Mercy


Fellow blogger Allen Rizzi posted a few days back about Don Williams. One of the songs he listed was “What Do You Do with a Good Ol’ Boy Like Me.” While it was released in March 1980, I never heard it until about two years later.

What fighting-hole I was in at the time, I cannot recall. What I do remember is that I was in a foreign and hostile land, homesick and that the family of my childhood was gone because of divorce and I plagiarized the lyrics to fit my life at the time.

When I was a kid, Momma would come put us to bed,
With a figure of Jesus on the cross above our head.
Then Daddy came in to kiss his little men,
With beer on his breath, a Louis L’amour in hand,
And he talked about honor and things we should know.
Then he would leave, quietly walking on tip-toe.

I can still see those tall Redwood trees creating awe
And those Darby boys, the ones in my memory raw,
William O. in Arkansas.
I guess we’re all gonna be what we’re gonna be,
So what do you do with silly little boys like me?

Nothing makes a sound in the night as the rain does,
But you ain’t afraid if you’re washed in the blood like I was.
The smell of the salt air from that green Pacific sea,
K-P-O-D kept me company
By the light of the radio by my bed,
With Jack London whispering in my head.

I can still see those tall Redwood trees creating awe
And those Darby boys, the ones in my memory raw,
William O. in Arkansas.
I guess we’re all gonna be what we’re gonna be,
So what do you do with ignorant boys like me?

When I was in school, I ran with a kid down the street,
And I watched him burn himself up on emerald weed,
But I was quicker than most, and I could choose.
I learned to talk like the man on the radio news.
When I was eighteen, lord, I hit the road
But it really doesn’t matter how much I know.

I can still see those tall Redwood trees creating awe
And those Darby boys, the ones in my memory raw,
William O. in Arkansas.
I guess we’re all gonna be what we’re gonna be,
Yeah, what do you do with a U.S. Marine like me?

Yeah, shame on me for stealing the lyrics, but I knew I would never try to make money off of it. Later, I admitted to Mr. Williams in a radio interview what I had done and how his tune and my rework of the moment got me through some rough times.

His response: “Mercy.”

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