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The year is nineteen somthin’ or other.

The girl couldn’t wait. Finally, the fella who lived down the road had noticed her and asked her off to party one night. He was couple of years older than the fifteen she had lived but in the backwater town they called home, that meant squat. Shoot, all of the other girls she knew had already went the distance and she was wantin’ to feel like a part of the conversations they was havin’. After all, it sucked to have nothing to talk about and when her girlfriends giggled and laughed about it, well, she felt all left out. Yep, she was about ready to have herself some fun and do some talkin’ of her own.

In an Appalachian,
Greyhound station.
She sits there waiting
in a family way.

Oh, the night started out just fine. The stars were out in the thousands and the moon hung in the sky like it was suspended there and was never gonna come down. All the other folks seemed to be havin’ a good time too and soon everybody broke off into pairs and went their separate ways. Their stories about who did what to who would be told in the days to come. A little detour and a bottle or two of cheap wine on the way home was all it took.

"Goodbye brother,
"Tell Mom I love her
Tell all the others,
I'll write someday"

A couple of months later…

She sits alone in her room and the thoughts she has go streaking through her head the way lightning pierces the nighttime sky. Her brain echoes the thunder, “How in the hell am I gonna tell my mom?” and “What’s everybody else gonna think?”. She’s bursting at the seams, both literally and figuratively and she finally decides to confide in her older brother. He ain’t much but at least she has someone to share her secret with.

Now, the older brother is friends with the boy down the road and he don’t wanna see nobody get in trouble. He figures that the best thing for her to do is get outta there, quick. They pool their money together and buy a bus ticket to as far as it will take her. She’ll have to figure it out from there.

From a teenage lover,
to an unwed mother
Kept undercover,
like some bad dream

On the bus ride out of town, she thinks to herself about how stupid she was. One minute she was sitting there with the world at her feet and the next minute she’s being hustled out of town under the cover of darkness. Shit, she’d hardly been out of town before and now she’s off to try and make it in a world full of strangers.

While unwed fathers,
they can't be bothered
They run like water,
through a mountain stream

Now the boy responsible for all of this, he ain’t saying nothin’. Nope, he’s got his life in front of him and for the time being, it don’t include no kids. Inside his head, he makes up all kinds of excuses to make himself feel like a man but the fact is, he’s still just a boy. Probably always will be too.

In a cold and gray town,
a nurse say's "Lay down"
"This ain't no playground,
and this ain't home'

Six months later…

She don’t know how far outta town that bus took her but the town she landed in wasn’t home and it never would be. She’d heard of foster homes before, where kids stayed for a little while until they could land somewhere full time. She wondered if there was such thing as a foster town?

She got herself a couple of jobs doing some menial work and bussing tables. It wasn’t a lot of money but she felt lucky enough just to have that. She thinks she was bending over to pick up something when her water broke.

Someone's children,
out having children
In a gray stone building
all alone

She don’t know how she got to the hospital. All she remembers was waking up in the sterile hospital room and being a mama. Nobody came to visit her. The nurses there were nice but there was a sadness beneath their eyes. Like they’d seen it way too many times before. She was out of the hospital after a couple of days and back home with the baby. Whatever money she managed to save before it came was soon being spent on food and diapers and all of the other stuff that comes with the territory. When she finally went back to work, the rest of it had to go to sitters. She was getting nowhere and she was getting there pretty darn quick. Something had to be done.

On somewhere else bound,
Smokey Mountain Greyhound
She bows her head down,
hummin' lullabies

Six months after that…

She told her landlord that she was gonna be a little late with the rent. What, with the baby and all, she figured he’d let her slide for a couple of days before he got nasty and started to threaten to toss her on the street. That would give her enough time to do what she needed to..

She made her way back to the bus station, the one she rode in on not too long ago. With the money that was supposed to go for the rent, she purchased yet another ticket to as far as she could go. She’d leave the landlord a nice note, telling him she’s pay him when she got on her feet.

The bus left in the dead of night with her and her few possessions on it. The baby was fussin’ and crying. She sang songs to try and calm it down.

'Your daddy never,
meant to hurt you ever'
'He just don't live here,
but you've got his eyes'

Shit, she didn’t even know if the baby’s daddy knew about the whole thing. She was sure he’d figured something was wrong after her sudden departure and in the back of her head she held out hope that maybe he’d try and track her down and make things right. The hope faded after time but still, every time she looked into the baby’s eyes, a little bit of it was re-kindled.

From a teenage lover,
to an unwed mother
Kept undercover,
like some bad dream

The next town was pretty much the same, as was the town after that and the town after that. The same notes were left to different landlords or whatever friends she might’ve made along the way. They all expressed her sorrow over the circumstances and her best intentions. Someday, she was gonna find a home and stay there.

While unwed fathers,
they can't be bothered
They run like water,
through a mountain stream

The baby’s dad got somewhat of reputation in town as being no good. He drifted from girl to girl and job to job like the changing of the tides. Soon, nobody would have him and he found himself staring at a bus ticket in the opposite direction, wondering where he might go and what he might do. The prospects were dim, at best.

Lyrics to "Unwed Fathers" copyright Mr. John Prine. Who else?

CST Approved

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