Breedloves's Folk Songs


    By: Utah Phillips
    I’ll tell you about the worst job I ever had. It was working for the Santa Fe Rail Road
    south of Las Vegas, Nevada. That’s the old Mormon Muddy Mission, way out in what the
    Navajos called the “boonies”, out in the desert. The job was gandy-dancing. Now, gandy-
    dancing used to be in the old days when the Irish were building the rail road. Of course,
    the first transcontinental rail road was built by Irish labor, and they used these long
    handled shovels called “Irish Banjos” that were made by the Gandy Shovel Company of
    Chicago. Now, the Irish laborer would take the wide end of the shovel, when he could
    find it, and he would jam it in under the rail or tie, and he would climb out on the long
    handle…do a little jig step out there. And they would lever the tie up and they’d push
    gravel up underneath it, and tamp it down; and that level the road bed. See, that’s what
    gandy-dancing is…leveling the road bed so the damn train didn’t fall off as it goes
    by…which is just a big drag for everybody.
    Now, they don’t do gandy-dancing in the normal way anymore, see, like they did in the
    old days. Nowadays they run 3 cars out on the line. They run a box car out there that’s a
    bunk car; you sleep in it and it’s got bunks that are 18 inches apart. Then you got a tool
    car with your tamping irons, your tongs, your double jack hammers, and your spikes, and
    all of the equipment to do the job. And then you got a cook car. There’s no restaurants
    anyplace, so you got a cook car; pots and pans, a coal or wood burning stove, and a long
    table down the middle to eat at. The only thing they don’t hire is a cook That’s because
    they’re cheap; saves them money. The rule is that in the crew they’re supposed to pick
    among their own members, who’s going to be the cook. They don’t try to do this sensibly,
    like draw lots or decide who the best cook is. What they do is wait to find out who
    bitches and whines and pisses and moans the most about the cooking, and they say “all
    right wise-guy, you think you can do better, you get to be the cook”. Well, that was me,
    see! Ol’ alligator mouth, new man on the crew ; and that was the worst food I’d ever had.
    I mean it was otter water, comes out of an otter; terrible terrible stuff. Some people think
    that’s a delicacy, but I thought it was garbage. So I complained, so they said “ok, wiseguy,
    you get to be the cook”. That made me mad! Because I didn’t want to cook, but I knew if
    anybody complained about my cooking, they were going to have to cook.
    Armed with that knowledge, I sallied forth over the muddy river. I was walking around
    among the sheet grass and the bunch grass, and I looked down, and there was just a hell
    of a big moose turd. Biggest damn moose turd; that was a real steamer! I looked down at
    that meadow wafer, and I said to myself “Self, I’m going to bake up a big moose turd
    pie.” Because if anybody complained about my cooking, they were going to have to cook.
    So I tipped that pasture pastry up on edge. I got my shit together, so to speak. And I
    started rolling it down towards the old cook car. BALUUMP! BALUUMP! I got it down
    there and leaned it up against the side and I climbed up in the cook car, and I baked a hell
    of a big pie shell. And I baked that moose turd in as slick as you please. And I cribbed it
    with my thumbs, and laid strips of dough across it, & garnished it with a sprig of parsley,
  • a little paprika. It was beautiful; poety on a plate. And I served it up for dessert, waiting
    for the first hint of a complaint. Well, this giant dude comes in, about 5 foot 40; I mean he
    was big. Throwed himself down like a fool on a stool. Picked up his fork. Took a big bite
    of that moose turd pie. Well, he threw down his fork, and he let out a bellow, and he
    yelled.. “My God! That’s Moose Turd Pie! … It’s Good, Though!”

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