Song Stories: Next Year People

What defined those red dirt farmers at the moment when their crops blew away in the wind and the insidious dust settled in their cupboards, beneath their bed sheets and in the crevices between their teeth and gums?  What did they dream of after all that made them who they were, fed their families and beckoned their purposeful labor was laid to waste in a dystopian blanket of homeless soil?

This epic disaster was delivered upon them with some degree of involuntary willingness.  Moved by falling farm prices of the post-WW1 recession, they deep plowed the plains and turned their virgin topsoil endlessly over.  The grasses that once served to referee the biblical battle between wind and water were displaced by American ingenuity and machinery promising to bring capitalism’s bounty to the poor.  All the while, an unforgiving drought begged their caution.  A live-for-today attitude would ironically lead to the breaking of their agrarian souls, but then ultimately build them back up to be the penultimate optimists.

An exodus, overshadowing that of the Israelites from Egypt and the Cherokee Nations along the Trail of Tears, beckoned the desperate dust dancers.  It invited them to leave the dying ground of their vaporized farms to the new fertile, but equally unforgiving green fields of golden California.  They departed their half-buried farmhouses in twice overflowing Fords with a future as opaque as the black rollers in their rear-view.  They sought refuge, work, and second chances.  But mainly, they ached for an opportunity to breathe deeply, uninterrupted by angry earthen interlopers.  If a chance to live upon a safer ground, beneath a clear sky were to be the prize, the price would be mercilessly steep.  Stoop labor for non-whites and the poor and ladder work for the slightly more advantaged would replace the plague of the dustbowl.  Ditch camps would replace homesteads and cotton, potatoes, fruits and peas would replace the golden wheat fields of home. The brutal harshness of mother nature and her bitter harvest was supplanted by cruelties never before encountered.  The ugly side of humanity was the new reality for many vagabond midwesterners. Discrimination, manipulation, and exploitation constituted the unholy trinity of mankind.  To survive one, was miraculous.  To survive all, would be the stuff of legend.

The damned would curse the devil and pray to Jesus.  They could not have imagined that he would arrive on the back of FDR’s New Deal, and in the form of an Iowa-born, fourth-generation, Norwegian genius named Norman Borlaug.  Borlaug would bless the land with an elixir of technical agricultural innovations and common sense renewal.  The Nobel Peace Prize winner delivered this man-made salvation first to the disparaged Great Plains and then ultimately, to the world.

Some of the far away farmers returned to their skeleton fields to rebuild and replant.  Others, stayed in the refuge of more fertile ground, becoming the bloodline of a new California.  Once known as proud pioneer “Sooners,” fate would put upon them the label, “Okies.” Okies were homeless, displaced and disillusioned.  Okies became the transient poster children of the Great Depression.  But as the decades past, a new century would anoint them a most favored and regal name.  It was a uniquely American character trait defined by a persistent and relentless optimism.  They are, as well as the heart of all Americans, forever known as “Next Year People.”

Mark Elliott – Runaway Home
“It’s The Music That Makes Us Smile.”

Next Year People
Mark Elliott & Cole Bruce
Here we are in a tough situation
Everything but the rain coming down
Same feeling of desperation
Waiting on our luck to come ’round
We are, next year people

Feeling just a little bit stronger
Yeah, I think that we’ve got a shot
Holding on just a little bit longer
These days we say that a lot
We are next year people

Whoa next year people been here forever
Whoa next year people they never say never
Whoa next year people will always be around
Oh, we need next year people right now

Yesterday disappears into thin air
Just to come back around today
I know it feels like we’re never gonna’ get there
But when we do we’re gonna’ say
We are next year people

Whoa next year people been here forever
Whoa next year people they never say never
Whoa next year people will always be around
Oh, we need next year people right now



Dad & Wheel Barrow
















One Reply to “Song Stories: Next Year People”

  1. Mark, Gary and Malinda, I have guests visiting from Australia and would very much like for Bryce and Sarah (both teach music in the New South Wales school system) to meet you all and they would love the same. Bryce will be playing at writer’s night at the fillin station on Wednesday the first but other than that, would it be possible for them to be at a practice session with ya’ll? I would be with them also. Bryce loves country music and is here in pursuit of the dream. I know you will like them, this is year two for him to visit and he will be back again next year during their winter break (our July). Just let me know, email or call 615-504-7168. Thanks and love ya’lll, Adair


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