crib and the shed ran 163 Hard aground in a Red River fling, She is sprawled on the arm of a dead man, And the dead man is startin’ to sing: “Roll me over my lovely my precious. My migration has scarcely begun. I can feel myself growing flotatious To the wandering beams of the sun. I can feel the old tug of the Delta Where I drunk myself sick in my teens. Roll me over. I suddenly felt a Gnawful lot like a kid full of beans. When the barns take a turn at the barn dance, When the sheds start to thread through the trees, I succumb to a superabundance Of the Red River drifter’s disease. Give a kick to my side if you love me. Cast me loose from this willowy slough. There’s a damn sight less dam site above me And a damn sight less fuss and to-do. They can bury a crate full of keepsakes From my notable farming career. They can plead for some feed from them cheapskates At the Farmers Supply in Grenier. They can tell my twelve sons and my daughter How I tended to take things too far, Like the night I went down for some water And ran off with the whole reservoir. It’s a sorrowful name I’m a-leaving. It’s a sorrowful sadness I feel. If you get tuckered out with the grieving 164 You can try this address in Mobile.” Now the neighbor is gone from the valley. Now the flivver is out on display In the Bonnie-and-Clyde grand finale At the Wild-West Pavilion Café. Now the widow reclines at the window By the banks of the new reservoir. On some shirts that the Sheriff come into She embroiders a five-pointed star. ...



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