by Robert L. Ferrier15 Sep 2014
The letter from Booneville Power
promised a year-long contract
writing songs for a promotional film
about damming the Columbia River.
Woody stopped panning Sonora gold
packed his family in the Pontiac
headed up Route 99
bound for a dream in Portland.
But Woody’s politics worried the feds
so they cut his gig to a month
chauffeured him through the valleys
while he gathered grist for his songs.
He sampled the apple orchards
wandered through fields of wheat
passed aging heaps on highways
those jalopies piled with bedding
migrants looking for starts
in land the river would nourish
“My people,” said Woody
and he wrote that river’s anthem:
Green Douglas firs where the waters cut through
Down her wild mountains and canyons she flew
Canadian Northwest to oceans so blue
Roll on, Columbia, roll on
And on up the river is Grand Coulee Dam
The mightiest thing ever built by a man
To run the great factories and water the land
So roll on, Columbia, roll on.
Woody beat doubt and political wrong
lived on the land and loved the river
wrote 26 tunes in 30 days
and a state adopted his song.