The Checking Out

The Checking-Out

Townes Van Zandt passed away on New Year’s Day, 1997, 44 years after Hank Williams’ last ride. As one friend commented, people had paid for years to watch Townes die onstage. A couple of weeks later, as I was walking along Barton Creek, I was reflecting on my favorite Townes songs, and what he taught me about flying and falling. 

I heard the word this morning.
It came as no surprise.
You bought a one-way ticket.
We could see it in your eyes.
But you left a great impression
As you rambled roundabout,
In-between the checking in
And the checking out.

Now, you would never know me.
I watched you from afar,
Collecting all your records,
Picked ’em out on my guitar.
I was just a little jealous
Of the way you turned a phrase.
There wasn’t much left over
For the rest of us to say.

And if living is to fly,
Well, then, living is to fall.
And those who’ve never fallen
Have never lived at all.
You found that fallen angel
That face in every crowd,
In-between the checking in
And the checking out.

You captured truth and beauty
And ugliness and sin,
Till we couldn’t tell where one left off
And the other one begins.
‘Cause truth ain’t always pretty,
And beauty sometimes lies,
But we saw them both more clearly
When we saw them through your eyes.

We said a prayer for Pancho,
Now we’ll save a prayer for you.
Most of us are Lefties –
We just do what we must do.
We find ourselves a hero.
We build him up so high.
We watch him bite the bullet,
Then we leave him there to die.


Now, when you get to Heaven,
Won’t you say hello to Hank,
When he drives up in his Cadillac
To take you for a drank?
While back here on the bandstand,
We’ll raise another round,
For another soul forsaken
For the sake of the song.


And we all are fallen angels,
You never left a doubt,
In-between the checking in
And the checking out.

Bluebonnet Border SkinnyWords and music © 1997 by Steve Brooks and Frog Records
(512) 440-7668
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