Del Barber (composer and performer; album: Praireography, 2014)
(Listen while you read the lyrics

Blinded by the city lights
No one can see you stallin’
It’s been so long since you’ve seen the prairie stars
You’re not sure you can recall them
But there is something here for you to find
You may have found it once and lost it now 

We used to fly through the woods
On the backs of quarter horses
Pickin’ dandelion bouquets for our sister and our mother
We felt like men but we were boys
Too young to know
But we were as free as fire 

And you’re lost out in the Big Smoke
Lookin’ for a way home
There are no straight paths
There’s no easy way 

Brother do you remember
That one September morning we were shooting cans
With Dad’s .22 without a worry or a warning
You pulled the trigger down and dropped that deer
And you looked at me with tears in your eyes 

And I never in a million years
Thought that you’d make that shot
And I picture you tonight, with your sights still on something so far off
Wherever you are I hope you’re being careful
About the things you think you want 

And you’re lost out in the Big Smoke
Without a fire of your own
There are no straight paths
There’s no easy way 

(Last year, father and son produced 12,000 bushels. Under the Crow, they paid thirteen cents a bushel to ship it to Vancouver: $1560. Within four years they’ll likely be paying twice as much and within a decade maybe five times as much. “If the price of grain would increase, I suppose a guy wouldn’t feel it quite so badly; but on the horizon we don’t see it, an increase.” “Supposing they, ah, say that a few towns down the road – that grain should be here. There goes our elevator and I would think that 20% of the taxes in this town come from the elevators.) 

The sky is getting hazy
It’s filling up with grain dust
And it could be in a year the bank finally gets the best of us
But our cows are fed and the bins are full
We’re hoping to see you before the snow 

You’re lost out in the Big Smoke
Without a fire of your own
There are no straight paths
No easy way 

Lost out in the Big Smoke
Without a fire of your own
There are no straight paths
No easy way

Wow, this song gets me; or maybe it’s that I get it. Every time I listen to it, an artesian well of emotions springs forth. I grew up on the prairies with many of the same experiences depicted by Del Barber in this song. The words in brackets are words captured from a radio broadcast (used in the studio recording) about the plight of the contemporary farmer. It is all too familiar.

I remember a time when, out by myself, I stopped the truck, walked a few feet with the .22 rifle, took aim at a far away Yellow-headed Blackbird, and pulled the trigger. I never thought I’d make that shot. I cried hot tears for a bird that day; and asked for forgiveness from God for taking the life of something so beautiful that had done no wrong.

If I had a brother who moved to the city, I would be able to relate to all of this song. As it is, my heart strongly resonates with this song of city and prairie.

(A further performance can be heard here.)

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