19 April 2012

Take the Load Off Fanny

A lot happens when Gary and I run on the trail. In twenty-three years and over a good many miles (several thousand by our count and I have difficulty with numbers), we have shared lives, confidences, secrets and gossip that we would never give voice to away from the river. There is very little we have not discussed in our travels, not a few problems we have not solved, and still more that yet awaits our consideration. I have written at least five books running alongside Gary and he has built a dozen or so homes. We have studied a great stretch of the physical and emotional world, and I think we have both grown considerably as a result of that chance meeting on summer Sunday twenty-three years ago when then we were running different directions.
And over the years one song accompanied all of our conversations.  From the very beginning as we ran our troubles out onto the trail we referred continually to a specific line from the “The Weight,” an 1968 song from Music from Big Pink, the first album by The Band.  As Gary and I would voice our plaints, as we bemoaned our condition, as we bore the weights of living we would sing “Take the load off Fanny, and you put the load right on me!”  And all of our problems would get poured into those line, and on we would run. I don’t think we really knew to what the line meant, but we knew it referred to us.
Levon Helm died today. It was the clap of his drum that starts that song. Though I know other versions, it is his voice that I hear singing that song. Now there’s only Robbie Robertson and Garth Hudson still alive from the original Band left to sing it. And Gary and I, of course.


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