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Origins:Deportees-seeking original Woody recording

23 Jan 97 - 04:13 AM (#1588)
Subject: Deportee - looking for background information
From: Joe Offer

I think it was January, 1948, that a plane crashed in the beautiful green hills of Los Gatos Canyon, about 10 miles from Coalinga, California. The plane carried workers who were being deported to Mexico. The crash killed everyone aboard. Woody Guthrie read a New York Times article about the crash, and wrote "Deportees." As I understand it, Woody chanted the lyrics to no particular tune; and then a tune was written by a schoolteacher in the 1960's. I wonder if anybody knows where I can get a recording of Woody chanting the original version. Any ideas?

Joe Offer

Click for lyrics in Digital Tradition
Click for related thread
Also here

23 Jan 97 - 09:59 AM (#1592)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: Bill

I remember hearing a set of songs that Woody Guthrie was comissioned to do for the Library of Congress, I think "Deportee" may have been on it but I am not sure of the tune. That might be a starting point though. Good Luck.

23 Jan 97 - 01:44 PM (#1598)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: Bill

I just found the Library of Congress recordings. They were made by Alan Lomax. He interviewed and recorded Woody Guthrie in 1940 so it was before Deportee. They are on Rounder:CD's 1041--1043

27 Sep 97 - 05:36 AM (#13319)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: Joe Offer

I'm still looking for a recording of Woody's original, chanted version of this song. Anybody know where I might find it?

27 Sep 97 - 12:54 PM (#13333)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: RS

Sorry, can't help with the Woody Guthrie recording. There is a later version on the album "Judy Collins #3" - EKS-7243. "The Judy Collins Songbook" gives the following information: "Deportee: Plane Wreck at Los Gatos - Words by Woody Guthrie; Music by Martin Hoffman - Copyright 1961 and 1963 Ludlow Music Inc., New York, N.Y."

Are you looking for the words? - I didn't find them in the database, can post them if needed.

27 Sep 97 - 01:04 PM (#13334)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: RS

Should've checked my bookmarks before submitting the last post. Check out "The Woody Guthrie Pages" at: - the site includes "Discography" & "Record Info", so it might well answer your enquiry.

Also the lyrics to Deportee are at: (These differ slightly from the ones in the "Judy Collins Songbook", e.g. the website has "The oranges are filed in their creosote dumps" vs the songbook has "piled", which makes more sense to me ... but I'm not in the mood to do proofreading today).

Haven't checked the Woody Guthrie website in detail though ... let me know if it has what you're looking for!

27 Sep 97 - 01:56 PM (#13336)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: Joe Offer

Thanks, RS. The Woody Web Site was really interesting - but no "Deportee." The song is listed in the database as "Deportees," by the way. I'll keep looking. It may be there were no recordings because it may not have been much of a song until Martin Hoffman came up with an actual tune.
-Joe Offer-

27 Sep 97 - 11:21 PM (#13362)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: Tim Jaques

I seem to have a dim recollection of this being sung by Arlo Guthrie, but I could be wrong because in the days before the loss of almost all of my vinyl I had several Woody Guthrie collections and I might be confusing the two.

28 Sep 97 - 02:19 AM (#13370)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: Joe Offer

Hi, Tim - I e-mailed the guy with the big Woody Web site, and he claims to have a discography of just about everything Woody recorded - with no recording of "Deportee" until after the tune was added in the 1960's. Arlo recorded it on the "Together in Concert" album he did with Pete Seeger in 1975, but he used the 1960's tune.

28 Sep 97 - 11:09 PM (#13425)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: Tim Jaques

I don't think I ever had an album of Arlo Guthrie and Pete Seeger together, but I did see them at the 1980 Atlantic Folk Festival in Nova Scotia so maybe I heard it then and it stuck in my mind. (Although very little from that weekend sticks in my mind)

BTW, today I found a whole box of my vinyl when looking through my storage locker. It was like meeting a group of old friends after a ten year separation. Woody, alas, was not there.

30 Sep 97 - 07:47 PM (#13640)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: RS

Well I had checked the Database for "Deportee", and when I was told "Sorry, no documents were found which match your query", I didn't even bother to check for "Deportees", because I assumed that "Deportee" would have been recognised as a _part_ of the longer word "Deportees", if either word were in the Database.

Did indeed find the song when I rechecked for "Deportees".

I gather that the search for text within the Forum Threads _is_ this kind of "inclusive" search (sorry, I don't know the technical name) where, for example, a search for "Art" will retrieve both "Arthur" and "Martin". Perhaps it would be a good idea to include this in the Database Search as well - either as the default mode, or at least as an option (if it is felt to be too inclusive for general use).

Thoughts on this?

01 Oct 97 - 03:31 AM (#13678)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: Wolfgang

the option is already there: enter deportee*, or if you want even *portee*

04 Oct 97 - 12:34 AM (#13939)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: Bill D

Searching the entire internet for 'deportee' gave 123 hits...includuing PP&M websites and Woody Guthrie sites...maybe there is something out there...(I was too sleepy to look all the way thru the list..)

04 Oct 97 - 05:11 PM (#13963)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: leprechaun

In my The Greatest Songs of Woody Guthrie album, the song is parenthetically called "Plane Wreck at Los Gatos," and the album cover says, "Words,Woody Guthrie;Music,Martin Hoffman." And in the song on the album sung by Cisco Houston, the oranges are stacked in their creosote dumps, which seems to be a recurring image in Woody Guthrie's works.

The album also has "Buffalo Skinners," one of my favorites.

04 Oct 97 - 05:56 PM (#13966)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: Joe Offer

Come to think of it, I don't really know what that phrase means, about oranges being stacked in their creosote dumps. I lived in Fresno for five years, so you'd think I would know. I never did see what happened to rotten fruit - I guess I just assumed it went for cattle feed. Leprechaun or somebody, can you explain?
-Joe Offer-

05 Oct 97 - 08:41 PM (#14004)
Subject: Lyr Add: DEPORTEES (Woody Guthrie)
From: Becky

Well, I tried 3 times to post these words last night...better late than never?!? (If it'll let me this time!)

Arlo Guthrie did a documentary about Woody, some 10-15 yrs back. A friend of mine got it on videotape, and I taped (audio) a song Arlo and Emmylou Harris sang, Deportees. These are the words to that version. Sorry, none of it was in a 'chant' form.

(Woody Guthrie)

The crops are all in and the peaches are rotting.
The oranges are packed in their creosote dumps.
They're flying you back to the Mexico border
To pay all your money, to wade back again.

My father's own father, he waded that river.
They took all the money he made in his life.
My brothers and sisters, they work in the fruit trees.
They rode the truck, till the took down and died.

CHORUS: Goodbye to my Juan. Goodbye, Rosalita.
Adios, mis amigos, Jesus y Maria.
You won't have a name when you ride the big airplane.
And all they will call you will be deportee.

Some of us are illegal, and some are not wanted.
I work contracts out and we have to move on.
Six hundred miles to the Mexican border,
They chase us like rustlers, like outlaws, like thieves.

We've died in your hills. We've died on your deserts.
And we've died in your mountains, 'n' died on your plains.
We've died 'neath your trees and we've died in your bushes.
Both sides of the river, we've died just the same. CHORUS

The sky plane caught fire over Los Gatos Canyon.
A fireball of lightning that shook all our hills.
Who are all these dear friends, all scattered like dry leaves?
The radio says, "They were just deportees."

Is this the best way we can grow our big orchards?
And is this the best way we can grow our good fruit?
To fall like dry leaves and rot on the topsoil,
And be known by no name except deportee. CHORUS

Sorry I have no chords of music to add, but providing there's no major typos, at least here are the words.

Becky aka O2bnmbr1

06 Oct 97 - 05:39 PM (#14092)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: Tim Jaques

I think that I had that album years ago. Does it have a version of the song that goes "Way down yonder in the Indian nation/ I ride my pony on the reservation" . . .

I do remember a version of Buffalo Skinners. Is it a lot slower than you usually hear it sung?

20 Jan 01 - 05:19 PM (#378605)
Subject: Corrected Lyrics: Deportee
From: Joe Offer

Balladeer told me that the lyrics in the database don't match what's in the Judy Collins songbook, so I checked that book and Carry It On (Pete Seeger and Bob Reiser) and the Sing Out! Reprints book and came up with the lyrics I'll post below. They don't exactly match the Collins version - it's my extrapolation from the three of what seems to me to be closest to the "original." I relied most heavily on Carry It On, because that seemed to be the most credible source.
I see above that I noted that Woody chanted the lyrics with no specific tune. I wrote that back in the days when I was more casual about documenting my sources, and now I can't find the information again. Anybody know of a source that explains that Woody chanted the song?
-Joe Offer-

(Woody Guthrie & Martin Hoffman)

The crops are all in and the peaches are rotting
The oranges are piled in their creosote dumps
You're flying them back to the Mexican border
To pay all their money to wade back again

Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye Rosalita
Adios mis amigos, Jesus y Maria
You won't have a name when you ride the big airplane
And all they will call you will be deportee.

My father's own father, he waded that river
They took all the money he made in his life
My brothers and sisters come working the fruit trees,
And they rode the truck till they took down and died.

Some of us are illegal, and some are not wanted,
Our work contract's out and we have to move on;
Six hundred miles to the Mexican border
They chase us like outlaws, like rustlers, like thieves.

We died in your hills, we died in your deserts,
We died in your valleys and died on your plains,
We died 'neath your trees and we died in your bushes,
Both sides of the river, we died just the same.

The sky plane caught fire over Los Gatos Canyon
A fireball of lightning which shook all our hills
Who are these friends, all scattered like dry leaves?
The radio says they are just deportees.

Is this the best way we can grow our big orchards?
Is this the best way we can grow our good fruit?
To fall like dry leaves and rot on my topsoil
And be called by no name except deportees?

Copyright 1961 and 1963 Ludlow Music, Inc.

Full name of the song is "Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos Canyon)." Woody Guthrie wrote the lyrics after reading an article from the New York Times.
Surplus produce is often dumped to keep prices high. It appears that the creosote was used to make the oranges inedible.

