East Texas Red
Tom Russell Lyrics


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Down in the scrub oak country
To the southeast Texas Gulf
There used to ride a brakeman,
A brakeman double tough.
He worked the town of Kilgore,
And Long view twelve miles down,
And the travelers all said
Little East Texas Red
He was the meanest bull around.

If you rode by night or the broad daylight
In the wintery wind or the sun,
You would always see little East Texas Red
Just a sportin' his smooth-runnin' gun.
And the tale got switched down the stems and mains,
And everybody said
That the meanest bull
On them shiney irons
Was that little East Texas Red.

It was on a cold and a windy morn'
It was along towards nine or ten,
A couple of boys on the hunt of a job
They stood that blizzardy wind.
Hungry and cold they knocked on the doors
Of the workin' people around
For a piece of meat
And a carrot or spud just a boil of stew around.

East Texas Red come down the line
And he swung off that old number two.
He kicked their bucket over a bush
And he dumped out all of their stew.
The travelers said, "Little East Texas Red,
You better get your business straight
Cause you're gonna ride
Your little black train just one year from today."

Well Red he laughed and he climbed the bank
And he swung on the side of a wheeler,
The boys caught a tanker to Seminole
Then west to Amarillo.
They caught them a job of oil-field work
And followed a pipeline down.
It took them lots of places
Before that year
Had rolled around.

Then on a cold and windy day
They caught them a Gulf-bound train.
They shivered and shook with the dough in their clothes
To the scrub oak flats again,
With their warm suits of clothes and overcoats
They walked into a store.
They paid that man
For some meat and stuff
Just a boil of stew once more.

The ties they tracked down that cinder dump
And they come to the same old spot
Where East Texas Red just a year ago
Had dumped their last stew pot.
Well, the smoke of their fire went higher and higher
And Red come down the line.
With his head tucked low in the wintery wind
He waved old number nine.
He walked on down through the jungle yard
And he came to the same old spot
And there was the same two men again
Around that same stew pot.

Red went to his knee's and he hollered
"Please, don't pull your trigger on me.
I did not get my business straight."
But he did not get his say.
A gun wheeled out of an overcoat
And it played that old one two,




And Red was dead when the other two men
Sat down to eat their stew.

Overall Meaning

The song "East Texas Red" is a narrative that tells the story of a brakeman named East Texas Red who was considered to be the meanest bull around. He was known for always carrying a gun and riding the train, and travelers who crossed his path always felt intimidated by him. One day, two men who were on the hunt for a job, asked around for food and were granted some stew by the locals. East Texas Red appeared on the scene and spilled the stew, warning them to get their business straight, or they would be dead within a year. The two men caught a job in an oilfield, and a year later, they went back to the same spot where East Texas Red had spilled their stew. East Texas Red appeared again, this time asking them not to pull the trigger on him, but he was shot and killed by one of the men.


The song captures the essence of a historical period in the United States, where gunslingers and outlaws were common, and traveling by train was the norm. The lyrics evoke a sense of danger and violence, emphasizing the harsh realities of life that people had to face in rough terrain. It also highlights the consequences of reckless behavior, showcasing how East Texas Red's arrogance and intimidation ultimately led to his demise.


Line by Line Meaning

Down in the scrub oak country
In the rural area with a lot of thorny bushes


To the southeast Texas Gulf
Towards the Gulf in southeast Texas


There used to ride a brakeman,
There was a man working in the trains as a brakeman, in the past


A brakeman double tough.
A very strong brakeman


He worked the town of Kilgore,
The brakeman worked in Kilgore


And Long view twelve miles down,
He also worked in Longview which was twelve miles away from Kilgore


And the travelers all said
Everyone who saw him said


Little East Texas Red
The man was known as East Texas Red


He was the meanest bull around.
He was considered the toughest man in the place


If you rode by night or the broad daylight
If you traveled during the day or the night


