The Cover


image/graphic by jack hastings


1. The Wild Tunnel Wails

William Fuller and Spencer Kimball

MP3 Audio File

Oh the dirt's piled high at Cinco Station
The temperature's the same; could make you cry
Frustration blows like a hot strong wind
And men are grumblin' with talk of a strike

No one really knows just what happened
Somewhere beyond Absalom Wells
I'm swimmin' in a fugue of desperation
I'm drownin' in a flood like Noah sailed

The wild tunnel wails
With the sound of my baby
I wanna hear the bells
On judgement day
I wanna stop the echo
Of the fearful keenin'
No amount of water
Gonna wash it away

She wasn't no saint; but her heart was gentle
And I know that I weren't the only one
That shared her bed and conversatin'
She don't deserve what someone done

When they found her there inside the tunnel
No one seemed to care who it was to blame
Who woulda thought such a prideful rabble
Would build a silent wall to hide their shame


I left the camp a few days later
Hopped a train round morning time
I roamed around from hill to city
And sometimes slept out in the pines

The angels drink their priceless water
And toast the glory of the pipe they laid
May the spigot run dry on Mulholland Drive
I curse their names and piss their graves


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2. Kwee Kway Collins' Birthday

Gary Sears and William Fuller

MP3 Audio File

Went to see Mr. Collins
He was stayin' in a small hotel
He once lent me some money
Showed me some kindness as well

His door was unlocked
He never did the things he should
The last time I saw him
He didn't look that good

I can't bake a cake; I never give folks a card
I wouldn't know what to write, and feelings come too hard
We shared most things that friendship will allow
I figured if I just show up, it'll mean more anyhow

His room was dark and crowded
With old magazines
Low light came through a window
Where an old git-tar gleamed

He once said that the guilt
Over something he had done
Was enough to make him wish
He could run from the sun


The note beside his bed
Said on this special day
He couldn't fix the past
And did not deserve to pray

Said what happened in the tunnel
So many years ago
Was eatin' out his heart
And burnin' out his soul

Can you ever undo
Anything you've done?
Is mercy somewhere
When you think there's none?
Mr. Collins
Was a friend of mine
A friend
Of mine

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3. Memory of Water


Jack Hastings MP3 Audio File

The water comes in like a stranger
Through this merciless garden of dust
It follows the call of the angels
But goes where it wants to
And goes where it must

The thirsty man sips
From the ripples
The water it laughs to itself
Who drinks and who remains thirsty
Only the water will tell

The water comes in like a lover
Who's gone now and left you alone
And you only know that it's over
When your heart falls forever
And drops like a stone

Then the water will fall
from your eyes, friend
Salty and bitter and warm
There is no one left to embrace you
When even the water is gone

Hearts dry up when they're empty
The water dissolves into air
It's all dust to dust, ashes and rust
A mirage lost in the glare

I want to remember the water
The rain that falls from the sky
The trickle, the stream
and the torrent
Now just a tear in my eye

I want to bathe in cool water
I want to wash myself clean
I'm lost in the wasteland
I just want a taste of
Sweet water, please come to me

But the water, it will not answer
The dust only echoes my cry
The wind on the dunes is a whisper
Of a memory forever gone by

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4. Sweet Nadine's Eyes

Spencer Kimball

MP3 Audio File

Not the blue of the sky where a sun always shines
Not the green at the edge of the glass
But a pastel ring where my eyes reside
With all the weight of mankind's mass

How came those eyes to this dusty burg?
How came they this wreck to see?
How came they to lock me in such despair?
And now: what can they do about me?

Other eyes see the men, and the greed, and the town
And count the days until they are all gone
But in these eyes the lies keep pulling down
To the vision of crushing that pawn

All the pictures turn black in a hot high noon
All the flowers do fade and fall
All the money floats away to another desert
To some future I won't see at all, but in

Sweet Nadine's Eyes

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5. Jawbone Division

Jack Hastings, Spencer Kimball and Gary Sears

MP3 Audio File

One jaw opens and the whisky flows down
One jaw closes and another man drowns
Another human river to a dusty young town
Might be lost in a landslide tomorrow

Take a cart to Mojave today
Overnight in the flophouse I'll stay
Going back to the Jawbone,
Back to the Jawbone
Back to the Jawbone to pray

Move the dirt from the hill to the plain
Pound the hole in and do it again
Find a new way not to go insane
Until that Saturday stage rolls on in


The water rolls down from the hills in a stream
To fill the pipes for someone else's dream
To turn the desert to a dollar-bill green
They grind us down just a little bit
Down just a little bit
Hah! Just a little bit more

Goodbye to the Shrimp Boy, and Gray Man
Goodbye to foul Cinco, the pipes and hardpan
Farewell to the bosses, wash 'em clear to Japan
It's orange groves this time next season

