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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Tiger Lyr Req: Only a Bum (Bill Garneau) (4) Lyr Add: ONLY A BUM (Bill Garneau) 20 Mar 03

"Only a Bum" appears in "The Hobo's Hornbook, A Repertory for a Gutter Jongleur" by George Milburn. It was published in 1930.

It contains 86 hobo songs, and goes into variable levels of detail Of this song, he says:
    There are many sentimental ballads about hoboes that cannot properly be classified as hobo ballads. The following is one of these. I got it from a blind accordion player in Oklahoma City. He sang it to a hymn tune much like that of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," but much less spirited.

I learned the song from my father-in-law about 40 years ago. The words I use are almost the same as Milburn's - a word or two different, here and there. I may be able to post the audio on my website.

Only A Bum Bill Garneau

The engineer looked straight ahead as the train sped through the night;
Then suddenly, the engineer saw someone wave a light.
He tried to stop, but someway, he knew 'twas all in vain;
The man who waved the light was ground dead beneath the train.
And then the engineer could see a burning bridge ahead,
And as the train slid to a stop these words of thanks he said.

    He was only a bum, only a railroad bum,
    But he gave his life for us all,
    And though last night he slept in some old farmer's barn;
    Tonight he sleeps in Heaven.

They buried him on Sunday morn, the passengers were there,
The tears were flowing freely as the preacher said a prayer.
The choir from the church was there to sing a hymn or two,
'Twas spring, the flowers were in bloom, the sky above was blue.
The engineer fell to his knees beside the open grave,
And said, "This man, to save our lives, his own he gladly gave."


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