The New York Times of January 29, 1948 reported the wreck of a "charter plane carrying 28 Mexican farm workers from Oakland to the El Centro, CA, Deportation Center....The crash occurred 20 miles west of Coalinga, 75 miles from Fresno."
I got out my California map book, and found a Los Gatos Road and Los Gatos Creek northwest of Coalinga, near the Fresno/San Benito county line. That's one of the most desolate areas of California, and I'm sure it was even more desolate in 1948. In Summer, the hills there are brown and forbidding, and the heat oppressive. That's how I pictured the crash site.
However, the crash took place in January, and in January those hills west of Coalinga are a beautiful green, splendid with wildflowers. Perhaps it is some slight consolation that these poor people died in a place of breathtaking beauty.
May they rest in peace, and may we never forget them. JRO

recorded on Judy Collins/3 and Guthrie Greatest
@death @work
filename[ DEPORT2
Tune file : DEPORTE

20 Jan 01 - 06:36 PM (#378638)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: McGrath of Harlow

A mention of the original tune Woody used comes in this recent thread, with the words "Woody performed the song as at least one of the Peoples' Artists hoots in New York, but his original tune was almost a flat monotone and it (the tune) was not well received."

I'd like to hear it sometime - I can think of some great songs which people have put down as having pretty well no tune. You don't necessarily need to use a lot of notes.

20 Jan 01 - 07:45 PM (#378688)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: jaze

The best version of this song I've heard was by Emmylou Harris and Arlo Guthrie on the "Vision Shared" video. Sadly, one of the best performances(I think) was left off the CD. So I frequently watch the video. They should do a whole album together.

20 Jan 01 - 08:57 PM (#378728)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: Bev and Jerry


Nice post. These are the lyrics we have used for many a year so they must be the right ones!

Bev and Jerry

21 Jan 01 - 10:54 AM (#378983)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: mkebenn

I am always amazed at the blank stares this song receives in certain circles, it made me weep as a twelve year old.."Farewell to my Juan, farewell Rosalita" Mike

21 Jan 01 - 11:59 AM (#379005)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: Peter T.

jaze, is that right? Did they leave the Arlo/Emmylou song off the album -- damn, I was going to go out and get it, as I saw the video just last night. Emmylou Harris at her most gorgeous (I mean this most sincerely, even as a big fan, but boy, did she look great). Where was I?
Oh yes, nice version of Vigilante Man, as well, by Bruce Springsteen (nothing to do with the Guthrie version at all). And terrible pontificating by Bono of U2.

To make a useful contribution to this thread -- Nanci Griffith did an interesting version of Deportees on one of her group albums (Trip to Bountiful maybe): Tish Hinojosa injects a little Spanish!!!!yours, Peter T.

21 Jan 01 - 01:59 PM (#379062)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: Doctor John

There is certainly no recording of Woody performing this either for the Library of Congress (and not all of these are released) or for Moe Asch. However he did make a series of recordings - 200, I think - for his music publishers, the Richmond Organisation. The Guthrie family at one time agreed to release these but later had a change of mind. One has been released (somehow) by the Bear Family - "I've Got To Know". I suppose there is a possibility that "Plane Wreck" may have been recorded in this series but I have never been able to obtain the list.
Joe - Creosote Dumps. The fruit growers in California soaked their excess fruit, which was going to waste, in creosote to make it uneatable so it could not be "stolen" and eaten by the hungry migrant families. Nice what we do to each other.
Dr John

21 Jan 01 - 11:51 PM (#379392)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: Mark Clark

I first heard friends sing this wonderful song but the first recording of it I remember hearing was done by the short-lived Whisky Hill Singers in the early sixties.

      - Mark

26 Mar 01 - 08:09 PM (#426211)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: Joe Offer

Collectors Choice Music just released a 14-cut CD called Dave Guard & the Whiskeyhill Singers. Some of the cuts are great, but I can't say I like their recording of "Deportee."
-Joe Offer-

26 Mar 01 - 10:56 PM (#426262)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: GUEST,BigDaddy

I've been haunted by the imagery and beauty of this song for years (first heard it sung by Dolly Parton). Just this past week I've finally gotten around to teaching it to myself. So I was startled at the synchronicity of seeing the thread here. Anybody else have one of those moments on Mudcat?

27 Mar 01 - 12:13 AM (#426298)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: raredance

The recently published "Woody Guthrie Songbook" (1999) and the old "Woody Guthrie Songbook" (1976) both contain a couple minor differences from the lyrics that Joe posted above. End of the first line is "rott'ning" which looks not quite right, but I think some of the recordings actually use it. Second line "oranges" becomes a three note word, or-an-ges, "are" is dropped. In the chorus the line is give as "You won't have your names...". Not just any name but "your" name seems directly more personal. And the last word is plural "deportees"

One of my favorite versions of the song is by Sweet Honey In The Rock, has a real emotional intensity, as does most of their material.

rich r

27 Mar 01 - 01:20 AM (#426322)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: simon-pierre

Good discussion on the meaning of the song in this Other thread

27 Mar 01 - 09:34 AM (#426482)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: Maryrrf

I like the version of this song that was done by "The Highwaymen" - which was Johnny Cash, Willy Nelson, Chris Christopherson and Waylon Jennings touring together. I didn't realize it had been recorded by so many others!

03 Oct 01 - 04:35 PM (#564434)
Subject: Deportee - Newspaper Article
From: Joe Offer

I've been meaning to post this for quite some time, but never got around to it. This is the text of an Associated Press article from the New York Times, printed on January 29, 1948, the day after the fateful "Plane Wreck at Los Gatos Canyon." I imagine this must be the very same article that Woody Guthrie read, the one that inspired him to write "Deportee."
-Joe Offer-

From the New York Times, January 29, 1948

California Victims Include 28 Mexican Workers Who Were Being Deported

FRESNO, Calif., Jan. 28 (AP)

A chartered Immigration Service plane crashed and burned in western Fresno County this morning, killing twenty-eight Mexican deportees, the crew of three and an Immigration guard.

Irving F. Wixon, director of the Federal Immigration Service at San Francisco, said that the Mexicans were being flown to the deportation center at El Centro, Calif., for return to their country.

The group included Mexican nationals who entered the United States illegally, and others who stayed beyond duration of work contracts in California, he added. All were agricultural workers.

The crew was identified as Frank Atkinson, 32 years old, of Long Beach, the pilot; Mrs. Bobbie Atkinson, his wife, stewardess, 28; and Marion Ewing of Balboa, copilot, 33.

Long Beach airport officials said that Mr. Atkinson, formerly of Rochester, N.Y., had logged more than 1,700 hours flying time as a wartime member of the Air Transport Command. The guard was identified as Frank E. Chaffin of Berkeley.

The plane, which was chartered from Airline Transport Carriers of Burbank, was southbound from the Oakland airport, when it crashed in view of some 100 road camp workers.

Foreman Frank V. Johnson said that it "appeared to explode and a wing fell off" before it plummeted to the ground. A number of those in the plane appeared to jump or fall before the aircraft hit the earth, he added.

The wreckage was enveloped in flames when the fuel tanks ignited. Not until the fire died down were rescuers able to get near the plane. By then, there was nothing to be done but to extricate the bodies.

The scene of the crash is in the mountains about twenty miles west of Coalinga, seventy-five miles from here in the rough coastal area.

03 Oct 01 - 05:15 PM (#564455)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: GUEST,Genie

For what it's worth, I prefer the tune that The Whiskey Hill Singers use for Deportees. Maybe that's because I heard it first, but I think it's a prettier tune than the one more commonly heard.
Sweet Honey In The Rock have still a different tune.
Anyway, Woody didn't write the tune, so I guess it's ok to stray from the one folks usually sing.
In fact, I think what I sing now is a combination of the Whiskey Hill version and the more common one, mainly because they've kind of blended in my mind, with my favorite parts of each being retained.

Rich, from what I've seen of Woody's original notebooks (in the travelling Smithsonian exhibit), he probably DID write "rott'ning.'

03 Oct 01 - 07:29 PM (#564540)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: McGrath of Harlow

Names of the crew, no names of the deportees - you can see how the song would have shaped itself as he read that report.

"...Mexican nationals who entered the United States illegally, and others who stayed beyond duration of work contracts in California... All were agricultural workers."

"Some of us are illegal, and some are not wanted, Our work contract's out and we have to move on"

Nothing really changes does it? "Economic migrants" they'd call them today.

03 Oct 01 - 08:33 PM (#564590)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: Bev and Jerry


Thanks for the article. We saved it. When a little more time has passed sincd September 11, we'll read it to the kids before we do the song. This will give them the message a lot better than what we've been saying.

Bev and Jerry

03 Oct 01 - 08:51 PM (#564599)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: GUEST,Genie

Not that this excuses the paper for not following up, but is it possible that in 1948 passenger lists were not readily available?
I often hear news reports nowadays that say things like, "to Iraeli (or Palestinian) children and their father were killed by a bomb ...).

03 Oct 01 - 10:16 PM (#564646)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: GUEST,karen

McGrath. I'm not sure nothing changes. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong as I've not studied this much over the recent few decades but, the time the song was written, wasn't it US law that any of those illegals that managed to have a baby while in the US could remain because the child was a US citizen? And, was the law later altered to state that only children born of at least one citizen parent were naturalized?

03 Oct 01 - 10:24 PM (#564652)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: catspaw49

Thanks muchly Joe....That had to be a tough find and it surely does make the song obvious as Mac said....almost like sitting in Woody's mind as he wrote.

AND GENIE.......Yeah, Woody didn't write the tune although it would be more accurate to say that Woody didn't put a tune to it.......Woody didn't write many tunes at all!!!!!(:<))


04 Oct 01 - 03:57 AM (#564774)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: Joe Offer

Hi, Karen - there have always been loopholes in U.S. immigration law that allow some people to stay in the U.S., but the Immigration and Naturalization Service has always found ways to deport lots of people. some of those on the fated airplane were in the U.S. legally as seasonal farm workers - but their work contracts were up, and it was time to move on. They were being shipped from Northern California to the El Centro Deportation Center on the border. The Immigration officers round the people up and ship them down to deportation centers along the border. Nowadays, though, they go by bus down Interstate 5.

I did employee background checks in the deportation center in El Centro for three weeks in the summer of 1996. Not a happy place, although the employees had great carne asada cookouts on their days off. The employees, by the way, are mostly hispanic.

-Joe Offer-

04 Oct 01 - 05:24 AM (#564805)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: GUEST,karen

Thanks for the information, long (time wise) would that trip take if going by bus? How many fuel stops along the way and so forth? If you know, that is...don't want to seem demanding.:) Hope you moved on to a more pleasant job.

04 Oct 01 - 05:57 AM (#564815)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: Joe Offer

Well, Karen, the Immigration Service was only one of many agencies I serviced. It was lots of fun doing clearances on astronauts and political appointees, and I got paid to spend weeks in the national parks, clearing law enforcement park rangers.

The employees of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) have a dismal, frustrating job. Generally, they're overworked and underpaid, because they're not a "glamor" agency. A large percentage of the employees are foreign-born or have foreign spouses - that helps, because they have to be able to speak at least two languages.

