The Boatman

I’ve been ill for a week or so, and last night I thought I would just take a walk down by the river Styx. Maybe find some relief from the pain. Or maybe I just dreamed it. I was carrying my banjo as I’d been working on a tune.


Anyway, it was cold and dark on my side of the river, with that kind of penetrating mist that was more a light cold rain that could make you pull your shoulders in and feel small.  On the other side of the river, I could see children playing, trees and sunshine.  People were laughing, eating chicken and fishing.


As I approached the river I saw the boatman coming toward shore.  I could’ve sworn he was humming This Train.  Wow, I thought to myself you sure can run into Woodie in some funny places.


“Humm…This train don’t carry no gamblers, no crap shooters, no midnight ramblers, this train is bound for glory, this train…if you want to get to heaven you got to be holy, this train…”  I was singing quietly along.


“What do you want?”

“I was thinking about a lift across”,

“This train don’t carry no banjo players”.

“looks to me like you are driving a boat, not a train, or are you just mixing metaphors?”  It was the mood I was in.

“and besides that,  what do you have to do around here to be ‘holey’?  Get shot or stabbed or something?”

“Keep on with this line I just might be interested in helping you out with that problem” he snarled, “you still don’t get across with a banjo”.


“How about a guitar?”

“Might work “

“I play it like a banjo” I snapped back.

“Quit while you’re ahead” he smiled.  “Go home, finish that tune, it is a good one, and it’s not time yet. Go play it  for some people.  We’ll meet again and I’ll check on the rules.”


I like this guy I thought, laughing as I headed back.


  1. Keith Horn

    I got the opportunity to play Woodie’s “This Train” with Tom while he captured the crowd at a recent reading of this particular story. It was such an honor and a pleasure to work with such a fine artist.

    • Tom Smith

      Thank you Keith, it was a pleasure on my end as well!

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