“Levi After Lucy”

In the aftermath of Lucy Cooper‘s either accidental overdose or intentional suicide while incarcerated in the Louisiana Prison for Women, Levi Hooper went on something of a bender.  Levi was not normally a drinker, but he felt despondent over Lucy’s death and did the only thing he knew how in order to deal with the set of emotions he felt: anger, shock, frustration.

Lucy had not done any drugs or much drinking for weeks prior to being arrested. That arrest was in itself was another case of bad timing: someone she thought was a friend flipped when arrested and gave Lucy up as his dealer (see song, “Levi and Lucy“.  The reason Levi did not wish to believe that Lucy had committed suicide was because often when a former user has not done any narcotics for a while, if they relapse at their last dosage, their body cannot tolerate what it once did.

In any event, Lucy had been in the process of turning her life around at the time of her arrest, and her death while serving a relatively short sentence, 18 months, was hard for Levi to take (see songs, “Ready for Change” and “When Louanne Met Lucy in Prison“).

His binge begins in bars around Vicksburg, then he hits the road, to Greenwood, and Greenville, ending up at a small Catholic church in Lake Providence, Louisiana.  Levi does not wish to be rude to the priest, he is simply exhausted both mentally and physically, and after this experience, Levi goes back home, devotes himself once again to helping his mother and begin to pick up the pieces of his life.

BUY SONG
LEVI AFTER LUCY
(F.D. Leone, Jr.)

Levi staggered up the stone church steps
A slice of moon hung above a wooden cross
Inside the door he stared at a concrete font
Then walked down the aisle, drunk and lost

He eased himself into a pew and sat
Musty scent of incense hung in the air
Worn leather knee-benches underfoot
Levi tried to find the words of a prayer

Vicksburg, Greenwood, Greenville
Gone down many roads, travelin’ still
Pavement, gravel, then dirt
But what he’s lookin’ for ain’t in this church

His head sank to his chest; he slept
A priest shook him; he struggled to his feet
The priest asked him, “Do I know ye?”
“No,” Levi said. “You don’ know me.”

Vicksburg, Greenwood, Greenville …

“Please, Lord, please keep me still
From sinkin’ lower an’ blowin’ away
I’ll straighten out I swear I will
Least that’s how I feel today”

Priest looked him over and said
“Were you waiting to see me?”
Woman was dustin’ the altar with a rag
“No, sir, I just fell asleep.”

Vicksburg, Greenwood, Greenville …

© 2018 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP). The songs and stories on the Highway 80 Stories website are works of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

“I Didn’t Know What Else to Do”

Jed Phelps is sixteen and dealing with, along with his sister Nellie, the death of his father.  The Phelps family were on Louanne Bowden‘s father’s side.

BUY SONG
I DIDN'T KNOW WHAT ELSE TO DO
(F.D. Leone, Jr.)

Got the lantern, walked out to the barn
Raised the axe, split a log in two
Much as I hated splitin’ wood
I didn’t know what else to do

Wasn’t that long ago that Pa could lift
Hunderd pound sack under each arm
He looked tiny now under all those quilts
Still, Nellie couldn’t keep him warm

Was about six when we lost Burch
Can’t hardly see his face at all
Ma went to bed and never got up
Now ten years later, looks like it’s Pa

The torn wood smelled green and sour
I started feelin’ pretty loose and relaxed
I’m sixteen and figure it’ll fall to me
Even if he got better Pa won’t ever be back

I looked up, Nellie was on the porch
Asked her, “How’s he?” She said, “Pa’s dead.”
We buried Pa next to Ma and Burch
I found a field stone and set it at th’ head

I swung the axe it stuck in the wood
Raised it again split that log in two
We had plenty wood already in the house
I didn’t know what else to do

© 2018 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP). The songs and stories on the Highway 80 Stories website are works of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

“A Waxahachie Funeral”

BUY SONG
A WAXAHACHIE FUNERAL
(F.D. Leone, Jr.)

