Don’t you just hate it when people say that?
And yet there are some common themes and experiences which seem to stretch across all times and cultures.
Everyone has walked up hill both ways in the snow. And everyone has been in a car or cart, or on a path or a road, listening to or joining in some song of the road, passing the time of our travels with some expression of our hearts.
When I was a kid, for example, we sang an obscure country song about detours every time we came to one.
Detour, there’s a muddy road ahead.
Detour, paid no mind to what it said.
Detour, all these bitter things I find.
Should have read that detour sign.
It was western swing, originally recorded by Tex Williams with the Spade Cooley band in 1946, but was on the charts by Patti Page for 16 weeks in 1951. (See video here.)
Just so you know, that was (slightly) before I was born. But my mom loved country western and I knew the song by heart before I was 5, including the warning about the five years in jail.
My mom was always warning me about something.
But as the trip drew on, and everyone including my wife fell asleep, I was singing to myself. And one song I often sang was “No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus” by Charles Weigle, a gentle, elderly man I knew as a child. (See AV links below.)
He was the artist in residence at the Bible college my dad attended. He was an old man when I knew him,over 80, and he was kind to me. And the story of his wife leaving him because he was called to preach may have made more of an impression on me than any warnings about detours.
I also sang another hymn by Weigle, late at night as my eyes got heavier and the snores got louder: “I Have Found a Hiding Place.” The chorus goes like this:
Jesus, Rock of Ages let me hide in Thee,
Jesus, Rose of Sharon, sweet Thou art to me;
Lily of the Valley, Bright and Morning Star,
Fairest of ten thousand to my soul.
And at some level these songs, like all road songs, said something about my heart. Nurtured in a community of faith, I sought to connect to its values and find comfort it its truths.
I still do.
And so did the ancient Hebrews, whose Psalms of Ascent (Psalms 120-134) collect their own songs of the road, the songs they sang together as they traveled up to Jerusalem for the Holy Days three times a year.
I plan to write about some of them this summer. But for now, what are your songs of the road?
No, not the silly one. But the ones you sing late, alone, in the dark, as the road grows long and stretches into the night.
What do they say about your heart?
You can hear Weigle’s own testimony about the song. It’s an hour long, but you can hear him sing it himself about 24 minutes in, after he tells the story much the way I heard him tell it as a young boy. You will have to forgive the exuberance of his audience.
Here is a guy singing “I have found a hiding place” as poorly, and as earnestly, as I do, and playing the ukelele as poorly as I did too. For a slightly more palatable version, here are three sisters singing it at at a family reunion in 1990. themabesbabes. Seriously.