Ain't Never Been Plugged!

6. Hands on the Switch / The Explorer


Hands on the Switch:
Music & Lyrics: Dave Gordon, 1982 Jimmy Skinner Music

The Explorer
by Rudyard Kipling

Vocal & Guitar: Mike Agranoff
Bass: Kirsten Lamb

Hands On The Switch

It was 1937. They turned the power loose
The REA came to the farm and turned on the juice.
We took turns at flipping switches, shutting out the night.
And Frank got spanked for playing God, saying "Let there be light!"

There was no more wood to carry. No cook stove fire to fix.
No more need for filling lamps or trimming the wicks.
And the Philco takes no batteries. Just plug it in the wall.
Watch Grandpa watch the washer saying, "If that don't beat all!"

Now there's so many hands on the switch.
Hands of our children and wives
We're helping some stranger get rich.
And adding precious years to our lives.

But the widow of a West Virginia miner hopes her daughter won't marry one.
Still wearing her old homespun.
She turns to her youngest son, Says "Tommy, would you play for me?"
Though the fiddle never sounded any finer, he couldn't finish the song he'd sung.
Like a hand clutching at his lung, says, "Mama, won't you pray for me?
Won't you pray for me?"

Now you can swelter in December, shiver in July,
Make the dead perform again, still get no reply.
And the AC/DC does the work that we've forgotten how.
No matter what the cost is, we can't give it up now.

Yesterday I helped my neighbor. I bought his funeral flowers.
Helped to kill a waterway with kilowatt hours.
And today I let my tears flow down and electric fence.
Can't seem to get away from shocking current events.

CHORUS 2 Now there's so many hands on the switch.
Hands of our children and wives
We're helping some stranger stay rich.
And whittling precious years from our lives.

I'm the orphan of an old Ohio farmer.
Like oil on a parking lot
X-ray with a darker spot.
Quicksand in a graveyard plot.
The future's gonna lay for us.
Like being stabbed by the boy who bears the armor.
Like a preacher who can't believe.
Gold watch in a ragged sleeve.
Like thunder on Christmas eve.
Somebody won't you pray for us?
Won't you pray for us?

The Explorer

"There's no sense in going further. It's the end of cultivation."
So they said, and I believed them. Broke my land and sowed my crop.
Built my barns and strung my fences in the little border station
Tucked away below the foothills where the trails run out and stop.

Until a voice as bad as conscience rang interminable changes
On one everlasting whisper, day and night repeated so:
"Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the ranges.
Something lost behind the ranges. Lost and waiting for you. Go!"

And so I went. Worn out of patience. Never told my nearest neighbours.
Stole away with pack and ponies. Left 'em drinking in the town.
But the faith that moveth mountains didn't seem to help my labours
As I faced those sheer main ranges, whipping up and leading down.

March by march, I puzzled through them, turning flanks and dodging shoulders.
Hurried on in hope of water. Headed back for lack of grass.
Until I camped above the tree-line. Drifted snow and naked boulders.
Felt a stir of air to windward. Knew I'd stumbled on the pass.

Thought to name it for its finder, but that night the Norther found me.
Froze and killed my plains-bred ponies. So I called the camp "Despair".
(It's the railway cap today, though.) Then my whisper waked to hound me.
"Something lost behind the ranges. Over yonder. Go you there!"

Then I knew, the while I doubted. Knew His hand was certain o'er me.
Still, it might be self-delusion. Scores of better men had died.
I could make the township living but...(who knows what terrors tore me)
But I didn't. But I didn't. I went down the other side.

Till the snow ran out to flowers, and the flowers turned to aloes
And the aloes sprung to thickets, and a brimming stream ran by.
But the thickets dwinned to thorn-scrub, and the water drained to shallows
And I dropped again on desert. Blasted earth and blasting sky.

I remember lighting fires. I remember sitting by them.
I remember seeing faces, hearing voices in the smoke.
I remember they were fancy, for I threw a stone to try them.
"Something lost behind the ranges..." were the only words they spoke.

I remember going crazy. I remember that I knew it
When I found myself hallooing to the funny folk I saw.
Very full of dreams, that desert. But my two feet took me through it.
And I used to watch 'em moving with the toes all black and raw.

But at last the country altered. White Man's country past disputing.
Open grass and rolling timber with a hint of hills behind.
There I found me food and water. There I spent a week recruiting.
Got my strength and lost my nightmares. Then I entered on my find.

Thence I ran my first rough surveys. Found my trees and blazed and ringed 'em.
Week by week, I pried and sampled. Week by week my findings grew.
Saul, he went to look for donkeys, and by God he found a kingdom!
But by God, who sent His whisper, I had struck the worth of two!

Up along the hostile mountains where the hair-poised snow-slide shivers.
Down and through the big fat marshes that the virgin ore-bed stains
Until I heard the mile-wide mutterings of unimagined rivers,
And beyond the nameless timber saw illimitable plains!

Plotted sites of future cities. Traced the easy grades between 'em.
Watched unharnessed rapids wasting fifty thousand head an hour.
Counted leagues of water frontage through the axe-ripe woods that screen 'em.
Saw a plant to feed a people up and waiting for the power.

Well I know who'll take the credit. All the clever chaps that followed.
Came a dozen men together. Never knew my desert fears.
Tracked me by the camps I'd quitted. Used the water holes I'd hollowed.
They'll go back and do the talking. They'll be called the pioneers.

They will find my sites of townships -- Not the cities that I set there.
They will rediscover rivers -- Not my rivers heard at night.
By my own old tracks and markings they will show you how to get there.
By the lonely cairns I builded they will set your feet aright.

Have I named one single river? Have I claimed one single acre?
Have I kept one single nugget (barring samples)? No, not I.
For my price was paid me ten times over by my maker.
But then you wouldn't understand that. You go up and occupy.

Ores you'll find there. Wood and cattle. Water transit sure and steady
(That'll keep the railway rates down.) Coal and iron at your doors.
God, He kept this country hidden till He judged His people ready.
Then he chose me for his whisper. And I found it. And it's yours.

Yes, your "never-never country". Yes, your "end of cultivation".
And "No sense in going further." till I crossed the ridge to see.
Heaven help me, I don't want it. It's God's present to our nation.
And anybody could have found it, but His whisper came to me.

Hands on the Switch (reprise)

Now there's no more wood to carry, but a wagon wheel to fix.
We've got seven chickens, and tonight we'll have six.
And we just might grow some biscuits yet, if we water this land.
Still don't charge folks interest when we lend a hand.

Now there's so many hands on the switch.
Hands of the new pioneers.
We're helping some friends dig a ditch,
And adding precious days to our years.