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As a cowboy poet, N. Howard Thorp—better known as "Jack Thorp" to his
many friends in the Southwest—is the genuine thing.  He is an old-time
cattleman and cowpuncher, and his songs are the fruit of experience.  His
gift is instinctive and naive, like that of all real cowboy poets, and its
charm is precisely in its fresh and "unliterary" quality.

                                  from the introduction to Songs of the Cowboys, by Alice Corbin Henderson

"Jack" Thorp (N. Howard Thorp, 1867-1940) collected cowboy songs and poems across the west for nearly 20 years, starting in the late 1800s. He first published them in 1908, in a small book called Songs of the Cowboys.

The next edition of the book, in 1921, was greatly expanded, and included over a hundred songs and poems, including 25 pieces written Thorp and a detailed introduction by Alice Corbin Henderson (reproduced below).  

Writer, editor, and poet Alice Corbin Henderson was perhaps best known as assistant editor to Harriet Moore, founder of Poetry magazine (Henderson is sometimes credited as the magazine's "co-founder").  Read more about Alice Corbin Henderson below, and one of her poems, Ten Thousand Texas Rangers, which is included in Songs of the Cowboys.


photo courtesy John Stauffer
Jack Thorp, Alice Corbin Henderson, and her daughter

Our thanks to Mark L. Gardner and Rex Rideout, whose outstanding 2005 book and recording, Jack Thorp's Songs of the Cowboys (see our feature here) inspired us to create this feature, and who contributed additional information.

We'll add add songs and poems regularly from Songs of the Cowboys to this feature.

Below, from Songs of the Cowboys:

Selected Songs and Poems from Songs of the Cowboys

Introduction to Songs of the Cowboys, by Alice Corbin Henderson

N. Howard ("Jack") Thorp's Preface and Acknowledgments 
from Songs of the Cowboys 

List of Contents of Songs of the Cowboys
with Thorp's notes on authors and origins

See our feature on Jack Thorp's Songs of the Cowboys

for:

Other Selected Books about and by Jack Thorp

Additional links and information

 


Selected Songs and Poems from Songs of the Cowboys

 

By N. Howard ("Jack") Thorp

Little Joe, The Wrangler
My Little Brown Mule
Old Paint
Speckles
What's Become of the Punchers?

Chopo
The Cowboys New Year Dance  separate page

more to come . . .

 

Other authors and traditional pieces in Songs of the Cowboys

The Campfire Has Gone Out traditional
The Cowboy's Dream traditional
The Cowboy's Life traditional
The Cowboy's Meditation traditional
The Cowman's Prayer traditional
Crossing the Divide by J. W. Foley
Down on the Ol' Bar-G by Phil H. LeNoir  separate page
The Gol-Darned Wheel traditional
The Great Round-up traditional
Hell in Texas traditional
The Hell-Bound Train  traditional
The Last Longhorn  [later attributed to John Wesley]
Mustang Gray  attributed by Thorp to Tom Grey
Ol' Dynamite by Phil H. LeNoir  separate page
The Old Chisholm Trail  traditional
Old Paint
  traditional
A Song of the Range by James Barton Adams
Ten Thousand Texas Rangers  by Alice Corbin Henderson
The Texas Cowboy traditional
Thanksgiving on the Ranch by James Barton Adams (separate page)
Windy Bill
traditional
Zebra Dun  traditional
The Pecos Stream traditional (from the 1908 Songs of the Cowboys
The Dreary, Dreary Life traditional
The Tenderfoot by Yank Hitson, later attributed to D. J. O'Malley
Night-Herding Song later attributed to Harry Stephens
John Garner's Trail Herd, traditional
The Dying Cowboy, traditional

more to come . . .


Selections by N. Howard ("Jack") Thorp:

 

What's Become of the Punchers

What's become of the punchers
We rode with long ago?
The hundreds and hundreds of cowboys
We all of us used to know?

Sure, some were killed by lightning,
Some when the cattle run,
Others were killed by horses,
And some with the old six-gun.

Those that worked on the round-up,
Those of the branding-pen,
Those who went out on the long trail drive
And never returned again.

We know of some who have prospered,
We hear of some who are broke,
My old pardner made millions in Tampa,
While I've got my saddle in soak!

Sleeping and working together,
Eatin' old "Cussie's good chuck,"
Riding in all kinds of weather,
Playing in all kinds of luck;

Bragging about our top-hosses,
Each puncher ready to bet
His horse could outrun the boss's,
Or any old horse you could get!

Scott lies in Tularosa,
Elmer Price lies near Santa Fe,
While Randolph sits here by the fireside
With a "flat-face" on his knee.

'Gene Rhodes is among the high-brows,
A-writin' up the West,
But I know a lot of doin's
That he never has confessed!

He used to ride 'em keerless
In the good old days
When we both worked together
In the San Andres!

Building big loops we called "blockers,"
Spinning the rope in the air,
Never a cent in our pockets,
But what did a cow-puncher care?

I'm tired of riding this trail, boys,
Dead tired of riding alone--
B'lieve I'll head old Button for Texas,
Toward my old Palo Pinto home!

by N. Howard "Jack" Thorp from Songs of the Cowboys, 1921

 

"What's Become of the Punchers?"  was first published in the August 1920 issue of Poetry: A Magazine of Verse.  

"What's Become of the Punchers?" is also included in the 1928 book, The Turquoise Trail: An Anthology of New Mexico Poetry, compiled by Alice Corbin Henderson.  Henderson edited the 1921 edition of Jack Thorp's Songs of the Cowboys, which also includes "What's Become of the Punchers?"  She was instrumental in the founding of Poetry: A Magazine of Verse.

The "'Gene Rhodes" referred to in the poem was Thorp's old friend Eugene Manlove Rhodes (1869-1934), cowboy, Western writer and novelist.  Rhodes' is widely known for his poem, "Hired Man on Horseback."  His best known -- and critically acclaimed -- short story is "Paso Por Aqui," which was serialized in The Saturday Evening Post in 1926. Correspondence from Rhodes to Thorp is preserved in the Thorp Collection at the Huntington Library.

Thanks to Mark L. Gardner, editor of Jack Thorp's Songs of the Cowboys for most of the above information.



 

Little Joe, the Wrangler

Written by me on the trail of herd of O Cattle from Chimney Lake, New Mexico, to Higgins, Texas, 1898. On trail were the following men, all from Sacramento Mountains or Crow Flat: Pap Logan, Bill Blevens, Will Brownfield, Will Fenton, Lije Colfelt, Tom Mews, Frank Jones, and myself.  It was copyrighted and appeared in my first editions of "Songs of the Cowboys" published in 1908

Little Joe, the wrangler, will never wrangle more;
His days with the "remuda"—they are done.
'T was a year ago last April he joined the outfit here,
A little "Texas stray" and all alone.

'T was long late in the evening he rode up to the herd
On a little old brown pony he called Chow;
With his brogan shoes and overalls a harder-looking kid
You never in your life had seen before.

His saddle 't was a southern kack built many years ago,
An O.K. spur on one foot idly hung,
While his "hot roll" in a cotton sack was loosely tied behind
And a canteen from the saddle horn he'd slung.

He said he'd had to leave his home, his daddy'd married twice
And his new ma beat him every day or two;
So he saddled up old Chow one night and "lit a shuck" this way—
Thought he'd try and paddle now his own canoe.

Said he'd try and do the best he could if we'd only give him work,
Though he did n't know "straight" up about a cow;
So the boss he cut him out a mount and kinder put him on,
For he sorter liked the little stray somehow.

Taught him how to herd the horses and to learn to know them all
To round 'em up by daylight; if he could
To follow the chuck-wagon and to always hitch the team
And help the "cosinero" rustle wood.