The Border Patrol is a separate law enforcement division within the INS, and their working conditions are generally better. The daily bus starts way up in Northern California, and drives four or five hours to the Border Patrol Sector at Livermore, just southeast of San Francisco. From there, it's another three or four hours south to Bakersfield, where some detainees are temporarily housed in the county jail (a federal subsidy of impoverished Kern County). From there it's four to six hours to El Centro or San Diego. The drivers go from one stop to the next, and then go back on the northbound bus.

I don't know how the actual deportation takes place. I know that some are flown to Central Mexico or beyond, but I think that many just are escorted as they walk back across at the border crossing to Mexicali or Tijuana (and some of those go back to the States the very same night).

The INS recognizes that most of the detainees are not criminals, and their treatment is generally humane - but still pretty dismal. Yeah, I occasionally came across employees who were abusive - there are a few bad apples in every bushel, and it was my job to try to cull them out.

Now I'm retired, goofing off full time - but I had 25 very interesting years working as a federal investigator. I felt like I had my finger on the pulse of California all that time (with occasional trips outside the state).

-Joe Offer-

04 Oct 01 - 12:57 PM (#564979)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: iamjohnne

I first heard this song sung by Vince Martin back in the Coconut Grove days in Miami Fl. He had an voice like honey. I think he used the lyrics that Judy Collins used. It is still a great song, and the tune is as memorable as the lyrics.

Johnne "Goin where the weather suits my clothes"

04 Oct 01 - 01:06 PM (#564989)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: Linda Kelly

In the UK, Jon Brindley does a version which is quite beautiful. generally I have heard this with quite a quick strong rythmn, but Jon's version is much slower and very ballady -anyway, its an extraordinary song which ever way it's played.

04 Oct 01 - 01:20 PM (#565003)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: Wolfgang

It's a great find, Joe, and praise for the post. However, though the picture of Woody Guthrie reading the very same words as we can above is compelling, it just may not be true. First, the radio said they are just deportees is Woody's own claim as to the source of the information, and, second, the site of the crash, Los Gatos Canyon that Woody included in the lyrics and the title, is not mentioned in the article above.


04 Oct 01 - 02:00 PM (#565043)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: McGrath of Harlow

I was thinking that too, Wolfgang - since Woody said radio, he probably meant radio.

But I'd imagine that the radio and the newspaper would have used the same wire services, so the actual radio report would probably have been very similar, but maybe with extra details, like Los Gatos Canyon. Anyway, Joe's find gets us a lot closer to the event itself, and how it must have felt. After September 11th I think it's a bit easier to tune in. (There is an echo of it in the fact that there were probably large numbers of dead in the Towers who will never be known or identified, because they were illegals in borderline employment.)

And that first line - I think rott'ning, as quoted by rich r is actually more vivid than rotting. Going rotten. I think I'll use it any time I sing the song.

04 Oct 01 - 02:19 PM (#565061)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: Joe Offer

Good thinking, Wolfgang. You're almost as good as Sandy Paton at goading me to honest research. I read somewhere that Woody wrote the song in 1948 after reading an article in the New York Times - now, I wish I could remember where I read that. If the story is true, Woody must have had an additional source of information - maybe he fabricated a little information himself (or maybe the article I read was more complete in another edition of the newspaper). The Times article said only that the crash was about twenty miles west of Coalinga. On my map, I'd say Los Gatos Canyon is ten to fifteen miles west-northwest of Coalinga, in the Coastal Range of mountains that separates the Central Valley of California from the Pacific.

I'm working on checking the Fresno and Sacramento Bee newspapers for more information. Coalinga has never had much of a newspaper. Fresno, the county seat, is about 70 miles east of Coalinga. Fresno is miserable, and Coalinga is worse. Both places have blistering heat in the summer and depressing fog and overcast during the winter - but spring and fall are tolerable. I visited Coalinga once during an infestation of crickets - cars were skidding on streets all over town, sliding on cricket carcasses. One winter night, I drove home forom Coalinga to Fresno in fog so thick I couldn't see the road. Just north of Coalinga is an oilfield - all the rocking pump arms are decorated to look like animals. A big annual event in Coalinga is the Horned Toad festival (although the animal is now called a horned lizard).

I last visited Coalinga in 1999, when I spent a day doing interviews at the police department. I'll say this about Coalinga - the cops were young, innocent, and delightful. They thought it was pretty cool to be interviewed by a federal agent.

In his book Where Have All the Flowers Gone?, Pete Seeger says Woody made up "Reuben James," "Deportees," and "Isaac Woodward" from seeing short items in some paper. The Sing Out! Reprints (pink book) says the following:
A few years ago the newspapers reported the crash in Mexico of a plane which was flying home a large group of Mexican "wetback" workers who had entered the United States illegally - induced by promises of good-paying jobs from unscrupulous agents of the large fruit orchards in California. Woody Guthrie immediately wrote the following song. The tune by Marty Hoffman has been slightly adapted by Pete Seeger.
I'd question the accuracy of this. I think Woody was more correct in saying "some" of the deportees were illegal, because there was a program at the time that allowed farmworkers to enter the U.S. legally to do seasonal work.

OK, so back to work on more research.

-Joe Offer-

04 Oct 01 - 02:22 PM (#565066)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: Wolfgang

Well possible, Kevin: the N.Y.Times article has (AP) as the source which doesn't mean they printed every bit of that information. 'Los Gatos Canyon' might have been too detailed for a New York reader. Good guess is there was a single source for all kinds of reportings about that crash and we have one version coming from that source and Woody heard another.

I understand that song better after 11/9 of this year. I read and saw in TV that the names of all passengers from the four planes were mentioned. This would never be done in Germany. In our culture, you leave it to the relations whether they want to make it known or not. From my cultural background, I never really could understand what was so bad about only calling the dead 'deportees', for that is what I would have expected from a similar report in Germany. In a German report, no name at all would have been mentioned, even the known persons would have been 'crew' and nothing else.


04 Oct 01 - 03:15 PM (#565102)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: Joe Offer

In another thread, Steve Suffet gave a nice summary of his research on the song. Since it's the only message in that thread about that particular song, I'm going to paste a copy here. I don't have the Joe Klein biography he refers to, and I'm not shure which Leventhal book he's talking about Leventhal edited a collection of Woody's writings called Pastures of Plenty, but that book makes only passing mention of "Deportee."
-Joe Offer-
Thread #29549   Message #374302
Posted By: Suffet
Thread Name: El Do Re Mi
Subject: RE: El Do Re Mi

By the way, if you don't know the story of "Deportees," here is a brief (?) summary courtesy of information I gleaned from Joe Offer, Joe Klein, and Harold Leventhal.

On January 28, 1948, a chartered airplane crashed in Los Gatos Canyon, about 20 miles west of Coalinga, California. All aboard perished, including the crew, several immigration agents, and 28 Mexican farmworkers who were in the process of being deported. Woody Guthrie claimed that he heard a radio broadcast report of the crash in which someone stated that the 28 Mexicans were "just deportees" and did not give their names when the names of the crew and agents were announced. In response, Woody wrote the song that he called variously "Plane Wreck at Los Gatos," "Deportees," and "Goodbye to My Juan." Woody performed the song as at least one of the Peoples' Artists hoots in New York, but his original tune was almost a flat monotone and it (the tune) was not well received.

About 10 years later, a young folk singer named Martin Hoffman wrote a new and hauntingly beautiful tune to go with Woody's lyrics. Cisco Houston, Woody's old sidekick, soon recorded "Deportees" for Vanguard using Hoffman's tune. So did Judy Collins, and the song quickly became an American folk standard.

By that time, however, Woody was seriously ill with Huntington's disease, and he was confined to a mental hospital. It is doubtful that he ever sang the Hoffman tune himself, but it is pretty well established that others sang it to him.

--- Steve

04 Oct 01 - 03:46 PM (#565117)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: Joe Offer

There's some interesting additional information on this site (click). It's part of the "History in Song" site maintained by Manfred Helfert.
-Joe Offer-

04 Oct 01 - 04:18 PM (#565157)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: catspaw49

Wolfgang, I would never have thought of the lack of names in that way. To me, I thought Woody was saying that we (Americans) viewed the illegal immigrants, and basically all Mexicans and migrant workers, as something less than human and therefore they were just nameless, faceless, nothings......"just" big deal. It seems to speak to the prejudice and bigotry more than anything else (IMHO).


04 Oct 01 - 04:31 PM (#565163)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: McGrath of Harlow

About the tune - in the thread about the song he wrote about the NYC Firefighters, InOBU was discussing the tune he put to it, "Lough Hospitasl"(aka Locke Hospital) and he said "By the way Deportee is very like Lough Hospital, which is also Bold Robert Emmitt, and Beat the Drum Slowly and Play the Pipes Lowly, and Streets of Laredo."

Which is true. And the older tune fits very well to the words of Guthrie's song.

"Nothing really changes" - as you said karen, sometimes they get worse. Sometimes they get better as well, but it all balances out, and on the whole "nothing really changes". We get rid of polio, and along comes Aids. Still, if you don't keep on trying to make it better, it'd just get worse.

04 Oct 01 - 06:29 PM (#565254)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: GUEST,karen

Thanks, about 15 hours total.? Paints a bleak picture from any angle. In your post after the much appreciated information you comment on the "some of us." I always took that to be where Woody's mind expanded out to the 'greater picture'. At first he is focused on only the ones involved in the plane crash but in this verse he is thinking on all the ones he's met along the way and identifies himself with. I thought I read or watched documentation that Woody spent some time as a picker, in the migratory tent camps in his younger days?
Sounds like you had a lot of good to go with the bad in your career. That's good so that as McGrath says, things balance out. I tend to wonder how people that get locked into the negative with no variance are able to stay sane. I agree that we can't overlook the bad but we also can't let it steal the good from us. S'pose we will ever find the good medium? Seems to me that everytime people try (and I know lots of people do try) the thing gets more tangled, the deeper they go, and the results are so frustratingly limited in the end that it causes premature burn-out. I would think it would be particularly hard for persons from other than the US to do that job...there'd be that heavy aspect of wondering what line divided in many instances.

04 Oct 01 - 08:56 PM (#565332)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: Suffet

When I say I gleaned information regarding Woody Guthrie's "Deportees" from three sources, I mean the following:

1. Joe Offer's posting to the newsgroup of the New York Times account also posted above, along with his comments.

2. Joe Klein's book, "Woody Guthrie: a Life," pages 362-363 of the paperback edition. Say Mr. Klein: "The song, as he wrote it was virtually without music -- Woody chanted the words -- and wasn't performed publicly until a decade later when a schoolteacher named Martin Hoffman added a beautiful melody and Pete Seeger began singing it it concerts."

