In a brief essay from the early 1940s, Woody Guthrie asks, “Why do ­people set down and write up great songs and ballads about their outlaws? (And never about governors, mayors, or police chiefs?)” (Pastures of Plenty 79–80). Guthrie’s answer reflects his understanding and treatment of the outlaw as well as the Depression era’s popular and social representation of the outlaw figure as a populist hero: “an outlaw does one big thing … He tries. Tries his best. Dies for what he believes in. Goes down shooting. Politicians don’t try. They shoot the bull and hot air, but they don’t try their best to make the world better” (Pastures of Plenty 80). For Guthrie, the outlaw figure is an agent of change, and songs are the expression of the people’s wish for change through the example of this agent. It is the outlaws, rather than “the law,” that try, even at the cost of their lives, to make the world better for those whose freedom is threatened by unjust laws or an unfair economic system. This is the portrayal of the outlaw Guthrie grew up with in the oil boom plains and Dust Bowl devastation of Oklahoma and Texas, and this is the outlaw role Guthrie portrayed in his performance persona and songs.