A Country Boy Can Survive

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A Country Boy Can Survive

by Hank Williams, Jr.

The preacher man says it’s the end of time
And the Mississippi River she’s a-goin’ dry
The interest is up and the Stock Market’s down
And you only get mugged if you go downtown

I live back in the woods, you see
My woman and the kids, and the dogs, and me
I got a shotgun, a rifle, and a 4-wheel drive
And a country boy can survive
Country folks can survive

I can plow a field all day long
I can catch catfish from dusk ’til dawn
We make our own whiskey and our own smoke, too
Ain’t too many things these old boys can’t do
We grow good old tomatoes and homemade wine
And a country boy can survive
Country folks can survive

Because you can’t starve us out
And you can’t make us run
‘Cause we’re them old boys raised on shotgun
And we say “grace” and we say “Ma’am”
And if you ain’t into that we don’t give a d***

We came from the West Virginia coal mines
And the Rocky Mountains and the western skies
And we can skin a buck; we can run a trotline
And a country boy can survive
Country folks can survive

I had a good friend in New York City
He never called me by my name, just hillbilly
My grandpa taught me how to live off the land
And his taught him to be a businessman
He used to send me pictures of the Broadway nights
And I’d send him some homemade wine

But he was killed by a man with a switchblade knife
For 43 dollars my friend lost his life
I’d love to spit some beech-nut in that dude’s eyes
And shoot him with my old .45
‘Cause a country boy can survive
Country folks can survive

‘Cause you can’t starve us out and you can’t make us run
‘Cause we’re them old boys raised on shotgun
And we say “grace” and we say “Ma’am”
And if you ain’t into that we don’t give a d***

We’re from North California and South Alabama
And little towns all around this land
And we can skin a buck; we can run a trotline
And a country boy can survive
Country folks can survive
Country boy can survive
Country folks can survive

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Sometimes an old song can come back into fashion. This one feels like it has a snug spot in the current zeitgeist – at least in some places within the U.S.

[Biographically… though it might be hard to see in me now, as I have evolved into quite the urban sophisticate, my early childhood memories include shotguns, rifles, 4 wheel drives, bucks being skinned, and trot lines being run. This song has always been relatable. I thought of it again recently when I saw a social media post, from my kinfolks, discussing the topic of pickling and jarring food for long term storage. This is not a practice long forgotten within my family. My grandparents did it. I don’t know what to make of the food shortage prognostications I have been reading about in the news, but I can tell you that I know people who are preparing for even extreme possibilities.]

Who is Hank Williams Jr.?

Randall Hank Williams (born May 26, 1949), known professionally as Hank Williams Jr. or Bocephus, is an American singer-songwriter and musician. He is the son of country music legend Hank Williams.

A Country Boy Can Survive was written and performed by Hank Williams Jr. The song, released in 1982, reflects the growing unease about the urbanization of America, and praises the people and places who are choosing to live off of the land and remain self-reliant. The song was released during a low ebb of the U.S. economy and its message resonated with an apprehensive public – the rural public in particular.

Charts:

Chart (1982)Peak
position
US Hot Country Songs (Billboard)2
Canadian RPM Country Tracks2

Year-end charts

Chart (1982)Position
US Hot Country Songs (Billboard)9

I certainly hope that as a society, we never need to put the premise of this song too much to the test. However, I do have my suspicions that the premise is largely true. The trade-off of urbanization seems to be better good times and more uncertain bad times. There’s something somewhat comforting in the idea that some people exist outside of reliance on urban systems.

In addition, as I might now have more in common with the friend from New York City, than I do the country boy protagonist of the song, I hope that a rural friend or relative sings a song about hypothetically avenging me if I ever run afoul of any switchblade wielding muggers.

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2 thoughts on “A Country Boy Can Survive

    1. Yeah. I remember that. I think people reach out for the song in times wherein they might have the opportunity to say “I told you so” about urbanization.

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