We'd driven to Red River and the weather had been fine;
We were camped down on the south side in a bend,
When a norther commenced to blowing and we doubled up our guards,
For it took all hands to hold the cattle then.

Little Joe, the wrangler, was called out with the rest,
And scarcely had the kid got to the herd,
When the cattle they stampeded; like a hailstorm, long they flew,
And all of us were riding for the lead.

"Tween the streaks of lightning we could see a horse far out ahead—
'T was little Joe, the wrangler, in the lead;
He was riding "Old Blue Rocket" with his slicker 'bove his head,
Trying to check the leaders in their speed.

At last we got them milling and kinder quieted down,
And the extra guard back to the camp did go;
But one of them was missin' and we all knew at a glance
'Twas our little Texas stray—poor wrangler Joe.

Next morning just at sunup we found where Rocket fell,
Down in a washout twenty feet below
Beneath his horse, mashed to a pulp, his spurs had rung the knell
For our little Texas stray—poor Wrangler Joe.

by N. Howard "Jack" Thorp from Songs of the Cowboys, 1921

In the 1908 edition of Songs of the Cowboys, the penultimate line reads, " ... his horse had rung the knell."  The word appears as "spur" in later versions and in many other printed versions. Mark Gardner writes in Jack Thorp's Songs of the Cowboys, "...Thorp's notebook gives the correct text: 'His spurs, had rung the nell [sic].'"

There are spinoffs and parodies of the widely-recorded song. Don Edwards writes in his Saddle Songs book:

There have been many parodies of this song, including "Little Joe, the Wrangler's Sister Nell" and "Little Bunch of Cactus on the Wall." Both songs were said to be written by Thorp, but he only claimed the latter. Another song that became quite popular was "Cowboy Jack's Last Ride"...some versions taking the theme from "Little Joe, the Wrangler" and the melody from "Cowboy Jack."

Many have recorded :Little Joe the Wrangler." Here's a small selection of YouTube videos:

Don Edwards tells the story of Jack Thorp writing "Little Joe The Wrangler" in 1898 and he performs the song, in a video from the Western Folklife Center's 2008 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, a part of his "The Ghost of
Jack Thorp" program: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPLXOf_fMtg

Red Steagall http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ySc0SylspyY

Marty Robbins http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NdINpsuHn1g

Roy Rogers and Emmy Lou Harris: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7y43dU3spo

And for something entirely different: Marlene Dietrich chimes in, from the 1939 "Destry Rides Again" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=30ggq3QOg_k

Baxter Black has some  moving memories about the song on NPR's "What's in a Song": http://www.westernfolklife.org/What-s-in-a-Song/little-joe-the-wrangler.html


 


 

My Little Brown Mule

Written in 1912, at Santa Fe, concerning a pet trick mule I owned.

His mammy's a burro, his daddy's a horse;
Of course you'll all think it's a mighty queer cross.
He's got brains in his eyes, he's nary a fool;
As smart as a cricket, my little brown mule.

He's always in mischief, he'll shy at a bug;
When he sees a tin Lizzy he'll jump like a frog;
He's a voice like a trumpet, his coat's always bright;
He's as gentle as can be if the cinch is n't tight.

Just pull on that flank cinch a little too long
And he won't do a thing till you are mounted and on;
Then farewell, relations, good-bye to the crowd,
For you are off on a journey high up in the clouds.

At night I don't stake him, just turn him foot-loose,
And inside of two hours he's as full as a goose;
He's a great old camp-robber when the boys are in bed--
Roots among the bake ovens for bacon and bread.

He's a great one to wrangle on, he knows every horse,
And if one of 'em's missing he's as mad as the boss;
His sense just come natural, he was never in school,
He's as wise as a parson, my little brown mule.

Did you ask if I'd sell him--well, not on your life;
The day we were married I gave him to the wife;
And now two of my kids daily ride him to school;
On, no, money can't buy him, my little brown mule.

by Jack Thorp from Songs of the Cowboys, 1921

 


 

Old Paint

Every time I see an old paint horse, I think of you,
Old paint horse of mine that used to be,
Old pal o' mine that was, the best horse of all, because --
That's why, old horse, at last I set you free!

I've bought 'em by the thousand, I've owned 'em everywhere --
There's one stands out among 'em all alone;
Paint-marked everywhere, tail a little short o' hair,
Old horse, you never failed to bring me home!

'Member when they stole you for Pass City,
En locked you up inside the Juarez jail?
Said that you have eaten up an entire crop of wheat,
En I had to rustle round en get your bail?

En I got you cross the river en matched you en a race,
End we bet the last red dollar we could scrape?--
En how you bit old Rocking Chair, the horse you run against,
En made him turn his head en lose the race?

We was both young en foolish in them green days long ago,
I don't believe in telling stories out of school! --
'Member when we roped the pianner en jerked her out the door?
Hush up!  Old Paint!  you're talkin' like a fool!

Well, old horse, you're buried, en your troubles, they are done,
But I often sit en think of what we did,
En recall the many scrapes we had, en used to think it fun,
Es we rode along the Rio Grande . . .
                                      Good-bye, old Kid!

by Jack Thorp from Songs of the Cowboys, 1921


 

Speckles

This song was written in 1906 at Palma, New Mexico, my old ranch. I gave the contract to print my first little book, entitled "Songs of the Cowboys," to Mr. P. A. Speckman, News Print Shop, Estancia, New Mexico, who printed it in 1908.

He was little en peaked en thin, en narry a no-account horse --
Least that's the way you'd describe him in case that the beast had been lost --
But for single and double cussedness en double center-fired sin
The horse never come out o' Texas that was half-way knee-high to him.

The first time I ever saw him was nineteen year ago last spring.
'T was the year we had grasshoppers, that come en et up everything,
That a feller rode up here one evening en wanted to pen overnight
A small bunch of horses, he said, en I told him I guessed 't was all right.

Well, the feller was busted, the horses was thin, en the grass around here kind o' good,
En he said if I'd let him hold here a few days, he'd settle with me when he could.
So I told him all right, turn them loose down the draw, that the latchstring was always untied;
He was welcome to stop a few days if he liked en rest from his long, weary ride.

Well, the cuss stay'd around for two or three weeks till at last he decided to go,
And that horse over yonder being too poor to move he gimme -- the cuss had no dough;
Well, at first the darn brute was as wild as a deer, en would snort when he came to the branch,
En it took two cow-punchers, on good horses, too, to handle him here at the ranch.

Well, winter came on and the range it got hard, and my mustang commenced to get thin,
So I fed him along and rode him around some and found out old Speckles was game;
For that was what the other cuss called him, just Speckles, no more or no less:
His color, could n't describe it, something like a paint-shop in distress.

Them was Indian times, young feller, that I'm a-telling about,
And oft's the time I've seen red men fight and put the boys in blue to rout.
A good horse in them days, young feller, would often save your life --
One that in any race could hold the pace when the red-skin bands were rife.

I was a-settin' one night at sunset, jest inside that hall,
En Molle hed gone to the milk-pen as she heard the mild cows bawl,
When out o' brush en thicket, ridin' towards me out o' the west,
Comes Antelope John, his horse on the run, en ridin' like one possessed.

"Apaches are out!" he shouted; "for God's sake, hurry and go!
They're close behind, comin' like the wind; catch your horse and come on, Joe!"
Old Speckles was saddled, I grabbed my gun, picked up Mollie as I passed;
With the grit of her kind she hung on behind and never a question asked.

Down through cañons deep, over mesas steep, Old Speckles never failed;
In his heart of steel he seemed to feel the red-skins on our trail;
On, ever onward, towards Fort Craig, he sped the whole night through;
Though handicapped by a double load, he out-stripped the red-skins too.

