A Country Boy Can Survive


The best era of country music was the gangster ass, Outlaw Country of the late 1960s to early 1980s.  It was a time for cocaine and all white Nudie suits. Oceans of Budweiser  and Jack Daniels mixed with trucker speed in the stomachs of the greatest Southern musical heroes of our time. These were the decadent decades of Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, and of course, Hank Williams Jr.

If you’re one of these post-hipster quasi-rockabilly types you might only be familiar with Johnny Cash. That’s ok, he was the man, but you should also get on your lame Spotify or Pandora app and discover the work of the other all time greats.

Cash and Willie Nelson are probably the biggest mainstream successes. David Allen Coe rocked the underground with a raw sound, producing big hits like “Take this Job and Shove It” (later recorded by Johnny Paycheck and then The Dead Kennedys).

Coe’s Underground Album is perhaps the most controversial country album ever recorded. Neil Strauss, author of the best rock biography of all time, The Dirt (about Motley Crue), wrote an article about Coe calling the effort, “among the most racist, misogynist, homophobic and obscene songs recorded by a popular songwriter.” Having listened to it myself, it would be hard to dispute those claims, though Coe claims it was written in prison for his fellow inmates, and that both black and white prisoners liked the album because they “got the jokes.”

I don’t think that qualifies him for a racial pardon, but I do believe intent and context matters. There were some bits on The Chapelle Show you might consider racially insensitive, however, it’s explicitly a comedy show and you get you’re supposed to laugh. I’d be willing to bet my dog that even if Coe’s prison buddies thought the album was hilarious, there are at least a few peckerwoods out there who take it 100% seriously. And that certainly has to be considered.

Easily one of the weirdest album covers ever.

One of my favorite songs from the outlaw country cannon is Hank Williams Jr.’s A Country Boy Can Survive. This song came out in 1982, at the end of the outlaw sound, when things started walking back towards slick production and family friendly themes. The song basically exposits a dystopian view of city life while affirming the capability of skill-sets used by people raised in the country (anywhere from Alabama to Northern California).

Lyrically, the song is just a list of all the shit that helps Daryl Dixon survive on The Walking Dead. This got me thinking if the world actually dips into some kind of Trumpocalypse or post-nuclear war situation, the country people described in his song would actually be fairly well insulated against annihilation, especially compared to urban cubicle dwellers like myself.

Y’all are fucked.

For a couple of years now I’ve kind around the idea of writing a book about learning all the skills from the song. I’ call it A Country Boy Can Survive: Essential Lessons for Surviving the End Times. It would be one of those experiential journalism books where the author is a fish out of water and learns about life and such by mastering something or embedding with an outsider group.

Just looking at the lyrics of the song gives me an idea for chapters and layout. I figure this book would take about 18 months to research and write. Let’s walk the idea out a bit by going through the lyrics:

The preacher man says it’s the end of time
And the Mississippi River she’s a goin’ dry
The interest is up and the Stock Markets down
And you only get mugged
If you go down town

This intro seems to be a fairly reasonable assessment of  American modernity. In the opening of the book, I would describe my own living situation and survivalist urges, plus survey some of the more likely scenarios that could bring about civil disruption (defined as no more hot water from my shower head).

I live back in the woods, you see
A woman and the kids, and the dogs and me
I got a shotgun rifle and a 4-wheel drive
And a country boy can survive
Country folks can survive

Two of the key skills I’d be learning are the handling of firearms and the use of off-road vehicles. I have a bit of experience with both, but for the book I would like to get some 3- Gun training like Keanu Reeves and take a cheap 4×4 truck, or one of my beloved Volvo wagons, to an off road course.

I can plow a field all day long
I can catch catfish from dusk till dawn
We make our own whiskey and our own smoke too
Ain’t too many things these ole boys can’t do

This is the agricultural section. Plowing a field all day long could be done on any number of farms in Norcal. For catching catfish, I’d head back home to New Orleans and try to find someone to take me catfish hand fishing (AKA Noodling). There are plenty of home-brew nerds in the Bay Area, so I imagine learning to distill whiskey wouldn’t be impossible. I don’t drink, so I think I’d go light on this one, or perhaps see if the folks at Hanger One would let me intern for a bit.

I’m going to just assume “smoke” means weed. I doubt finding someone to teach me to grow the magic herb is going to be a problem.

We grow good ole tomatoes and homemade wine
And a country boy can survive
Country folks can survive

More farm life. The guys I’d ask about weed also grow tomatoes, so that’s taken care of. My sister in-law has made wine, but Napa is just across the Bay, so I’m sure that’s not going to be too hard to figure out.

Because you can’t starve us out
And you cant makes us run
Cuz we’re them old boys raised on shotgun
And we say grace and we say Ma’am
And if you ain’t into that we don’t give a damn

I interpret “can’t starve us out” to mean food storage, and that means preserves and charcuterie. I’ll check in with some old farmers marker cronies for the preserves. The charcuterie is definitely going to involve some conversations with John and Analiesa from Clove & Hoof.

We came from the West Virginia coalmines
And the Rocky Mountains and the and the western skies
And we can skin a buck; we can run a trout line
And a country boy can survive
Country folks can survive

This will likely be the most controversial area of exploration. Skinning a buck will probably  involve shooting a buck, which my half-vegetarian ass might not be too down with. I could have an “out” just skinning the buck after someone else shoots it, but that seems counter to the spirit of this thing. I believe running trout lines might be disallowed by the Fish & Game people, but I think this could be substituted with a single line if necessary.

I had a good friend in New York City
He never called me by my name, just hillbilly
My grandpa taught me how to live off the land
And his taught him to be a businessman
He used to send me pictures of the Broadway nights
And I’d send him some homemade wine

But he was killed by a man with a switchblade knife
For 43 dollars my friend lost his life
Id love to spit some beechnut in that dudes eyes
And shoot him with my old 45
Cause a country boy can survive
Country folks can survive

These sections don’t really require much beyond developing skills with and old .45. I prefer Glocks, but I think a Colt 1911 is the most thematically sound pistol to choose here. They’re also a little fussier and more interesting to learn my way around.

Cause you can’t starve us out and you can’t make us run
Cuz we’re them old boys raised on shotgun
And we say grace and we say Ma’am
And if you ain’t into that we don’t give a damn

We’re from North California and south Alabam
And little towns all around this land
And we can skin a buck; we can run a trot-line
And a country boy can survive
Country folks can survive

The song is pretty much wrapped up at this point, but if a person knew how to do all that stuff and lived in a neighborly rural area, they would have a much higher chance of surviving any zombie apocalypse.

There’s actually a pretty good sized audience for a book like this: prepper/tactical nerds, country music fans, liberals who want to read about how fucked up rednecks are, rednecks who want to read how awesome rednecks are, etc.

All I need now is a book deal, a few guns, a truck, and a fishing pole.



1 Comment

  1. This one’s over the top good, Chad. Being as old as carbon myself, I remember all of these songs, the way we called each other by terms of endearment that would get me fired today (think of Archie in “All in the Family”) and the violence in NYC At that time.

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