Timely one from our “Songs of the Outlaw” series. Rest in peace, Hag. 

As we’ve said before, we’ll say again, if anyone knows about compulsive meandering, if anyone characterizes the triumphs and tribulations of going it on your own, it’s the American outlaw. It’s a unique approach to rebellion, one that’s openly translated freedom as independence, the open range the sanctuary, the “Big City” that won’t “turn me loose and set me free.” This thus leads the cattle-calling rambler anywhere and, anywhere, nowhere. It’s not too much of a stretch to say that all of the Outlaw songs–from Johnny to Willie–are in one way or another connected to this notion of “getting out.” All the chicken-pickin’ rodeo tunes are heralding the “don’t hold me down” way of life–the slide-heavy tear-in-beer singles are bewailing what that way of life has brought them.

Just cataloging a few Merle Haggard favorites, it’s not hard to note a pattern: “Yesterday’s Wine,” “Wishing All These Old Things Were New,” “Swinging Doors,” “The Bottle Let Me Down,” “I Threw Away the Rose,” “Sing Me Back Home,” “Things Aren’t Funny Anymore,” “Always Wanting You,” “Misery and Gin,” and “I’ve Seen It Go Away.” Woof! If this is what wandering does to you, why do it? It plainly communicates we “do not do what we want to do, but the very thing we hate…”

Merle’s 2010 album “I Am What I Am”  shows some aging, whether it’s by right of growing exhausted by the rambler’s lifestyle, finally becoming acquainted with “A Place to Fall Apart,” or knowing all the more that he’s a “Bad Actor,” these songs look up from the bottom of the well towards “The End of the Road.” The best picture of this is “How Did You Find Me Here?”–a prayer of surprise at the end of a long life of running away, a running away that found him at the bottom of the well, the bottom of the well where God still found him, and pulled him out.

How did you find me
How did you know
I’d be here in this hole in the ground
I can’t even see out over the edge
Looking up from all the way down

I thought I’d been left here to die
When I saw your face appear
What a surprise
How did you find me here

I thought I could do it
All of it all by myself
I thought I could win every round
Then I hit rock bottom
And the blues I got ‘em
You lifted me out of my fear
How did you find me here

I thought I could do it
All of it all by myself
I thought I could win every round
Then I hit rock bottom
And the blues I got ‘em
Lifted me out of my fear
But how did you find me here

Then I hit rock bottom
And the blues I got ‘em
And you lifted me out of the fear
But how did you find me here
(Thank you Lord)