From One Evening in May
Spruce and Maple Music, SMM 1009

On a road trip that led me through Barstow, I started wondering what would make that town a destination for someone, and I came up with a story. It sat in my folder of possible songs for years until one day I pulled it out, re-read it, and the song nearly wrote itself. I play it in the key of B, with the capo on the 4th fret of the guitar. I wrote the chords out of a G position, so you can put the capo wherever it’s best for you and sing it, if you want to. Lots of words! But it took that many to tell the whole story.

I came from the west on old 58 when I first arrived
Running hard to escape a life I couldn’t have survived
But my car broke down and I couldn’t pay
And I couldn’t hop a freight with a kid on the way
D                                                 G
So I settled down for a little while in Barstow

Barstow is a travelers’ stop where the highways meet and cross
Out on the Great Mojave where dust is the major crop
Full of rusty trailers and junker cars
Piles of rubble and smoky bars
D                                                         G
No, there’s not much that’ll keep a girl in Barstow

But I waited tables, cleaned the rooms, anything to get by
I sold the sundries and pumped the gas, and the months went by
And then she came, my Desert Rose
And so I stayed to watch her grow
D                                                   G
Until such time as we’d be leaving Barstow
Freedom’s what you make of it
And soon as we could go
D                                                G
We’d be free when we quit old Barstow

I had no kin to call my own other than my Rose
People like me, they drift on through with every wind that blows
There are good folk who make this place their home
But I never attached, ‘cause I knew I’d roam
Just waiting for my Rose to grow in Barstow

Rose was just sixteen, in the first bloom of womanhood
When the highway crews they came to town, and the work was plenty good
They were building a bypass, and the old town boomed
And we didn’t believe the town was doomed
But the crews moved on, and my Rose moved, too, from Barstow

And now I make my home out here with the creosote and the sage
I save my tips for whenever she might need my help someday
Broke down in some backwater
Maybe with a baby daughter
They’ll have a home to come to here in Barstow
Freedom’s what you make of it
And she was free to go
And I guess I’m free to make my home in Barstow

Barstow’s mighty quiet since the bypass has been made
The new shops at the exits get all the travelers’ trade
As I watch the trains make up in the yard
I still keep an eye for an opencar
Though I know I’m here to stay awhile in Barstow

The winter months are bitter, and the wind plays a lonesome tune
The summer starts in April and lasts through the Harvest Moon
The Santa Anas will make you crazy
And that hot sun makes you so lazy
That it’s easier to stay than leave old Barstow

But the rains come like a carnival and the wildflowers bloom
And wet asphalt, creosote and sage are my favorite perfume
At night the stars are on parade
And the constant hum of the highway fades
And I’ve learned to love the waiting here in Barstow
Freedom’s what you make of it
And you were free to go
But you’re always free to come back home to Barstow
My Desert Rose, you’ve got  home in Barstow

© Laurie Lewis 2021