Saturday, July 23, 2005

Nine Pound Hammer

Back when we had rental property on North Fifth Street, it was always a challenge to keep the place from falling down. One time a whole section of the north fence had collapsed, requiring some emergency repairs. I enlisted the aid of Frankie Paradise to help me drive in some new fence posts. We began working, and as soon as we had established a rhythm, I began to sing:
This Nine Pound Hammer,
Is a little too heavy,
For my size,
Baby for my size.

And without missing a beat, Frankie rejoined:

Well it's a long way to Harlan,
It's a long way to Hazard,
Just to get a little brew,
Just to get a little brew.

And then we both sang the chorus:

Roll on, buddy,
Don't ya roll so slow.
How can I roll,
When my wheels won't go?
Roll on, buddy,
With your load of coal.
How can I roll,
When my wheels won't go?

Frankie knew all about swinging a hammer that was a little too heavy. He was stubborn enough in a lot of ways to make his life more trouble than it should have been, but he did what he wanted to do for the most part, and heaven help you if you stood in his way. The metaphor of mining and life fit him in a certain way, always digging for some coal, be it in music, motorcycles, love, or drugs.
And when I'm long gone,
Don't you make my tombstone,
Outta number nine coal,
Outta number nine coal.

Still, I am glad for the times we spent together. Making movies, playing music, shooting hoops and even working on that dumb fence. That fence is long gone now, as is Frankie. But whenever I hear that traditional country tune, I'm right back there with him, sweating and singing:
Roll on buddy,
Don't ya roll so slow.
How can I roll,
When my wheels won't go?
Roll on buddy,
With your load of coal.
How can I roll,
When my wheels won't go?

How can I roll,
When my wheels won't go?

By Professor Batty



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