3. Personal conversations I have had with Harold Leventhal over the past several years. In one Harold said that Woody might have performed the song, in a near monotone, at a hoot in New York.

Let's all be thankful for Martin Hoffman!

--- Steve

04 Oct 01 - 10:42 PM (#565375)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: Deckman

Thanks to everyone ... especially Joe. This is what thrills me about MUDCAT. I can't add anything new, but I'm following this thread with great interest. CHEERS, Bob

04 Oct 01 - 11:23 PM (#565399)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: catspaw49

Isn't it kind of interesting that what are considered to be some of Woody's best are the ones he had the hardest time putting tunes with or ones he just carried around for awhile? Woody wrote songs right and left and stole more tunes than Willie Sutton did Sawbucks and yet this one and "TLIYL" and "Pastures" and a few others he sat on for quite awhile. I dunno' whether that means anything or not....just interesting I guess.


05 Oct 01 - 03:26 AM (#565501)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: Joe Offer

Good point, Spaw. I have yet to hear the two albums of Woody Guthrie songs that Billy Bragg did. As I understand it, Bragg wrote tunes for a number of Woody Guthrie lyrics that had never been sung. My kids introduced me to Billy Bragg - I'm glad they did.

I spent the afternoon at the library, and I found three more articles from the Sacramento Union and the Sacramento Bee - it made the front pages of those newspapers on January 28 and 29, 1948. On January 30, the papers were full of stories about Gandhi's assassination.

The articles confirmed that the crash took place in Los Gatos Canyon, outside Coalinga, California. I'll post the articles when I can - I don't think Mr. Scanner can read them, so I'll have to type them.

-Joe Offer-

06 Oct 01 - 01:53 AM (#566117)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: Genie

I didn't catch this in the responses above, so let me mention that the travelling Smithsonian Woody Guthrie exhibit (which, I think, has been held over in Tacoma, WA) through the end of this year), has Woody's original first-draft manuscipt of this song, hand printed in pen in a lined notebook. Somewhere I have that version, as I copied it down at the museum.


I can't help thinking of this song when I hear reports of plane crashed in which famous people die along with others. For example, when the singer Aliyah (sp?) was killed recently, I heard numerous news reports, all of which said things like, "...Aliyah and [8?] other passengers and crew were killed... ."

One might sing, "You won't have a name when you crash with a pop star... ."

28 Feb 02 - 09:56 AM (#659876)
Subject: RE: Deportees-lyrics correction
From: catspaw49

Say Joe, once again exploring this thread because of a current one, I was reading more closely your set of lyrics to correct the DT and comparing notes, so to speak. Looks good, except for the last two lines in the first verse. I think the lines are:
They're flying you back to the Mexico border
To pay all your money to wade back again

The real difference is in that my lines which I use (and got from Arlo's version) are in the same story mode as the song....Could be wrong and not a big deal....Just happened to notice it.


28 Feb 02 - 01:39 PM (#660035)
Subject: RE: Deportees

In 1961 I went to Tucson AZ to grad school at UA and ended working for a while at the Park Theater on Campbell (long gone as UA expanded) The manager, Jerry, a law student and also folk music lover, told me his friend Martin Hoffman wrote the music to Deportees. I met Martin once at Jerry's house where Martin played tapes of Navajo children reading from english textbooks. He taught on the reservation and the tape was made in September after the kids got back to school after spending the summer only speaking Navajo. Later Martin's wife left him and Martin did himself in. I heard Judy Collins sing a song that she wrote to Martin with the words something like, "Martin, if I had only known." Her tribute to him.

28 Feb 02 - 02:36 PM (#660075)
Subject: ADD: Song For Martin (Judy Collins)
From: catspaw49

Hi Guest......What you're thinking about is "Song for Martin"....It's a beautiful song, quite painful, but too personal to be covered well by anyone else.

Song for Martin
Words and Music by Judy Collins
Universal Music Corp. (ASCAP)/ Rocky Mountain National Park Music, Inc. (ASCAP)
(Administered by Universal Music Corp.)

In Rough Rock, Arizona he lived for many years alone
A gangly kid from Colorada, who could sing the sweetest songs
I first heard Woody's songs from him in a cabin in the snow
Seems like it was yesterday but it was years and years ago

He moved to Arizona in nineteen sixty-one
Got a job at the Indian school - he was livin' in the sun
My life was movin' fast by now, I was always on the run
My country life was far behind and the circus had begun

Marty, I know it got lonely out there
Coyotes cryin' at midnight in the cold desert air
The heart that sorrow broke in you can never be repaired
Mart, I know I let you down somewhere

I knew that me and Marty, we should have been good friends
I always knew the paths we walked were meant to cross again
We talked on the telephone once or twice a year
His voice was so familiar, his memory was clear

I'll never know what brought him to where he finally stood
A shotgun pointed at his head in a cabin in the woods
But somehow I could hear it, it struck my heart as well
For the unknown man who needs a hand
For the friend I'll never know

Marty, I know it got lonely out there
Coyotes cryin' at midnight in the cold desert air
The heart that sorrow broke in you can never be repaired
Mart, I know I let you down somewhere


28 Feb 02 - 03:13 PM (#660110)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: GUEST,Guest

I second Deckman. I want to thank all of the people in this thread. I do not play or sing, but listen and appreciate. Appreciation is not understanding however, and that is what you all have. You, and the song in discussion along with Mudcat have brought me closer to a better level of humanity. Thanks.

P.S. The Byrds version was one of the first I heard back four decades. Also, I have the Billy Bragg/Wilco CD's and they are quite good and provide some insight into the craft; Of course Bragg and Wilco are good in their own right(write)

28 Feb 02 - 04:21 PM (#660161)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: jup

Great thread,everyone.

I am motivated to learn this song,it is ,like a lot of folk music, still apropriate today.



28 Feb 02 - 04:58 PM (#660185)
Subject: Chords Add: DEPORTEE (Woody Guthrie)
From: catspaw49

         E                                  A                E
    The crops are all in and the peaches are rotting
         (E)                               A          E
    The oranges piled in their creosote dumps
            A                                     E
    They're flying them back to the Mexican border
                (E)                      A                E
    To pay all their money, to wade back again

         A                   E      
    Goodbye to my Juan, good-bye Rosalita
       B7                        E                   E7         
    Adios mes amigos, Jesus and Maria
         A                                              E
    You won't have your names when you ride the big airplane
                                             A       E
    All they will call you will be deportee

Or whatever key you like....Throw in a few bass runs and you're all set.


01 Mar 02 - 02:12 AM (#660452)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: jup

Thanks,Spaw, I'll give it a run tonight,I have a CD with it on around here someplace. Jup.

01 Mar 02 - 02:30 AM (#660455)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: Joe Offer

Hi, spaw - I wondered about the Mexico/Mexican question, too. Cisco Houston sings it "Mexico border," and that's the way I prefer to sing it. I can't recall where I got the text above - I believe it was one of the Sing Out! reprints. Genie has promised to post her transcription of an early Woody version of the lyrics. Maybe her transcription will give us an answer. I sent her a personal message to remind her.
-Joe Offer-

15 Jul 03 - 11:40 PM (#984184)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: GUEST,Porky

OK, I think some of you are taking this a little too seriously... I realize this conversation has gone on for five years, so I thought I'd add an entry for 2003.
As for the content of the newspaper article, I've read so many versions that edit out various parts, it's hard to tell what's what. In any case, although the AP article doesn't mention LG Canyon by name, one doesn't need to be a rocket scientist to have a look at a map (I'm assuming Woody had these in 1948) and see what's to the west of Fresno. Woody being who he was, maybe he didn't need a map... perhaps he was familiar with the area... Fresno County is the breadbasket of California. Also, just because Woody wrote "the radio said...." absolutely does not mean that was his source of info... c'mon guys, there's a number of musicians here, anyone consider artistic license? For all we know, someone told him about this over a pool table. Woody wrote for the common man, and in terms the common man understood. I don't think he spent a heck of a lot of time picking nits.
In modern times, that bus ride from Oakland to the border (Mexico, Mexican... who cares?? Do you sing the exact same thing every time you do a song? I don't...) is about 10 hours... in 1948 it probably would have been an overnighter, with that stop in Bakersfield. However, even that is luxurious in comparison to what these people went through in order to get here in the first place.
This is one of my favorite all time songs, it sends a powerful message about the plight of the migrant farm worker, and it's hard to believe that this is 55 years old; it could have been written yesterday. Bruce Springsteen sings what could be considered the sequel to this song in "Sinaloa Cowboys."
Oh, yeah, and "rottning" just sounds illiterate, I've only found one transcription that used that word, and there were other blatant errors in it.
Thanks to Joe for a lot of good info, if he's still around.

13 Dec 04 - 07:59 PM (#1356093)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: Rt Revd Sir jOhn from Hull

On this months copy of Uncut music magazine, their is a free CD , that includes Deportees, it's sung by UK folk singer Billy Bragg, it is the first time that it has been released on CD.
Free CD also includes tracks by
Douglas Ritter
Josh Ritter
Warren Zevon
Tom Ovans
Richie Havens
John Prine
Buddy Miller
and Steve Goodman etc
Uncut magazine is £4 and worth it, just for the free CD!
if your local magazine place doesent sell it, try WH Smiths.

24 Jan 06 - 06:49 PM (#1655047)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: GUEST,

I am interested in this thread if anyone has more information about the crash itself.

I'm doing some research on Public Aircraft safety, and have been having trouble finding more than the article mentioned above. If anyone has any active links to newspaper articles or to an accident report it would help considerably.

I would be most interested in the type of aircraft, and especially the reason it crashed if a cause of the accident was determined.

I was unable to find an accident report, which is not a surprise if it was flying as a public aircraft. Until 1994, the NTSB (or its predicessors) were not required or expected to investigate accidents on aircraft flown by federal, state or local governments.

27 Jan 06 - 01:22 PM (#1656588)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: Wolfgang

From this site (accident dated 29th of Jan 1948, Fresno, even the number of casualties is correct, so it must be this one):

Douglas DC3, Registration NC36480

With that information I could find a better description:


I'm not completely sure but I think that's it.


