Album: Small Victories

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1. The King of Rome 5:24
2. Small Victory 4:11 (lyrics)
3. One More Ride 6:28 (lyrics)
4. His Father’s House 4:58
5. Stars in Their Crown 6:01 (lyrics)
6. Off the Rails 4:53 (lyrics)
7. One Bullet 7:47 (lyrics)
8. Sleeping Buffalo 6:32 (lyrics)
9. The Lost Ones 7:00 (lyrics)
10. For Herself 5:45 (lyrics)

©1990 Snowgoose.

Small Victory

You’ve no business buying a mare like that, but buy her if you must.”
He bit the end off his cigar and spat it in the dust.
“She’s old and lame and barren, too
She’s not worth feed and hay
But I’ll give you this,” – he blew smoke at me –
“She was something in her day.”
“I recall her well ten years ago; she was a winner in her prime.
She was fast and lean and willing, but they raced her past her time.
And though she had the heart, her legs were gone,
And it wasn’t hard to see, they kept her at it
In the hopes of just one more small victory.”

“She was shunted Œround from track to track, from Kentucky up to Maine.
They’d run her in cheap claimers, all doped up to mask her pain.
And it it’s my advice you ant I’d say, the poor thing’s had her day
You’d be throwing good cash after bad. It’s best you turn away.”

Well they led her Œround the auction shed, and the bidding started low.
“She’ll go for dog food,” someone said, “the market’s been that slow.”
But she raised her head and pricked her ears, and before the hammer fell,
She was mine.
My friend turned Œround to me “You’re soft-headed I can tell.”
But she’s been shoved from pillar to post,” said I, “And always done her best.
They used her up, they wrung her dry; you’d think she’d earned a rest.
So if she does not naught but end her days beneath some shady tree,
I’ll have saved her from the knacker’s yard, and that’s enough for me.”

Well, that was near two years ago, she’s filled out some since then.
The more so since she’s been in foal, she eats enough for ten.
And this morn as I crept to the barn around Œbout half past three,
There stood nursing on still trembling legs, one more small victory.

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One More Ride

My legs had gone to sleep
By the time we made Swift current,
I gather up my suitcase and guitar.
When I saw him on the platform in a cap and baggy trousers,
He nodded as I stepped down from the car.

I was zipping up my coat,
He was flagging down a taxi
For a flustered mother,
He sent her on her way.
A young woman turned and asked me,
“Does that man work for the railroad?”
I said, “No, that’s Bill, he’s here every day.
That’s old Bill, he’s down here every day
He likes to work, he won’t take pay.
He’s been here since he retired in Œ82
I’ve seen his kind everywhere I go.
They’re made to feel too old and slow
They’re restless when they have no job to do.

He wants one more ride, before his time is over
I think he worked these rails before the war.
One more ride, and you know he’d better hurry,
The railroad won’t come through here anymore.”

He was blowing across his coffee
At the counter in the restaurant
I sat down next to him and said, “Hello.”
I said, “I guess the days are numbered
When you can work here at the station
They’re closing down the line, now where’ll you go?”

He shook his head, he bit his lip
His cup and saucer rattled.
He cleared his throat and slowly turned around
He said, “I don’t know what I’ll do.
I’m too old to change my habits,
I can’t believe they’d close the railroad down.”

He said “I love the sound, I even love the smell
God damn the bastards all to hell
How dare they say the railroad won’t pay?
I wanted one more ride, before my time was over,
To feel the wind and hear the diesels roar.
One more time, to dream when I was younger,
But dreams count for nothing anymore.”
Well I gave in to the impulse,
I ran and bought a ticket,
I brought it back and set it by his side,
I said, “Let’s head out west together,
I tell my best lies in the club-car.
Come on old man, let’s take one more ride.
We’ll drink and watch the sun sink
In the flames across the prairie,
At nighttime feel the darkened coaches sway
We’ll hear the whistle echo through a thousand icy canyons.
Come on old man, let’s go. What do you say?”

His eyes grew bright, he raised his chin
The longing hit like a gust of wind
And then he shook his head and whispered,
“Thanks but no,

Some dreams you win, some dreams you hold,
Some haunt you like the gleam of gold.
And I’ll hang on to this one
Thank you all the same.”
One more ride, the time is over”
We stood outside to watch the sun go down.
One more ride,” I heard him whisper in the darkness.
And he turned to walk toward the lights of town.

