The Real Shoeless Joe
On Broadway in 'Damn Yankees' there was a guy named Joe,
They said that he was 'shoeless' and he came from Hannibal, MO.
Now, this guy was fictitious but there's a tale of woe
About a man from Hannibal, a really 'Shoeless Joe.'
This Joe was a hard worker, he raised a family.
He'd worked in a shoe fact'ry since he was twenty-three.
He'd been a soldier in the war, was wounded, nearly died,
Came home and stayed in Hannibal and found himself a bride.
There were not lots of jobs around and Joe was in a bind;
His first-born son was on the way and work was hard to find.
So he began what would become the first of many years
Of toting boxes, sewing shoes, as did his many peers.
The work was hard and boring, the bosses hard to please
But Joe had obligations and his children must not freeze
Nor go without the things kids need, for fun and school and such.
At Christmas there were always gifts, but not so very much.
Each year there was a layoff, and each year Joe would go
And borrow what he had to have to help his children grow.
It took some months to pay the loan when work commenced once more.
It seemed this Joe had sold his soul to the comp'ny store.
The workers hadn't any rights, and they dare not complain.
If they just had a union, it might help ease the pain.
They might then have their proper breaks, a guarantee of jobs;
A union might give dignity to all these working slobs.
The owners did not like this plan, they moved the plants away,
And Joe was left without a job, and with no job, no pay.
He found work here and there some days, and others he did not.
No money then for shoes and clothes and no meat in the pot.
Joe died too young with no boots on and not much left to show
This noble man, who'd worked so hard, was truly 'Shoeless Joe.'
Robert Winthrop's Other Poems
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