by Bill O'Connor, c 1971
After performing this song, I have been amazed at how many people have come up to me and told me about the ragman in their city or neighborhood. There were ragmen in Dublin in 1916 and when I was in England in 1987, a news article headlined that a ragman had found evidence in a criminal case. The ragman was just one of a multitude of jobs by which people helped make ends meet in America and which have been forgotten for the most part. This is a nostalgic look at a not so glamorous job. As I was working on the song, Larry mentioned that the ragman in his neighborhood collected bones and bottles. Ah! The words I needed to finish the refrain. Thanks Larry!
Albums: LIVE/Theiss & O'Connor; Through the Years/Bill O'Connor
The sun was shining brightly that early summer morn
Back in nineteen fifty-four, five years since I'd been born.
I remember peeking meekly from behind my mother's skirt
As the wagon pulled up slowly and I saw the old man first.
Refrain: Ragman! Ragman! I'd hear him shout
Give me your knives I'll take the dullness out.
Rags, bottles and bones today
And a bit of conversation if you may
Yes a bit of conversation's what you'll pay.
He looked just like a scarecrow who'd escaped from his post
He sat beneath a wide brimmed hat, his face like a ghost.
But the eyes that looked down at me told me not to fear
And the lonely voice that filled the air brought music to my ears.
Hear the bell it's clangin'
See the horse he's draggin'
That old wagon 'round the town.
Moms and children greet them
In the alleys see them
Wave good-bye and they're gone
Come summer nineteen fifty-five I wondered when he'd come
But no bell broke the silence, no wagon mage its run
No horse shoes beat the pavement, no song filled the air
And as I look back now, no one seemed to care.