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?
(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
Tune file : DEPORTE