Never will I forget that ride, en how at first daybreak
We galloped out of the chaparral en entered the old fort gate.

by Jack Thorp from Songs of the Cowboys, 1921


Chopo

Written in Devil's River, Texas, 1901 at Jeneaw, or Juno, Lake, when in camp with Frank Wilson. This little horse I got from Antelope George at Sierra Blanca, was branded O. I rode him from Sierra Blanca to Paris, Texas. This song was in my first publication, copyrighted in 1908.

Through rocky arroyos so dark and so deep;
Down the sides of the mountains so slippery and steep;
You've good judgment, sure footed, wherever you go
You're a safety conveyance my little Chopo.

Whether single or double, or in the lead of a team,
Over highways or byways or crossing a stream,
You're always in fix and willing to go
Whenever you're called on, my Chico Chopo.

You're a good roping horse; you were never jerked down;
When tied to a steer, you will circle him around;
Let him once cross the string, and over he'll go.
You sabe the business, my cow horse Chopo.

One day on the Llano, a hail storm began;
The herds were stampeded, the horses all ran;
The lightning it glittered, a cyclone did blow;
But you faced the sweet music my little Chopo.

Chopo my pony; Chopo, my pride;
Chopo my amigo; Chopo I will ride
From Mexico's border 'cross Texas Llanos;
To the salt Pecos River, I ride you Chopo.

by Jack Thorp from Songs of the Cowboys, 1921

Music historian and Thorp expert Mark L. Gardner's introduction to Jack Thorp's Songs of the Cowboys notes that "...there is good evidence that some of Thorp's early compositions—"Chopo," "The Pecos River Queen," and "Speckles," for example—were originally intended only as poems..."

"Chopo" was written for one of Thorp's favorite horses. In his biographical book, Pardner of the Wind, written with Neil M. Clark, Thorp describes Chopo, "...the best night horse I ever had. Coal-black and branded O, he was one of those horses that made a good hand anywhere...Chopo's daddy was a Morgan stud shipped out from the East, and his mammy a sure-enough mustang Arabian, one of the old Spanish stock that ran pretty much all over the Southwest. He first proved himself on the trail drive when Little Joe, the wrangler was killed—not in the same stampede, however."

Today, "Chopo" is more frequently heard as a song than recited as a poem. On the CD that accompanies the outstanding 2005 book edited by Mark L. Gardner, Jack Thorp's Songs of the Cowboys, music historian and performer Rex Rideout sings "Chopo" in the style of Thorp's day and plays on a 1900 Washburn "taterbug" mandolin. Rex says, "It has a nice, gutsy tone that fit that song well." All other pieces on the  Jack Thorp's Songs of the Cowboys, CD are also presented with that same authenticity. See our feature about that book and CD here.

Don Edwards' popular rendition of "Chopo" is included on his Saddle Songs album, and he writes about the song in his books, Classic Cowboy Songs and Saddle Songs; A Cowboy Songbag.

 


Traditional selections and those by authors other than Thorp:

 

The Hell-Bound Train

Heard this sung at a cow-camp near Pontoon Crossing, 
on the Pecos River, by a puncher named Jack Moore.

A Texas cowboy lay down on a barroom floor,
Having drunk so much he could drink no more;
So he fell asleep with a troubled brain,
To dream that he rode on a hell-bound train.

The engine with murderous blood was damp,
And was brilliantly lit with a brimstone lamp;
An imp for fuel was shoveling bones,
While the furnace rang with a thousand groans.

The boiler was filled with lager beer,
And the Devil himself was the engineer;
The passengers were a most motley crew
Church member, atheist, Gentile and Jew.

Rich men in broadcloth, beggars in rags,
Handsome young ladies, withered old hags.
Yellow and black men, red, brown and white,
All chained together -- O God, what a sight!

While the train rushed on at an awful pace,
The sulfurous fumes scorched their hands and face;
Wider and wider the country grew,
As faster and faster the engine flew

Louder and louder the thunder crashed,
And brighter and brighter the lightning flashed;
Hotter and hotter the air became,
Till the clothes were burnt from each quivering frame.

And out of the distance there arose a yell,
"Ha, ha," said the Devil, "we're nearing hell!"
Then, oh, how the passengers shrieked with pain,
And begged the Devil to stop the train.

But he capered about and danced with glee,
And laughed and joked at their misery.
"My faithful friends, you have done the work,
And the Devil never can a payday shirk.

"You've bullied the weak, you've robbed the poor,
The starving brother you've turned from the door;
You've laid up gold where the canker rust,
And you have given free vent to your beastly lust.

"You've justice scorned and corruption sown,
And trampled the laws of nature down;
You have drink, rioted, cheated, plundered, and lied,
And mocked at God in your hell-born pride.

"You have paid full fare, so I'll carry you through;
For its only right you should have your due.
Why, the laborer always expects his hire,
So I'll land you safe in the lake of fire --

"Where your flesh will waste in the flames that roar,
And my imps torment you forever more."
Then the cowboy awoke with an anguished cry,
His clothes wet with sweat and and his hair standing high.

Then he prayed as he'd never had prayed till that hour
To be saved from his sin and the demon's power.
And his prayers and pleadings were not in vain;
For he never rode the hell-bound train.

traditional, from Songs of the Cowboys, 1921


Mustang Gray

Authorship credited to Tom Grey, Tularosa, New Mexico. 
I first heard it sung by a man named Sanford, who 
kept a saloon in La Ascension, Mexico, about 1888.

There was a brave old Texan,
They called him Mustang Gray;
He left his home when but a youth,
Went ranging far away.

But he'll go no more a-ranging
The savage to affright;
He has heard his last war whoop
And fought his last fight.

He ne'er would sleep within a tent
No comforts would he know;
But like a brave old Tex-i-can
A-ranging he would go.

When Texas was invaded
By a mighty tyrant foe,
He mounted his noble war-horse
And a-ranging he did go.

Once he was taken prisoner,
Bound in chains upon the way;
He wore the yoke of bondage
Through the streets of Monterey.

A señorita loved him
And followed by his side;
She opened the gates and gave to him
Her father's steed to ride.

God bless the señorita,
The belle of Monterey;
She opened wide the prison door
And let him ride away.

And when his veteran's life was spent,
It was his last command,
To bury him on Texas soil
On the banks of the Rio Grande;

And there the lonely traveler,
When passing by his grave,
Will shed a farewell tear
O'er the bravest of the brave.

Now he'll go no more a-ranging,
The savage to affright;
He's heard his last war-whoop
and fought his last fight.

attributed to Tom Grey by Jack Thorp, from Songs of the Cowboys, 1921

 


 

Old Paint

Heard this sung by a puncher who had been on a spree
in Pecos City.  he had taken a job temporarily as a sheep-
rustler for an outfit in Independence Draw, down the river,
and was ashamed of the job. I won't mention his name.

 

Good-bye, Old Paint,  I'm a-leavin' Cheyenne,
Good-bye, Old Paint,  I'm a-leavin' Cheyenne.

My foot in the stirrup, my pony won't stand;
Good-bye, Old Paint,  I'm a-leavin' Cheyenne.

I'm a-leavin' Cheyenne, I'm off for Montan';
Good-bye, Old Paint,  I'm a-leavin' Cheyenne.

I'd a ridin' Old Paint, I'm a-leadin' Old Fan;
Good-bye, Old Paint,  I'm a-leavin' Cheyenne.

With my feet in the stirrups, my bridle in my hand;
Good-bye, Old Paint,  I'm a-leavin' Cheyenne.

Old Paint's a good pony, he paces when he can;
Good-bye, Little Annie, I'm off for Cheyenne.

Oh hitch up your horses and feed 'em some hay,
And seat yourself by me so long as you stay.

My horses ain't hungry, they'll not eat your hay;
My wagon is loaded and rolling away.

