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Sixteen Tons

October 2023

Sixteen Tons

Written by Merle Travis


Some people say a man

is made out of mud


A poor man’s made

out of muscle and blood.


Muscle and blood

Skin and bones

A mind that’s weak and

a back that’s strong.


You load sixteen tons

and what do you get?


Another day older

and deeper in debt.


St. Peter don’t you

call him,

‘cause he can’t go


He owes his soul

to the company store.


He was born one morning

when the sun didn’t shine.


He picked up his shovel

and walked to the mine


Loaded sixteen tons

of number 9 coal


And the straw-boss said,


“Well-a bless my soul!”


You load sixteen tons

and what do you get?


Another day older

and deeper in debt.


St. Peter don’t you call him

‘cause he can’t go.


He owes his soul

to the company store.


He was born one morning,

it was drizzlin’ rain


Fighting and trouble

are his middle name.


He was raised in the

canebrake

by an old mama lion


Can’t no high-toned woman

make him walk the line.


You load sixteen tons,

what do you get?

Another day older

and deeper in debt.


St. Peter, don’t you call him,

‘cause he can’t go


He owes his soul

to the company store.


If you see him comin’

Better step aside


A lot of men didn’t

A lot of men died.


One fist of iron,

the other of steel


If the right one don’t getcha

then the left one will.


You load sixteen tons,

what do you get?


Another day older

and deeper in debt.


St. Peter don’t you call him


‘Cause he can’t go.


He owes his soul

to the company store.




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