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I was working a little (against my will) this morning. I had my corporate-devil digital music player selected to play the last few albums I’ve downloaded when the Ramblin’ Jack Elliot album, Hard Travelin’: Songs By Woody Guthrie And Others chimed in.

This is a GREAT collection of folk songs, even for people who don’t like folk music. The coolest thing about it is some of the songs are totally relevant for today, even though they were written in the earliest parts of the 20th century. Funny how technology changes, but people really don’t.

I have a special place in my heart for Woody Guthrie because he talks so often about the West, but specifically the Pacific Northwest, my home-region. In particular, this song made me think of today’s times:

Talkin’ Columbia [River] Blues, by Woody Guthrie

Well, down along the river just a-sittin’ on a rock
I’m a-lookin’ at the boats in the Bonneville lock.
Gate swings open, the boat sails in,
Toot that whistle, she’s gone again.
Gasoline goin’ up. Wheat comin’ down.

Well, I filled up my hat brim, drunk a little taste,
Thought about a river just a-goin’ to waste;
Thought about the dust, an’ thought about the sand,
Thought about the people, an’ thought about the land.
Folks runnin’ round all over creation,
Lookin’ for some kind of little place.

Well, I pulled out my pencil, scribbled this song,
Figured all them salmon just couldn’t be wrong;
Them salmon fish is mighty shrewd,
They got senators and politicians, too.
Just about like the president. They run every four years.

You just watch this river, though, pretty soon
Everybody’s gonna be changin’ their tune;
The big Grand Coulee and the Bonneville dams
Run a thousand factories for Uncle Sam.
And everybody else in the world. Turnin’ out
Everything from fertilizers to sewing machines,
And atomic bedrooms and plastic —
Everything’s gonna be plastic.

Uncle Sam need houses and stuff to eat,
Uncle Sam needs wool, and Uncle Sam needs wheat,
Uncle Sam needs water and power dams,
Uncle Sam needs people, and the people need land.
‘Course I don’t like dictators none myself,
but then I think the whole country had ought to be run by
e-lec-trici-ty.