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Stars in Their Crown

That pair in the corner,
They’re here every Tuesday
They come when the market first opens its stalls.
And it’s got so that lately
I’ll wait just to see them
Their heads bent together,
As they come down the hall.

And her hair has grown whiter
His has grown thinner
And their pace has slowed down,
As the years have grown long
But they keep step together
Amongst strangers who hurry,
These two old companions,
Walking slowly along.

They always take the same table
And they open their menus,
And I watch as his hand stretches out to touch hers,
And she, with the other, reaches under her chair,
And fumbles her glasses from out of her purse.
And she reads him the specials,
He does the ordering,
They joke with the waitress, about watching their weight
But the waitress says nothing, she just snaps her gum
And then brings their dessert,
That they’ll share from one plate.

Sometimes I watch them too closely,
They notice me staring
And they smile at me vaguely,
Not really seeing my face
But they know I’m a stranger,
Not one of their friends
Who have died, or long since
Moved away from this place.

They keep to themselves
They’re each other’s shelter,
Two hearts grown together,
Two parts of a whole
And I smile at them shyly,
I know I intrude, on this pair of old lovers,
And I turn and I go.

But, you know that I’ve seen them
As they leave the cafe,
He pull out her chair,
And he helps her to stand
And he holds out her coat,
And he hugs it around her
And together they leave
Holding each other’s hand.

And there’s a love beyond words
In their every small gesture,
As the two old companions make their way through the town
A love beyond name, beyond years, beyond measure
And the days that they share
Are the stars in their crown.

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Off The Rails

He went off the rails in White River Junction
In a roadhouse in the eastern edge of town.
Knowing finally that the dream had left him beaten
Sinking shots of booze as fast as they’d go down.

They had to help him from the stool where he’d been sitting
He was frozen from the stillness in his heart.
I said, “Mister, you can’t drive in that condition,
Here’s your jacket, where’s your keys, I’ll fetch your car.”

I drove him to his motel across the river,
He sat so quietly, I thought he as asleep
But the moon showed her pale face through forest branches,
I could see the tears of anger on his cheek.

He said, ŒThere’s the love you need and there’s the love you receive,
And there’s a difference,
And when the love is wrong, you’re better off alone
It leaves you heart confused, and your spirit twisted,
And the loneliness can chill you to the bone.

I’ve had it up to here with loving from long distance,
She’s he too many nights of waiting home alone,.
Too many ultimatums, too much blind resistance,
Too much anger, too much silence on the phone.”

He said, “There’s the love you need and there’s the love you receive,
And there’s a difference,
And when the love is wrong, you’re better off alone
If leave you heart confused, and your spirit twisted,
And the loneliness can chill you to the bone.”

He straightened up, and said, “I think you for your trouble.”
As I parked his car beneath the motel light
He said, “How will get home? You’re miles form nowhere.”
“It’s not far,” I said, “I like to walk at night.”
I said “There’s the love you feel and there’s the love you give,
And there’s your difference.
And when the love you give falls short of what you feel
Words stick in your throat, and leave you choking,
And what’ in your heart, is what you best conceal.”

And so I left him in that motel in New Hampshire,
With the TV on, the sound turned down to low,
Seeking answers in the shadows on the ceiling,
Come tomorrow noon, he’ll pack it up and go.

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One Bullet

The rain is soaking to my shoulders
Falling soft upon the leaves,
Falling on these silent soldiers
Who hide beneath the forest eaves.

I can see it in their faces
All the strain and all the fear,
Months of war has etched their traces
On the boys who huddle here.

Our leaders order us as cattle
And beat our plowshares into swords,
Thus we gird our young for battle
And fill their minds with empty words.

Not for those who give the orders
Any place in this charade,
Safe behind their chartered borders
Not for them the grim parade.

Knuckles whitening, faces paling
Hope that withers with the dark
Hands that falter, courage failing
Waiting for the cannon’s bark.

For yesterday I sent their brothers
Scrambling up this hill to die,
The day before that, were the others.
Who yet on the meadow lie.

I watched them as the battle closes
Amidst the carnage and the din,
Seen their wounds like deadly roses
Blooming crimson on their skin.

I’ve heard them coughing as they stumble
I’ve heard their moaning as they lie,
Heard frightened prayer turn to mumbles,
And final silence as they die.

The dead lie in their awkward slumber,
Having answered glory’s call.
Lying scattered beyond number
Piled like cordwood by the wall.

