Written by Garic Barranger © 1998 NARP, BMI

Gordon – Vocal & 12-String guitar

Will, Matt, Kat, Jim, David, Anne, Holly –vocals


I learned this from the singing of Rose Anne Bivens, one of Garic’s musical partners, on the delightful CD, Rose Anne Bivens’ “Walter’s Garden.” Garic says, “the song grew out of litigation in which a group of Louisiana prisoners sued the state as a result of appalling conditions at Angola, our state prison. I represented a good number of the parties plaintiff and Walter was one of them. Walter was our “mole” inside the prison campus (poetically referred to by the residents as “the Farm”) and kept us informed about just what the officials were up to from day to day, until he became so sufficiently annoying that the powers that be stopped his [asthma medication.]… [Y]ou know the rest.  The story in the song is mainly true except that part in the last verse that refers to “a suit for wrongful death” following Walter’s passing; the fact was that he had no heirs to file a suit on his behalf, so the song is his only memorial.” 


We are planting Walter’s garden in the coming of the spring

When the fear of frost is over, we are plowing over clover

To be planting Walter’s garden where the sweet birds sing


I read the file on Walter Smith who died inside the jail

His breath was made of ashes and his cheek was colored pale

His teeth were amaryllis except where they were black

And his morals were as crooked as the pretzel of his back


Now he had always had the asthma in his file it said

And the only thing that helped it was the fresh Columbian Red

So he planted half an acre and watered it with tears

Til the sheriff caught him hoeing it and gave him seven years


            Now we’re….


So they threw him in Angola in a rusty, rolling chair

Where he could suck to heart’s content the un-Columbian air

But with every breath that Walter took the phones around him rang

In the offices of journalists where no birds sang


He filed lawsuit after lawsuit til the courts concerned themselves

With our Devil’s Island prisons in their Devil’s Island dells

And he made the state spend money on medicines and brick

And for doctors in the hospitals to heal the prison’s sick

And he made the state remember, for a little while at least

The forgotten men in prison in the belly of the beast


 And we’re planting….


So in Technicolor language Walter Smith reviewed the tales

Of the day to day atrocities that populate our jails

Til they took away his medicine and set his asthma free

And he wheezed his life out on the phone while he was calling me


So I review his folder and remember Walter Smith

I file a suit for wrongful death and seem to catch a whiff

Of the crop that Walter planted in his half acre of ground

And reaching for my Dictaphone I try to turn the world around


            And we’re planting….




Walter’s Garden is recorded on the album Because You Asked.