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The Gift by Cathy Cashio
Winter 2005      


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The devil goats



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The devil goats

When singer/songwriter Ray Wylie Hubbard moved to a four-acre parcel of land in Poetry, Texas, he was looking for his muse, and found it.

From the stage, Hubbard introduces his song “Last Train to Amsterdam” with the story of a thunderstorm in Poetry that inspired him to write. He refers to it as “the night the devil came down to Texas.”

“I was just coming out of a difficult time in my life,” Hubbard says. “I thought Poetry would be a nice place to reflect and write songs. I figured with a name like Poetry, a lot of writers must live in the area and it would have to be an artistic community.”

The first day he moved into his wood-frame home, he found out all his assumptions were wrong.

“There are about 600 people in Poetry,” Hubbard says. “Most of them are goat farmers. There were no writers.”

Hubbard says that while clutching his guitar and waiting for inspiration, he got one of the biggest scares of his life. He heard a crack of thunder.

“That’s the night the devil came down to Texas,” he says. “I saw lightning spark and I heard noises outside. I went to see what was going on.”

Hubbard’s eyes widen. His hands lift toward the heavens.

“I couldn’t believe my eyes,” he says. “Through the kitchen window, I saw a procession of goats walking on their hind legs. Ears pointed up, they walked like people.

“No one told me goats could walk on their back legs — not until I moved to Poetry,” he says. “They had to be devil goats.”

Some would think this would be the end of the tale, but Hubbard has more in store as any consummate storyteller would.

“I backed away from the devil goats and saw something else,” he says. “There was a stranger wearing overalls, walking toward my front door. And, he was carrying a chainsaw.”

Hubbard says if anyone knows anything about horror stories, they’ve heard of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

“The whole scene was like a bad terror movie,” he says. “I had devil goats in the backyard and a stranger with a chainsaw on my porch.”

Hubbard tried to retreat further into his home as the man began knocking, but he finally went to the door and opened it a crack.

“The man said he was from the utility company,” Hubbard says. “He said wires were down, lights were out, he’d fix it. Okay. And, by the way, ‘Welcome to Poetry, Texas.’”

With that, Hubbard thanked the man, glanced out the window at the walking goats and sat down and wrote “Last Train to Amsterdam.”

Armed with new inspiration and new music that truly reflected the sound of Texas, Hubbard started touring Europe. He says the crowds in Amsterdam were incredible.

“An interesting thing happened before my performance there,” he says. “There were several reporters waiting to ask questions about my music. One of them really took me by surprise.

“‘Mr. Hubbard, your song is called “Last Train to Amsterdam.” Did you know that there’s no last train to Amsterdam? They run 24 hours a day.’”

Hubbard says there was a great silence. He thought about the night of the thunderstorm in Poetry.

“I knew I just couldn’t explain devil goats and chainsaw massacres to these fine reporters,” he says.

“I just told him the song was a metaphor,” he says, winking. “All poets understand that — especially poets from Texas.”


Ray Wylie Hubbard

There's an old soul waitin' to be born
There's a scarecrow standin' in the corn
One of them’s wishin' for the light of day
One of them is chasin' all the black crows away

Well I'm standing at the station and I don't know where I am
And the wheels are turnin' on the last train to Amsterdam

There's a preacher out spreadin' the word
There's a blond in a thunderbird
One of them tells me to kneel and pray
One of them gets to me in a real bad way

Well I got me a one way ticket to get me from where I am
And the wheels are turnin' on the last train to Amsterdam

I'm standin' just south of Fate
There ain't no exit from the interstate
There's one way in, it's a long dirty road
Only one way our Robert Johnson knows

There's a hobo waitin' on a train
There's a hitch hiker standin' in the rain
One of them knows he's never going home
The other one feels God down in his bones

— from the album Dangerous Spirits


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