And as for me I’m sick of sending
These frightened boys to butchery,
I swear that when this day is over,
There’ll be one bullet left for me.

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Sleeping Buffalo

He lives an hour outside of Billings
The distant hills are brown and sere
The wind plays tricks outside your hearing
And whispers lies into your ears

He’s got a station at a crossroads
He’s got war medals in his den
He’s got a wife in the county hospice
She’s not coming home again

He filled my tank and cleaned the windshield
He popped the hood and checked the oil
He wiped his hands upon his chinos
His eyes were as dark as prairie soil

He said, “Do you know of the Sleeping Buffalo?
They’re about a half an hour away
A ring of sacred stones upon a hilltop
That’s what the Indians say

The Indians gathered in the springtime
Bearing gifts for the Buffalo
The white men set the stones in concrete
Behind a fence beside the road

I used to go when I was younger
Before I fought in Hitler’s war
Now it’s a park for the goddam tourists
I won’t go there anymore”
He said, “Son I ain’t no Indian
You can look at me and tell
But bastards like Custer had it coming
I hope he’s burning still in hell”

I left him at that windy crossroads
The shades of night began to fall
I thought I’d drive toward the sunset
And pay the Buffalo a call

The sun was just below the hilltops
The night wind pulled me by my shirt
I walked toward the granite figures
Behind the fence, set in the dirt

They loomed dull grey in the gathering twilight
I saw faded paint of red and blue
Some ancient hand had chiseled markings
Now a graven image for a roadside zoo

But I drew near I saw the flowers
Tobacco and fresh cartridges lay near
And so, for some faithful unseen wanderers
The Buffalo’s spirit lingers here

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The Lost Ones

The shadows Œneath the trees do grow,
The sun’s embers die away.
The hush of night falls o’er these hills
At the turning of the day.
ŒTwas on nights like this we’d gather here,
Brief crowded hours to fill
In kinship and good harmony,
In my dreams, I can see us still:

By candlelight, by whiskey’s glow,
Each shining upturned face
Would raise a voice, would raise a glass
In those wild and tumultuous days,
When we neither cared, nor lacked for time,
When all the world was wild and new.
Nights heady as a glass of wine,
And our mornings filled anew.

So it was, those wild and scattered years,
We reckoned not the cost,
But those who light burned truest and bright
Would be numbered amongst the lost.
And on chance-met street, or crowded bar
We few, now left behind, would raise
Not a glass, but a rueful brow
At the passing of our kind.

So now I stand beneath these garden walls,
The moon above me wheels.
The stars are cast through the field of night,
And the wind like a drunkard reels
Through the empty gate, the silent house,
The windows dark and blind
But what slips like sand through desperate hand
Is treasured yet within the mind.

For those lost ones still before me stand
All present as of old,
In the tangled skein of passing years
They shine like threads of gold.

So here’s a health to those no longer near,
And a glass to those departed
Who yet shine on through our darkening years
The brave and gentle-hearted.

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For Herself

She walked downtown that Saturday
And bought herself some flowers,
Where the farmers park their pick-ups
Underneath the city towers.
She took them back to her apartment
And arranged them in a vase
She has so many things to do,
To occupy her days.

Later on that night she went for drinks
With the new man from the firm,
She caught him staring once too often
At the young girl with the perm,
Or was he just admiring his own reflection,
In the glass across the room.
And she was tired of his perfect profile anyway,
And was gone before he knew.

Outside the bar she drew a grateful breath
And she turned to head for home.
She was glad of her own company,
By herself felt less alone,
But she’s a disappointment to her parents
She’s a worry to her friends
She’s forty years, they’re still counting
She’s still single, still, more or less content.

So she does lunch in shadowed fern bars
With her power suited friends,
And they shrug their padded shoulders
And ask, “What the deal with men?”
“Some men want you for a mother.”
Some men want you for a whore.”
“Some men want Ingrid Bergman
Who they can drag into a sewer.”
“Old men want you for a trophy.”
Young men mostly act too tough.”
And I don’t care how old they get
They never quite grow up.”
“And men whose wives don’t understand them.
Or maybe understand too well.”
But what a man her age calls marriage,
Is for her, another word for hell.

So she stands at the kitchen window
Watching children as they play.
Sometime scared, she’s often lonely
It’s a prices she’s glad to pay
To bide her time in solitude,
Her friends insist she’s on the shelf
But she won’t jump through hoops for any man,
They’ll have to take her for herself.

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