My foot in the stirrup, my reins in my hand;
Good morning, young lady, my horses won't stand.

Good-bye, Old Paint,  I'm a-leavin' Cheyenne,
Good-bye, Old Paint,  I'm a-leavin' Cheyenne.

traditional, from Songs of the Cowboys, 1921


 

The Old Chisholm Trail  

The origin of this song is unknown. There are several
thousand verses to it -- the more whiskey the more 
verses. Every puncher knows a few more verses. Sung 
from the Canadian line to Mexico.

Come along, boys, and listen to my tale
I'll tell you of my trouble on the old Chisholm trail.

Coma ti yi youpy, youpy ya, youpy ya,
Coma ti yi youpy, youpy ya.

I started up the trail October twenty-third,
I started up the trail with the 2-U herd.

Oh, a ten-dollar hoss and a forty-dollar saddle, --
And I'm goin' to punchin' Texas cattle

I woke up one mornin' afore daylight
And afore I sleep the moon shines bright

Old Ben Bolt was a blamed good boss,
But he went to see the girls on a sore-backed hoss. 

Old Ben Bolt was a fine old man
And you'd know there was whiskey wherever he would land. 

My hoss throwed me off at the creek called Mud,
My hoss throwed me off round the 2-U herd.

Last time I saw him he was going 'cross the level,
A-kickin' up his heels and a-runnin' like the devil.

It's cloudy in the west, a-lookin' like rain,
And my damned old slicker's in the wagon again.

Crippled my hoss, I don't know how,
Ropin' at the horns of a 2-U cow.

We hit Caldwell and we hit her on the fly,
We bedded down the cattle on the hill close by.

No chaps, no slicker, and it's pourin' down rain
And I swear, by God,  I'll never night-herd again

Feet in the stirrups and seat in the saddle,
I hung and rattled with them long-horn cattle.

Last night I was on guard and the leader broke the ranks,
I hit my horse down the shoulders and I spurred him in the flanks.

The wind commenced to blow and the rain began to fall,
Hit looked, by grab, like we was goin' to lose 'em all.

I jumped in the saddle and grabbed holt of the horn,
Best blamed cow-puncher ever was born.

I popped my foot in the stirrup and gave a little yell,
The tail cattle broke and the leaders went as well.

I don't give a damn if they never do stop;
I'll ride as long as an eight-day clock.

Foot in the stirrup and hand on the horn,
Best damnded cowboy ever was born.

I herded and hollered and I done very well,
Till the boss said, "Boys, just let 'em go to hell."

Stray in the herd, and the boss said kill it,
So I shot him in the rump with the handle of the skillet.

We rounded 'em up and put 'em on the cars,
And that was the last of the old Two Bars.

Oh it's bacon and beans 'most every day, --
I'd as soon be eatin' prairie hay.

I'm on my horse and I'm goin' at a run,
I'm the quickest shootin' cowboy that ever pulled a gun.

I went to the wagon to get my roll,
To come back to Texas, dad-burn my soul.

I went to the boss to draw my roll,
He had it figgered out I was nine dollars in the hole.

I'll sell my outfit just as soon as I can,
I won't punch cattle for no damned man.

Goin' back to town to draw my money,
Goin' back home to see my honey.

With my knees in the saddle and my seat in the sky,
I'll quit punchin' cows in the sweet by and by.
 
Com a ti yi youpy, youpy ya, youpy ya,
Coma ti yi youpy, youpy ya.

traditional, from Songs of the Cowboys, 1921


 

Ten Thousand Texas Rangers

Written in March, 1917, at the time when Germany proposed
to Mexico that they retake the "lost provinces" of 
Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.

Ten thousand Texas Rangers are laughin' fit to kill
At the joke of the German Kaiser, an' his fierce, imperious will --
For he sez, sez he, to the Mexican boob, hidin' behind his beard,
"Old Uncle Sam is an easy mark, or so I've always heerd --

"Go up and take his cattle, and take a state or two, --
Texas, New Mexico, Arizone -- don't stop before you're through;
For we shall make war together, and together make peace," he said,
Now ain't it a joke -- so easy-like -- as easy as makin' bread!

Now if he had wanted a gun-man, he could n't have chose a worse,
For Pancho Villa has gor more knack in fixin' a man for the hearse,
And if he had though that a gun-man could swipe that piece of earth,
He should 'a' remembered we got the trick of handlin' a gun from birth!

Ten thousand Texas Rangers are shakin' with wicked glee
At the joke of the German Kaiser in his fierce perplexity;
They are bustin' their buttins with laughin', they are laughin' fit to kill --
"By Gawd," sez they, "But that's one on him, by Gawd, that's one on Bill!"

 by Alice Corbin (Henderson) from Songs of the Cowboys, 1921

 


 

The Zebra Dun

First heard the song sung by Randolph Reynolds, Carizozo Flats, in 1890 

We were camped on the plains at the head of the Cimmaron
When along came a stranger and stopped to arger some.
He looked so very very foolish that we began to look around,
We thought he was a greenhorn that had just 'scaped from town.

We asked him if he had he been to breakfast;  he had n't had a smear;
So we opened up the chuck-box and bade him have his share.
He took a cup of coffee and some biscuits and some beans,
And then began to talk and tell about foreign kings and queens,

About the Spanish War and fighting on on the seas
With guns as big as steers and ramrods big as trees,--
And about old Paul Jones, a mean-fighting son of a gun,
Who was the grittiest cuss that ever pulled a gun.

Such an educated feller, his thoughts just came in herds,
He astonished all them cowboys with them jaw-breaking words.
He just kept on talking till he made the  boys all sick
And they began to look around just how to play a trick.

He said he had lost his job upon the Santa Fe
And was going across the plains to strike the 7-D.
He did n't say how come it, some trouble with the boss,
But said he'd like to borrow a nice fat saddle horse.

This tickled all the boys to death; they laughed 'way down in their sleeves--
"We will lend you a horse just as fresh and fat as you please."
Shorty grabbed a lariat and roped the Zebra Dun
And turned him over to the stranger and waited for the fun.

Old Dunny was a rocky outlaw that had grown so awful wild
That he could paw the white out of the moon every jump for a mile. 
Old Dunny stood right still--as if he didn't know-- 
Until he was saddled and ready for to go.

When the stranger hit the saddle, old Dunny quit the earth,
And traveled right straight up for all that he was worth.
A-pitching and a-squealing, a-having wall-eyed fits,
His hind feet perpendicular, his front ones in the bits.

We could see the tops of mountains under Dunny every jump,
But the stranger he was growed there just like the camel's hump;
The stranger sat upon him and curled his black moustache,
Just like a summer boarder waiting for his hash.

He thumped him in the shoulders and spurred him when he whirled,
To show them flunky punchers that he was the wolf of the world.
When the stranger had dismounted once more upon the ground,
We knew he was a thoroughbred and not a gent from town;

The boss, who was standing round watching of the show,
Walked right up to the stranger and told him he need n't go--
"If you can use a lasso like you rode old Zebra Dun,
You are the man I've been looking for ever since the year one."

Oh he could twirl the lariat and he did n't didn't do it slow;
He could catch them fore feet nine out of ten for any kind of dough,
There's one thing and a shore thing I've learned since I've been born,
That every educated feller ain't a plumb greenhorn.

traditional, from Songs of the Cowboys, 1921

 

Cowboy and singer Jules Verne Allen (1883-1945) recorded "Zebra Dun" in 1928, the first known commercial recording. Listen to it here. A biography here at CMT.com tells that he was, "A cowboy from the age of ten, and a participant in cattle drives until the end of the first decade of the new century, Allen began singing as an amateur for the pleasure of his fellow cowboys."

