Pretty Boy and the Gunpowder

Gunpowder and reservoir

Pretty Boy and the Gunpowder

Words and Music by Bobby Angel

January 2, 2022

Your gunpowder didn’t blow And so went on your way Past the trail where the train once ran Beside a bridge that’s washed away Weren’t you the next big thing As guaranteed as anything And now look at you today Ruins overrun

Such a pretty boy you were Born in Jerusalem Spinning water at your wheel Into rifles for the coming war Outfitting old Henry’s fort Farther down the Locust Point Where cannons kept the ships at bay And sent them in retreat

High above the eagles soared As bulldozers built the wall For pretty boy to fill its banks To divert it all to city streets An edict of the ruling crown And so you laid your rifle down Surrender your powder To the dreams of gasoline

Over time you silted in And so your dreams slipped away A blessing now looking back How so little things ever changed Farther up he won it all Only somehow to lose Pretty Boy only flows these days To highways of concrete

Gunpowder long since relapsed To a cascade of small rapids Other than logs holding back Waters where beavers swim at night Protected as a county park You can still go there today And listen to a bluegrass play Or walk the covered bridge

Life is good on the old rail trail Long after they all moved away It’s waters never slowed On their steady fall into the bay Pretty boy doesn’t have much to say He just keeps it all inside From a flooded Paper Mill To the Mason Dixon Line

Gunpowder My Gunpowder
Ode to my home river

To be honest I was miffed:

How could cartographers leave the Gunpowder out?

As penned on the banks of the river

My response was to right this song. Yes, the Susquehanna River is the Chesapeake Bay’s largest tributary, and the Potomac River is bigger too and also drains the Shenandoah Valley. But to look at a map of the drainages of the Chesapeake Bay and to leave the Gunpowder out downright irked me on too many levels to count. But what is a hydrologist to do? And who do I complain to? My philosophy: Never complain and never explain, and rather get down to the business at hand. And specifically, that means telling the story of a pretty special river that sadly people don’t know exists, or sorely misunderstand. The opening line to the song came to me while hiking the river trail just above Jerusalem Mills. I refined the lyrics in the following days in the loft overlooking a brook that feeds the river. But it wasn’t until returning to Florida that I finally put the final touches on the song, and in particularly the last two lines.

Where does this song rank in the Maryland song canon? Behind the Star Spangled Banner and Maryland My Maryland, I’m having trouble coming up with a third. That being the case, I’ll rank it 2nd since Maryland My Maryland is a knock off of Oh Tanenbaum.