A call from that charity lawyer
Words like “justifiable homicide”
She heard him say the phrase “time served”
Then a thirty hour Greyhound ride

Twelve years in Louanne walked out of prison
In a blue dress and a brand new pair of shoes
Destination: a Waxahachie funeral
Her grandma dead at a hunderd ‘n’ two

Standin’ with her people among weathered stones
Stiff new shoes powdered with red dirt
Back home to witness a tough ol’ Texas woman
Laid into a plot of Texas earth

Her daddy died five years before
That was a funeral Louanne had to miss
It’s just her and her Neiman Marcus mother
Left behind to make some sense of this

They climb inside a shiny black Lincoln
Go back to that big old empty house
Their polite Highland Park friends
Don’t know how to talk to her now

Standin’ with her people among weathered stones …

Louanne and momma sit in the kitchen
Mute and surrounded by their ghosts
They stare across a walnut table
A cup of coffee and a slice of melba toast

Louanne remembers another August
That magic summer of eighteen
When her life seemed so full of promise
Magnolias and September dreams

Standin’ with her people among weathered stones …

© 2018 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP). The songs and stories on the Highway 80 Stories website are works of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

“McLemore’s”

BUY SONG
McLEMORE'S
(F.D. Leone, Jr.)

Walked in there first time in aught-four
Took a stool by the pinball machine
Come to know the owner Jake McLemore
Dropping by each day became routine

He looked to be about my dad’s age
If my dad ain’t died in ninety-three
Jake was always adopting strays
Like a three-legged dog and me

Time seemed to pass a little slower
Behind soft country music and bumper pool
The world looked a whole lot better
From where I sat on that bar stool

Pickled eggs and pigs feet in a jar
Antique cash register, black dial phone
Scratches ‘n’ nicks in a hickory bar
Left by those who are never really gone

He pointed to a snapshot of some soldiers
Leaning on a tank in Iraq
“They call my son a hero,” Jake told me
“Would’ve preferred if he’d just made it back”

Time seemed to pass a little slower …

Jake sold out last year with a big payday
Bought 26 acres outside Shreveport
I don’t drink much anymore and anyway
Can’t find a bar like McLemore’s
No, there ain’t no place like McLemore’s

© 2017 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP). The songs and stories on the Highway 80 Stories website are works of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

“Between Here an Gone”

Pearl Robison comes from a fractured family line going back before the Civil War, and her life has carved a jagged line as well.  She is related through her father, Jason Jones Robison (1946- ) to Ruby Robison (1843-1933), who was the sister of Marcus Walsh Robison (1836-1897) Pearl’s great-great-great-grandfather.  Ruby Robison was a young prostitute in Shreveport who gave birth to a Civil War soldier’s child, the first Pearl Robison (see songs, “Fannin Street” and “Levi Motts is My Name“).

In 1973 Pearl Robison was born in Conyers, Georgia but we first meet Pearl when she is managing a dollar store in Macon.  One January day in 2010, sitting in her car before opening up, she decides to leave town and head west on U.S. 80.

BUY SONG
BETWEEN HERE AND GONE
(F.D. Leone, Jr.)

No one dreams of bein’ manager at Dollar Town
But life happens, there’s worse around
A stick of spearmint’ll hide whiskey on her breath
Might as well open up she’s out of cigarettes

Snowed eight inches overnight the air is crystal clear
They’ll be buying extra bread and eggs and beer
Just sittin’ and thinkin’ in her car out there alone
She’s stranded between here and gone

She could just drive away free as the breeze
Start over somewhere, just leave
Don’t matter no more what’s right or wrong
She’s stranded between here and gone

Checking her makeup she sees a new grey hair
She don’ know that woman who returns her stare
The day’s first shopper pulls in the parking lot
She still has time for one more shot

There’s nothing in this town for her to stay
She used to find little things that kept that thought away
Like goin’ to the Blue Bonnet for a lemon custard cone
She’s stranded between here and gone

She could just drive away free as the breeze …

© 2017 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP). The songs and stories on the Highway 80 Stories website are works of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

“Pearl and Jake”

BUY SONG
PEARL AND JAKE
(F.D. Leone, Jr.)