One of the most recent recordings is a recitation by Clarence Carnal, made just before his 102nd birthday in 2011. Find his rendition on a YouTube video here.

Many others have recorded "Zebra Dun," and Don Edwards has an outstanding version on his Saddle Songs album.

 


 

Crossing the Divide

One of the best of the lot. Heard this at round-up in the Mogollon Mountains, 
sung by a puncher named Freckles.

Parson, I'm a maverick, just runnin' loose an' grazin',
Eatin' where's th' greenest grass an' drinkin' where I choose;
Had to rustle in my youth an' never had no raisin';
Was n't never halter broke an' I ain't much to lose;
Used to sleepin' in a bag an' livin' in a slicker;
Church folks never branded me—I don't know as they tried;
Wish you'd say a prayer for me an' try to make a dicker
For the best they'll give me when I cross the Big Divide.

Tell 'em I ain't corralled a night in more 'n twenty;
Tell 'em I'm rawboned an' rough an' ain't much for looks;
Tell 'em I don't need much grief because I've had a-plenty;
I don't know how bad I am 'cause I ain't kept no books.
Tell 'em I'm a maverick a-runnin' loose unbranded;
Tell 'em I shoot straight an' quick an' ain't got much to hide;
Have 'em come an' size me up as soon as I get landed,
For the best they'll give me when I cross the Great Divide

Tell 'em I rode straight an' square an' never grabbed for leather;
Never roped a crippled steer or rode a sore-backed horse;
Tell 'em I've bucked wind an' rain an' every sort of weather,
Had my tilts with A. K. Hall an' Captain R. E. Morse.
Don't hide nothin' from 'em, whether it be sweet or bitter,
Tell 'em I'll stay on th' range, but if I'm shut outside
I'll abide it like a man because I ain't no quitter;
I ain't going to change just when I cross th' Big Divide

Tell 'em, when th' Roundup comes for all us human critters,
Just corral me with my kind an' run a brand on me;
I don't want to be corralled with hypocrites an' quitters;
Brand me just for what I am—an' I'm just what you see.
I don't want no steam-het stall or bran-mash for my ration;
I just want to meet th' boss an' face him honest-eyed,
Show him just what chips I got an' shove 'em in for cashin';
That's what you can tell 'em when I cross the Big Divide.

by J. W. Foley, from Songs of the Cowboys, 1921

J. W. (James William) Foley, 1874-1939, was a North Dakota Poet Laureate. He wrote the state song. He also wrote plays, lyrics, short fiction, and other works. He published a number of books of poetry, including A Little Book of Prairie Breezes (1902), Songs of Schooldays (1906), Boys and Girls (1913), Tales of the Trail (1914), New Verses of Human Folks (1916), Friendly Rhymes (1918), and Just for Fun Verses (1923). There's a photo of J. W. Foley here at the North Dakota State University Institute for Regional Studies' portrait collection site.


 

Windy Bill
   
Sung first to me by John Collier, Cornudas Mountain, New Mexico, July 1899. Appeared first in my 
      previous copyrighted book. (Thorp)

Windy Bill

Windy Bill was a Texas man,
Well, he could rope, you bet;
Talk of the steer he could n't tie down
Had n't sorter been born yet;
The boys they knew of an old black steer,
A sort of an old outlaw,
Who ran down in the bottom
Just at the foot of a rocky draw.

This slim black steer had stood his ground
With punchers from everywhere;
The boys they Bill two to one
He couldn't quite get there.
So Bill brought up his old cow-horse—
His wethers and back were sore—
Prepared to tackle this old black steer
Who ran down in the draw.

With his grazin' bits and sand-stacked tree,
His chaps and taps to boot,
His old maguey tied hard and fast,
Went out to tackle the brute.
Bill sorter sauntered around him first;
The steer began to paw,
Poled up his tail high in the air
And lit down in the draw.

The old cow-horse flew at him
Like he'd been eatin' corn,
And Bill he landed his old maguey
Around old blackie's horns.
The old-time horse he stopped dead-still;
The cinches broke like straw;
Both the sand-stacked tree and the old maguey,
Went driftin' down the draw.

Bill landed in a big rock-pile;
His hands and face were scratched;
He 'lowed he always could tie a steer
But guessed he'd found his match.
Paid up his bet like a little man,
Without a bit of jaw,
And said old blackie was the boss
Of all down in the draw.

There's a moral to my song, boys,
Which I hope you can see;
Whenever you start to tackle a steer
Never tie hard your maguey.
Put on your dalebueltas,
'Cordin' to California law,
And you will never see your old rim-fires
Driftin' down the draw.

traditional
from Songs of the Cowboys, Jack Thorp, 1921

Windy Bill

Windy Bill was a Texas man

Well, he could rope, you bet.
He swore the steer he couldn't tie

Well, he hadn't found him yet.
But the boys they knew of an old black steer,
A sort of an old outlaw
That ran down in the malpais
At the foot of a rocky draw.

This old black steer had stood his ground
With punchers from everywhere ;
So they bet old Bill at two to one
That he couldn't quite get there.
Then Bill brought out his old gray hoss

His withers and back were raw

And prepared to tackle the big black brute
That ran down in the draw.

With his Brazos bit and his Sam Stack tree,
His chaps and taps to boot,
And his old maguey tied hard and fast,
Bill swore he'd get the brute.
Now, first Bill sort of sauntered round.
Old Blackie began to paw
Then threw his tail straight in the air
And went driftin' down the draw.

The old gray plug flew after him,
For he'd been eatin' corn;
And Bill, he piled his old maguey
Right round old Blackie's horns.
The old gray hoss he stopped right still;
The cinches broke like straw,
And the old maguey and the Sam Stack tree
Went driftin' down the draw.

Bill, he lit in a flint rock pile,
His face and hands was scratched.
He said he thought he could rope a snake,
But he guessed he'd met his match;
He paid his bets like a little man
Without a bit of jaw
And 'lowed old Blackie was the boss
Of anything in the draw.

There's a moral to my' story, boys,
And that you all must see.
Whenever you go to tie a snake
Don't tie it to your tree;
But take your dolly welters
'Cordin' to California law,
And you'll never see your old rim-fire
     Go drifting down the draw.

traditional, from Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads, collected by John A. Lomax and Alan Lomax, 1910, 1916, 1938

Notes from the 1938 Lomax edition:

tree: The frame, or "tree" of a saddle was made from wood covered with rawhide. The "Sam Stack tree," a famous make of saddles.
maguey:  Rope made from fibre of the Mexican maguey
snake: Snake = bad steer
dolly welter: Dolly welter=rope around the wrapped horn of the saddle. Spanish, dar la vuelta. Other words used for a turn or two of the rope around the horn of the saddle are "daling," "vueltin," "felting," "dale vuelting."
rim-fire: Saddle with two girths.



The Camp-Fire Has Gone Out

Author unknown. First heard this sung in San Andreas Mountains. I think it was by 'Gene Rhodes.

Through the progress of the railroad our occupation's gone;
So we put ideas into words, our words into a song.
First comes the cowboy; he is pointed for the west;
Of all the pioneers I claim the cowboys are the best;
You will miss him on the round-up; it's gone, his merry shout,

The cowboy has left the country and the camp-fire has gone out.

There is the freighters, our companions; you've got to leave this land;
Can't drag your loads for nothing through the gumbo and the sand.
The railroads are bound to beat you when you do your level best;
So give it up to the grangers and strike out for the west.
Bid them all adieu and give the merry shout

The cowboy has left the country, and the camp-fire has gone out.