In the wintery wind or the sun,
Whether it was extremely cold or sunny


You would always see little East Texas Red
You would always encounter East Texas Red


Just a sportin' his smooth-runnin' gun.
He always carried his gun for protection


And the tale got switched down the stems and mains,
The story changed and spread through the area


And everybody said
Everyone in that area thought


That the meanest bull
That the toughest man


On them shiney irons
On the shiny railroad tracks


Was that little East Texas Red.
Was East Texas Red himself


It was on a cold and a windy morn'
On a cold and windy morning,


It was along towards nine or ten,
Around 9 or 10 o'clock


A couple of boys on the hunt of a job
Two men who were looking for work


They stood that blizzardy wind.
They endured the snowstorm


Hungry and cold they knocked on the doors
The two men were cold and hungry, so they asked for food from people


Of the workin' people around
From the people who worked in that area


For a piece of meat
To get some meat


And a carrot or spud just a boil of stew around.
To also get some vegetables and a stew to warm themselves up


East Texas Red come down the line
East Texas Red arrived on a train


And he swung off that old number two.
He got off the train number two


He kicked their bucket over a bush
He kicked their food bucket and it went flying over a bush


And he dumped out all of their stew.
He poured their stew out


The travelers said,
The two men who were looking for work said,


Little East Texas Red,
Referring to East Texas Red,


You better get your business straight
You need to stop being mean


Cause you're gonna ride
Otherwise, you will


Your little black train just one year from today.
Die in one year from today


Well Red he laughed and he climbed the bank
East Texas Red laughed and climbed the train wagon


And he swung on the side of a wheeler,
He climbed onto the wagon's side


The boys caught a tanker to Seminole
The two men got on a tanker train and went to Seminole


Then west to Amarillo.
Then they went to Amarillo in the west


They caught them a job of oil-field work
They found a job working in the oil fields


And followed a pipeline down.
They worked following a pipeline down the road


It took them lots of places
The job took them to different locations


Before that year
They worked the whole year


Had rolled around.
Before the year was up


Then on a cold and windy day
On another cold and windy day


They caught them a Gulf-bound train.
They got on a train bound to the Gulf of Mexico


They shivered and shook with the dough in their clothes
Despite having money, they were cold and shivering


To the scrub oak flats again,
They went back to the scrub oak area


With their warm suits of clothes and overcoats
Now with warm clothing on


They walked into a store.
They went inside a store


They paid that man
They paid the store owner


For some meat and stuff
For some meat and other food


Just a boil of stew once more.
Once again, they got a stew to warm themselves up


The ties they tracked down that cinder dump
The railroad tracks led them to the dump of ashes from the engines


And they come to the same old spot
They found themselves in the same place as before


Where East Texas Red just a year ago
Where East Texas Red had dumped their stew pot one year before


Had dumped their last stew pot.
Where he left them without food one year before


Well, the smoke of their fire went higher and higher
Smoke from their campfire rose up


And Red come down the line.
East Texas Red arrived by train


With his head tucked low in the wintery wind
He arrived with his head down, trying to stay warm from the cold wind


He waved old number nine.
He waved to train number nine


He walked on down through the jungle yard
He walked into the yard where trains are kept


And he came to the same old spot
He found the same spot as before


And there was the same two men again
The same two men whom he bullied before


Around that same stew pot.
Sitting around the same pot of food


Red went to his knee’s and he hollered
East Texas Red got down on his knees and yelled


"Please, don't pull your trigger on me.
He asked them not to shoot him


I did not get my business straight."
He admitted he was a mean person


But he did not get his say.
The men did not let him talk


A gun wheeled out of an overcoat
One of the men pulled out a hidden gun from their coat


And it played that old one two,
The gun fired twice


And Red was dead when the other two men
East Texas Red was killed by the two men


Sat down to eat their stew.
Who then ate their food in front of his dead body




Lyrics © BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC
Written by: WOODY GUTHRIE

Lyrics Licensed & Provided by LyricFind
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