27 Jan 06 - 01:44 PM (#1656597)
Subject: RE: Deportees
From: Wolfgang

I think in this case, c&p from that site is interesting enough:

Douglas DC-3 NC79055, certificated for 32 passengers, had been scheduled for the flight. The crew however took NC36480 by accident, certificated for 26 passengers and 7 hours overdue for a 100-hour inspection. The flight to Oakland was uneventful. At Oakland, 28 passengers boarded the DC-3, leaving three of them sitting on luggage without seat belts. While en route at 5000 feet, the no. 1 engine caught fire. Following an explosion, the left wing, including the engine, separated from the fuselage. The aircraft crashed out of control.
It appeared that the gasket in the engine driven left fuel pump was broken and the 4 studs holding the castings of the pump together were loose. Under pressure, gasoline probably sprayed from the pump, then being ignited by the exhaust. The aircraft was carrying Mexican deportees and a US Immigration & Naturalization Service guard.

PROBABLE CAUSE: "The Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the failure of the left wing in flight as a result of damage by fire which had its source in a defective left engine driven fuel pump."


24 Apr 09 - 07:02 PM (#2618170)
Subject: RE: Deportees - seeking original Woody recording
From: GUEST,jOhn

Wikipedia has a page on this, it mentions the creosote dumps, and says the price of fruit was kept artificially high, by spoiling surplus crops, seems a shame that excess fruit could not be given to the poor instead of been poisoned with creosote.

we had similar situation in Europe a few years ago, were farmers were paid to destroy surplus crops, not sure if this still happens.

24 Apr 09 - 07:12 PM (#2618179)
Subject: RE: Deportees - seeking original Woody recording
From: GUEST,jOhn

The woody Guthrie recording is available for free on Spotify.

24 Apr 09 - 07:33 PM (#2618189)
Subject: RE: Deportees - seeking original Woody recording
From: 12-stringer

The Hootenanny mag that was published in 1963/4 (the one that Robert Shelton was connected with) had an article by John Greenway in its 2nd or 3rd issue, about Woody's last active years. No idea where my copy is (it's the only one I still have), but I'm pretty sure that in the article Greenway speaks of having heard a (taped?) performance of the song by Woody which came (he might have said "eerily") close to the melody later written by Hoffman.

My memory of this is fuzzy, as I haven't looked at that article in a good 35 years, if not longer. Did Greenway publish the lyrics in American Folksongs of Protest?

19 May 09 - 07:58 PM (#2636147)
Subject: RE: Deportees - seeking different folk recording
From: GUEST,Kegan

I just wanted to jump in off-topic for a second. I've read this thread from top to bottom, and am amazed at the fact that it's gone on for twelve years.

I'm looking for a particular version of the song that opened with a male singer reading part of the AP article. I think the group had a woman in it as well. I heard it a few years ago on YouTube, but it's been removed I guess.

Possible help is appreciated, thanks.

19 May 09 - 08:17 PM (#2636157)
Subject: RE: Deportees - seeking original Woody recording

There have been versions of this song recorded by Christy Moore, who does his usual great job but who leaves bits out and changes words here and there, and by Rory McCleod, who, in my opinion, did a wonderful version. The latter was on a tribute to Woody Guthrie vinyl album with contributions by various luminaries. My vinyl is long-fossilised so I can't be specific, but the Rory McCleod is well worth a listen.

20 May 09 - 08:35 PM (#2637111)
Subject: RE: Deportees - seeking original Woody recording
From: Declan

By pure coincidence my MP3 player shuffled around to the Arlo version from "Together in Concert" recorded with Pete seeger as mentioned by Joe in a post not too far above this but a long time ago. Having read the thread earlier today I paid particular attention to Arlo's lyrics. He definitely sings Rotting at the end of the first line, not rotten or rottnin'.

I recently got a copy of a CD Called Classic Folk Music from Smithsonian Folkways which features Deportees sung by Barbara Dane, among many other tracks. The liner notes say that the song was "written down by Woody Guthrie, but never recorded by him".
I'm not saying this is definitive, but you would imnagine if there was a recoring by Woody that Folkways would be aware of the fact.

21 May 09 - 03:25 PM (#2637849)
Subject: RE: Deportees - seeking original Woody recording

How did I change from Steve Shaw to Guest? Advice welcome!

21 May 09 - 04:25 PM (#2637900)
Subject: RE: Deportees - seeking original Woody recording
From: GUEST,Doc John

Woody Guthrie recorded some 200 titles for his music publisher, The Richmond Organisation, in the late 1940's and it is possible that 'Deportees' was one of them; this needs further research. Only one of these titles has been released - 'I've Got To Know'. It is possible that he shows the signs of his developing illness on the recordings.
Yes, 12-stringer it is in Greenaway's book - composed Feb 3rd 1948.
It seems that although Woody Guthrie's diction and motor coordination were beginning to fail, he could still composed excellent long and strong ballads.
Doc John

21 May 09 - 05:15 PM (#2637959)
Subject: RE: Deportees - seeking original Woody recording
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman

I can add a tiny piece to the puzzle.

I never knew Martin Hoffman personally, but in 1959 when I was traveling in the west with Brigger (Bill Briggs), in Colorado I think, someone sang us "Deportee" with Martin Hoffman's tune, together with "Pastures of Plenty," which went to a beautiful major tune, not the one I have heard since. Whether that tune was also Hoffman's, I don't know.

It's true that the tune as now familiar is essentially like, though slightly changed from Hoffman's, though I wouldn't know how to say just how they differ.

The person who sang us the two songs said Martin Hoffman was known as "The Roadrunner." I gathered he was secretive and mysterious, and did not get out much. But he was a great seeker-out, I was told, of unusual and out-of-the-way folk material.

One thing I can do is confirm that the timing was earlier than the '60s. Hoffman's Deportee tune was circulating in summer 1959.

I wish I had inquired further at the time, but, you know, in those days I learned everything in passing, on my way to somewhere else. I wish I remembered who sang us those two songs, but I no longer do.

Ever since that summer I've wanted to know more about "The Roadrunner." I never knew Judy Collins had written a song about him, but then, what I was hearing was more in the traditional field recording and oldtime line.

I always honored The Roadrunner for that tune.


21 May 09 - 05:52 PM (#2637993)
Subject: RE: Deportees - seeking original Woody recording
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman

I got curious and went looking, and found I had a note after all, telling who sang us those two Guthrie songs.

It was Dick Barker, of Moose, Wyoming (in Jackson Hole). My note says Dick told us he was a friend of Martin Hoffman's.

Dick Barker later became well known as a professional leading rafting trips down the Snake River. Overnight when camping he could always be persuaded to get out his guitar and give his customers a tune.

I still remember Dick fondly—and putting my foot in the mouth of that magnificent bearskin rug on on his living room floor. Didn't chip any teeth, thank goodness.

We had many a songfest that year, one or two at Dick's place, many Teton Tea parties at the Jenny Lake campground, which was in a different place then ... plus under the Moose bridge, which the rangers disliked, and elsewhere up and down the Teton Range. Fun times.


19 Feb 10 - 10:35 AM (#2844168)
Subject: RE: Deportees - seeking original Woody recording
From: GUEST,Peter Glazer

Here's the basic information, transcribed from the article in the NY Times: " Fresno, California, January 28th, Associated Press. A chartered Immigration Service plane crashed and burned in West Fresno County this morning, killing 28 Mexican deportees, the crew and an immigration guard. The Mexicans were being flown to the Deportation Center in El Centro for return to their country. The plane, southbound from Oakland airport, appeared to explode before it plummeted to the ground. The crew was identified as Frank Atkinson, 32 years old, of Long Beach, the pilot; Mrs. Bobbie Atkinson, his wife, the stewardess, 28, Marion Ewing of Balboa, copilot, 33. The group also included Mexican nationals who entered the United States illegally." Woody addressed the namelessness of the Mexicans in his lyric. I am the person who adapted the musical mentioned below, Woody Guthrie's American Song.

19 Feb 10 - 11:08 AM (#2844190)
Subject: RE: Deportees - seeking original Woody recording
From: EBarnacle

I vaguely remember a Folkways recording of Woodie that included "Deportees." My local library had it back in the '70s.

24 Dec 11 - 07:42 PM (#3279533)
Subject: RE: Deportees - seeking original Woody recording
From: Joe Offer

Time to refresh this thread. It's a month before the January anniversary of the Plane Wreck at Los Gatos Canyon. I drove through the Coast Range this week, and the mountains are starting to turn the beautiful green they must have been when the deportees crashed there in 1948.

Everybody sorta-kinda remembers Woody singing this song or it being on a recording by Woody, but I still haven't found it. This Smithsonian Folkways search came up dry - and it's supposed to include all Folkways recordings.


24 Dec 11 - 10:03 PM (#3279565)
Subject: RE: Deportees - seeking original Woody recording
From: GUEST,999

Excellent article about it here, Joe.

24 Dec 11 - 10:53 PM (#3279574)
Subject: RE: Deportees - seeking original Woody recording
From: bobad

Some more info here including names of the deportees.

25 Dec 11 - 12:37 AM (#3279600)
Subject: RE: Deportees - seeking original Woody recording
From: Big Mick

Let me look around. I swear I had a recording somewhere.....

25 Dec 11 - 01:07 AM (#3279601)
Subject: RE: Deportees - seeking original Woody recording
From: Joe Offer

I note with some satisfaction that the page from quotes my post above...

I would guess that Woody wrote the lyrics in 1948, shortly after reading about the plane crash. As stated above, Woody chanted the lyrics and did not have a particular tune for the song - I think I read that in Joe Klein's biography of Woody. I believe it was 1960 that Martin Hoffman wrote the familiar melody for "Deportees." Woody died in 1967, but I think he stopped performing and recording sometime in the 1950s - anybody have a date for that?

So, as far as I can tell, Woody never recorded the song, but I'm hoping that somebody taped him singing it somewhere.

This song affects me like no other. I guess that's because I worked the Central Valley of California for 30 years. I visited the labor camps and saw their miserable conditions. I visited the Border Patrol offices and the Immigration Detention Centers. I talked with farmworkers in the fields and heard their stories about having to deal with the filth and the heat and the snakes and the lack of water and the backbreaking work. I was a federal investigator driving an air-conditioned car and sleeping in clean motels and eating nice meals, and it embarrassed me to be talking with such nice people who had life so tough. I was also sometimes embarrassed to be working in service to "la Migra" - I was doing security clearances on prospective employees of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

I once had a need to interview Cesar Chavez, somebody I had idolized since I was in college. He refused to see me, and I suppose he had good reason to refuse to be interviewed by a federal investigator. Still, it was a big disappointment. I suppose he didn't know I was on his side.


