Wherever the Road Leads

Music From Big Pink

Lake Charles, Louisiana

The first time I came through this area was 21 years ago, returning back to Canada driving the motorhome, after my father’s death.

At that time, early March, it was winter in Tillsonburg, Ontario, where my folks had just moved. They unpacked enough boxes to live for a couple of weeks, packed up the motorhome and headed south. After my father’s death, there was nothing for my mother to return to but snow and a mountain of unpacked memories.

She flew from Harlingen Texas to Florida and spent the balance of the winter with my Uncle Peter, in the warmth, trying to make sense of her life.

I drove the motorhome back to Canada. I had electrical troubles not far from Lake Charles, La. It was a Sunday morning and the alternator was working, but wasn’t recharging the batteries. I had parked and slept in a Holiday Inn parking lot, carrying the battery to a nearby gas station in the morning. I bought a new battery, carried it back and installed it, then drove the motorhome back to the service station.

The kind folks there got their mechanic off his crawfish boat to come and help me out, jury-rigging a switch that got me all the way home.

I thought it would be fun, bittersweet maybe, to return to that gas station and reminisce. We zoomed past the exit for Jennings, Louisiana before it clicked that Jennings was the name of the town. We doubled back but, surprise, surprise, twenty years later nothing looked the same. The Holiday Inn was still there but if my memory serves me correctly, where the service station was, now stands a Walgreen’s and the area has built up considerably.

Still, the image from what it looked like twenty years ago has remained fresh in my mind, every time I hear The Band’s, “Up on Cripple Creek”.

brushy

Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary, near Petros, Tennessee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I get off of this mountain
You know where I want to go
Straight down the Mississippi river
To the Gulf of Mexico
To Lake Charles Louisiana
Little Bessie, girl that I once knew
She told me just to come on by
If there’s anything that she could do

Up on Cripple Creek, she sends me
If I spring a leak, she mends me
I don’t have to speak, as she defends me
A drunkard’s dream if I ever did see one

Good luck had just stung me
To the race track I did go
She bet on one horse to win
And I bet on another to show

deltaD

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The odds were in my favor
I had ’em five to one
When that nag to win came around the track
Sure enough we had won

Up on Cripple Creek, as she sends me
If I spring a leak, as she mends me
I don’t have to speak, as she defends me
A drunkard’s dream if I ever did see one

I took up all of my winnings
And I gave my little Bessie half
And she tore it up and threw it in my face
Just for a laugh
Now there’s one thing in the whole wide world
I sure would like to see
That’s when that little love of mine
Dips her doughnut in my tea

(The songwriter, Robbie Robertson, a Canadian, shows his heritage here, assuming he means the typical custom of dunking a doughnut in HOT tea. I can see an American dunking his doughnut in hot coffee but certainly not in his sweet iced-tea.)

Up on Cripple Creek, as she sends me
If I spring a leak, as she mends me
I don’t have to speak, as she defends me
A drunkard’s dream if I ever did see one

Now me and my mate were back at the shackjones_spike2a
We had Spike Jones on the box
She said, “I can’t take the way he sings
But I love to hear him talk”
Now that just gave my heart a throb
To the bottom of my feet
And I swore as I took another pour
My Bessie can’t be beat

Up on Cripple Creek, as she sends me
If I spring a leak, as she mends me
I don’t have to speak, as she defends me
A drunkard’s dream if I ever did see one

As there’s a flood out in California
And up North it’s freezing cold
And this living on the road
Is getting pretty old
So I guess, I’ll call up my big mama
Tell her I’ll be rolling in
But you know, deep down
I’m kind of tempted
To go and see my Bessie again

Up on Cripple Creek, she sends me
If I spring a leak, she mends me
I don’t have to speak, she defends me
A drunkard’s dream if I ever did see one.

A few miles down Interstate 10 was the cut-off for Lake Charles. I simply had to go to see what all the fuss was about.

 

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