• Don Yorty

Writing Daddy Long Legs Blues

When I was in my early twenties, I took a tent and camped out for a month along Walnut

Run, a swift waterfall-filled stream, that splashes down the South Mountain where I grew

up in Pennsylvania. I wanted to fast, meditate, read the Gospels, play the harmonica and

learn the tarot, although I gave up on the cards pretty quickly (it’s hard for me to take a

deck of cards that seriously).

Every few days I’d soak some brown rice in water, let that soften up and eat a handful. I

never cooked although I made a fire to brew the mint leaves I picked. I’d brought along a

jar of honey and sometimes had a spoon of that. I also picked wild berries from time to

time. And then I would lay myself out naked on the rocks in the sun like any other snake

or lizard. While picking berries one day, I was bitten by many chiggers in my groin, armpits

and around my waist where my pants at the belt surrounded it, and though the developing

sores really bothered me itching and burning and driving me crazy, I had to live with them,

and learned to forget by concentrating on other things like the silhouette patterns the

leaves and branches made in the sunlight against the canvas tent.

One night I heard what seemed like men walking through the woods coming toward the

tent, grunting, rustling up the leaves, and turning over stones and logs as they came; then

suddenly right outside the tent the commotion stopped, so I lit a candle, pulled back the

flap, for better or worse, and saw at the edges of the quivering light a pack of skunks had

stopped in their tracks looking up at me deciding if I was too big to eat or not; I was nor

was it much of a pause for them to decide before they continued on through woods,

leaving me to go back in my tent, while they overturned more logs. Every now and then a

mouse or mole cried out.

One day while I was washing my clothes, it began to rain and continued for about a week,

very wet outside and very damp within. I composed Daddy Long Legs Blues, wanting to

play the harmonica like Sonny Boy Williamson and sing like Big Mama Thornton. The

spiders passed through the tent all day long and especially liked to stay and hang upside

down at the entrance waiting for prey to come in, which is how the song begins. Rather

than put on wet clothes I stayed naked throughout that rainy week. Those were the days.

Daddy long legs hanging upside down my door Daddy long legs hanging upside down my door Came to tell me you won’t be back anymore

Floating floating like a drowned man on the sea Floating floating like a drowned man on the sea Now it doesn’t matter if all the waves come cover me

Don’t leave me, baby, I don’t know what I’ll do Don’t leave me, baby, I don’t know what I’ll do I can’t leave this place, there’s not one door to walk through

When you’ve filled your teacup one tear overflows And all your joys rise past their brims spilling you to sorrow Ah but you just wipe as you weep as you wipe up the mess, lay your head upon the table

Daddy long legs go away from door Daddy long legs go away from door Once you know what the truth is, you don’t have to hear it anymore

(Photo above by Pat Sheehy taken in Philly circa 1972.)

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