When I think of those good old days, my eyes with tears do fill;
When I think of the tin can by the fire and coyote on the hill.
I'll tell you boys, in those days old-timers stood a show,

Our pockets full of money, not a sorrow did we know.
But things have changed now; we are poorly clothed and fed.
Our wagons are all broken and our ponies 'most all dead.
Soon we will leave this country; you'll hear the angels shout,
"Oh, here they come to Heaven, the camp-fire has gone out."

traditional, from Songs of the Cowboys, 1921


Note:  Don Edwards recorded this song on his Last of the Troubadours CD.  In his his book 2003 book, Saddle Songs, a Cowboy Songbag, he writes, "This song, like so many old songs, has probably been passed around so often that the author or authors have been forgotten or passed into  history without due credit. It is possible that it might have been written by Ben Arnold Connor, an old-time frontiersman and cowboy. He took credit for the song in his autobiography, Rekindling Campfires."  Don Edwards writes that for his own recording, he "rewrote is a little and added my own tune, seeing as how there was never any music ever written out for it."

Yvonne Hollenbeck has written about this song. Ben Arnold Connor was her great grandfather. She comments here in her My Home on the Prairie column, and includes her grandmother's comment on the poem and how it became a song.


 

The Cowman's Prayer

Don't know the author's name. Heard it sung in a cowcamp near Ft. Sumner, on the Pecos River, New Mexico

Now, O Lord, please lend me thine ear,
The prayer of a cattleman to hear;
No doubt the prayer may seem strange,
But I want you to bless our cattle range.

Bless the round-ups year by year,
And don't forget the growing steer;
Water the lands with brooks and rills
For my cattle that roam on a thousand hills.

Prairie fires, won't you please stop?
Let thunder roll and water drop.
It frightens me to see the smoke;
Unless it's stopped, I'll go dead broke.

As you, O Lord, my herd behold,
It represents a sack of gold;
I think at least five cents a pound
Will be the price of beef the year round.

One thing more and then I'm through,--
Instead of one calf, give my cows two.
I may pray different from other men,
But I've had my say, and now, Amen

traditional, from Songs of the Cowboys, 1921

Read more about this poem and earlier versions in our Strays collection here.


 

 The Great Round-up

I first heard this song sung by Sally White, at Toya, Texas in 1909, although a slightly different version was published in my first edition of "Songs of the Cowboys."

When I think of the last great round-up,
On the eve of eternity's dawn,
I think of the past of the cowboys
Who have been with us here and are gone. 
And I wonder if any will greet me
On the sands of the evergreen shore
With a hearty, "God bless you, old fellow,"
That I've met with so often before.

I think of the big-hearted fellows
Who will divide with you, blanket and bread,
With a piece of stray beef well roasted,
And charge for it never a red.
I often look upward and wonder
If the green fields will seem half so fair,
If any the wrong trail have taken
And fail to "be in" over there.

For the trail that leads down to perdition
Is paved all the way with good deeds,
But in the great round-up of ages,
Dear boys, this won't answer your needs.
But the way to green pastures, though narrow,
Leads straight to the home in the sky,
And Jesus will give you the passports
To the land of the sweet by and by.

For the Saviour has taken the contract
To deliver all those who believe,
At the headquarters ranch of His Father,
In the great range where none can deceive.
The Inspector will stand at the gateway
And the herd, one by one, will go by,--
The round-up by the angels in judgment
Must past 'neath His all-seeing eye.

No maverick or slick will be tallied
In the great book of life in his home,
For he knows all the brands and the earmarks
That down through the ages have come.
But along with the tailings and sleepers
The strays must turn from the gate;
No road brand to gain them admission,
But the awful sad cry of "too late."

Yet I trust, in the last great round-up,
When the rider shall cut the big herd,
That the cowboys shall be represented
In the earmark and brand of the Lord;
To be shipped to the bright mystic regions
Over there in green pastures to lie,
And led by the crystal still waters,
In that home of the sweet by and by.

traditional, from Songs of the Cowboys, 1921


 

The Last Longhorn

I have been unable to trace the authorship of this song. Have heard it sung in many places and also recited.

An ancient long-horned bovine
Lay dying by the river;
There was a lack of vegetation
And the cold winds made him shiver;
A cowboy sat beside him,
With sadness in his face,
To see his final passing,--
This last of a noble race.

The ancient eunuch struggled
And raised his shaking head,
Saying, "I care not to linger
When all my friends are dead.
These Jerseys and these Holsteins,
They are no friends of mine;
They belong to the nobility
Who live across the brine.

"Tell the Durhams and the Herefords
When they come a-grazing round,
And see me lying stark and stiff
Upon the frozen ground,
I don't want them to bellow
When they see that I am dead,
For I was born in Texas,
Near the river that is Red.

"Tell the coyotes, when they come at night,
A-hunting for their prey,
They might as well go further,
For they'll find it will not pay:
If they attempt to eat me
They very soon will see
That my bones and hide are petrified,--
They'll find no beef on me.

"I remember in the seventies,
Full many summers past,
There was grass and water plenty,
But it was too good to last.
I little dreamed what would happen
Some twenty summers hence,
When the nester came with his wife, his kids,
His dogs, and the barbed-wire fence.

His voice sank to a murmur,
His breath was short and quick;
The cowboy tried to skin him
When he saw he could n't kick;
He rubbed his knife upon his book
Until he made it shine,
But he never skinned old longhorn,
'Case he could n't cut his rine.

And the cowboy riz up sadly
And mounted his cayuse,
Saying, "The time has come when longhorns
And cowboys are no use."
And while gazing sadly backward
Upon the dead bovine
His bronc stepped in a dog-hole
And fell and broke his spine.

The cowboys and the longhorns
Who pardnered in eighty-four
Have gone to their last round-up
Over on the other shore;
They answered well their purpose,
But their glory must fade and go,
Because men say there's better things
In the modern cattle show.

[See more about "The Last Longhorn" here in a Who Knows? feature; the work was later attributed to John Wesley]

 


The Cowboy's Meditation

I regret that I do not know the author's name. Have tried 
to locate him, but so far have failed. Heard this sung in 
Bluff City, Utah, by an old puncher named Carter.


At midnight, when the cattle are sleeping,
On my saddle I pillow my head,
And up at the heavens lie peeping
From out of my cold grassy bed;--
Often and often I wondered,
At night when lying alone,
If every bright star up yonder
Is a big peopled world like our own.

Are they worlds with their ranges and ranches?
Do they ring with rough rider refrains?
Do the cowboys scrap there with Comanches
And other Red Men of the plains?
Are the hills covered over with cattle
In those mystic worlds far, far away?
Do the ranch-houses ring with the prattle
Of sweet little children at play?

At night, in the bright starts up yonder,
Do the cowboys lie down to their rest?
Do they gaze at this old world and wonder
If rough riders dash over its breast?
Do they list to the wolves in the canyons?
Do they watch the night owl in its flight,
With their horses their only companions
While guarding the herd through the night?

Sometimes, when a bright start is twinkling
Like a diamond set in the sky,
I find myself lying and thinking,
It may be God's heaven is nigh.
I wonder if there I shall meet her,
My mother whom God took away;
If in the star-heavens I'll greet her
At the round-up that's on the Last Day.

In the east the great daylight is breaking,
And into my saddle I spring;
The cattle from sleep are awakening,
The heaven-thoughts from me take wing;
The eyes of my broncho are flashing,
Impatient he pulls at the reins,
And off round the herd I go dashing,
A reckless cowboy of the plains.

traditional, from Songs of the Cowboys, 1921

This song has been recorded in recent times by the late Buck Ramsey on Hittin' The Trail (hear a clip here at the Smithsonian Global Sound site), by Don Edwards on his Saddle Songs II,  Last of the Troubadours. It is also on Carl T. Sprague's Cowtrails, Longhorns & Tight Saddles: Cowboy Songs 1925-1929 and was sung by Rex Allen in the 1950 movie, Hills of Oklahoma.


