The song was inspired by Psalm 127:
"Behold, children are a gift of the LORD,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one's youth.
How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them."
I have been blessed with four “Arrows” for my Quiver: Bryan Wayne Lawrence, David Clinton Lawrence, Craig Andrew Lawrence and Courtney Renee Lawrence, and now two “Arrow-lettes”: Townes Chapman Lawrence and Brandon Leigh Lawrence.
For many years I was a long-distance parent, making every effort to stay involved in my children’s lives, first from California, then from Atlanta. I was “on call” for lung transplants at Emory continuously, but would arrange coverage for one weekend per month to fly to Houston to see the children, and brought them to Atlanta for special holidays and summer periods.
As the boys grew older, Courtney and I had time together in both Houston and Atlanta. On one of her trips to Atlanta at about age 7, I asked if she would like to fly a kite and she said she had never done that before. So I bought a kite (I think it was a dragon kite) and we hiked to the "top of stone mountain to fly kites in the breeze". A friend came along and captured the event in photographs, one of which is posted here. The pure joy on Courtney’s face is priceless. The song captures, I think, the intense emotions of the necessarily brief encounters of long distance parenting.
I wrote this song for my father, a WW II US Marine, and his generation, which saved our world from Adolf Hitler, Mussolini and the Emperor of Japan. He and his identical twin brother served in the Pacific Theater on the USS Saint Louis and saw a lot of action captured in a pictorial Cruise Book of the era. Tom Brokaw called them “The Greatest Generation” and this is my tribute to them.
The Sands of Iwo Jima from top of Mt. Suribachi, 2010 - photo by US Marine Cpl Courtney Lawrence
|I may never visit Iwo Jima, but in April of 2009, I visited the site of the D-Day invasion at Normandy and took photos from the Pointe de Hoc, where the Rangers used ladders to scale the cliffs; those photos are on the cover of my CD. And gazing out to a now tranquil sea, I played “From the Sands of Iwo Jima to the Cliffs of Normandy” in honor of all those brave men who died on the beaches on Normandy on June 6, 1944. It was a very moving moment for me.||
The Cliffs of Normandy - photo by Clint Lawrence
There was a point in my life when I did not want to get involved with ANY woman, and this song pretty much guaranteed that would be the case. It may have been a delusion on my part, but I thought a certain young woman was putting a move on me and my immediate unspoken reaction was: "DON’T EVEN THINK OF HOOKING YOUR CABOOSE TO MY GRAVY TRAIN, thus giving the song its title and "hook". From there the song just took off into a divorced man’s lament. It is consistently the most talked about song on this CD.
At a medical meeting in Big Sky, Montana, a lady friend from Stanford and I decided to skip out one beautiful fall day and drive to Yellowstone Park. While picnicking beside the Firehole River and sharing details of our respective misadventures of the heart, especially mine with one particular blue-eyed woman, then a green-eyed one. She gave me a smile with her deep brown eyes and said, "maybe you should give brown eyes a try next time!" I will let your imagination finish out the day; I wrote the song that night.