This song hit me hard the very first time I heard the lyrics. It’s challenging to someone who grew up in the South, lives in the South, is proud to be from the South, but also has the ability to see the world through (slightly?) different lenses now and then. At least I like to believe I can–maybe that’s just a story I tell myself.
And I have to say, it really did change my perspective. It made me look at racial inequality and police brutality, oddly enough, through my own eyes. That allowed me to see the whole situation under a completely different set of eyes. Ultimately, it challenged me to find a way to reconcile these views and try to get to the truth of what is actually happening.
I’ve read/seen a lot of reaction to this song, mostly by people who I don’t think fully get what Tyler Childers is doing here. Hell, I may not 100% get the whole idea, but I think I have the background to get it better than most of the people who’ve reacted to it.
It’s really clever.
How many boys could they haul off this mountain
Shoot full of holes, cuffed and layin’ in the streets
‘Til we come into town in a stark ravin’ anger
Looking for answers and armed to the teeth?
Tyler is appealing to a couple of different things that are common in Southern culture here. If you took this question completely out of the context of the song and asked any self-respecting Southern man how he’d react to someone from his community being hauled off and killed, he’s HONOR BOUND to tell you he’d do something about it. At the very least, that’s the story he has to tell himself–he wouldn’t stand for it.
Tyler is setting up a logical trap here.
“Hell yeah…that’s right. I’d drive in with my rifle.”
Papaw’s old pistol
“AND my Papaw’s old pistol!” *In fact, you’d feel obligated to bring that pistol to honor your Papaw, who also wouldn’t stand for this.
How many, you reckon, would it be, four or five?
Now, when I first heard this lyric, I thought it was “How many, you reckon, would it be for a fight?” I took that as Tyler pointing out that you wouldn’t be alone in that thinking–your whole community would (or at least says it would) be a part of this trip into town. That actually works too, but that’s not what he’s saying.
I now realize what he means by, “four or five”. He’s again challenging the Southern man’s honor–it wouldn’t have to happen four or five times before we’d do something about it. We’d take care of this after ONE.
Or would that be the start of a long, violent history
Of tucking our tails as we try to abide?
Now you have to choose, Southern man. Would you take up arms and do something as you claim, or would you choose to tuck tail. For a proud Southern man, there is only one choice here.
So…why do you fault anyone else for making that same choice? You think they should tuck tail?
Notice that I’m not claiming to have the answer to that question.