Posts Tagged ‘Music’

TEARS AND SORROW EMBEDDED IN MYTH AND SONG

 

“Thirteen hundred died that day…

It took ten good men just to dig the graves.”

There’s an old song that tells the legendary tale of an American Civil War battle fought a week after the war’s end.  “Dry Run Creek” has been played perhaps ten thousand times by over a thousand artists,

“They buried them shallow, they buried them deep…

They buried them next to Dry Run Creek.”

The song has long been a favorite of bluegrass fans and civil war enthusiasts alike, but is there any truth behind the lyrics?

“Well, they weren’t just blue and they weren’t just gray,

Death took no sides when it came that day.

They laid them down side by each

They placed no stones at their head or feet.

And their mommas cried…

Oh my Lord, how their mommas cried…”

Dry Run Creek runs through the Ozark Mountains, spurring from the gorgeous Norfolk Lake, which is constantly drawing tourists and fishermen to the town of Mountain Home, Arkansas.  The creek boasts beauty, clarity, and, if you’re mobility impaired or under the age of 16, an amazing trout fishing experience.  What it does not boast is a civil war cemetery with 1300 unmarked graves.

Dry run creek

Dry Run Creek, Arkansas

There is also a Dry Run Creek in Iowa and a “Dry Run Creek Cemetery” in Boise, Idaho.  Need we even discuss these?

The song “Dry Run Creek” is often credited to the McPeak Brothers Band, or, more directly, to bluegrass legend Larry McPeak, one of the original VW Boys.  A fine version of the song, covered by “The Seldom Scene,” can be found here:

http://grooveshark.com/#!/search/song?q=The+Seldom+Scene+Dry+Run+Creek

But the McPeak boys were Virginians, not Arkansans… so any motivation for local legend can be ruled out.  Some believe the song’s title is from a combination of the Battles of Bull Run and Wilson’s Creek.

“The war’d been over for about a week

But word hadn’t gotten to Dry Run Creek.

They fought and died right to the end

A battle that should have never been…”

Wherever you might believe the origins of the song came from, the number “1300” should give a clue as to the validity of the story.  Although 1300 is not a high casualty amount for a civil war battle, it would be an extremely high number of killed for a battle fought after the surrender at Appomattox.

By comparison, the battle fought at Palmito Ranch, considered to be the last major engagement of our civil war, is well documented and known by anyone who claims to be a true civil war buff.  It was fought in Cameron County, Texas on May 12th and 13th, 1865, more than a full month after Lee surrendered to Grant in Virginia.

The casualty count at Palmito Ranch?  Four killed, 18 wounded, 104 captured.

Likewise, the Battle of New Orleans is submerged in legend and folklore for being fought more than two weeks after the War of 1812 had ended with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent.

How many died during the Battle of New Orleans?  440 or so, depending on your source.

A battle that saw 1300 die would see at least twice that many wounded, another gross or two captured, and if it had been fought after the end of a war it would be forever seared into the minds of generations to come.

Still, it’s a darn good song.

Thank you to my new friend and fellow blogger, David Zethmayr, for inspiring this topic.  You can find his blog here:

http://earfirst.wordpress.com

SOURCES:

Arkansas.com

Bluegrasstoday.com

Grooveshark.com

Ibluegrass.com

Cedarwoodslodge.com

Encyclopedia Britannica

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THE WORDS HE NEVER SAID HAVE STAYED WITH ME

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JOHN LENNON’S BLOOD-STAINED GLASSES

A long time ago I was watching a piece on television about the assassination of John Lennon.  The report was claiming that, after taking two bullets from Mark David Chapman’s pistol, Lennon had staggered into the lobby of his apartment building, the Dakota, and exclaimed to a nearby concierge, “They’ve shot me.”

Apparently he never said, “They’ve shot me.”  Doing a search online about the last words of John Lennon will get you a couple of different stories.  One will claim that instead of “They’ve shot me,” he uttered, “I’m shot,” before collapsing on the steps inside the lobby of his apartment building.  Another story says that he was conscious but incoherent in his last moments, answering “yeah” or “yes” to officials asking him if he’s John Lennon in the back of an ambulance.

What a stupid question.  “Are you John Lennon?”  As an EMT, I’ll have you know that — Oh hell, that’s for a different blog altogether.

No matter which story is true… no matter what his last words were… it’s all irrelevant to this post.  I’m still hung up on “They’ve shot me.”

As witnesses to history, we are (usually) provided with information after the fact that tells us how and when things occurred and the motivations behind those things.  Today, we know that Mark David Chapman was an obsessed fan of Lennon who had planned on murdering the former Beatle for more than three months.  Chapman had other celebrities in mind for termination as well, including Walter Cronkite, Johnny Carson, George C. Scott, and Elizabeth Taylor.

Chapman’s grievous act caused him instant celebrity.  Anyone who followed the career of John Lennon also knows the story behind his assassination.  Notice I’ve used that word — assassination — twice now.  Does it seem out-of-place?  Most use the word “murder” when talking about the death of John Lennon.  Assassination is usually reserved for those who hold political office.  Lennon, although often political, did not hold office.

Today, Chapman’s motives are obvious to history.  This does not mean they’re condoned.  We simply understand why, even as we can’t empathize with the why.

“They’ve shot me.”

This simple misrepresentation of Lennon’s last words are always what I go to when I think of the death of the musician.  We might understand who Chapman was and why he did what he did, but his victim will never understand anything about his own assassination.

Yes, I get the whole “afterlife” thing.  I’m a Christian myself.  To die is to gain knowledge of everything.  This post is about the here and now.

How would Archduke Franz Ferdinand look upon his own assassination?  I’m sure he’d gladly die if his death could have prevented a world war, but what about starting one?

I feel like part of Len Bias might be waiting to wake up from his first experience with cocaine.  “Man, this buzz sucks. Let’s go to IHOP.”

I’m no conspiracy theorist.  I know there was nothing more than the work of a madman at work in the death of John Lennon.  But Lennon had no way of knowing who killed him or why they did it.  “They’ve shot me,” could mean so many things.

“I’m shot,” although more basic, can mean just as many.

We’ll never know what was going through John’s mind as he lay dying in the lobby of the Dakota.  I would like to think it was about Yoko and family, but I imagine it was something like, “Who the hell shot me?  What did I do to deserve this?  Holy shit, I’m bleeding out.”

RIP John.