This guy’s the limit

April 8, 2016

image from

A great place to visit:

I have always thought of Toronto as a place that kind of swallows people up. Canada’s black hole. A place where people go and become satisfied with their life…..and quietly disappear. They think they’re going somewhere but they’re not; lost in the environment that surrounds them.

Although the name of this Del Barber song is the same as one of Hogtown’s nicknames, it isn’t necessarily about that city perched on the north shore of Lake Ontario. Rather, it is about being lost, losing focus, being swallowed up, and losing your way in that smoky haze that can (suddenly) envelop us and cloud our senses.

Years ago, as we drove up I29 across the Dakota farmland on a beautiful, warm fall day we suddenly found ourselves coming into dense, acrid smoke. A farmer had been stubble burning and from a distance it looked like the smoke was drifting away from the highway. But the road’s unexpected change of direction meant we were suddenly coming into it.

Other drivers had stopped and were directing us through the ditch and onto the southbound lanes. We could hear sirens approaching through the haze. We came to a clearing in the smoke and saw cars and people strewn about. It became apparent that we were coming across a multi vehicle pile-up. And there were fatalities.

But the eeriest thing was the wind had shifted and these mangled vehicles and people were there, in the sunshine, looking completely lost and out of place on that beautiful autumn day. They had driven right into the smoke and become disorientated. The smoke had enveloped them suddenly, created havoc and then drifted away…..and I was moments away from possibly following them in.

…..I can’t wait to get to the ‘larger than life’ wide open spaces and clear blue skies of home. There’s no place like it.

From his album: Prairieography – which evokes images of prairie landscape and life. (YT link to studio version which is more interesting than the song when performed live).

But I also like this live version with fellow ‘Toban, Brandy Zdan.

Del Barber Performs “Big Smoke” – 2014 (Live at Music City Roots)

lyrics from the studio version – poached from

Blinded by the city lights
No one can see you stallin’
It’s been so long since you’ve seen the prairie stars
You’re not sure you can recall them
But there is something here for you to find
You may have found it once and lost it now

We used to fly through the woods
On the backs of quarter horses
Pickin’ dandelion bouquets for our sister and our mother
We felt like men but we were boys
Too young to know
That we were as free as fire

And you’re lost out in the Big Smoke
Lookin’ for a way home
There are no straight paths
There’s no easy way

Brother do you remember
That one September morning we were shooting cans
With Dad’s .22 without a worry or a warning
You pulled the trigger down and dropped that deer
And you looked at me with tears in your eyes

And I never in a million years
Thought that you’d make that shot
And I picture you tonight, with your sights still on something so far off
Wherever you are I hope you’re being careful
About the things you think you want

And you’re lost out in the Big Smoke
Without a fire of your own
There are no straight paths
There’s no easy way

(Last year, father and son produced 12,000 bushels. Under the Crow, they paid thirteen cents a bushel to ship it to Vancouver: $1560. Within four years they’ll likely be paying twice as much and within a decade maybe five times as much. “If the price of grain would increase, I suppose a guy wouldn’t feel it quite so badly; but on the horizon we don’t see it, an increase.” “Supposing they, ah, say that a few towns down the road – that grain should be here. There goes our elevator and I would think that 20% of the taxes in this town come from the elevators.)

The sky is getting hazy
It’s filling up with grain dust
And it could be in a year the bank finally gets the best of us
But our cows are fed and the bins are full
We’re hoping to see you before the snow

You’re lost out in the Big Smoke
Without a fire of your own
There are no straight paths
There’s no easy way

You’re lost out in the Big Smoke
Without a fire of your own
There are no straight paths
There’s no easy way


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