Monday Night Special #11: Delving in with Diagrams (to Coca Cola Cowboy)

30 Oct

Send me down to Tuscon, and I’ll get the diagramming job done.  However, don’t ask me who Julie is because there ain’t no California, and it’s lying time again anyway.

Arbitrarily Picked Work of Fiction:

Coca Cola Cowboy” by Mel Tillis
This week’s DPChallenge is about subjunctive mood, so I chose this song, whose subjunctive mood is not only constructed improperly but also linked improperly to its condition clause with a preposition instead of a subordinating conjunction.  This will count as our bonus grammar because I’m not going to talk about either in my analysis, but I would just like to say that when I sing this song in the shower, I always correct both of those and make the narrator gender neutral.  Therefore, the chorus then goes, “You’re just a Coca Cola cowpoke . . . But you walked across my heart as if it were Texas.”  I may or may not also sing it in the style of Julie Andrews.  Take all of that for what you will.

Quick Synopsis:

Our narrator calls his erstwhile lady collect on the phone, and she claims to be alone, which we learn is false in the second verse when she admits she doesn’t want her current companion to hear her cry and consequently think she still loves the narrator.  She dismisses our narrator, calling him a Coca Cola Cowboy and communicates in no uncertain terms that they are never, ever, ever getting back together.

Important Quotation:

And she said, “You’re just a Coca Cola cowboy;
You got an Eastwood smile and Robert Redford hair,
But you walked across my heart like it was Texas,
And you taught me how to say, ‘I just don’t care.'”

This quotation serves as the chorus of the song and the main thrust of the narrator’s lady’s argument.  Most of the song consists of this woman’s speech to the narrator about how they are no longer an item, but the chorus tells us why: She believes he is not a real cowboy–with all the chivalry and assiduity that implies–but a cheap imitation, a ready-for-consumption, mass-marketed, surface-level cowboy who looks good–“Redford hair”–but who treats ladies wrong–“walked across my heart.”

She also mentions he has an “Eastwood smile,” which we must examine because Clint Eastwood, of course, is not really known for his smile:  He’s more of a squint-and-grimace dude.  She may be just pulling out whatever cowboy name she can think of–she is tired, after all.  Or she may be furthering her cheap-knockoff line from before, i.e. everything about this guy is manufactured:  He’s even stolen his facial expressions from the movies.

Additionally, Because Texas is the geographically largest contiguous state, she could be implying her heart is large–open, etc.–and the man had trouble walking across it, stepping on it, sullying it perhaps because she typically forgives easily.  She could also be implying he walked across her heart as casually as walking somewhere he was familiar with, in his case, Texas.

Finally, I doubt this man makes his living as a speech language pathologist, so he probably taught her how to say she “just don’t care” by modeling an uncaring, nonchalant attitude toward her and life in general or by disappointing her so many times that she had to stop caring to guard herself from further emotional damage.



Thoughts on Structure:

Can we talk about how gargantuan this direct object is?  Let’s get that out of the way first.  Because everything in this sentence–except for “And she said”–is a direct quotation, we get to count it all as the direct object of “And she said.”

Other than that, this gal is the queen of linking her thoughts together.  Of course, I added the semicolon between the cowboy line and the Eastwood smile line, but the rest of her thoughts are linked with coordinating conjunctions; this shows she sees all of these acts and traits as inextricably connected.  Interestingly, she uses the contrasting coordinating conjunction “but” to separate the Eastwood smile line and the walking across hearts line.  Perhaps she sees a contrast between the inaction and impotence of a Coca Cola cowboy and the active destruction of walking across a heart/pushing her buttons.

We also have in her speech a healthy dose of anaphora–using the same word to begin successive lines or clauses.  In this case, the repeated word is “you,” which punctuates her very explicit reprimanding of the narrator by calling him out over and over.

My favorite line is the last one:  “You taught me how to say I just don’t care.”  I love the way it looks in a diagram.  It’s already part of our gargantuan direct object, and then it has its own direct object, which is the infinitive “to say,” which also has its own direct object, “I just don’t care.”  This layering of objects in the final line shows how deeply ingrained our narrator is in this woman’s psyche.  She credits him with attitude changes and then expresses those attitude changes in a layered response:  All of this speech is about the narrator–who he is, what he does–but this last line is about the woman.  Even though this sentence is about her, she still takes a backseat, just as she presumably did in the relationship with the narrator.  She is reduced to the indirect object of the sentence (You taught to me) and the subject of the noun clause that is the direct object of an infinitive.  That’s a lot of digging to find this woman through the barrage of info about the narrator!  Feminist rant!

Final Thoughts:

I always wonder about the narrator’s motives in telling us this story.  Does he think he’s not a Coca Cola cowboy?  He never really presents his side of the story.  I’d like to hear a sequel in which the woman calls him, and he tells her what he thinks of their relationship.

Also, I sometimes think of this song as the sequel to He’ll Have to Go, in which the narrator calls his lady and suspects she’s with someone else, and he says “make up your mind I’ve got to know / Should I hang up or will you tell him he’ll have to go.”  To which, in my mind, the woman responds with Coca Cola Cowboy.

6 Responses to “Monday Night Special #11: Delving in with Diagrams (to Coca Cola Cowboy)”

  1. sula1968 31 October 2012 at 3:19 AM #

    great read

  2. silverscreenings 31 October 2012 at 7:29 PM #

    I love your description of Clint Eastwood as “a squint-and-grimace dude”.

    • TheBestofAlexandra 31 October 2012 at 8:59 PM #

      I’m glad it struck a chord. That line originally was just “a grimace dude” and then I thought it was somehow incomplete and added the squint.

  3. linguischtick 2 November 2012 at 6:52 PM #

    You know I love my syntax trees, but I’ve got to admit that your diagrams are so much prettier.

    • TheBestofAlexandra 2 November 2012 at 9:42 PM #

      Syntax trees do have their charms, but points must go to Reed-Kellogg for variety. I’m glad we can overlook our differences and love grammar together! 😉

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