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"Bonita and Bill Butler"

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    "Bonita and Bill Butler"

    This song by Sidney Cox is on Alison Krauss's Paper Airplane album. I wonder if anyone could explain what the lyrics mean. The riverboat lingo is a little like a foreign language:
    I grew up in the scantling yards of Wheeling West Virginia
    A wheelhouse cub looking for an open door
    In the packet ways a Sweeney wed the keel of my Bonita
    Just two months from her timbers til she moored
    I paid the fare in billet on her maiden voyage to Vicksburg
    And talked my way to hand the tiller on the course
    In her planks I carved a notch and sealed the vow “Be my Bonita”
    And her dowry was my life between the shores

    I was born with rouging ways, and she steered me like a woman
    From the port calls and the bawds that lead me stray
    The calliope serenades, made the old towns come running
    And the boys would gamble shards to pull her chains
    The striker’s boast would fain me loss, about the wrecks the shoals were keeping
    And how the old girl’s got poor Billy’s ransom saved

    On the lake at Bistineau, she set the wharf at Dixie
    With a thousand bales of cotton on her main
    As the great raft disappeared, the watermark went sinking
    And she was stuck right hard, a listing on the bank
    With the furnace still a blaze, I stood my last upon her
    Then climbed the prow and took a landsman’s trade
    “A derelict now Milady” said the watch log I’ve concorded
    “Have the bosun sound us eight bells for the change”

    Cause I was born with rouging ways, and she steered me like a woman
    From the port calls and the bawds that lead me stray
    The calliope serenades, made the old towns come running
    And the boys would gamble shards to pull her chains
    And I would take to wider walks, so the gin I stopped a drinking
    At three scores aloft this crooked frame
    The striker’s boast would fain me loss, about the wrecks the shoals were keeping
    And how the old girl’s got poor Billy’s ransom saved

    I think I know what the scantling yards are and a packet boat, but "the striker's boast" and "just two months from her timbers til she moored "--phrases like that are hard to decipher.

    #2
    Duet

    How I'd love to hear John Hartford and Emmylou Harris team up on this tune! Nice lyrics... but if you have to ask... you'll never know.

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