You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
from “Sixteen Tons,” as recorded by Tennessee Ernie Ford
There was a lot of pure country music on the radio when I was young, especially on the powerful clear channel AM stations that could be heard throughout large areas of the country after dark. I heard Ford a lot on the radio, along with everyone else who recorded a version of “Sixteen Tons.” I don’t hear the song much any more, but the words still resonate with me during these difficult economic times. One doesn’t have to be a coal miner stuck in the old country store and truck system (payment in goods rather than cash) to understand the feeling of “I owe my soul to the company store.”
These days, the company store is the mortgage company, the credit card company, the IRS, the county property taxes, and a host of other payments that keep a lot of people behind the 8 ball. As for the load sixteen tons, we could substitute “write sixteen novels” or “drive 1600 miles” or “work sixteen years” or whatever fits.
Oddly enough, though, I only think of that “another day older” line and start hearing Tennessee Ernie Ford’s voice on my birthdays. That’s good, I think, for it keeps industrial-strength worrying about finances to a minimum. That was yesterday. Today, I’m blogging about it and then moving on. As Smoky Zeidel said in today’s post, “I’m a True Writer: a writer who not only can write, but must write.”
Sometimes must write = curse. But most of the time, writing is a creative way to stop oneself from worrying about being deeper in debt or how long the drought’s going to last or why political campaigns bring so many clowns out of the woodwork. It seems a bit audacious to say that writers create worlds, so I’ll just suggest we’re creating cities, lakes and mountains. If I don’t like what I see, the backspace key comes in very handy. It won’t erase actual debt, but it will erase scenes in my short stories that aren’t turning out quite right.
On my birthday yesterday, I wrote a fair number of words of a new short story, saw a friend of mine stop by unannounced and mow my lawn with his riding mower, ate a plateful of spaghetti, talked to my brothers on the phone, had a glass of Biltmore Pinot Noir, got some reading done, and felt pretty good about things in spite of hearing “I picked up my shovel and I walked to the mine, I loaded sixteen tons of number nine coal.”
I also heard Ford’s radio/TV sign-off catch phrase: “Bless your pea-pickin’ heart!” and found it hard not to smile.