A Boy Named Sue


Ok well todays post is a little bit more about me and a boy named Sue.

Johnny Cash recorded “A Boy Named Sue” live at San Quentin Prison in February, 1969. Written by Shel Silverstein the story is about a boy who grows up angry at his father not only for leaving his family, but for naming him Sue. When the boy grows up, he sees his father in a bar and gets in a fight with him. After his father explains that he named him Sue to make sure he was tough, the son understands.

“A Boy Named Sue” – Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash-A Boy Named Sue

Now I didn’t get a great name like Sue but there are a bunch of things that my parents did for me that at first didn’t seem to be in my best interest.  Things that made me who I am today.

I could consider myself an “only child”. My parents had me, then they separated and went off to have other children. So I have nine brothers and sisters, some half, some step but all family. Growing up in this environment you needed to find your own footing or you got knocked down and trampled.

Like Sue, I grew up quick and my wits got keen… In some situations you needed to be strong and unwavering but in others you learnt what was and wasn’t important, and could just let things go. With so many children spread over a few family homes, alone time with a parent was very rare.

Mum would often take a single child shopping with her and we all knew that she would buy a treat that only her and that child would eat it in the car and then hide the wrapper… you would be sworn to secrecy and talking about it would exclude you from future shopping trips. But we all knew!

Visits to my Dad’s would mean a trip to the abattoir at Robb’s Jetty. So I would be up early and spend the day watching cows get killed and slaughtered. Dad was in the tripe department. Watching the stomach bag being cleaned and packed was a long day and I would go home smelling like Dad did every day when he got home from work. The best smell I remember as a child.

My Step-father drove trucks, so again you would get to go to work with him for the day in the truck. Your job for the day was to climb up on the back of the truck and put the tarp that covered the loads on and off. For this you got a truckies lunch and sometime a dollars’ worth of mixed lollies that came in a massive pie bag.

“Six Days On The Road” – Charley Pride
Charley Pride-Six days on the road

The rest of the time was not about individuals but the collective and you got used to things like hand me down clothes, group presents, shared treats and joint possessions. You all got to stay up or you all had to go to bed. If one was grounded, then the others need not ask to go out either. If you had something special that couldn’t be divided up, then you gave it up or would be expected not to play with it.

Back when night time was for the adults and all the kids would be sent to bed early… the music would play till all hours. You would find yourself falling asleep to the same familiar songs that always played at night. Country music – Elvis – Patsy Cline – Truck driving songs. The same ones over and over. It gets into your bones.

“Return To Sender” – Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley-Return To Sender

You could tell if parents were fighting or frisky by the songs that were on. If mum was having a few drinks she would often come and drag us out of bed at the same point in the night to  make us dance with her to “My Boy Lollipop”.

“My Boy Lollipop” – Little Milli
Little Milli – My Boy Lollipop (2)

So what did I get out of all this… Well I’m not big into possessions,  a few good clothes amongst the day-to-day casuals is all you need. I can be just as happy on my own or with a crowd of people, and you can tell if I’m fighting or frisky by the type of songs I’m playing.  And the Country Music is still in my bones… Old country and the new stuff.

“Takin’ Pills” – Pistol Annies


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2 thoughts on “A Boy Named Sue”

  1. Darryl this paints such a bittersweet picture. I can see you as a little boy and learning the lessons that would make you the man you are today. One thing you did learn, and we should all take a lesson in, is making the best of every situation. We have the power and control to act in any way we choose. To wallow about in self pity is a choice. To put a positive spin on a situation is a choice.

    Dubious about the country music however … tell me … how do you tell whether its fighting or frisky music when its all about your girlfriend leaving and your dog dying? 🙂

    Thanks for the post, as usual, well written and thought provoking.

    • Jodie, happy, sad or serious country music all has the same effect. It’s your situation that changes!

      First your foot starts tapping, then you start thinking about love… If you’re lucky enough to be close to a woman, your hips start grooving… Now if she’s up for it you’re frisky, if she’s not OR she shouldn’t be because her man’s nearby, you’re fighting.

      Either way you’re loving the country, and learning the lessons!

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