Land of Promise

by Jacob Mau

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Wais-ke-Shaw 04:59
Come Kankakeeland hear the tale of a woman who once did dwell in the river valley you also call your home. Her hair was black. Her skin was brown. Her people no longer are around. They were sent away by the government in '36. You’ve heard her father’s name a time or a few, driven past the sign on route 102. Shaw-naw-See the man at the village of Little Rock. He fought with the Brits in 1812, hunted the Sauk with the Americans, and traded furs with two French men from Michigan.  For one of those men she became a bride, handed from her father's side to secure good trade relations and they bore a son. Her boy's half-Anglo blood could not measure enough to gain the favor of her husband's hungry clan. Wais-ke-shaw, from where did you come? I came from a strong, proud tribe of the Green Bay peninsula. For I was born, my family came south. In search of better game we came to the Illinois prairie. David was her husband's name, down from the upper lakes he came to make his wage from a fur company based in Chicago. Shaw-naw-see placed his trust in him. They struck a deal, they became kin. Even joined in war to fight a brother tribe led by Black Hawk. But for their tainted vows the end was near, a means to an end it soon was clear. New migrant farmers needed land to plant their crops. So David reserved land for his wife before smallpox took his life, and when her father followed she was left alone with her mixed-blood kids. With Shaw-naw-see in his grave, David left her from his will, and the land passed into the hands of his uncle who with a grin said to her, “Tippecanoe and Tyler too, they signed the papers, what can I do? This land was sold and subdivided on the day you wed.” Wais-ke-shaw, where did you go? I headed south on an autumn day with 700 others. Wais-ke-shaw where are you now? I am buried neath a small, smooth stone outside Topeka.
White Queen Anne’s Lace along the gravel road side Bumble bee sting and tear-streamed eyes I must have been about four or five Took off your button shirt and wrapped it round my little arm You were bare out in the sun, but I was safe from harm In the back seat of our yellow car I remember you As a boy I knew That you were good And you were true Never drove a car one day in your life Hard working mother and a faithful wife Who could make a mean potato salad I left my toys laying all over your floor You still waited for me by the front porch door Each time I came down to your house after school I remember you As I boy I knew That you were good And you were true In our kitchen before the school bus came I saw my dad hang up the telephone slowly And he told us that you died in surgery Still, white gravestones along the gravel road side Beyond, the sunset paints the evening sky in bands of red Paints the sky in fading bands of red I remember you As I boy I knew That you were good And you were true I remember, oh As a man I know That your love did flow Into me, into me, into me
There was another man who had my name Born in Pilot Township in 1870 Christened Heinrich Jacob by his folks from Germany There was another man who had my name He went up to the city to become a veterinarian Married at age 35 and had four children If I could talk to the man who had my name about all The memories that disappeared with his long-gone brain... I’d ask him, Jacob do you remember The prairie grass when it was six feet tall And there were no motors at all Speeding cross this gridwork we’ve laid Over the broad, flat land? How did it look, How did it feel, How did it sound, How did it smell? There was another man who had my name He’s been laying flat for a long, long time down in his grave Each day in high school I drove right past the place where they tell me the man was born who had my name An old farm shed, a lone maple tree beside The road where the farmhouse used to be If I could talk to the man who had my name about all The memories that disappeared with his long-gone brain... I’d ask him, Jacob were you there When they laid the stone? When they raised the barn? When they cleared the field? Did you drive your team of horses Over the furrowed land? How did it look, How did it feel, how did it sound, how did it smell? There was another man who had my name I suppose somehow I’ve got his blood inside my veins
I went to sleep beneath an old oak tree, and in my dreams my great-great Grandpa came to me. He rode upon a horse, his overalls worn thin. His silver eyes just like old photographs I’d seen. Without a word he led me from the cool shade of the river’s wooded bank. Through grass stretched tall and past a field of sorghum standing taller still. Then came a girl stepping silently out from the purest colors of the landscape like a painting and she walked beside me. She said, “Please do forgive my Pa, he only speaks German you see. His name is Abraham and I am Emma. We have come to Illinois just recently.” I said, “Emma so pleased to meet you. Won’t you take me to your home? And Emma as we walk there tell me from where did your family come?”  “We came from Union County Pennsylvania to Salina where Pa bought this piece of ground you’re walking on. By the fall of 1852 we’d cleared the field and raised a house and barn up from the prairie ground. Ma lost two young ones in the early years. They’re buried just to the east.” Then Emma slowed her pace, pointed her finger. There the farmhouse standing in the sunlight shined before me. And Abraham smiled... I spent the afternoon shaking hands with family, meeting neighbors who gathered there each Sunday morning for they had no church building. On the porch the men spoke slowly of the work yet to be done. Some said they were certain that soon a railroad line would come. So I listened and I learned just how Salina came to be while Emma and her dear father introduced each one to me. Meet brother Oliver and baby Allen, Mother Amelia, Aunt Sarah too. Little May has gone to get us water, but here comes William, he’ll be Emma’s husband soon. His father is the Reverend Riegel, who visits us each third week. But then the evening came upon us quickly, and it was time for me to leave... So I said farewell and turned back down the trail I’d come. The tall grass turned to shadows in the dusk of the setting sun. Soon its soft light warmed my eyelids and I stretched upon green ground. From behind the oak tree I leaned upon came the river water’s sound. And a mourning dove spoke to me of the dreams that now are gone. Perched upon a high branch, he sang his lonesome twilight song. He called, “Abraham this promised land has served your children well. Tomorrow they’ll pave it all and build an interstate motel.”
