There’s something special about a Texas songwriter. The stories that they share are richly colorful, filled with characters who live life by their own rules. The more outrageous the tale, the more likely that they contain some kernels of truth.
Fort Worth’s Stefan Prigmore continues this tradition with pride, spinning yarns as dusty as the Texas soil. His weathered voice and half-spoken delivery adding to the grizzled tone of his songs.
“Brazos In My Bones”, from his forthcoming River Blood, is a quintessential example. Prigmore recalls a bit of family history and a childhood spent on the banks of the Brazos River.
Click play and give the song a listen as you scroll down to read Prigmore’s description of the song and the story that inspired it.
When my father was young, he had a pretty rough home life. As a result, he spent a lot of time with his uncles BIll and Burton Merrill, on the banks of the Brazos River around southwest Johnson County, Texas.
Bill, in particular, pretty much raised my dad. They taught him how to fish, hunt, and live off the land from the time he was about 6 till he was grown. Bill was the closest thing Dad ever had to a father figure, and when I was a youngster, Bill was often around, and would hunt and fish with us. I never knew he had a brother, Burton, until a few years before I wrote this song.
I can’t remember how it came up, but in some conversation with my folks about Bill, Dad mentioned Bill’s brother, Burton; and said he was a true “wild man”. I pried further and was told he went to prison in the eighties for murder, and that no one really kept up with him after that.
After doing some digging online, I learned a little more about the circumstances of his crime. I went back to my Dad with these revelations, and he filled me in.
Burton had been known as a badass all-around cowboy, but drinking got the better of him; his wife left him and the bank took his home. After that, he moved out to the woods near a place called Hamm’s Creek, on the banks of the Brazos and lived off what he could trap or catch out of the river and sell in town.
One night, some men stole his old aluminum boat that he used for that purpose; he tracked them to their camp, shot them both with his .30-06 rifle, threw the bodies in a well, and returned to his camp with his boat. His drinking buddies knew about it for a month before the police ever found out. He later went to prison, and spent most of his remaining years behind bars.
Not far from where all that happened, my father spent a lot of time teaching my brothers and I some of the ways of the river and woods. I tried not to pull any punches writing this tune, in respect to my family; but I know real people got hurt and Burton’s actions should never be glorified.
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.