25 Dec 11 - 11:08 AM (#3279736)
Subject: RE: Deportees - seeking original Woody recording
From: BrooklynJay

After reading through this thread from the beginning, the first thing that occurred to me is that the Woody Guthrie Archives may have the answer. Either Nora Guthrie or Tiffany Colanino might be able to put this matter to rest. I would imagine that if there was an unreleased recording of Deportees extant (I'm thinking Woody's early 1950's tapes), then they would probably know about it.


25 Dec 11 - 01:20 PM (#3279797)
Subject: RE: Deportees - seeking original Woody recording

Hi all, I'm Diane, and my membership is pending after I contacted Joe last night. I discovered yesterday that I have the original recording of this song by Martin Hoffman on cassette tape (yes, really, THE original, from my father's collection - Marti Hoffman was his dearest friend), recorded May 22, 1957. Both Martin and my father sang the first line as "the peaches are rott'ning" as Rich described above, and as others have reported, I still can't listen to the song without tears, especially hearing Mart's voice singing it.

25 Dec 11 - 01:47 PM (#3279809)
Subject: RE: Deportees - seeking original Woody recording
From: Mark Ross

Hello Diane, is there any way you can post a link to it so the rest of us can hear it?

Mark Ross

25 Dec 11 - 02:02 PM (#3279822)
Subject: RE: Deportees - seeking original Woody recording
From: GUEST,Diane

Hi Mark,
There will be soon. I'm delivering a bunch of my dad's tapes (cassettes & reel-to-reel) & albums for conversion to digital media tomorrow. The whole project will probably take about a month, and as soon as I have them, I'll figure out how & where to post them. When my membership is activated, I'll post a bunch more info about this particular series of tapes.

25 Dec 11 - 03:18 PM (#3279852)
Subject: RE: Deportees - seeking original Woody recording
From: Greg B

Here is the official accident report, with the cause. The crew TOOK THE WRONG AIRCRAFT!

25 Dec 11 - 09:32 PM (#3279975)
Subject: RE: Deportees - seeking original Woody recording
From: DianeV

Excerpts from my message to Joe last night, edited for this forum:

The series of four 2-sided cassettes that I have was done sequentially with songs numbered from 1 to 87, in multiple recording sessions, according to the list from October (no date) 1956 to February 19, 1959. They are numbered 1-4, and each is marked in my dad's hand "Mart(Dick)". Mart committed suicide in about 1971, and I don't know about Dick, so don't know if there are any other copies out there anywhere. There is a 2-sided typed page listing the dates and locations of each session with extra information about some of the songs.

Having listened to both recordings of "Deportees" on the first of a series of 4 cassette tapes (it's listed again on tape 2), there is no doubt in my mind that the one marked "1st recording" and recorded on May 22, 1957 in Fort Collins is, indeed, the first version recorded. Mart introduced it on the tape and talked about how he wrote the music. As I listened to it, I kept complaining to my husband that it was too fast, and that it wasn't how I remembered Mart singing it. The second version, recorded in December 1957, is much more as I remember it. I believe the only difference is that the one that "stuck" was at a slower tempo . . . probably not a very good technical description, but sadly, I did not inherit my father's musical talent!


25 Dec 11 - 10:59 PM (#3280007)
Subject: RE: Deportees - seeking original Woody recording
From: Charley Noble


Nice update.

Charley Noble

25 Dec 11 - 11:57 PM (#3280022)
Subject: RE: Deportees - seeking original Woody recording
From: DianeV

Thanks Charley! When I figure this site out a bit more, I'll post an image of the typed list to Facebook (need to figure out which Mudcat FB page would be the right place), and will post at least clips of the music when I get it back.


26 Dec 11 - 09:51 AM (#3280118)
Subject: RE: Deportees - seeking original Woody recording
From: skarpi

Chris Foster does a very good version of this song , .

I tune my guitar down to D tuning as well does Chris ...sounds better
and í use the G chord ....

but thats me ...

Deportees is amazing tune .

26 Dec 11 - 11:17 AM (#3280148)
Subject: RE: Deportees - seeking original Woody recording
From: dick greenhaus

THe tune always struck me as a harmony line for The Rivers of Texas

28 Dec 11 - 03:48 PM (#3281183)
Subject: RE: Deportees - seeking original Woody recording
From: DianeV

OMG - I just found a link to this post by a guest above in this thread while doing more internet research:

Date: 28 Feb 02 - 01:39 PM

In 1961 I went to Tucson AZ to grad school at UA and ended working for a while at the Park Theater on Campbell (long gone as UA expanded) The manager, Jerry, a law student and also folk music lover, told me his friend Martin Hoffman wrote the music to Deportees. I met Martin once at Jerry's house where Martin played tapes of Navajo children reading from english textbooks. He taught on the reservation and the tape was made in September after the kids got back to school after spending the summer only speaking Navajo. Later Martin's wife left him and Martin did himself in. I heard Judy Collins sing a song that she wrote to Martin with the words something like, "Martin, if I had only known." Her tribute to him.

If the person who wrote this is still here - you were at my father's house! Dad returned to Phoenix to practice law. If you are still here, please, please contact me!!!!!

03 Jan 12 - 04:27 PM (#3284305)
Subject: RE: Deportees - seeking original Woody recording
From: DianeV

The discoveries continue! I found an intermediary contact for Dick Barker last week and e-mailed them, and received his phone number and mailing address by e-mail this morning. Assuming (mistakenly) that they had his permission to send me his info, I picked up my phone and called. We had a delighful conversation, and I have forwarded all of the information I had to him.

From our conversation, I learned that I do NOT have the original recording of Deportees . . . Dick has one that was done before the series of recordings that I have.

I have also renewed contact with Mart's niece, who I located shortly after my father's death in 2007.

Both Dick & the Hoffman offspring have rights to Mart's music that supersede mine. I just happen to have the series of tapes that my father preserved, so I have asked for their approval and will wait for their answers before making my digital copies available when I receive them.

21 Mar 12 - 01:47 AM (#3326112)
Subject: RE: Deportees - seeking original Woody recording
From: Joe Offer

I had quite a day today. I visited Pinnacles National Monument in San Benito County, California - climbed through a cave and saw a California Condor. I took the back way out, heading south down California Highway 25 on a leisurely route toward Los Angeles, where I'm due to arrive Thursday. In the middle of nowhere, I noticed a turnoff to "Coalinga Road." I think I saw that turnoff last year when I was in the same area, but paid no attention to it then because I was headed in the opposite direction. This time, I looked at the map and found that the road became Los Gatos Canyon Road as it approached Coalinga.

The sign at the entrance warned me to expect 25 miles of winding road, so I figured it was going to be only 25 miles to Coalinga. I didn't note my mileage until I had gone what I thought was twenty miles, and I drove twenty-five miles after that. I didn't see another vehicle for the first hour, and the road was narrow and full of potholes, showing signs of recent landslides. In several places, the road forded small streams that flowed from the remainder of last week's rain and snow. There was still a dusting of snow on some of the higher mountains that lined the canyon. There were ranches in some places along the road, and even a couple of small communities; and there were other long stretches where there was no sign of human habitation at all.

Even where there were buildings, I didn't see any people. The daylight was fading, and it was getting a bit spooky - and then the road narrowed to one lane. After maybe thirty miles of very treacherous driving, I crossed into Fresno County and the road was pretty good.

Along the way, I saw California quail, and two big flocks of turkeys - maybe 25 turkeys in each flock. I saw a deer, and a long, slinky animal that looked like a weasel. Then I saw a herd of elk in a meadow alongside the road, so I stopped to take pictures. While I was there, I spotted two bald eagles in the trees near the elk.

In the evening sunlight, this forty-mile canyon was spectacular. It was very narrow in places, and the surrounding Coast Range mountains were often very rugged. There weren't too many wildflowers yet, but the grass was green and lush.

Just after I entered Fresno County, I came to "Los Gatos Creek Recreation Area," a facility that looked like a vacation camp with cabins. There was a small community around the recreation area - again, with no people in sight. At the other end of the road, a sign said the recreation area was 16 miles west of Coalinga, so I imagine the plane crash took place just west of the recreation area, in the most desolate area of the road. I didn't see any marker commemorating the crash - just a narrow road in a narrow canyon in a very rugged area. But it was beautiful, breathtakingly beautiful - and teeming with wildlife.

I've wanted to make this drive for years and years. Yes, today was a good day - it was touched with a sweet melancholy, thinking of those people who died in this beautiful, desolate place, just a few months before I was born.

May they rest in peace.


Click here for photos

21 Mar 12 - 10:35 AM (#3326328)
Subject: RE: Deportees - seeking original Woody recording
From: Mark Clark

Joe, That is just a wonderful post. Thank you.

21 Mar 12 - 04:47 PM (#3326577)
Subject: RE: Deportees - seeking original Woody recording
From: 2581

Thank you for your very thoughtful post, Joe. I have long loved "Deportees" and have collected many versions of the song. Other than Arlo's solo version, my favorite rendition is by Ox (from the album, "Dust Bowl Revival"). I also like the versions done by Joel Rafael, Bruce Springsteen, Pete Seeger, Tim Williams, John McCutcheon, Judy Collins, and The Battlefoed Band.

22 Mar 12 - 08:21 AM (#3326956)
Subject: RE: Deportees - seeking original Woody recording
From: BrooklynJay

Joe, thank you so much for posting this.

If you ever put some of the pictures online, I hope you will provide a link.

Just two days ago, at an open sing in Manhattan (Call To Song SongFest), we sang Deportee. The song had also been going through my head these days because I had recently heard Cisco Houston's recording for the first time in quite a while. One of my favorites, if I do say so.

Again, Joe, thank you for the post.


29 Jun 12 - 11:15 AM (#3369579)
Subject: RE: Deportees - seeking original Woody recording
From: Dave'sWife

Well, Guest Porky said it back in 2003 but just the other day, I was playing Springsteen's Sinaloa Cowboys for a folkie who just don't roll Jersey Shoreside much and he agreed that yes, it is a virtual sequel to Deportees and I believe it was intended to be just that. In Sinaloa Cowboys, they start out as Migrant workers only to get recruited to cook Meth in a chicken shack. With BREAKING BAD coming back for a new season the other people listening were struck by how far ahead of himself Springsteen was inchoosing the blight of a Meth lab and mexican immigrant Meth cookers as his subject back around the time of Ghost of Tom Joad. How I happened upon this thread is sort of weird but it brings to mind that next time I sing Deportees, I'll wear my "What Would Heisenberg Do?" button on my Guitar strap and follow it with a quiet rendition of Sinaloa Cowboys.

here's to Guest Porky!

BTW - still looking for fellow olayers and singers in need of a girl harmony singer here in Los Angeles. I had to sing MY WAY at a senior center recently just to say I'd sung something in public that month.

