Ballad of a Wobbly

When I came to this country, left Scotland far behind
Evicted from the highlands, told to go and find
A new life in America across the Atlantic Sea
Where I joined the millions of other refugees
Who ended up at Ellis Island as the century began
The wretched of the Earth from every foreign land

When I came to this country, broken and bereft
I quickly saw I’d have been no worse off if I’d never left
Such awful deprivations as I’d never had to face
Borne by Swedes and Russians, Africans and every other race
Millions of people trying not to end up dead
From cholera or blacklung or getting clubbed on the head

When I came to this country, to have something on my fork
It was obvious the first thing was to get out of New York
I learned to hop the freight trains, some other stiffs and I
Caught a westbound rattler to give Oregon a try
Signed up for the logging camps, became a timber beast
If I’d stayed there any longer I’d have surely been deceased

When I came to this country, I worked the copper mines in Butte
I was a gandy dancer in Spokane in a gandy dancer suit
I heard the Rebel Girl speak one night in a railway yard
I joined the union right away and got my first red card
I became a hobo organizer for the One Big Union grand
Preaching the Wobbly gospel across this starving land

When I came to this country, I soon enough lost track
Of the number of times I felt a billy club upon my back
Or how many times I saw the tents with freezing kids
Working in the mines instead of living on the skids
How many times I heard the horrid crying from below
Of those trapped there in the dungeons with nowhere left to go

When I came to this country, it was a hopeful time of desperation
The red flags flew all across the nation
But when the war began in Europe we refused to die and kill
We refused to fight a bosses’ war and serve the bosses’ will
That’s when they got the Legion to burn down our union halls
All across the land, where there used to be four walls

When I came to this country, I had no great expectations
But I didn’t think I’d end up back here awaiting deportation
On a steamship on the Hudson, I watch the sunset fade
With 20,000 others swept up in the Palmer Raids
Counting myself lucky that I’m still alive
Remembering the moment that I first arrived

When I came to this country