Take a cart to L.A. today
Overnight in the garden I'll stay
Goodbye to ol' Jawbone,
Leavin' the Jawbone
Bye bye to the Jawbone today

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6. A Whale in the Tunnel

William Fuller and Spencer Kimball

MP3 Audio File

I only had five minutes to write my little notes
In the diary I kept beneath my bed
My name is Sandra Collins and I'm not a simple girl
But they thought that I was crazy in my head
It was better that way; I swear it kept me safe
I wanted them to think me the fool
I'd save up all my money till I had enough to leave
And smile when they were cruel

There weren't much time between men; I had to make it quick
I kept writing so I wouldn't go insane
I never told a single one what brought me to this life
Could not stop the feeling I'm the one to blame
My husband said he'd find me no matter where I went
And damn it all to hell but he did
And I recalled the way he told me I was his forevermore
As we pledged our love back when we were kids

I swear I saw a whale in the tunnel one night
She was proud and angry just like me
And when the water finally flows from the Owens Valley
I always thought we'd ride together to the sea

There was one who was good hearted among this rowdy bunch
And I have to say his kindness made me weep
But if I learned anything, it's no man is worth the pain
I had to leave someday alone while they're asleep
Can you hear the songs of grief when they're not the ones you sing
When they echo from the battered and the poor?
Can I clear my cloudy eyes to see anybody else
When they're hurting and they're sick outside my door?

Over time I got too tired and desperate for release
I'd like to think I did everything I could
But my heart was full of rage and my soul a useless scar
I didn't quite prepare the way I should
That night it didn't take too long for the quarreling to begin
There was something in his eyes worse than I'd seen
I fought him hard and cursed his name in the tunnel that last time
Then his knife came out and I began to scream
And scream


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7. The Blast and the Ass

Gary Sears

MP3 Audio File

The blast musta been heard in heaven
Though it musta come from hell
It shook the whole damn tunnel
Prob'ly half the state as well

When Drinkwater went a tremblin'
And that Caterpillar shook the ground
As we were pulling men from inside
Floatin' out came a cranky sound

Was it Babe the blue ox moanin'?
Was it the Mission's tolling bell?
Had the angels showed some mercy?
What was that lonesome wail?
I gave a shout of joy
And all due praise to God
Cryin' but alive from deep inside
Was our beloved ass, Maude

Oh who could put a price tag
On that mournful bray?
Who could guess there'd be happiness
On that terrible day?

Three brave men met their maker
A lot of good donkeys died
But the hayburner supreme made it through
And many a grown man cried


Her spirit was unbroken
Though her body was bruised and frayed
But a lotta parched mouths were waitin' out west
So back to work she went the next day

Amidst that awful carnage
Ol' Maude was such a pretty sight
I had to properly celebrate
Went to see Miss Sandy that night


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8. A Whisper and a Moan

Spencer Kimball and Jack Hastings

MP3 Audio File

At mile twenty of the ditch
of the Irishman's dream
We struck a culvert
that could swallow ten whole crews
And as the ditchers cleared out
the last of the gravel
A whisper ran the pipe
There ain't nothing to lose

It could have been the echo
of shovels on sand
Or it could have been
the foreman's wracking cough
But I think it was the water
Over 10 miles away
Telling us we'd better listen,
And we'd better leave off

There's a whisper in the line
and it won't go away
And there's a tingling
in every man's toes
And the moans from the brothel
say someone will pay
As the water rolls down
and the hot wind blows

And later when the pipes
went on down to the Jawbone
Little Davey he got
smashed like a bug
And the next day a whisper
went through all the men
As they centered the last one
in with a tug

When the final six inches
then fell into place
A low moan moved miles
down the line
And the men in the back
thought they heard "Hold!"
Too late, somebody knew
he had run out of time


spoken word:
Rich man got the land
And Mulholland got the water
It's a river of gold
But not for you or me brother
Down in the dirt
For five dollars a day
Sucking up the sand
For someone else's play
Carving up the rock
Feeling the pressure
I got a thirst that's bigger
Than this whole goddamn desert

One hundred million gallons
have flowed through the pipe
Now whisper under
teeming city streets
We'll raise a hand
to the wastrels of the sand
It's over, their undoing is
without a doubt complete


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9. Lair of the Water Wyrm

William Fuller and Jack Hastings

MP3 Audio File

An unkindness of ravens
Circled overhead.
The last time that happened
Three men went stone dead

There were several score and more
Flying high that day
But then it looked like hundreds
And I began to pray


I thought I saw a skull
as they flew in the hole
Draggin' down the boss'
little daughter
A giant snake skull hopin'
Adam's ale won't flow
How much we gotta pay
to get that water?

