Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Writing "Four Wheel Drive"

Back in the winter of 1991 we were deep into the nuke dump fight with the State of New York. One evening in February, I was driving home from Dalton, where I’d been working with Kate and Rick Hollis putting together the Allegany! newsletter of the Concerned Citizens of Allegany County. For much of the way, I followed the Genesee river, travelling south on Route 19 as the river wound its way north in all its icy splendor

I am a transplant, who came to western New York from the Boston area in 1991 to go to the art school in Alfred. The jade green of the winter river and the thought of my family waiting for me in our little stone house on the hill in Rexville made me realize how deep my roots had grown into this part of the world. It was six degrees as I passed through Wellsville. A light snow was falling and darkness was coming on. It came to me that there were only four wheels and two wool sweaters keeping me safe and warm, and I began to write this song . . .

Four Wheel Drive                  
God bless four wheel drive and two wool sweaters
They’ll keep me alive and carry me home
God bless six degrees and a wind that’s hard and bitter
And a warm heart waiting for me at the end of the road

God bless white tail deer and a winding green river
And the black bear asleep somewhere in the ghostly hills
God bless winter storm and the red pines that shiver
And a small gray stone house up there in the Allegany hills

So let the sun shine in the morning and the moon shine in the night
With Allegany watching, she’s gonna be all right
And there’s a feeling driving home tonight that makes me understand
I’ve grown roots into this land

God bless family farms, they are truly the survivors
And the weary arms that haul the winter feed
By the grace of God, may they grace these hills forever
Through the turning of the seasons from the harvest to the seed

When the hills go dark and the home lights are gleaming
And the good dogs bark, and he’s standing in the door
Then I’ll kiss the kids in their beds where they lie dreaming
There’s a blessing in a winter storm and getting home once more

Add: Allegany’s home, coming home tonight
Allegany’s home, gonna be alright
Allegany’s home . . .

I think this was taken in West Almond--and hey! that's Deb Kirsch standing next to me and that little bit of blue hood is the top of Fern's head. We stopped bringing the kids to what they called the "No Dumps" (non-violent actions blocking the siting commission's attempts to access the proposed sites) soon after this, when things started getting tense. After the April first confrontation in Caneadea, where six senior citizens chained themselves to a one-lane bridge and were arrested, Governor Cuomo called a halt, ruling that a radioactive waste dump could not be place in an unwilling community. Good man. 


  1. I remember those cold days…sharing on the website. Thank you for the music and the memories.

  2. I was late getting home from standing on some field one day and our kids were terrified that I'd been arrested and they'd never see me again. It seems one of the teachers at school had told them that's how it would go. They were glad to see me and I was glad not for 2 wool sweaters but my Frostline down jacket. Remember Frostline kits? I still have all they stuff I made from those great kits.