 

The Gol-Darned Wheel

Mailed me by a friend from Marfa, Texas, who heard it sung by a cow-puncher named Hudspeth.

I can take the wildest bronco in the tough old woolly West;
I can ride him, I can break him, let him do his level best;
I can handle any cattle who ever wore a coat of hair,
And I've had a lively russle with a tarnal grizzly bear;
I can rope and throw the longhorn of the wildest Texas brand,
And in Indian disagreements I can play a leading hand;
But at last I got my master, and he surely made me squeal
When the boys got me a-straddle of that gol-darned wheel.

It was at the Eagle Ranch, on the Brazos, 
When I first found that darned contrivance that upset me in the dust.
A tenderfoot had brought it; he was wheeling all the way
From the sunrise end of freedom out to San Francisco Bay.
He tied up at the ranch for to get outside a meal,
Never thinkin' we would monkey with his gol-darned wheel

Arizona Jim begun it when he said to Jack McGill,
There was fellows forced to limit braggin' on their ridin' skill;
And he'd venture the admission the same fellow that he meant
Was a very handy critter far as ridin' broncos went;
But he would find that he was buckin' 'gainst a different kind of deal
If he threw his leather leggins 'gainst a gol-darned wheel.

Such a slam against my talent made me hotter than a mink,
And I swore that I would ride him for amusement or for chink.
And it was nothin' but a plaything for the kids and such about,
And they'd have their ideas shattered if they'd lead the critter out.
They held it while I mounted and gave the word to go;
The shove they gave to start me warn't unreasonably slow.
But I never spilled a cuss-word and I never spilled a squeal--
I was buildin' reputation on that gol-darned wheel.

Holy Moses and the Prophets, how we split the Texas air,
And the wind it made whip-crackers of my same old canthy hair,
And sorta comprehended as down the hill we went
There was bound to be a smash-up that I could n't well prevent.
Oh, how them punchers bawled, "Stay with her, Uncle Bill!
Stick your spurs in her, you sucker! Turn her muzzle up the hill!"
But I never made an answer; I just let the cusses squeal,
I was buildin' reputation on that gol-darned wheel.

The grade was mighty slopin' from the ranch down to the creek,
And I went a-galliflutin' like a crazy lightnin' streak--
Went whizzin' and a-dartin' first this way and then that,
The darned contrivance sort o' wobbling like the flyin' of a bat.
I pulled upon the handles, but I could n't check it up,
And I yanked and sawed and hollowed but the darned thing would n't stop.
Then a sort of a thinker in my brain began to steal,
That the devil held a mortgage on that gol-darned wheel.

I've sort o' dim and hazy remembrance of the stop,
With the world a-goin' 'round and the stars all tangled up;
Then there came an intermission that lasted till I found
I was lyin' at the ranch with the boys all gathered round,
And a doctor was sewin' on the skin where it was ripped,
And old Arizona whispered, "Well, old boy, I guess you're whipped."
And I told him I was busted from sombrero down to heel,
And he grinned and said, "You ought to see that gol-darned wheel."

traditional, from Songs of the Cowboys, 1921

One word used the poem had a lot of people puzzled:

Holy Moses and the Prophets, how we split the Texas air,
And the wind it made whip-crackers of my same old canthy hair

When the original was discovered in 2014 (see below), the lines were shown as:

Holy Moses and the prophets, how we split the Texas air,
The breezes made whip crackers o' my somewhat lengthy hair
 

In Cowboy Songs and other Frontier Ballads, by John A. Lomax and Alan Lomax, the poem is introduced, "Once popular along the Rio Grande. The unfortunate bicycle was of the very tall front-wheel variety, which preceded the safety type. W. Bogel, a student and the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas, first sang this song to me in 1908."

At the Western Folklife Center site, you can hear the late Sunny Hancock's recitation of "The Gol-Darn Wheel," from a recording made at the Western Folklife Center's first Cowboy Poetry Gathering in 1985. 

"The Gol-Darn Wheel" is recorded as a song by the Bunkhouse Orchestra, in a recording that accompanies the book, Old-Time Cowboy Songs, edited by Hal Cannon. The book notes the source for its version, "This song was sung by Buck Lee on a 1946 recording by folklorists Austin and Alta Fife."

Glenn Ohrlin has recorded the song, and in his book, The Hell Bound Train, he calls it "a fine example of the 'funny' cowboy song." He writes, "In Texas Cowboys, Dane Coolidge tells of getting cowboy Jess Fears to write 'The Gol-Darned Wheel' down for him in Arizona in 1909. Coolidge wrote further, 'This was hot stuff and the boys all wanted a copy of it. They were like housewives exchanging recipes, only a cowboy hates to write.'"

See two other poems with bicycle themes, A.B. "Banjo" Paterson's "Mulga Bill's Bicycle" and John Wallace "Captain Jack" Crawford's Broncho vs. Bicycle.

    

This 1893 poster advertises "a race between S. F. Cody on horseback and French cycling champion, Meyer of Dieppe." Find more about it at the Library of Congress: www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2008681203

Wild West showman and aviation pioneer S.F. Cody (1867–1913) is shown in a 1909 photo. He took his name (and obviously his resemblance) from Buffalo Bill Cody and claimed to have been a cowboy. More on the photo here: www.loc.gov/pictures/item/ggb2004003572. More on Cody at www.sfcody.org.uk and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Franklin_Cody.

The race in the poster was mentioned in a
New York Times article, "Cyclists against horsemen," on December 20, 1893. The article tells about a previous 12-hour race that Cody won and says about this later two-day, six-hour race, that "Capt. Cody was allowed six horses ... [he] once more delighted the many spectators ... by his splendid horsemanship." He did not win the race.


Some recent scholarship has established that James Barton Adams (1843-1918) was the author of "The Gol-Darn Wheel."

Gary Stanton, Chair of the Department of Historic Preservation at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia tells about his research in a February, 2014 blog post. He writes, in part, "...Using the "Chronicling Historic America" site, searching thousands of newspapers across the United States, looking for hits on "Cowboy" and "Wheel" brought up the front page of the St. Johns' Herald 14 March 1896, printing the stanzas to "The Cowboy and the Wheel." But the tag line was "Gol Darned Wheel." Just below the title was a bracketed source "[Recreation]" but no author. Well, Recreation, was the name of a sporting magazine published by G. O. Shields, as the publication of the American Canoeist's Association in 1896, in the February 1896 issue he published, "The Cowboy and the Wheel," by James B Adams.  James B. Adams, better known as a poet and "paragrapher" for the Denver Post under his full name, James Barton Adams, is one of the well-known scribbler's of Cowboy poetry and contributed a number of evergreens, particularly the "High-Toned Dance."

Find the original poem and information about James Barton Adams, including photos here, along with his poem, "Bill's in Trouble."


[Thanks to David Stanley for pointing us to this information]

 


 

The Texas Cowboy

Come all you Texas cow-boys
   And warning take of me
Don't go out in Montana
   For wealth or liberty
But stay home here in Texas
   Where they work the year around
And where you'll not get consumption
   From sleeping on the ground.

Montana is too cold for me,
   And the winters are too long
Before the round-ups have begun,
   Your money is all gone.
For in Montana the boys get work
   But six months in a year
And they charge for things three prices
   In that land so bleak and drear.

This this old hen-skin bedding,
   'Twas nor enough to shield my form
For I almost freeze to death, 
   Whene'er there comes a storm.
I've an outfit on the Musselshell,
   Which I expect I'll never see,
Unless by chance I'm sent
   To represent this A R and P T.

All along these bad lands,
   And down upon the dry
Where the canons have no bottoms
   And the mountains reach the sky.
Your chuck is bread and bacon
   And coffee black as ink
And hard old alkali water
   That's scarcely fit to drink.