Jessie screamed and she cried
Till she finally disappeared
She was carried to her maker
In a flood of bitter tears

We ran towards the breach
But arrived much too late
As the sand seemed to rise
And cover all Hell's gate


Sometimes late at night
The tunnel seems to groan
And a tremor shakes the ground
Up and down the old Jawbone

But no one wants to think
What it is they've really seen
Or whose sacrifice is next
For this godawful dream


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10. Stretching the Snake

Jack Hastings and Spencer Kimball

MP3 Audio File

The snake stretches North
In search of a stream
A line stretches South
In search of a dream
A plodding of feet
And all lives incomplete
Taking part in a plausible dream

It's no stretch to say the worm
Is in for the duration at the firm
Take it South right away
South before they think they will stay
Will they stay…

It's a long way from Barstow
to old El Portal
But it's never the rich blowhards
That run up against the wall
It's the grunts in the line
It's the grunts in the line
It's the grunts all down the line

They'll be stretching the snake
As the moon goes down
And the snake will stretch them
Into the next town
The snake doesn't care
If it gets enough air
Build it up
Build it down
Build it 'round


It's a long way from Barstow
to old El Portal
But it's never the rich blowhards
That run up against the wall
It's the men in the line
It's the women on the line
It's the folks all down the line

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11. Rasslin' the Rattler

William Fuller and Jack Hastings

MP3 Audio File

It's 4AM, I'm shakin',
and the room is filled with guilt
Knowin' what I've done and where I've been
There's a fire out the window
and the echoes of a shout
And I'm rasslin' with the rattler again,
Dear Lord
Rasslin' with the rattler again

Thought I heard something shakin'
as he slithered down the hall
When I finally saw him all he did was grin
Time was I could walk with pride
now I can only crawl
And I'm rasslin' with the rattler again,
O Darlin'
I'm rasslin' with the rattler again

Shake, shake, shake
When the rattler shakes its tail
Even a grown man may cry
Ache ache ache
I got a big old heartache
Bigger than the land beyond the sky,

I'm moving to the motion
of a song that will not stop
I've tried so many times to shed this skin
But the layers underneath
are like the ones that were on top
And I'm rasslin' with the rattler again,
hey boys
I'm rasslin' with the rattler again

They say that I'm the only one
to cut the serpent's head
There's times I pray for help from a friend
But those bridges are all burned
and I'm lyin' in my bed
Rasslin' with the rattler again,
dear lord
I'm rasslin' with the rattler again,
o yeah
Rasslin' with the rattler again
Once again,
Rasslin' with the rattler again

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12. Darkness in the Tunnel

Gary Sears

MP3 Audio File

There's something there in the darkness
Something bitter and something sweet
And it calls to me at midnight
It sings to me in my dreams

Don't want to go back down there
Down want to crawl in the hole
Done six hundred yards of hard rock
Don't think I can do anymore

There's a darkness in the tunnel
There's a darkness in my soul
If I ever get out of the Jawbone
It'll be on the dead man's roll

When I go down to Cinco
And see Miss Lucy Brite
She can tell there's something wrong
By the shadow in my eyes

I've been touched by the darkness
Just beyond the candle light
It's a sweet caress, it's an open wound
It's a howl and it's a sigh

The nights are growing longer
Though Summer's coming on
The lights are burning dimmer
My candle's almost gone

I can't move and I can't speak
And I can't see the end
I've fallen into the deepest hole
And I'll never get out again


I wish I was in the land of light
In the green fields of my home
I wish that I could hear the laugh
Of the wife I left alone

I wish that I was smelling flowers
In the sweet grass of the Spring
If I could go back one last day
I would give up everything

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13. The Queen of the Desert Sand

Jack Hastings

MP3 Audio File

Nadine was my queen
of the wild desert sand
Not much to look at, it's true
But she'd give you cool water
If you had a thirst
As sweet as the fresh mountain dew
Her hair was as red
as the campfire flames
Her skin was as pale as the moon
Her laugh it would echo
all down the canyon
And whenever I'd see her I'd swoon

She'd howl with the coyotes
and dance with the stars
Long into the cool desert night
With a tongue as sharp
as a muleskinner's knife
And a six-gun by her side
A manner as rough
as a dry desert wash
Lips soft as a jackrabbit's tail
She cast a long shadow
in the hard desert light
As she roamed the Mojave trail

Hard are the days,
and long are the nights
For a woman or for a man
But I'll never forget her
as long as I live
My Queen of the Desert Sand

No one knows where she came from
She never told a soul
From the sand and the wind
and the sage and the sun
She called this wasteland
her home
But the desert has its own desires
And it is no friendly land
Too soon it took her far from me
My Queen of the Desert Sand

Now I hear her song
on the dry desert wind
See her face in every dune
And I will surely turn to dust
If I don't find her soon
Oh my lady, oh my love
Wherever are you bound
If you are lost than I am lost
Never again to be found


