Friday, May 3, 2013

Random Commentary


Many folks would think a classic Southern song would involve Hank Williams or Johnny Cash. They are classic – no doubt. I, however, wanted to focus on a more humorous – and perhaps more clearly accurate summation of one part of The South. Ray Stevens is now known as a wonderful comedian and has achieved world-wide fame. However, when I was growing up, he was kind of a local boy – I‘ve seen him live a few times at the Expo and some other big agricultural-type events that I doubt he’d bother with these days. Nonetheless, he’s quite personable and has an excellent ability to tell a story. I’d like to break down one of them: Mississippi Squirrel Revival. Please note that his lyrics are in italics and my comments are in parentheses and NOT in italics. Also, please note that the commentary on the lyrics are purely my own and don’t necessarily reflect those of the singer/songwriter.

Well when I was kid I'd take a trip
every summer,
down to Mississippi.
To visit my granny in her ante bellum world.

(Here, I’d like to say it’s not uncommon to 1) call your grandmama “Granny” and 2) to spend extra time with the grandparents in the summertime. Also, there is no doubt Mississippi is rife with ante bellum life.)

I'd run barefooted all day long,
climbing trees free as a song.
One day I happened catch myself a squirrel.
I stuffed him down in an old shoebox,
(It was quite common to either catch an animal or shoot it – kind of depended on the day, your mood and what weaponry you had on you.) punched a couple holes in the top and when Sunday came,
I snuck him in the church.
I was sittin way back in the very last pew
(Commonly, we call ‘em “back row baptists.”)
showin him to my good buddy Hugh,
when that squirrel got loose
and went totally berserk!

Well what happened next is hard to tell.
Some thought it was Heaven others thought it was Hell.

(Without getting too political or into a religious debate, you’d be amazed at what one group thinks is “gospel truth” and another group thinks is outright blasphemy. The worst part is that they are usually quoting the same scripture and just in total disagreement over its meaning. As a child it was confusing. As an adult it is more confusing…)

But the fact that something was among us
was plain to see.
As the choir sang "I Surrender All"
the squirrel ran up Harv Newlan's coveralls
Harv leaped to his feet and said,
"Somethin's got a hold on me!"

(If this were a Pentecostal church, this would be a common exclamation … people would be excited not afraid.)


The day the squirrel went berserk,
In the First Self-Righteous Church

(I will insert a slight bit of provocative comment here to say that some – not all – churches are more concerned with their appearance and being “better than” rather than being in pursuit of having a relationship with God, bringing Heaven to earth, teaching the truth and reaching out to all people. It’s sad.)
in that sleepy little town of Pascagoula.
It was a fight for survival,
that broke out in revival.
They were jumpin pews and shouting Hallelujah!

Verse 2

Well Harv hit the aisles dancin and screamin
some thought he had religion
others thought he had a demon
Harv thought he had a weed eater loose
in his fruit of the looms.
He fell to his knees to plead and beg,
and that squirrel ran out of his britches leg,
unobserved to the other side of the room.

All the way down to the Amen pew
where sat Sister Bertha "Better than you"
(If you’ve been to church in The South, you know these rare but very real members of the congregation. If you are Sister Bertha, well… you know who you are and what happens next seems like karma.)
Who had been watching all the commotion
with sadistic glee.
Shoot, you should've seen the look in her eyes
when that squirrel jumped her garters and crossed her thighs.
she jumped to her feet and said,
"Lord have mercy on me!"
As the squirrel made laps inside her dress,
she began to cry and then to confess
to sins that would make a sailor blush with shame.

She told of gossip and church dissention,
but the thing that got the most attention
is when she talked about her love life
then she started naming names! 

(There are many things churches down South frown upon. Some disapprove of dancing for any reason – although that’s less common these days. Some disapprove of drinking for any reason – although the vast majority of the congregation do so…we just don’t talk about it at church. And many political battles go on in churches that are divisive and really violate the whole concept of “love thy neighbor as thyself.” Hopefully, we are getting away from such nonsense; preaching less hell fire and damnation; and preaching more love and communion.)


The day the squirrel went berserk.
In the First Self-Righteous Church
in that sleepy little town of Pascagoula.
It was a fight for survival,
that broke out in revival.
They were jumpin pews and shouting Hallelujah!

Verse 3

Well seven deacons and then the pastor got saved
and 25,000 dollars got raised.
And 50 volunteered for missions in the Congo
on the spot.
and even without an invitaion
there were at least 500 rededications.
And we all got rebaptised whether we needed it or not.

(I love that section although there's not much to comment on – except the sad hypocrisy in so many churches where appearances matter more than heart, where acts done out of duty occur more regularly than acts of pure love. Again, I think we are moving more and more away from that – gratefully.)

Now you've heard the Bible stories I guess
of how He parted the waters for Moses to pass.
All the miracles God has brought to this ol' world.
But the one I'll remember to my dyin day
is how he put that church back on the narrow way
with a half crazed Mississippi Squirrel

(Sometimes it takes an unusual shake-up to wake folks up. You know, we get quite patriotic when 9/11 happens or the Boston Marathon bombing or Sandy Hook…it doesn’t take long, though, for many of us to turn off our television and go back to worrying about playoffs and draft picks – which I love, don’t misunderstand – I guess I just wish the shake-ups were more lasting.

I’d like to think we are still unified in our stance against terrorism – DAILY.

I’d like to think we pray for our military every day – for we are still at war. After more than 12 years, we are still in a declared war. Teenagers today have never known an America in peacetime. Our men and women are still being killed in a war that will hopefully be over soon.

Our homeless rate and unemployment rate are both still unacceptable.

So…I’m glad sometimes an unlikely event like a squirrel getting loose in church can make a change in so many. It’d just be nice if that change lasted. I certainly don’t speak for the songwriter here, but that’s what this song makes me think about…when are we fooling ourselves that we are being good and faithful servants when all we’re doing is going through the motions? ...and what does it take to remind us how important it is to love one another and support one another?

I hope and pray we have a very real conviction to be patriotic, to love one another … to be unified.)

God bless The United States of America.


All song lyrics are by Ray Stevens

Quoted from :


  1. Thoughts:
    I couldn't help but sing as read the lyrics...and now, The Streak...and now, The Chicken Opera...and now, dadblasted you've got me singing these songs again.

    I kinda like the hellfire and damnation, reminds me of how great a chasm God crosses to save poor, blind sinners like myself.

    Don't forget that love can demand duty such as the example Paul gave us when he desired to be in Heaven but said it was his duty to still be on earth at the time. What is Christian love but our duty? We all know the misapplied "love chapter" of Corinthians that gets tossed about at weddings but Paul is actually talking about Christians loving people as their duty.

    We (most Americans) really just have a lack of discipline in anything. Our patriotism waxes and wanes, our religion waxes and wanes, our diets wax and wane, we can't even pick a tv show for long. Thats a whole nother subject.

    I'd sure like it if someone could convince Washington to scale our world wide military forces way back but the least they could do is get our servicepeople out of these bloody conflicts where they have to fight with two hands tied behind their backs. That'd be a good start.

    Now excuse me, I have to figure out how to get a Harley off a high-dive.

  2. As always...insightful and passionate comments. Thank you, Ray - good luck with the Harley. :~)