The people who showed up yesterday morning to shovel snow at the University of Minnesota’s TCF stadium were willing to do some physical labor in the great tradition of John Henry – a character out of folklore who generated a variety of songs about man’s unquenchable spirit in the face of a challenge from the steam drill.
Unfortunately, some of yesterday’s shovelers waited through the morning, and left in frustration before doing any actual work.
John Henry simply beat the steam drill with brute strength, and then he laid down his hammer and he died. Tough wages. But brute strength won’t help you overcome a mismatch between available workers and piles of snow in the absence of a plan that can quickly put them together. That’s a real heartbreaker.
When John Henry heard about the Vikings,
playin’ in the winter’s cold.
Well he picked up a shovel and his parka and a hat
Said Shovel’s gonna bring some Christmas gold, Lord, Lord.
Shovel’s gonna bring some Christmas gold.
The captain said to John Henry
You can wait over there in that line.
With your shovel and your parka and your hat, Lord Lord
You can wait ‘til it’s shovelin’ time.
John Henry said to the captain
I’m freezing and I’m ready to go
Before I’ll wait and stand and get frostbite on my hand,
I would die with my shovel in the snow
Now the captain said to John Henry
Just an hour more and maybe you’ll begin,
There’s a form you gotta sign and another friggin’ line
To endure before your shovel’s suckin’ wind, Lord Lord
To endure before your shovel’s suckin’ wind.
Now the planners that did those logistics
Meant to organize the snow removin’ troops
But so many came to town, when that sun was goin’ down
Poor John Henry hadn’t turned a single scoop
Now John Henry had dug snowy mountains.
From Duluth to Saskatoon and on to Nome
But he never dug that day where the Golden Gophers play.
He just waited ‘til they told him to go home, Lord Lord.
He waited ’til they told him to go home.
When have you been victorious against the machine?