Luv to you all

29 Jun 12 - 12:10 PM (#3369607)
Subject: RE: Deportees - seeking original Woody recording
From: mayomick

Very moving post , Joe . If Woody hadn't written the song, how many people would have heard of the crash today?
I wrote on Mudcat some time ago that I see the song's lyric being inspired in part by The Bold Robert Emmett .Compare:

The crops are all in and and the peaches are rotting,
oranges packed in their creosote bins

The battle is over and the boys are defeated
Ireland surrounded by sorrow and gloom.

Farewell to companions in Emmett chorus
adios mis amigos in deportees chorus

drive us outlaws like rustlers like outlaws like thieves -deportees
Tried as a traitor, a rebel, a spy - Emmett

Or am I just projecting things Irish onto Guthrie's lyric? Deportees could be sang to the same tune as The Bold Robert Emmett .

26 Jul 12 - 09:00 AM (#3381699)
Subject: RE: Deportees - seeking original Woody recording
From: GUEST,DianeV

Update about the recording I discovered among my father's possessions:

I was able to make contact with Dick Barker, who verified that the recording I had on cassette was a COPY of the first version recorded by Martin Hoffman. Dick personally recorded all of the music contained on the 4 cassettes that I found, and made copies for my dad and a few other friends. Not long after, I also located and received a response from Martin's son.

In the process, I learned that Pete Seeger had copyrighted the music for Deportees in Mart's name when he recorded his version of the song. I also learned that my dad, who was an attorney, had copyrighted the remainder of Mart's music for the benefit of Mart's family.

I was able to have the music converted to digital media, so still have a copy for my own enjoyment, but have returned all of the tapes, along with a copy of the digital recordings and a release of any rights I might have had to Martin's family. I have been asked not to publish any clips of the music as Mart's son has plans to release it at some future date, and will honor that request.

I will send his son a copy of this message so that he knows there is interest here in learning more about his father and his music, but ask that everyone respect the privacy of the family of Martin Hoffman and not attempt to locate them.


10 Feb 13 - 08:33 PM (#3478074)
Subject: RE: Origins:Deportees-seeking original Woody recording
From: DianeV

It's been a very long time since I posted, but there is now HUGE news! I am sharing this information and the links below with the permission of Tim Z. Hernandez, but will tell you here that Martin Hoffman's original recording of "Deportee" will soon be made public. This is a link to his blog with more information: and this is a link to information regarding the memorial headstone project:
My husband and I went full-time in our RV last June, and we are currently working for the winter season at an RV park in Yuma, Arizona. The rest of this message is a copy of what I just posted to Facebook:

This is particularly poignant for me at this time.

Here in Yuma, we see farm workers being transported back and forth across the nearby border by busses towing outhouses on trailers behind them daily. We hear the news reporters telling us of complaints about the Mexican farm workers taking jobs away from Americans followed by interviews with currently out-of-work local people who say they would never work in the fields because they have tried it and the work is too hard.

We have heard current news reports about workers in the field being doused with chemicals sprayed by crop dusters flying overhead, and seen the derisive comments of locals who don't think it matters that these human beings who are doing a job they don't want so that the crops in the field can be put on their own tables are now at risk for whatever dangers may be caused by the chemicals.

The song "Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)" began as poem written by the great Woody Guthrie. My father's best friend, Martin Hoffman, wrote the music, and I found a copy of his first recording of it among my dad's belongings last year. I began researching it, trying to verify that it was, in fact, the original. The author of the original post here and the soon-to-be-published book found me last year through a folk-singers' forum on the internet where there was a great deal of interest in the song. It turned out that Woody Guthrie had never sung it at all, but had only read the poem in public, and Mart's recording was, indeed, the original. I had all of my dad's music converted to digital media and returned the originals, along with a document assigning any rights I might have had to Mart's family. Mart's son has graciously given Tim permission to share it with the public for this project.

27 Feb 13 - 07:39 PM (#3484511)
Subject: RE: Help: Plane Wreck At Los Gatos

We are in the process of raising funds thru donations to place a large granite memorial honoring all 32 victims of this crash and inscribing the names of the 28 migrant passengers.   Please check out the link on labeled "Paying respects to the Los Gatos Canyon Crash Victims

Carlos Rascon

27 Feb 13 - 11:16 PM (#3484562)
Subject: RE: Help: Plane Wreck At Los Gatos
From: Joe Offer

It is - no dot-com. KNXT is the television station of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno. Here's a link to the page on the memorial:

Press release:

January 28, 2013, marks an important historical anniversary. Sixty-five years ago a chartered immigration plane crashed and burned in Los Gatos Canyon near Coalinga, California. Twenty-eight migrant farm workers, three crew members and one immigration guard all perished in what was called the worst airline disaster in the history of the Central California Valley.The twenty-eight migrant passengers were laid to rest in a mass grave at Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery on Belmont Avenue in Fresno, California. A bronze marker identifies the burial site. However, for unknown reason, lacks the names of the deceased as one would normally find inscribed on cemetery markers.As written by musician Woody Guthrie, the names of these migrant passengers were not disclosed to the public in any of the newspapers at that time, which prompted him to write a song called "Deportee" in protest of the offensive omission.Sixty-five years later, the song he wrote is again raising interest from musical artists familiar with Woody's song, "Deportee." Intrigued audiences that have heard the story over the years, along with other visitors who are familiar with the event, occasionally come to Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery to visit the gravesite. Under the Direction of the Diocese of Fresno and the Woody Guthrie Foundation, efforts are underway to raise enough funds to purchase a large memorial honoring the thirty-two victims of the crash and finally engraving the names of the twenty-eight citizens of Mexico that never returned home. When the memorial is completed a dedication ceremony will be scheduled and the public notified.
For More Information Contact:
Carlos Rascon, Director
Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery
(559) 488-7449

Saint Peter's Cemetery is taking donations to raise the $10,000 for a memorial to the 28 victims of the Los Gatos Canyon air disaster and we need your help. To donate by Mail - Send your tax deductable donation to:

Saint Peter's Cemetery
264 N. Blythe Ave
Fresno, Ca 93706

ALL CHECKS should be made out to Saint Peter's Cemetery. Be sure to write ATTN: HOLY CROSS MEMORIAL on the envelope and in the memo portion of your check.

09 Mar 13 - 06:23 PM (#3488477)
Subject: More information about the memorial . . .
From: DianeV

. . . fundraising and another event. Trying to figure out how I could possibly get to both the April concert and the September dedication. The dedication would be my first choice.

07 Apr 13 - 02:34 AM (#3499915)
Subject: Story of Martin Hoffman and the music
From: DianeV

The link will take you to a radio interview with Tim Z. Hernandez. Tim is writing a book about the people lost in the plane wreck at Los Gatos Canyon and is spearheading the fundraising for the memorial. During the interview, Tim tells the story of Mart Hoffman (my father's best friend) writing the music to Woody Guthrie's poem. It is due to his research for the book that Martin Hoffman's first recording of Deportee will be introduced at the dedication of the memorial.

Tim Z. Hernandez radio interview

This audio archive will be available until Saturday, April 13th 2013

12 Jul 13 - 03:00 AM (#3536607)
Subject: RE: Origins:Deportees-seeking original Woody recording
From: Joe Offer

The Los Angeles Times had a good article on July 9 about the efforts to erect a marker at the grave in Fresno, with the names of all the victims:

    Names emerge from shadows of 1948 crash

    28 Mexican citizens being flown to their homeland perished in a fireball over Central California. Woody Guthrie's poetry protested their anonymity. Who were they?

    July 9, 2013

    Jaime Ramirez stood in front of an oak tree, jagged and black from a plane crashing into it all those years ago. He removed his white cowboy hat, closed his eyes and whispered, "Abuelo, Tio, estoy aqui." ("Grandfather, Uncle, I am here.")

    Nearby, Tim Z. Hernandez, who had feared this moment might never happen, leaned down and sprinkled tobacco and sage. When the writer first came to this hushed place, looking into a 65-year-old mystery, he had felt he was intruding. Each time he returned, he always left a small offering. He could hear the Woody Guthrie song "Plane Wreck at Los Gatos" playing in his head:
        The sky plane caught fire over Los Gatos Canyon,
        A fireball of lightning, and shook all our hills,
        Who are all those friends, all scattered like dry leaves?

    On Jan. 28, 1948, a plane chartered by U.S. Immigration Services left Oakland carrying 32 people, including 28 Mexicans. Many were part of the bracero program and had finished their government-sponsored work contracts. A ride home was part of the deal. Others had entered the country illegally.

    Over farms and ranches on the edge of the Diablo Range, 20 miles west of Coalinga, the World War II surplus DC-3 trailed black smoke. An engine exploded. A wing broke off, floating left and right. More than 100 witnesses watched bodies and luggage thrown from the fireball. There were no survivors.

    News accounts named only the pilot, first officer, stewardess — who was also the pilot's wife — and an immigration officer. The others were listed simply as "deportees."

    Guthrie read about the crash and wrote a poem protesting the anonymity of the workers. Schoolteacher Martin Hoffman later set the words to music.

    The song lived on. A string of artists including Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash and Bruce Springsteen sang the chorus of imagined names:
        Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye Rosalita, Adios mis amigos Jesus y Maria.

    In 2009, Hernandez was at the Fresno County Library scrolling through old newspapers, researching a book about Bea Franco, the inspiration behind the Mexican girlfriend character in Jack Kerouac's "On the Road." He'd immersed himself in the era's music, especially that of Guthrie, who sang about migrant workers and Central Valley fields.

    It was a life Hernandez, 39, knew well. The poet and novelist now lived in Colorado, but grew up in farm towns across the Central Valley. He traced his love of storytelling to long road trips with his family picking crops. His mother, Lydia, would read books aloud; his father, Felix, would jump in and say "That's not what really happened" and spin his own endings.

    A 1948 headline about a fireball plunging to earth caught his eye. He thought of Guthrie's song about the deportees. For the first time, Hernandez realized that Guthrie wasn't referring to the city of Los Gatos, near San Jose, but to the juniper-scented hills and canyons above the oil pumps in western Fresno County.

    "Who were the people on that plane?" he wondered. "Did anyone ever tell their loved ones why they didn't come home?"

    In 1948, a plane chartered by U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service fell from the sky near Coalinga, Calif. Nameless for decades, the Mexican citizens who died are finally receiving recognition.

    In 2011, Carlos Rascon, the new director of cemeteries for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno, visited the old Holy Cross graveyard. He noticed a bronze marker that read: "28 Mexican citizens who died in an airplane accident."

    A cemetery worker gave him "a short, cut-up version" of the crash, Rascon said. "But 28 souls in a mass grave with no names? It just didn't sit right with me."

