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Big Rock Candy Mountain


When reading John Steinbecks Of Mice and Men you begin to understand the history of he great depression and the plight of the working man.  Thousands of young men set out during this time period to find work because work was scarce.  Roughly 1 out of 3 adults were out of work. Many young men left their families to find work in the wide world.  Many people became homeless, a victim of hard times, wandering around searching for work.  When found many times work was hard and payed little, with no hope to build much of a future,  A key way to travel was to "ride the rails".  That means stowing away on any train available.

    Look at this song written during this time period. A song writers idea of heaven "Big Rock Candy Mountain",deals with the issues of the day.  A world where tramps and hobos could lead an ideal life--without work or hardship.

  1. . One evening as the sun went down
    And the jungle fires were burning,
    Down the track came a hobo hiking,
    He said, "Boys, I'm not turning
    I'm heading for a land that's far away
    Beside the crystal fountain
    I'll see you all this coming fall
    In the Big Rock Candy Mountain
    2. In the Big Rock Candy Mountain,
    It's a land that's fair and bright,
    The handouts grow on bushes
    And you sleep out every night.
    The boxcars all are empty
    And the sun shines every day
    I'm bound to go
    Where there ain't no snow
    Where the sleet don't fall
    And the winds don't blow
    In the Big Rock Candy Mountain.

3. In the Big Rock Candy Mountain
The cops have wooden legs
The bulldogs all have rubber teeth
And the hens lay soft-boiled eggs
The farmer's trees are full of fruit
And the barns are full of hay
Oh the buzzin' of the bees
In the cigarette trees
Near the soda water fountain
At the lemonade springs
Where the bluebird sings
On the big rock candy mountain

4. In the Big Rock Candy Mountain
You never change your socks
And little streams of alkyhol
Come trickling down the rocks
O the shacks all have to tip their hats
And the railway bulls are blind
There's a lake of stew
And gingerale too
And you can paddle
All around it in a big canoe
In the Big Rock Candy Mountain


5 In the Big Rock Candy Mountain,
The jails are made of tin.
You can slip right out again,
As soon as they put you in.
There ain't no short-handled shovels,
No axes, saws nor picks,
I'm bound to stay
Where you sleep all day,
Where they hung the jerk
That invented work
In the Big Rock Candy Mountain.

6. On a summer day
In the month of May
A burly bum came hiking
Down a shady lane
Through the sugar cane
He was looking for his liking
As he roamed along
He sang a song
Of the land of milk and honey
Where a bum can stay
For many a day
And he won't need any money

7. There's a lake of gin
We can both jump in
And the handouts grow on bushes
In the new-mown hay
We can sleep all day
And the bars all have free lunches
Where the mail train stops
And there ain't no cops
And the folks are tender-hearted
Where you never change your socks
And you never throw rocks
And your hair is never parted

8. Oh, a farmer and his son,
They were on the run
To the hay field they were bounding
Said the bum to the son,
"Why don't you come
To that big rock candy mountain?"
So the very next day
They hiked away,
The mileposts they were counting
But they never arrived
At the lemonade tide
On the big rock candy mountain

Questions:  Answer these questions to further think about the song and its meaning.

1)      Who do you think wrote this song? Where do you think it was sung?

2)      What is this song about?

3)      Why can’t the farmer and his son find Big Rock Candy Mountain?

4)      What kind of things are found in Big Rock Candy Mountain?

5)      Why in this paradise is there no bad weather?

6) What about those things that would hurt the homeless? What are they like in  Big Rock Candy Moutain?

7) What kind of “heavenly society” does this song writer dream about?

Resources: Go to this site to hear "Big Rock Candy Mountain" from a recent movie soundtrack called "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"

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