Big Joe and Phantom 309

English Club – Session II, November 8 at Vitoria-Gasteiz.

I want to share this amazing tale with all you storytime lovers, especially those under-age… simply because I love to see their eyes catching fire with the unexpected.

Welcome you all!

I hope you brought some tissues with you…


“Big Joe And Phantom 309”

Written by Tommy Faile 1967,

Performed by Tom Waits

Well now, it’s story time again. I’m gonna tell you a story ’bout a truck driver. This story was written by a guy named Red Sovine, and it’s called the Ballad of Big Joe and Phantom 309.”

Well you see I happened to be back on the east coast

a few years back tryin’ to make me a buck

like everybody else, well you know

times get hard and well I got down on my luck

and I got tired of just roamin’ and bummin’

around, so I started thumbin’ my way

back to my old hometown

you know I made quite a few miles

in the first couple of days, and I

figured I’d be home in a week if my

luck held out this way

but you know it was the third night

I got stranded, it was out at a cold lonely

crossroads, and as the rain came

pouring down, I was hungry, tired

freezin’, caught myself a chill, but

it was just about that time that

the lights of an old semi topped the hill

you should of seen me smile when I

heard them air brakes come on, and

I climbed up in that cab where I

knew it’d be warm at the wheel

well at the wheel sat a big man

I’d have to say he must of weighed 210

the way he stuck out a big hand and

said with a grin “Big Joe’s the name

and this here rig’s called Phantom 309″

well I asked him why he called his

rig such a name, but he just turned to me

and said “Why son don’t you know this here

rig’ll be puttin’ ’em all to shame, why

there ain’t a driver on this

or any other line for that matter

that’s seen nothin’ but the taillights of Big Joe

and Phantom 309″

So we rode and talked the better part of the night

and I told my stories and Joe told his and

I smoked up all his Viceroys as we rolled along

he pushed her ahead with 10 forward gears

man that dashboard was lit like the old

Madam La Rue pinball, a serious semi truck

until almost mysteriously, well it was the

lights of a truck stop that rolled into sight

Joe turned to me and said “I’m sorry son

but I’m afraid this is just as far as you go

You see I kinda gotta be makin’ a turn

just up the road a piece,” but I’ll be

damned if he didn’t throw me a dime as he

threw her in low and said “Go on in there

son, and get yourself a hot cup of coffee

on Big Joe”

and when Joe and his rig pulled off into

the night, man in nothing flat they was

clean outa sight

so I walked into the old stop and

ordered me up a cup of mud sayin’

“Big Joe’s settin’ this dude up” but

it got so deathly quiet in that

place, you could of heard a pin drop

as the waiter’s face turned kinda

pale, I said “What’s the matter did

I say somethin’ wrong?” I kinda

said with 8a half way grin. He said

“No son, you see It’ll happen every

now and then. You see every driver in

here knows Big Joe, but let me

tell you what happened just 10 years

ago, yea it was 10 years ago

out there at that cold lonely crossroads

where you flagged Joe down, and

there was a whole bus load of kids

and they were just comin’ from school

and they were right in the middle when

Joe topped the hill, and could

have been slaughtered except

Joe turned his wheels, and

he jacknifed, and went

into a skid, and folks around here

say he gave his life to save that bunch

of kids, and out there at that cold

lonely crossroads, well they say it

was the end of the line for

Big Joe and Phantom 309, but it’s

funny you know, cause every now and then

yea every now and then, when the

moon’s holdin’ water, they say old Joe

will stop and give you a ride, and

just like you, some hitchhiker will be

comin’ by”

“So here son,” he said to me, “get

yourself another cup of coffee, it’s on the

house, you see I want you to hang on

to that dime, yea you hang on to that

dime as a kind of souvenir, a

souvenir of Big Joe and Phantom 309″

(Follow up: Raffi’s “Skin & Bones”)


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