Some will rob you with a six gun, and some with a fountain pen
Abuse of police power, violent defense of morality, what is a good man, what is a bad man, who is the worse criminal? All these topics are as timely today as they were when this song was first strummed in 1939. The power of folk storytelling preserves the common knowledge of the people. History can at times distort, ignore, or rewrite these storie. Who are the outlaws, the ones the law decrees, or the ones the law allows?
Pretty Boy Floyd
Words and Music by Woody Guthrie
If you’ll gather ’round me, children,
A story I will tell
‘Bout Pretty Boy Floyd, an outlaw,
Oklahoma knew him well.
It was in the town of Shawnee,
A Saturday afternoon,
His wife beside him in his wagon
As into town they rode.
There a deputy sheriff approached him
In a manner rather rude,
Vulgar words of anger,
An’ his wife she overheard.
Pretty Boy grabbed a log chain,
And the deputy grabbed his gun;
In the fight that followed
He laid that deputy down.
Then he took to the trees and timber
Along the river shore,
And he never come back no more.
Yes, he took to the trees and timber
To live a life of shame;
Every crime in Oklahoma
Was added to his name.
But a many a starvin’ farmer
The same old story told
How the outlaw paid their mortgage
And saved their little homes.
Others tell you ’bout a stranger
That come to beg a meal,
Underneath his napkin
Left a thousand-dollar bill.
It was in Oklahoma City,
It was on a Christmas Day,
There was a whole car load of groceries
Come with a note to say:
“Well, you say that I’m an outlaw,
You say that I’m a thief.
Here’s a Christmas dinner
For the families on relief.”
Yes, as through this world I’ve wandered
I’ve seen lots of funny men;
Some will rob you with a six-gun,
And some with a fountain pen.
And as through your life you travel,
Yes, as through your life you roam,
You won’t never see an outlaw
Drive a family from their home.
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Photo: Wikimedia Commons