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14. The Trout and the Raven

Spencer Kimball and Gary Sears

MP3 Audio File

The trout slides through Crowley
A flash in the sun
The raven flies over
But he hasn't begun

The raven sees a new shine
Down at Round Valley
The trout found out
Stream to blind alley

The trout and the raven live in
The latest non-original sin
To fly up and over
Or to dive down for cover
Wing as useless as fin

The trout and the men
Move south as they wend
Look up at the raven
Who looks back at them

An old dying tribe
Sees two ravens pass by
A rivulet slowing
In a darkening sky


To swim, to fly, the darkening sky
The mesa trout washed up
To dry on the plain
Black feathers scattered
Bishop and back again

The birds circling Tom's
Can't see the flash
The trout goes south
The feathers all ash


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15. That Song About the Clifftop

William Fuller

MP3 Audio File

Perplexo's groovin', spinning the discs
The music playing over seagull screams
The sun is sinking very slowly
Yeah, it's the stuff of dreams

Tore up from the floor up was how we felt
It was one of the good ones that day
A lot of magic, a lot of hope
Hootin' and singin' our lives away

Dancin' on the beach with the waves rollin in
Today there won't be any crying
Please take my request: play that song about the clifftop
The one where all those people end up flying

Andrea's moving with a fierce boogaloo
Mashed potato, pony and some twist
She's gonna break the bonds of this miserable mood
With a go go dance and a kiss

The promises had all been broken
And all thrown away
So we thought we'd make up some new ones ourselves
And live this life our own way


Perplexo's groovin', spinning the discs
The music playing over seagull screams
The sun is sinking very slowly
Yeah, it's the stuff of dreams

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Jawbone Division - a tale of the Old West


"The people asked why the water had vanished and a shaman told them that it was gone because the chief had killed the Raven. Now the villagers were not happy that Raven was dead and they wanted him back before everyone died."
-- Athabaskan Native American legend

"For the sake of the others of the tribe she asked that the evil spirits of the water be given shapes that could be seen, so that the others would see them in the water and be frightened away from them."
-- Native American legend

"The only thing that is real is the being in you that is going to die."
-- Carlos Castaneda

"On occasions like this, I envy the dead."
-- William Mulholland, following the 1928 collapse of the Saint Francis Dam

1908, Cinco Camp, the Mojave Desert, Southeastern California; Beans, Sparky, Smokehouse Slim, Pork Pie, Stony the Wad, Leprechaun Pete, El Vaquero, Flamin’ Dick, Doc Stitches, Chawtawquaw, Chung-Hsi the Shrimp Boy, Kwee Kway Collins, Powderkeg Willy, Smelly Jim, One-Eyed Jack and The Gray Man thought they were the toughest, meanest work gang in any and every division and camp along Captain Billy Mulholland’s three-thousand-man line; every ditch and digging, road and railway teeming with zanjeros, stakemen, roustabouts, stone busters, muckers, tunnel rats, dowsers, spyglassers, muleskinners, dirt navigators, pencil necks, sawbones, wire benders and the like. The thirst of the city that shouldn’t be and the vision of a half-mad Irishman drove them all in the greatest construction since the Aegypters sent up the pyramids.

Weekends and the rare holiday would find them among the rag-camp brothels, saloons and bathhouses of Absalom Wells, vying with hucksters, snake-oilers, carpetbaggers, hotheads, saboteurs and hoo-doo men for the attentions of Sweet Nadine, Big Blossom, Armenian Kate, Fiona the Flame, Catboat Sally and Dear Dahlia; in their turn overseen by the sharp violet eyes of Madame Dolorosa DuFarge. Neither earthquake, wildfire, dust storm nor flash flood could discourage the men in the steadfastness of their endeavor or the pursuit of their pleasure. Neither could it deter the women from the earning of their coin.

These boys, these hard men, were stretching the snake, wrestling the rattler, building the great Water Wyrm from Owens Valley 200 miles and more across the meanest, most godforsaken land on this good earth to ease the thirst and slake the greed of the City of Angels.

But it wasn’t long until they found that there is a darkness in the tunnels and the pipes and a whisper and a moan that denies the ambitions of man; that says, "Why do you think the water of this world is meant for you?" And it is a darkness and a shadow and a whisper that settles into the souls of the men out there in the blasted emptiness on a black desert night when the coyotes howl and the skinwalkers drift on the gusts of a sand-laden wind. And for every drop of water, every foot of pipe, the earth spirit will take a drop of blood and more. And men can die from that darkness and the thirst that drives them can just as soon take them; as it was when the boys of Jawbone Division went into the murk, one by one, in shattered bones, trickles of blood, ashen dreams and silence...

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Willie de Sacra


In alphabetical order:

  • William Fuller
  • Jack Hastings
  • Spencer Kimball
  • Gary Sears