Farmers are a patient lot.
They have to be that way,
Or their crops will never see a harvest day.
Content to feed us all,
And work hard from spring till fall,
They’re stubborn and don’t want to change their ways.
But if threatened, they will stand
And defend their life and land.
Then brothers, we have trouble on our hands.

There’s a group that holds the power;
I don’t even know their names,
And their faceless P.R. men all sound the same.
Citing eminent domain
They rape your land for money gained,
And the farmer pays the tax on what remains.
They will not obey the law,
Except the one that they pushed through:
They do not have to prove a need for what they do.

In the board rooms of authority,
Citing economic factors,
They decide to give us nuclear reactors.
They’ve had some accidents before,
Such as melting of the core,
And pouring deadly waste into the waters.
They don’t know where else to store it,
And they wish we’d all ignore it,
But we would rather save our sons and daughters.
There’s a problem where to build,
Because some people might be killed,
So they decide to catch the farmers off their guard:
With a map and with a pencil
The authorities play God,
And the power line will run through your back yard.
They want a big transmission line
To sell their power to the city.
Take a good look at your farm while it’s still pretty.

The agents come into your home,
Without knocking, use your phone,
Send their crews to work when you are not around.
They cut the center strip,
And they cut it pretty quick;
Many proud trees lying on the ground.
And you just can’t believe it’s true,
And you have your work to do,
But the authorities are walking across your field.
They’ve got some papers in their hands,
And they’ve come to take your land,
And they’ve come to offer you a package deal:
They’ll have your fences grounded,
Have your roof of metal grounded,
They’ll have your tractor grounded,
Have your daughter’s swing set grounded …
You refuse to sign a thing.
You are the owner of your land.
And brothers, we have trouble on our hands.

The authorities won’t pay for
A design to make it safer.
Electricity escapes into the air.
Lines of such high power
Burn the leaves and kill the flowers.
Poison gases are released into the air.
This puts your body under strain,
Affects your lungs and nerves and heart and brain,
And interferes with growth and healing time.
This causes birth defects,
Makes the birds fly east and west,
Makes you sterile, makes you old before your time.

Strapped upon a worker’s back
Is a tank upon a pack,
Equipped with both a sprayer and a pump.
He is told it’s kerosene,
And to spray on leaves of green,
And unwanted woody species such as stumps.
But he’s really spraying Tordon,
From the folks who brought us napalm.
It’s an herbicide so toxic it was banned in Vietnam.
And now they’ve got the stuff left over,
And they want to use it here,
And nothing’s going to grow for many years.
The worker has a wife and child,
And jobs are hard to find,
And he’s making thirteen fifty overtime.
Just barely out of high school,
He is spraying this by hand,
Without knowledge or permission
Of the owner of the land,
And brothers, we have trouble on our hands.

Your trees are falling over,
There’s a skidder and a dozer,
And an overloaded dump truck filled with gravel.
Driving back roads not designed
With machines like this in mind,
They ignore the posted limits as they travel.
Cutting deep ruts with their wheels,
They’re dumping gravel on your field,
And you wonder how you’ll ever grow your corn.
So you talk with all your friends,
Who are farmers to the end,
And you decide to congregate tomorrow morn.
And at daybreak you link arms
To protect each other’s farms;
The authority’s machines are blocked at dawn.
And as you stop their work you’ll know
Mass movements start out small and slow,
But there’s a revolution catching on.

Potsdam, New York, 1977

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