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The Legend of John Henry´s Hammer - text


John Henry's pappy woke him up one midnight
He said, "'Fore the sheriff comes I wanna tell you, listen boy"
Said, "Learn to ball a jack, learn to lay a track
Learn to pick and shovel too and take my hammer
It'll do anything you tell it to"

John Henry's mammy had about a dozen babies
John Henry's pappy broke jail about a dozen times
The babies all got sick and when the doctor wanted money
He said, "I'll pay you a quarter at a time startin' tomorrow
That's the pay for a steel driver on this line"

Then the section foreman said, "Hey, hammer swinger
I see you brought your own hammer boy
But what else can all those muscles do
And he said, "I can turn a jack, I can lay a track
I can pick and shovel too"

Can you swing a hammer boy?
Yes sir, I'll do anything, you hire me to

Now ain't you somethin'
So high and mighty wif your muscles
Just go ahead, boy and pick up that hammer
Pick up the hammer

He said, "Get a rusty spike and swing it down three times
I'll pay you a nickel a day for every inch you sink it to
Go on and do what you say you can do"

With a steep nose hammer on a four foot switch handle
John Henry raised it back 'til it touched his heels then
The spike went through the cross tie and it split it half in two
Thirty-five cents a day for drivin' steel

Sweat, sweat boy, sweat, you owe me two more swings
I was born for driven steel

Well John Henry hammered in the mountain
He'd give a grunt, he'd give a groan with every swing
The women folks for miles around heard him and come down
To watch him make the cold steel ring, Lord what a swinger
Just listen to that cold steel ring

But the bad boss come up laughin' at John Henry
Said, "You full of vinegar now, but you about through
We gonna get a steam drill to do your share of drivin'
Then what's all them muscles gonna do? Huh, John Henry?
Gonna take a little bit of vinegar out of you"

John Henry said, "I feed four little brothers
And baby sister's walkin' on her knees
Did the Lord say that machines oughtta take the place of livin'?
And what's a substitute for bread and beans? I ain't seen it
Do engines get rewarded for their steam?"

John Henry hid in a coal mine for his dinner nap
Had thirty minutes to rest before the bell
The mine boss hollered, "Get up, whoever you are, and get a pick axe
Give me enough coal to start another hell and keep it burnin'
Mine me enough to start another hell"

John Henry said to his captain," A man ain't nothin' but a man
But if you'll bring that steam drill round, I'll beat it fair and honest
I'll die with my hammer in my hand but I'll be laughin'
'Cuz you can't replace a steel drivin' man"

There was a big crowd of people at the mountain
John Henry said to the steam drill, "How is you?
Pardon me mister steam drill, I suppose you didn't hear me"
I said, "How're you?"

Well can you turn a jack, can you lay a track
Can you pick and shovel too?
Listen, this hammer swinger's talkin' to you

Two thousand people hollered, "Go, John Henry"
Then somebody hollered, "The mountain's caving in"
John Henry told the captain, "Tell the kind folks don't worry
That ain't nothin' but my hammer suckin' wind, it keeps me breathin'
A steel driver's muscle I intend"

Captain, tell the people, move back further
I'm at the finish line and there ain't no drill
It's so far behind but yet ain't got the brains to quit it
When she blows up she'll scatter 'cross the hills, Lord lordy
When she blows up she'll scatter 'cross the hills

Well John Henry had a little woman
I believe the lady's name was Polly Ann
Yeah that was his good woman
John Henry threw his hammer over his shoulder and went on home

He laid down to rest his weary back and early next mornin'
He said, "Come here Polly Ann, come here sugar
Ya know, I believe this is the first time I ever watched
The sun come up that I couldn't come up"

"Take my hammer, Polly Ann and go to that railroad
Swing that hammer like you seen me do it
And when you're swingin' with the lead man
They'll all know, they'll all know you're John Henry's woman
But, but tell them ain't all you can do"

"Tell 'em I can hoist a jack, and I can lay a track
I can pick and shovel too, ain't no machine can
That's been proved to you"

There was a big crowd of mourners at the church house
The section hands laid him in the sand
Trains go by on the rails John Henry laid
They slow down and take off their hats, the men do

When they come to the place where John Henry's layin'
Restin' his back, some of 'em say, "Mornin', steel driver
You sure was a hammer swinger"
Then they go on by, pickin' up a little speed
Clickity clack, clickity clack, clickity clack, clickity clack

Yonder lies a steel drivin' man, oh, Lord
Yonder lies a steel drivin' man
Yonder lies a steel drivin' man, oh, Lord
Yonder lies a steel drivin' man

Yonder lies a steel drivin' man, oh, Lord
Yonder lies a steel drivin' man

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