Lyr Add: Ships on the Prairie (Jerry Rasmussen)
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Lyr Add: Ships on the Prairie (Jerry Rasmussen)


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Wolfgang 11 Dec 01 - 10:22 AM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 11 Dec 01 - 01:03 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 11 Dec 01 - 01:44 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 11 Dec 01 - 03:16 PM
Wolfgang 12 Dec 01 - 09:33 AM
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Subject: ADD: Ships on the prairie (Rasmussen)
From: Wolfgang
Date: 11 Dec 01 - 10:22 AM

One more Jerry Rasmussen song. It's a song about a particular stretch of land in the USA and about a particular time, but nevertheless the low and high tide of human and town life are universal. The pictures to transport the feelings would be different in Europe, it would be old men playing boule in France, old men playing tawli (backgammon) in Greece, old men cutting grass or playing cards in Germany, but the feelings would be the same.

All errors remaining are mine in this transcription.


(Jerry Rasmussen)

Ships on the prairie they never sail the sea
carrying all they own,
sailing for mountains that they'll never reach
sailing away to home.
Stop by the river just to camp there for a night,
it's time to get the oxen bedded down,
walking on the prairie in the fading summer light
it's as good as far as any for a town

Rolling 'cross the prairie on those shining silver rails
They come to start a new life in the town.
There's dams across the river now to run the cotton mills
And the woods along the banks are all cut down.
Down along the river where the cattle used to graze
They've cleared the land and built a factories,
but I still hear my grandpa talking 'bout the good old days,
every time I smell that sweet prairie breeze.

There's talk out on the prairie now you never heard before,
there's rumors that the plants are shutting down.
And the sons whose fathers' fathers came here long ago
Can't find a job and have to lave the town.
And the railroad yard stands empty now that once was filled with life
And the cotton mill will never roll again
And they boarded up the windows over at the power plant
And the old men go out fishing on the dam.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Ships on the prairie
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 11 Dec 01 - 01:03 PM

Jerry's song goes into my "songbag." Its image is universal. Here on the prairies, small towns are disappearing as the family farms are replaced by factory-like giants, the smaller business enterprises are displaced by large ones near centers of distribution and everyone goes shopping in the big box stores in the nearest city. The young folks leave and only the old remain. When they die, only the ghostly ruins remain as a monument without epitaph.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Ships on the prairie
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 11 Dec 01 - 01:44 PM

Hi, Wolf and Dicho:

Just a couple of small changes, Wolfgang:

Ships on the prairie that never sailed the sea
Carrying all that they owned
and the last line of the first verse:
It's as good a place as any for a town

Good job, Wolfgang. Like a lot of songs I've written, these came from a dream. The night before this song came to me, I was reading Giants In The Earth by Rolvaag for the third time. The opening scenes of the book are so powerful that I fell asleep with those images in my mind. Just before I work up, I saw the image of stopping along a river bank on the prairie, and deciding to bed the cattle settled down for the night. I awoke with the first two lines running through my mind. Some of the lines in this song are from family and friends... the line about still being able to smell the prairie came from an elderly gentlemen I met many years after I left the Midwest. The last verse comes from everywhere. I remember sitting on the front steps of the Cozart Hotel in Clinton, Missouri talking to an old black man who'd carried my bags up stairs... the one night of a six week I slept in a room and not in my car. The old man talked with heavy heart about how all of his kids had to leave the town because the strip mines had played out, and there was no work for them.

You're right, Wolfgang and Dicho... old men, the world around, sit at a bar, play cards, go fishing or just sit on a stoop, mourning the loss of what they valued when they were young.

Thanks for posting this. Skip Gorman does thia, mixed in with his more traditional cowboy songs, and played fiddle on this song on one of my albums.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Ships on the prairie
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 11 Dec 01 - 03:16 PM

Not so many years age, all through the Texas rural areas, you would see the old men playing dominos on the porch of the general store. Now the general store is gone.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Ships on the prairie
From: Wolfgang
Date: 12 Dec 01 - 09:33 AM

I love posting these songs, Jerry, for they are well worth preserving.
Thanks for correcting my mistakes and thanks for adding personal comments. They give the songs even more life than they already have. If I've understood the 'harvested' signs (^^) correctly, your comments will go together with the songs into the DT database at the time of one of the next updates.


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