Shade Tree Mechanic

Hank and Claire
Hank Payne


A tale of the road, the kindness of strangers, and the magic of banjo-picking. Matt Sircely’s mandolin adds sparkle. Laurie Riley sings harmony vocal and sneaks in a little “tasty” banjo as well.


Way out in Montana on a road with no name

My car started knocking; I busted the mains.

I had a little change to spare and the friend of a friend

Knew a man who helped put us on the road once again.


He was a shade tree mechanic, a gentle old soul.

He talked of the mountains and panning for gold.

He worked on the railroad and in the deep silver mines,

Now he'll work on your car while he's passing the time.


His knuckles were battered and his nails were all torn.

He had an old banjo that was just as well worn.

He took it down in the evening when we happened to stay

And we all got a chance to hear the tunes that he played.


He played Red River Valley and tunes we all know.

The Cowboys Lament, he played it real slow.

He played Soldiers Joy and some other fast reels

And he got us all to laughing and kicking our heels.


Amazing Grace was the very best song.

He saved it for last and we all sang along.

When he put down his banjo there was little to say

So we just gave our thanks and we called it a day.


In just a few days we were back on the road.

He filled up the tank to help lighten the load, and

When we hit fifty-five I swear you could hear

The frailing of a banjo in the whine of the wheels .


And it sounded like Red River Valley and tunes we all know.

The Cowboys Lament when we were taking it slow.

When we picked up our speed it would play a fast reel

And it kept us all laughing and kicking our heels.


I went back years later to find that old man,

But his house was in shambles he moved off the land.

If he's been taken to heavens reward,

I'll bet he's playing his banjo in the choir of the Lord.


I'll bet he's playing Red River Valley and tunes they all know.

The Cowboys Lament, I bet he's playing it slow.

He's playing Soldier's Joy and some other fast reels

And he's got them all laughing and kicking their heels. 

-copyright Hank Payne

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