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Big Enough

Notes on "Big Enough"

This was written for the 2006 Writers Bloc Songalong, on or around April 21st, 2006. It was another two-hour wonder; I still didn't know what I was going to write about when I started, the night before the performance.

I chose the topic, "changing sides" as the best of a group that didn't seem to inspire. I thought when I started that it might have something to do with a relationship ending ... and I had a slow tune I was working with. Of course, sports had occurred to me as a context but I didn't want to do a sports song - "Ball in Play" (aka "Two Out, Two On") was enough, I thought. All I got the first night was a tune, though. No words - they would have to be written on the day of the performance.

But, as often happens, what I wanted the song to be, and what the song wanted to be, weren't the same thing.

The image came first, of someone at a gas pump, on one of those winter nights that's more rain and sleet and biting wind than snow, like you get near Lake Ontario in February when it thaws a bit. I could smell the gasoline and see the old beater... in a station that's an island of light on a black highway.

So there was someone starting on a journey - two people? No, it was one, a small town boy, and he was filling up because he had a long way to go, leaving town for somewhere ... So there was the first line, "On a night in February, wet and cold, a car pulls out of Belleville, heading west."

And then I thought about a trunk full of suitcases and stuff that he was moving ... but suddenly it came out as a duffel bag - I don't know why I like the word but I do. It reminds me of my own childhood ... so, since it was a duffel bag, it had to be full of pads. So now this wasn't someone heading away from a relationship ... but a junior hockey player, a young guy who is having a tough time holding on anywhere, not a star but one of the legions of not-quite players who maybe make it to the next minor league but more likely go back home with the dream abandoned. But right now, at the moment of the song he hasn't reached that. He knows it's not going well but he's still hanging on with all his courage and hoping the next place will be better.

So I had a sports song whether I wanted it or not. And a new tune - I threw out the one from the night begfore. But now I knew who the subject of the song was and where he was, and the next bits just had to tell that: "in the trunk a duffel full of skates and pads, at the wheel a boy who's feeling very old, but hoping for the best." I stretched it to five lines instead of four ... the story needed the space.

Then the next verse told more of the story, and at the end introduced the coach - the dominant figure for these young men - one of the older men, the coaches and scouts, who have to be impressed by boys who really don't know how ... who find them a closed book sometimes, figures whose rejection seems to have no reason. The coach has doubts about his size, his speed ... he's skillful enough, but in the end the only answer he gets is that he just doesn't fit in to the coach's concept, and there's nothing he can say about that. So that's the chorus, the part he hears over and over.

And of course, you don't have to play hockey to hear that ...

At the end I just felt that the passion and feeling of this young man had to come through. Here he is, a boy who just lives to play. He'll do what it takes as long as there's a chance they'll let him do it ... that they'll call his number, and let him skate. And somehow when that came out it just seemed right to repeat it ... skate and skate and skate, all he really wants to do, if they'll let him.

The live version has slightly different lyrics ... it was recorded "on the night" as it were, and later on I thought of some changes. In the live sersion, the first verse is slow because it started as a slow tune, and I liked that I could sing the tune and play a harmony a sixth below it on the guitar. It doesn't have to stay that way.

The first performance was quite an experience. The song was barely together when I sang it - it had been almost entirely written that day. but it was in the second set, and Chris White had brought Mitch Podalak to Songalong - a legend in Canadian Folk music, who was then consulting to the Ottawa Folk Festival. Mitch was knocked out about the whole evening and had some very nice things to say about the song, which made me feel pretty great.

Big Enough

Music and Lyrics (c) David Keeble April, 2006


On a night in February, wet and cold,
a car pulls out of Belleville, heading west.
In its trunk, a duffel full of skates and pads, 
at its wheel a boy who’s feeling very old,
but hoping for the best.

Changing sides again, he’s leaving one more town,
a rink that doesn’t want him any more.
Maybe where he’s going he can make the team.
All his father says is he must try and try
to be a coach’s dream.

Is he big enough? Is he fast enough? 
Can he handle fighters twice his size?
Well, he's got good hands, and he’s plenty tough
Worked his ass off, every shift,
But the coach said, boy, you just don’t fit.

Thinking back, he wonders what he could have said:
Something that would change the coach’s mind.
But words are not his thing, he only shook his head,
Then loaded up his gear, his clothes, his DVDs,
As if he didn’t mind.

Is he big enough? Is he fast enough?
Can he handle fighters twice his size?
Well, he’s got good hands, and he’s plenty tough
Worked his ass off, never quit
Still the coach said, boy, you just don’t fit.

Looking at the map, he sees he’ll need some gas,
Money’s getting low, he’ll need a job.
Anything to fill the time and pay the freight,
Till they call his number and they let him skate
And skate, and skate, and skate.


On a night in February, wet and cold
A car pulls out of Belleville, heading west,
In its trunk a duffel full of skates and pads,
At its wheel a boy who’s feeling very old,
But hoping for the best.

Here's the live recording from SongAlong 2006. (to come)

And here's a version with perhaps too much production, as I hear it now.