Coyote Special
by Ken Graydon

In nineteen hundred six on the ninth day of July
A locomotive whistle split the day
And the Death Valley Coyote left Los Angeles behind
Headed for Chicago out along the Santa Fe

They hit San Bernardino ten minutes to the good
Doubled up to pull the pass they call Cajon
And they smoked it into Barstow nearly half an hour ahead
Changed the engines in three minutes and then once again had flown

(chorus) Scotty got the highball to Chicago
The Coyote Special got the right of way
And if steam and steel will only hold together
They’re out to set the record, come what may

Double headed into Trinidad eleven hours later
Arizona and New Mexico behind
The Coyote found her stride and hit a lope for Kansas City
And let the lonesome prairie miles unwind

Then ninety miles an hour in a streak across Missouri
Through Illinois in a four hour steady roll
And they say they clocked one hundred six a few miles West of Galesburg
While the hogger pulled the throttle out and Scotty shoveled coal

(repeat chorus)

At the Dearborn station platform the Coyote stood at last
Six minutes short of forty-five hours out
And Scotty in his glory was the hero of the hour
As he told them what the run was all about

But it took nineteen engineers and nineteen locomotives
And the working force of half the Santa Fe
And a hundred tons of pride in doing things the way they should be
To put Scotty on that platform in Chicago on that day

(repeat chorus)


Ken Graydon was a truly wonderful singer, songwriter, poet, and storyteller of the American Southwest; his widow Phee has very kindly given us permission to use his work here. If you'd like to check out more of Ken's work, you can go to his web site at:

One of the fun things about California history is the way so many people came here and completely reinvented themselves. Walter Scott, better known as Death Valley Scotty, was one such. His biography is way too colorful for me to get into here, but Ken Graydon wrote a wonderful song about one of Scotty's exploits: a high-speed railroad trip from Los Angeles to Chicago in 1906. They didn't just break the speed record, they shattered it; to this day no one has travelled so far, so quickly without an aircraft.

Some in-context vocabulary you should know for this song:

  • A "special" is a train that is not part of a normal run, but is arranged for a particular occasion or customer. Think of a chartered bus or plane and you've got the idea.
  • A "highball" is a train that has been given the right of way. Other traffic on the railroad is required to get out of the way.
  • A "hogger" is the lead engineer on a train.

Lesson Ideas for Teachers:
A fun way to help kids learn some geography is to give them a song or story that names places and then find the places on a map. Other songs that work well for this include Proud Mary by John Fogerty and Route 66 by Bobby Troup.

A, D, F#m, Bm, E. I usually capo this one up a half step (as I did for this recording) so it becomes A#, D#, Gm, Cm,