The River 04:31
We’ll find that river boys and take it down to the South. We’ll bring our cannon boys and plant them at the river’s mouth, oh yes. We’ll get those savages to fight the Spaniards for us. We’ll find that river boys if it’s the last thing that I do. LaSalle did reach the Gulf and claim the coastland for his king, after passing through Saint Joseph and down the banks of the Kankakee. In the Mississippi Delta he found himself a sandy grave. He made the history books, but his creditors never got paid. We’ll dam that river boys at the town of Wilmington. We’ll take its water boys to fill the I&M, oh yes we will. Bring big machines my boys, and turn those acres into dollars, yes. Bring big machines my boys, we’ll straighten out that stream, oh yes we will. So they drained all of the marshland and they harvested the trees. Sent the cash crops and the timber down the banks of the Kankakee. Where has the valley’s beauty gone? My children I can’t say. The good Lord will place it in your hands some day. We’ll lay those tracks my boys right through the prairie grass. We’ll lay those tracks my boys right down to Decatur, yes we will. We’ll send steam engines down at 50 miles an hour. We’ll lay those tracks my boys, ain’t nobody gonna stop us. But they never laid that line, the bridge pillars stand bare still today to the west of Warner Bridge between the banks of the Kankakee. The great fire of ‘71 may have burnt their company to the ground. We are not sure. Those men no longer are around.
I heard the corn grows easy Up in the Minnesota soil So I took my family and we went there We came back home We couldn’t pull it together still Clara, don’t cry Clara, don’t cry Our fifth baby was born early He only lasted about a day His mother soon she followed Just closed her eyes and went away Clara don’t cry Clara don’t cry Then one day Henry got a letter They called him up to help fight the war Gave him a gas mask and a shovel And six months later they sent A telegram to our door Clara, don’t cry Clara, don’t cry What comfort can I offer? I am not a church-going man Lord, if you hear me tell my daughter All of the words I want to say I just never can Clara, don’t cry Clara, don’t cry
Come and Die 03:50
I heard that your great uncle was an Evangelical United Brethren man. Came west from Pennsylvania and he built himself a church a mile south from where the house now stands. Down the middle of that church they say there ran a little wall that today we all would think is odd. They put the women on the one side and the men over on the other, and they knew that it was right with God. Oh right with God, Oh right with God. The Methodists and the Catholics and the Presbyterians. A dozen different kinds of Lutherans speaking German and Norwegian. They came building up their steeples all across the virgin prairie land. They were sinners and they were saints, and in their shadows we now stand. Oh yes we do, Oh yes we do. But all those church tops pointing to the bright blue sky of a growing nation and its modern mind. Did they sound the call to come and die? Did they sound it loud? Did they sound it clear as they sheltered those who came for years each Sunday morning and then they died? And now we’re asking what they left behind. Oh what did they leave behind? Oh what will we leave behind?
Off 57 through the north end of town I see they tore that old farm house down Those streets were not here last time New Dunkin’ Donuts, and another for sale sign I think I’ve been gone too long Something’s been going on... Old Mr. Brown died about six months back His son sold the land to two men in a Cadillac Bradey’s shop closed up since 1994 Pop machine rusty and a padlock on the door I think I’ve been gone too long Something’s been going on... Grandpa you weren’t so skinny last time Your great grand baby was just crawling last time We used to know each car that passed by Seems like the stars burned brighter those nights I think I’ve been gone too long Something’s been going on... Back on 57 through the north end of town Wonder what you’ll be like next time I come around I think I’ve been gone too long I think I’ve been gone too long Something’s been going on...


released July 4, 2013

Jacob Mau: Guitar, vocals, banjo. Derek Song: percussion, background vocals, slide and lead guitar, bass. Ryan Suzuka: harmonica. Rachel Vaughan: background vocals. Engineered, produced, and mixed by Derek Song. Mastered by Joe Tessone. Illustrations by Aaron Schmid. © 2013 All Songs by Jacob Mau.


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Jacob Mau Chicago, Illinois

Jacob Mau spins compelling stories of misfit people and misplaced landscapes oft overlooked by others, and ignored by history. As this year's winner of Chicago's longest-running open mic competition, hosted annually by Uncommon Ground, he is clearly a standout among the city's best singer-songwriters. Good things await this young musician."

-Scott Schaefer
Label Manager
Bloodshot Records
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