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Waist deep in the Big Muddy

April 20th, 2006

Just in case anyone’s forgotten how it goes. From Dick Gaughan who sang it at the National Folk Festival, but I’ve changed some words back to the original.

Words & Music : Pete Seeger )

It was back in nineteen forty-two,
I was part of a good platoon.
We were on manoeuvers in Louisiana,
One night by the light of the moon.
The captain said, “We’ve got to ford the river”,
That’s where it all began.
We were knee deep in the Big Muddy,
And the big fool said to push on.

The Sergeant said, “Sir, are you sure,
This is the best way back to the base?”
“Sergeant, I once crossed this river
Not a mile above this place.
It’ll be a little soggy but we’ll keep slogging.
We’ll soon be on dry ground.”
We were waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool said to push on.

“Captain, sir, with all this gear
No man’ll be able to swim.”
“Sergeant, don’t be a Nervous Nellie,”
The Captain said to him.
“All we need is a little determination;
Follow me, I’ll lead on.”
We were neck deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool said to push on.

All of a sudden, the moon clouded over,
All we heard was a gurgling cry.
A second later, the captain’s helmet
Was all that floated by.
The Sergeant said, “Turn around men!
I’m in charge from now on.”
And we just made it out of the Big Muddy
With the captain dead and gone.

We stripped and dived and found his body
Stuck in the old quicksand.
I guess he didn’t know that the water was deeper
Than the place where he’d once been.
For another stream had joined the Muddy
A half mile from where we’d gone.
We were lucky to get out of the Big Muddy
When the big fool said to push on.

Well, you might not want to draw conclusions
I’ll leave that to yourself
Maybe you’re still walking, maybe you’re still talking
Maybe you’ve still got your health.
But every time I hear the news
That old feeling comes back on;
We’re waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool says to push on

Knee deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool says to push on
Waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool says to push on
Waist deep! Neck deep! Soon even a
Tall man’ll be over his head, we’re
Waist deep in the Big Muddy!
And the big fool says to push on!

TRO © 1967 Melody Trails, Inc. New York, NY

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  1. April 20th, 2006 at 20:34 | #1

    Should change the quagmire descriptor from “Muddy” to “Sandy”. Otherwise everything seems analagous. Bush may not be dumb but he sure is looking like a fool.

    Always thought Seeger was a little hard on LBJ and a little easy on HCM. At least LBJ did not start the war, the enemy was who he said it was and he had the decency to quit when he could see no proper way out.

  2. April 21st, 2006 at 18:17 | #2

    http://rjwaldmann.blogspot.com/2004/04/so-much-for-heraclitis-you-cant-step.html

    that is

    So much for Heraclitis

    “You can’t step in the same river twice” Heraclitis
    “Waist deep in big muddy” Pete Seeger

    Wasn’t the second time supposed to be farce ?

  3. Warren Fremling
    May 24th, 2006 at 01:02 | #3

    Seeger was as hard on LBJ as he should have been. You’re correct, LBJ did not start our involvement, Kennedy did. Whether or not Kennedy would have pulled us out is necessarily conjecture. Original involvement wasn’t all “falling dominoes” or to stop Communism – it also had to do with the US economy – stock market was down, unemployment was up, start a war in an unknown someplace and the stock market rises as does employment because of governmental defense contracts. I’m not saying that was all but it was certainly part of the picture, along with an overanxious Pentagon and a military leadership hungry for the glories of yesteryear. Concerning Viet Nam, LBJ didn’t want to be the only president who lost a war and said so. That’s not a reason to kill 56,000 of my generation in a losing cause regardless of correctness of identification of an enemy. LBJ didn’t quit out of decency, he quit because he couldn’t win re-election, period. Political animals are an odd lot – ego pushes them to pursue what they do. Ego also won’t allow the thought of failure when they can beat a hasty retreat “with honor”. I demonstrated against the Viet Nam war and the government’s involvement. I entertained the wounded under the auspices of the Red Cross – they were heros, the elected officials were not. 40+ years later and we’re “knee deep in the big muddy” all over again. The more things change, the more they remain the same – go figure (“oh when will they ever learn”).

  4. May 24th, 2006 at 12:13 | #4

    Except this time the stock market was up and unemployment was down. Warren, war always pulls down the market from where it could of been – war introduces futher uncertainty into business which will force prices down (again, from where they would have been).
    Please stop pedalling the nonsence that business likes war. Some certainly do, but defence contractors are not the entire US business community.

  5. May 24th, 2006 at 23:32 | #5

    Kennedy didn’t need a war for old style pump priming big government spending. For that he had the space race.

  6. Warren Fremling
    May 25th, 2006 at 03:54 | #6

    Andrew:

    You’re correct. But you’ve overlooked that I wasn’t referring to this time. I think you’ll agree that economics and such have changed in 47 years. I also wasn’t implying that any kind of business likes war, neither was I pedalling anything.
    Concerning defense contracts I said, “I’m not saying that was all but it was certainly part of the picture”. To deny that would be mistaken. To say it was the majority of the reason would also be mistaken. Our economy had different drivers in the ’60′s than it has now. Politically we were concerned about the rise and spread of Communism (falling dominoes theory) and still haven’t learned that one doesn’t create a military conflict to defeat a philosophy.
    No one likes war, or needs it. I am of the opinion that, in part, Bush may have gotten involved originally to finish what his father began (and didn’t complete) against Hussein. I believe Bush junior was sincere about the war on terrorists and terrorism as well. He probably still is. I believe he believed, and had good reason to believe based upon the available information, in the existence of WMD’s. However, I further believe he was nieve in his estimation of the length of time and the cost (both in lives and less importantly, dollars) of such involvement, and the reaction it would have with the people who were, in majority no matter how slight, in favor of it when he began because of 9/11. I believe that such an endeavor as he has undertaken will take at least a decade to achieve, probably longer. Even then we had better maintain a military presence. Unfortunately we frequently don’t look at an area historically before we enter to find out why they are the way they are and whether or not we should even try to be a part of the “solution”.
    Hence for whatever reason, as in the 60′s, we find ourselves “knee. . .”, no deeper than that, “waist deep in the Big Muddy”.

    Thanks for your comment. Differing opinions are always good.

  7. Warren Fremling
    May 25th, 2006 at 04:12 | #7

    Andrew:

    One other thing. I never implied that in the 60′s business sought out conflict to help itself. Businesses, ALL businesses (save charities) regardless of size, seek profits and nothing else. Otherwise, why be in business? My implication was that government used this as one of the myriad of reasons for getting involved.

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