“Left leg,” Steve Earle said was the response of a guard who had been asked about what it’s like to work on death row. “I strap in the left leg. That’s my job,” quoted Earle. The words inspired Earle’s song, Ellis Unit One, which was the highlight of Earle’s concert last night. Part of the Dead Man Walking soundtrack, the song describes the story of a guard who works on death row.
On the third day of a fast to stop the state from delivering lethal injections, this was a time to reflect on the actual people who insert the needle. Or strap in the left leg.
“This is for all those people who are in Huntsville, all those people who were there last night [at David Harris’ execution on June 30] because they are victims too,” said Earle. Then he began singing:
…So I hired on at the prison
Guess I always knew I would
Just like my dad and both my uncles done
And I worked on every cell block
Now, things're goin' good
But then they transferred me to Ellis Unit One
Swing low and carry me home…
Well, I've seen ‘em fight like lions, boys
I've seen 'em go like lambs
And I've helped to drag ‘em when they could not stand
And I've heard their mamas cryin' when they heard that big door slam
And I've seen the victim's family holdin' hands
Last night I dreamed that I woke up with straps across my chest
And something cold and black pullin' through my lungs
‘N even Jesus couldn't save me though I know he did his best
But he don't live on Ellis Unit
The fast and vigil ends in just over eight hours.