    The cemetery register listed numbers 1 through 28, and after each someone had written only "Mexican National." The diocese's church register had the names but some were obviously misspelled and all were missing middle initials — key in a culture with many common first and last names.

    Rascon's father-in-law had been a bracero. He told Rascon they used to call the planes that flew them home, usually at night, El Tecolote (the Owl). Rascon thought he should do something with the names, but he had no clear idea what.

    Back in Colorado, Hernandez couldn't get the deportees out of his mind. Scouring old news accounts, he learned they were buried at Holy Cross. His calls to the diocese cemetery offices were brushed off when he said he wanted information from 1948.

    Frustrated, he scanned a roster of employees on the diocese website until he found a Latino surname — Rascon.

    "I'm looking for the names of 28 deportees," Hernandez told him in a phone call last year.

    "I have the names," Rascon replied.

    Hernandez suddenly felt nervous. He'd already decided to write a book about the deportees if he could find their names. Now there was no turning back.

    Rascon told him what else he'd heard from the cemetery workers: Someone had been leaving flowers at the grave for years. Often in November on El Dia de los Muertos, when Mexicans honor their dead.

    Jaime Ramirez grew up in Charco de Pantoja, a rancheria of about 3,000 people in central Mexico. When he was about 9, he and his siblings asked their mother why they did not have two grandfathers. She said her father died in a plane crash in the United States when she was 11, and she didn't know where he was buried.

    Her father had saved enough money during his bracero contracts to buy land but couldn't afford corn seed. He and his best friend — Ramirez's great-uncle — decided to cross the border illegally to earn money for crops. They never came home.

    In 1974, Ramirez came to the United States at age 18 to work as a dishwasher in Pasadena. He planned to look for his grandfather's grave but didn't know where to start. Eleven years later, he had become a kitchen manager and was transferred to a restaurant in Salinas. There he heard someone mention "Diablo Range." Something stirred deep in his memory. Was that the place mentioned in his mother's faded Mexican newspaper clipping about the crash?

    He started his search at the Fresno County Hall of Records, where he found death certificates with the misspelled names of his grandfather and great-uncle. The documents said they were buried at Holy Cross. He would not believe it unless he saw the grave.

    Even without the directions a receptionist gave him, he would have been able to find it. The rest of the cemetery, where no one had been buried since the 1950s, was a jumble of statuary; the western corner was empty, except for one small marker.

    "I just stood still, staring at it. I kept telling myself, 'I found them,' " he recalled of that day in 1989.

    That night he called his mother in Mexico. She cried. His paternal grandfather got on the phone and said, "Mi'jo, I can go in peace now that I know where my brother was buried."

    Ramirez now owns a restaurant and home just a few miles from Holy Cross. When relatives from Mexico visit, they go to the grave. In November, he leaves flowers.

    Hernandez made note of clues among recovered items: a Laundry Union Workers card from San Francisco, a letter addressed to someone in Northern California, baby clothes found near a woman's body.

    He enlisted Rascon to pull the death certificates, which had middle names. After the two men untangled some highly Anglicized spellings, they finally had complete names. But they had no ages, no birthplaces, no relatives — no stories.

    "Each of our families is made up of epic stories. Tales of migration, struggle, sacrifice and triumph," Hernandez said. "How do those just fade?"

    Hernandez and Rascon had decided to raise money for a memorial engraved with the deportees' names. As they neared their $10,000 goal, Rascon and the diocese wanted to press ahead, but Hernandez was reluctant without having found even one family member.

    He put out a plea through local media, but heard nothing. After he mentioned his quest at a writers conference at the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, a woman with silver curls and tears streaming down her face approached him.

    "My father believed in the importance of names," Nora Guthrie told him. "He would repeat them like a chant. Even just finding their names matters."

    Hernandez agreed it was time to dedicate the memorial. He'd come to accept that he might never find any of the families.

    Ramirez, the restaurant owner, recently told a friend the story of his grandfather. That friend repeated the story to another man who said, "Wait! Your compadre's grandfather was in the paper." He dug out a 2-month-old article about Hernandez's efforts.

    In late June in Coalinga, Ramirez met Hernandez for the first time. He told the writer about his grandfather, Ramon Paredes Gonzales, and his great-uncle, Guadalupe Ramirez Lara.

    They drove up the winding canyon and walked through whispering dried grass to the tree where the plane crashed. Hernandez reached out his hands to the tree and ravine.

    "Do you feel that?" he asked.

    "Of course, I feel that," Ramirez said, needing no explanation. "May they rest in peace."

    The monument will be unveiled on Labor Day.

    "They're answering Woody's prayer," Nora Guthrie said. "If you keep the questions — the ideas — alive, then someday, someone will come along to answer. My father sang, 'All they will call you will be deportees.' This is a back-atch'ya. A resounding 'No, we all have names.' "

    The stone will be etched with 32 falling leaves, four of them bearing the initials of the Americans who died on the flight. In the center will be 28 names:

      Miguel Negrete Álvarez. Tomás Aviña de Gracia. Francisco Llamas Durán. Santiago García Elizondo. Rosalio Padilla Estrada. Tomás Padilla Márquez. Bernabé López Garcia. Salvador Sandoval Hernández. Severo Medina Lára. Elías Trujillo Macias. José Rodriguez Macias. Luis López Medina. Manuel Calderón Merino. Luis Cuevas Miranda. Martin Razo Navarro. Ignacio Pérez Navarro. Román Ochoa Ochoa. Ramón Paredes Gonzalez. Guadalupe Ramírez Lára. Apolonio Ramírez Placencia. Alberto Carlos Raygoza. Guadalupe Hernández Rodríguez. Maria Santana Rodríguez. Juan Valenzuela Ruiz. Wenceslao Flores Ruiz. José Valdívia Sánchez. Jesús Meza Santos. Baldomero Marcas Torres.

    I used to live in Fresno and often worked in Coalinga through the years, and I've visited farm labor camps and talked with farm workers at home and on the job and in church. I've been researching this song since the early 1990s, and I think I've dug up more about it that just about anybody - but I didn't find the names of the victims. Somehow, the erection of this monument in the cemetery in Fresno brings closure to all I've studied. I understand that there will also be a monument erected at the site of the plane crash, some 90 miles west of Fresno. I hope to visit on my next trip south.

13 Jul 13 - 02:04 AM (#3536912)
Subject: RE: Origins:Deportees-seeking original Woody recording
From: GUEST,henryp

This will bring closure to all the families too, Joe.

It's taken a lot of effort to get to the bottom of this story. You've done more than your share of the digging.

Well done - I hope you feel a sense of satisfaction.

16 Sep 13 - 04:36 PM (#3559424)
Subject: Nameless no longer . . .
From: DianeV

My husband and I were honored to be a part of the events in Fresno, CA, Labor Day weekend 2013. It was an incredibly emotional weekend, which included a trip to the crash site with the family members of some of the victims, a reception followed by a question and answer session with the honored guests (family members of victims, first responders and Martin Hoffman)on Sunday, and the dedication ceremony on Monday. A documentary is in the works, but the best source at this time for the story and pictures is the article & photo gallery at the Fresno Bee:

18 Sep 13 - 02:12 AM (#3559484)
Subject: RE: Origins:Deportees-seeking original Woody recording
From: Joe Offer

Latino USA (click) had an interesting segment on the deportees this last weekend. The index is a bit confusing. To hear the segment, click #1 and the segment will begin at about 3 minutes.
This link (click) should work.

18 Sep 13 - 10:31 AM (#3559586)
Subject: RE: Origins:Deportees-seeking original Woody recording
From: Rog Peek

There is a live recording of Arlo singing this song at "An Evening With Salvador Allende" concert, organised by Phil Ochs on 9th May 1974.


22 Mar 14 - 08:37 PM (#3611962)
Subject: RE: Origins:Deportees-seeking original Woody recording
From: Joe Offer

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno, which owns Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery, led an effort with author and former San Joaquin Valley resident Tim Z. Hernandez to raise money for the memorial. About $14,000 was raised to cover the cost of the memorial and expenses to stage the Mass and unveiling ceremony. The new gravestone was dedicated in September, 2013. I missed the dedication of the memorial, so I visited the cemetery by myself on March, 2014. I read the names of all the dead out loud, and said a prayer for them. As I drove away, I sang a few verses of Woody's song.
If you'd like to visit, the memorial is at Holy Cross Cemetery, Belmont and Hughes Avenues in Fresno - just west of the Belmont exit on California Highway 99. The grave is on the west side of the cemetery, about midway along the west fence.

As the ancient prayer says, May perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace.

-Joe Offer-

Click here for photos

23 Mar 14 - 11:55 PM (#3612236)
Subject: ADD: Sinaloa Cowboys (Bruce Springsteen)
From: Joe Offer

Porky made mention above of Bruce Springsteen's "Sinaloa Cowboys," which some consider to be a sequel to "Deportee." Dani called my attention to it in an e-mail today, and sent me a link to this YouTube video. Here are the Springsteen lyrics:

(Bruce Springsteen)

Miguel came from a small town in northern Mexico
He came north with his brother Louis to California three years ago
They crossed at the river levee when Louis was just sixteen
And found work together in the fields of the San Joaquin

They left their homes and family
Their father said "My sons one thing you will learn
For everything the north gives it exacts a price in return."
They worked side by side in the orchards
From morning till the day was through
Doing the work the hueros wouldn't do.

Word was out some men in from Sinaloa were looking for some hands
Well deep in Fresno county there was a deserted chicken ranch
There in a small tin shack on the edge of a ravine
Miguel and Louis stood cooking methamphetamine.

You could spend a year in the orchards
Or make half as much in one ten-hour shift
Working for the men from Sinaloa
But if you slipped the hydriodic acid
Could burn right through your skin
They'd leave you spittin' up blood in the desert
If you breathed those fumes in

It was early one winter evening as Miguel stood watch outside
When the shack exploded lighting up the valley night
Miguel carried Louis' body over his shoulder down a swale
To the creekside and there in the tall grass Louis Rosales died

Miguel lifted Louis' body into his truck and then he drove
To where the morning sunlight fell on a eucalyptus grove
There in the dirt he dug up ten thousand dollars all that they'd saved
Kissed his brother's lips and placed him in his grave

21 Nov 16 - 08:32 AM (#3821839)
Subject: RE: Origins:Deportees-seeking original Woody recording
From: GUEST,Jack Warshaw

Now is a good time to sing about lives and labors of Mexican migrants so we don't forget that it is they who have suffered to help make our country great and support their struggles in the terror times to come.