Snowed all day in Macon when Pearl left for the last time
Alabam', Misippy, Luzyana; Georgia felt far enough behind
Creosote, cottonseed, Shreveport – hit her like a cinder block
Lights of an all-nite diner; Pearl coasted to a stop

Jake behind the counter, white apron, little paper hat
Slid some coffee before her, quiet as an alley cat
Pearl pulled a pint from somewhere, tipped it over her cup
Jake lit a cigarette; the sun came up

Lovin’ her is what he meant to do
Even if it broke his heart in two
He played life like a game of horseshoes
Ah, but, lovin’ her was what he meant to do

Jake bought this diner after selling McLemore’s
Pearl was stranded in Macon managing a dollar store
They met on Jewella Avenue both lookin’ for a new start
Jake gave her some food and his hidden heart

Lovin’ her is what he meant to do
Even if it broke his heart in two
He played life like a game of horseshoes
Ah, but, lovin’ her was what he meant to do

Jake didn’t want to come home stinkin’ of cigarettes, beer and perfume
Five years passed by as he walked from room to empty room
Pearl was runnin’ away that first day he met her
She’d been leavin’ ever since, Jake finally found a way to let her

© 2018 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP). The songs and stories on the Highway 80 Stories website are works of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

“The River and Jake”

BUY SONG
THE RIVER AND JAKE
(F.D. Leone, Jr.)

Long as I can remember
When Jake was sad he would go
On down to The River
With some bait and a pole

It’s the place he wants to be
When he needs to be alone
Jake’s gone down to The River
Every day since Pearl’s been gone

You can ask him where they’re biting
Or what he used for bait
Just don’t ask him anything about her
That’s between The River and Jake

Soon his mind will grow empty
With each cast he’ll forget
All the worries he brought with him
They’ll all fade with the sunset

You can ask him where they’re biting …

© 2019 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP). The songs and stories on the Highway 80 Stories website are works of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

“Blinkin’ Back a Tear”

Jacob “Christmas” McLemore, as he was known his entire life, was Jake McLemore’s great-great-great-grandfather. There was another Jacob McLemore, “Christmas” McLemore’s grandson, Jacob Mac McLemore (1879-1977), who first got oil fever when he was 15 running off to the 1894 oil strike in Corsicana. Next was Oil City in 1906, where made a killing, lost it, made and lost other fortunes before ultimately dying at the ripe old age of 98 without a cent to his name, but rich in memories which was all he handed down to his great-grandson and namesake, Jake McLemore.

BUY SONG
BLINKIN' BACK A TEAR
(F.D. Leone, Jr.)

Just before his great-grandpa went in
The hospital for the last time
He told Jake the stories of their kin
A life that was all but left behind

Clear whiskey, flatfoot dancing at jamborees
Frontier women and the men they loved
One by one he handed down his memories
Jake was eighteen, couldn’t get enough

Under a clear blue West Texas sky
A bluetick hound layin’ at his feet
A single tear in the corner of Jake’s eye
He blinked it back from fallin’ down his cheek

Owen McLemore was born in 1791
In Tennessee he married Annabel
Before she died she gave him seven sons
He went to Texas then he went to hell

Owen’s great-grandson was Jake’s namesake
He made some money chasin’ the oil boom
There wuddn’t be nothin’ left for Jake
‘Cept this empty hospital room

Under a clear blue West Texas sky …

© 2018 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP). The songs and stories on the Highway 80 Stories website are works of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

“Hosston to Bastrop”

BUY SONG
HOSSTON TO BASTROP
(F.D. Leone, Jr.)

I used to make my living driving a log truck
Hauling timber for the pulp paper mill
Take Highway 2, Hosston to Bastrop
Double back and unload at Springhill

The paper mill shut down, jobs all dried up
That stink it made, naw we sure don’t miss
Hear they gonna bring in a cross tie plant
Now we can smell them creosote pits

A case of beer on a Friday night
Fill a washtub with boiled shrimp and ice
We sure like get drunk and try to dance
We may be way up north but it’s still Louisian’

Gets real hot ’round here in the summer
August heat will melt the asphalt
Didn’t even hurt Randy Boucher when he got run’d over
His head was hard, the road was soft

A case of beer on a Friday night
Fill a washtub with boiled shrimp and ice
We sure like get drunk and try to dance
We may be way up north but it’s still Louisian’

Like to take my truck out One-Fifty-Seven
Stop at the Shongaloo Dairy Cup
Three-Seventy-One to Coushatta, then One to Powhatan
Just drive around where my daddy grew up

A case of beer on a Friday night
Fill a washtub with boiled shrimp and ice
We sure like get drunk and try to dance
We may be way up north but it’s still Louisian’

Betty Broussard brought her fiddle and bow
Someone gave a washboard to Greg Thibodaux
We sure like get drunk and try to dance
We may be way up north but it’s still Louisian’

© 2017 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP). The songs and stories on the Highway 80 Stories website are works of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.