Sunday, September 12, 2010

Revenge on the Union Pacific

I find myself sometimes trying to imagine what it was like to be a hobo traveling the country by freight train looking for a job during the 1930s. I am sure that many railroad workers felt a strong empathy towards these out of luck men and treated them reasonably well. But just as Ernest Borgnine’s “Shack” in the movie Emperor of the North portrays, there were also sadistic railroad men who took it upon themselves to rid hobos from their trains with vicious violence. Of course these railroad men were almost never punished due to the complicity of the railroad companies and law enforcement agencies not to prosecute vicious attacks on the hobos.

I wrote Revenge on the Union Pacific as a fictional instance about a hobo who did inflict a type of vigilante justice; or was it merely revenge?

Revenge on the Union Pacific

I remember Ned but now I guess I’m just about the only one
When I close my eyes I still see his body a-layin’ on the track
Bloodied and smashed in two and a-lookin’ all gray and ashen
Left to rot like an old deer carcass on the track after the attack

I remember Ned and I remember that shiny old ball-peen
And the conductor who hammered it into old Ned’s head
Ned a-struggling to hang on to the hitch but falling between
Freight cars and his eyes a-staring at me after he was dead

Old Ned and me were hobo pals back in nineteen thirty-three
That is until he went down and was not to finish his last ride
On the old Union Pacific on that so very long ago journey
Never again to run and jump aboard a train from along it’s side

I seared the face of that murdering railroad man into my mind
For I new that some someday somewhere we again would meet
And that it would be a fight and would be the end of the line
For one of us and my revenge would either fail or be complete

In June of thirty four while riding the Pacific just as I had foreseen
I looked up and I see those evil eyes bearing down on me and I see
He’s coming after me his arms a-swinging that same old ball peen
The day had come and I knew that neither of us would show merci

He’s moving at me with that old hammer but I deflect the blow
And we take a tumble onto the back porch of that old red caboose
And I grab the mallet and go after that vicious old railroad bull
But then he snatches a chain that tangles me but then I get loose

He whips the chain at me aiming to put me down and finish me off
I grab a stick and thwart his assault and sling the chain overboard
So far the skirmish between me and that killer is just a standoff
We again come at each other swinging away with sticks and boards

I grab a fire ax from the back of the caboose and give a mighty swing
And sink that hatchet into the shoulder of that old tyrant so blood
Gushes like a fountain but he still is trying and ignores the bleeding
I give him a shove with that old axe to his chest using all my Hatred

He stumbles over into the wilds below roaring like an old bull moose
And he yells that it’s not over between us but I know he’s seen his last
I holler back remember Ned and feel your just comings short of a noose
And I ride the Pacific that last time and know that my time has past

Copyright 2011 Wayne Nolen. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

1 comment: said...

There's a reason for the sayings "revenge is sweet" and better served cold. It was hard to find a job in the 30's and I guess such jobs probably attracted mean people especially. It takes a special sort to work on the railroad like that or in a meat processing plant. but, after you read Vikor Frankl, you realize you do what you gotta do. Jimmie Rodgers' songs tell a story for sure.