Monday, June 3, 2013

The Big Rock Candy Mountain Philosophy

On our way to the cottage last weekend we listened to a CD of early folk songs, many of which were new to me.  One of the songs that really grabbed my fancy was In the Big Rock Candy Mountains, by Harry McClintock.  It's a sweet song about all the things that a hobo wishes for.  

What really struck me was how the hobo doesn't set his sights too high.  He doesn't want a job and a car and a home.  Nope!  He wants hens that lay soft-boiled eggs, and barns full of hay, and farmer's trees full of fruit.  He basically wants a hobo's life, but perfected.  I like that attitude.  

Here is one of my favourite verses.

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains,
There's a land that's fair and bright,

Where the handouts grow on bushes
And you sleep out every night.

Where the boxcars all are empty
And the sun shines every day

And the birds and the bees
And the cigarette trees
The lemonade springs
Where the bluebird sings
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains.

Too funny, eh?  You can listen to Harry McClintock sing the whole song in the youtube clip below, which was recorded in 1928.  The complete lyrics are at the end of the post.

The hobo's attitude got me thinking about what I would wish for.  So here's my take on three things I would want for my home a la the hobo's philosophy.

The sun would shine every day, but the room wouldn't get overheated - just enough sunshine to make me happy, allow me to take photos, and highlight the pretties around the room.

The dishwasher would always be empty (and everyone would put their dirty dishes away so the kitchen always looked like this).

There would always be room for yet another thrift store dish or tablecloth or other treasure.

What about you - what would wish for?  What kinds of things would make your life happier?

One evening as the sun went downAnd the jungle fires were burning,Down the track came a hobo hiking,And he said, "Boys, I'm not turning
I'm headed for a land that's far awayBesides the crystal fountainsSo come with me, we'll go and seeThe Big Rock Candy Mountains
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains,There's a land that's fair and bright,Where the handouts grow on bushesAnd you sleep out every night.
Where the boxcars all are emptyAnd the sun shines every dayAnd the birds and the beesAnd the cigarette treesThe lemonade springsWhere the bluebird singsIn the Big Rock Candy Mountains.
In the Big Rock Candy MountainsAll the cops have wooden legsAnd the bulldogs all have rubber teethAnd the hens lay soft-boiled eggs
The farmers' trees are full of fruitAnd the barns are full of hayOh I'm bound to goWhere there ain't no snow
Where the rain don't fallThe winds don't blowIn the Big Rock Candy Mountains.
In the Big Rock Candy MountainsYou never change your socksAnd the little streams of alcoholCome trickling down the rocks
The brakemen have to tip their hatsAnd the railway bulls are blindThere's a lake of stewAnd of whiskey tooYou can paddle all around itIn a big canoeIn the Big Rock Candy Mountains
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains,The jails are made of tin.And you can walk right out again,As soon as you are in.
There ain't no short-handled shovels,No axes, saws nor picks,I'm bound to stayWhere you sleep all day,Where they hung the jerkThat invented workIn the Big Rock Candy Mountains ...
I'll see you all this coming fallIn the Big Rock Candy Mountains


  1. I wonder where on God's earth he was speaking about. In my mind it is the South and the Smokey Mountains. Any idea?

  2. Well I think it was just an imaginary place - somewhere in the US. I did read on Wikipedia that there are some brightly coloured hills in Utah that are named the Big Rock Candy Mountain, but the song was written before they got that name so they named the hills after the song not the other way round. I just think it is fanciful though.