Ode to a Union Pipeline Hand

They cut those inner seams
at the bottoms of their jeans
to accommodate their cowboy boots
since the real ones cost extra
and per diem ain't enough up north.

Town cops don't know what to do with them
when their gypsy ways lead to late-night altercations
in the motor home parks and dimly lit dives
where they spend their shortened nights
and overtime on suds
shoving singles in the jukebox
in search of country-western.
Once the paperwork's complete
they're locked in cells for an hour or two--
harmless, hard-working vagabonds
with too much sweat and whiskey
embedded in their flannel and denim.

Their women don't smoke
but like the smell of cigarettes
and men with that lingering stench
since it reminds them of promises on hold.

Snuff costs more above the Mason-Dixon.
Bills keep coming in.
The farms and rigs aren't paid for yet.
Their youngest kids have forgotten
the faces of their fathers
but that sin seems worth the check
and the alternative.

Wives back home in the Bible Belt
wonder, worry, get lonely.
People are only human.
Replacements are asked to pull out.

America needs its natural gas
despite what the protesters think
and pipe doesn't weld itself.

If only it was all as simple
as snipping that seam
with some scissors.

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