They'll wake you in the morning
   Before the break of day
And send you out on circle,
   Full twenty miles away.
With a "Tenderfoot" to lead you
   Who never knows the way
You're pegging in the best of luck
   If you get two meals a day.

I've been over in Colorado
   And down upon the Platte
Where the cow-boys work in pastures
   And the cattle are all fat.
Where they ride silver mounted saddles
   And spurs and leggin's too
And their horses are all Normans
   And only fit to plow.

Yes, I've traveled lots of country,
     Arizona's hills of sand
Down through the Indian Nation
     Plum to the Rio Grande.
Montana is the bad-land
     The worst I've ever seen
Where the cow-boys are all tenderfeet
     And the dogies are all lean.


1908

 

The Texas Cowboy

An old song, credited to Al Pease of Round Rock, Texas. 
I first heard it sung by J. Latham at La Luz, New Mexico.

O, I am a Texas cowboy,
Far away from home;
If ever I get back to Texas
I never more will roam.

Montana is too cold for me
And the winters are too long
Before the round-ups do begin,
Our money is all gone.

Take this old hen-skin bedding,
Too thin to keep me warm;
I nearly freeze to death, my boys,
Whenever there's a storm.

And take this old "Tarpoleon"
Too thin to shield my frame--
I got it down in New Mexico
A-dealin' a Monte game.

Now to win these fancy leggins
I'll have enough to do
They cost me twenty dollars
The day that they were new.

I have an outfit on the Musselshell,
But that I'll never see,
Unless I get sent to represent
The circle or D. T.

I've worked up  in Nebraska
Where the grass grows ten feet high,
And the cattle are such rustlers
That they seldom ever die;

I've worked up in the sand hills,
 and down upon the Platte,
Where the cowboys are good fellows
And the cattle always fat;

I've traveled lots of country,--
Nebraska's hills of sand,
Down through the Indian Nation,
And up the Rio Grande;--

But the Bad lands of Montana
Are the worst I've ever seen
The cowboys are all tenderfeet,
And the dogies are all lean.

If you want to see some bad lands,
Go over on the Dry;
You will bog down in the coulees
Where the mountains reach the sky.

A tenderfoot to lead you
Who never knows the way;
You are playing in the best of luck
If you eat more than once a day.

Your grub is bread and bacon,
And coffee black as ink;
The water so full of alkali
It is hardly fit to drink.

They will wake you in the morning,
Before the break of day
And send you on a circle
A hundred miles away.

All along the Yellowstone
't is cold the year around,
You will surely get consumption
By sleeping on the ground.

Work in Montana
Is six months in a year;
When all your bills are settled,
There is nothing left for beer.

Work down in Texas
Is all the year around;
You will never get consumption
By sleeping on the ground.

Come, all you Texas cowboys,
And warning take from me,
And do not go to Montana
To spend your money free.

But stay at home in Texas,
Where work lasts the year around;
And you will catch consumption
By sleeping on the ground.

1921



In the 1966 Songs of the Cowboys, edited by Austin E. and Alta S. Fife, they write, "Thorp's 1908 text is unified, vigorous, and satisfying. It is a pity that in 1921 he felt constrained to abandon it for the longer but synthetic text that Lomax fabricated, using stanzas from three or four of several texts that he had encountered before 1910."  Above are both of Thorp's versions.

In Jim Bob Tinsley's He Was Singin' This Song (1981), he notes "'The Texas Cow Boy' appeared as a poem on March 31, 1888, in the Glendive Independent, a Montana newspaper. The author was identified only by the initials M. S. W. and the sobriquet "Redwater poet," presumably after the Redwater River, which drained portions of the Montana range of the XIT. Who later added music to the poem is not on record...'The Texas Cowboy' is one of several songs in an 1897 collection by "Rattlesnake King" Clark Stanley, who sold snake oil liniment in medicine show harangues. His is probably the first attempt to assemble a group of cowboy songs for publication." This early version is included in Tinsley's book.

In Lomax' Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads (1938), he notes that the tune is " same as 'The Jolly Cowboy."

Rex Rideout sings Thorp's earlier version of "The Texas Cowboy" on the CD that accompanies Jack Thorp's Songs of the Cowboys (Museum of New Mexico Press, 2005). See our feature about that book and CD here.

Glenn Ohrlin sings another variation on his CD, A Cowboy's Life. In the liner notes, he writes, "...it paints a good picture with the sandhills of Nebraska and the badlands of Montana. All cattle country. Most professional cowboys, ranch and rodeo hands both, know North America and what it contains better than most folks."


 

The Cowboy's Life
Heard this sung at a little round-up at Seven Lakes, New Mexico, by a puncher named Spence.

The bawl of a steer
To a cowboy's ear
Is music of sweetest strain;
And the yelping notes
Of the gray coyotes
To him are a glad refrain.

And his jolly songs
Speed him along
As he thinks of the little gal
With golden hair
Who is waiting there
At the bars of the home corral.

For a kingly crown
In the noisy town
His saddle he would n't change;
No life so free
As the life we see
'Way out on the Yaso range.

His eyes are bright
And his heart as light
As the smoke of his cigarette;
There's never a care
For his soul to bear,
No trouble to make him fret.

The rapid beat
Of his bronco's feet
On the sod as he speeds along,
Keeps living time
To the ringing rhyme
Of his rollicking cowboy's song.

Hike it, cowboys,
For the range away
On the back of a bronc of steel,
With a careless flirt
Of the raw-hide quirt
And the dig of a roweled heel.

The winds may blow
And the thunder growl
Or the breeze may safely moan;
A cowboy's life
Is a royal life,
His saddle his kingly throne.

Saddle up, boys,
For the work is play
When love's in the cowboy's eyes,
When his heart is light
As the clouds of white
That swim in the summer skies.

traditional, from Songs of the Cowboys, 1921

 

  

 

 

The first lines of the piece have been quoted often and have appeared on postcards (see above) and such. One postcard attributes the piece to James Barton Adams and a work of his we haven't located, "The Trail" (it does not appear in Adams' 1889 collection of poems, Breezy Western Verse). Read more about Adams here. Thorp, in another entry in his 1921 Songs of the Cowboys, includes this very similar, but expanded piece, attributed to Adams:

A Song of the Range
By James Barton Adams
Sent me by Miss Nell Benson

The bawl of a steer to a cowboy's ear is music of sweetest strain;
And the yelling notes of the gray coyotes to him are a glad refrain;
The rapid beat of his bronco's feet on the sod as he speeds along,
Keeps 'livening time to the ringing rhyme of his rollicking cowboy's song.

His eyes are bright and his heart is light as the smoke of his cigarette,
There's never a care for his soul to bear, no troubles to make him fret.
For a kingly crown in the noisy town his saddle he would not change--
No life so free as the life we see 'way out on the cattle range.

Hi-lo!  Hi-lay!
To the range away,
On the deck of a bronc of steel
With a careless flirt
Of a rawhide quirt
And a dig of the roweled heel.
The winds may howl,
And the thunder growl,
Or the breeze may softly moan;
The rider's life
Is the life for me,
The saddle a kingly throne.

At the long day's close he and his bronco throws with the bunch in the hoss corral,
And a light he spies in the bright blue eyes of his welcoming rancher gal;
'T is a light that tells of the love that dwells in the soul of his little dear,
And a kiss he slips to her waiting lips when no one is watching near.

His glad thoughts stray to the coming day when away to the town they'll ride,
And the nuptial brand by the parson's hand will be placed on his bonnie bride,
And they'll gallop back to the old home shack in the life that is new and strange--
The rider bold and the girl of gold, the queen of the cattle range.

Hi-lo!  Hi-lay!
For the work is play
When love's in the cowboy's eyes,
When his heart is light
As the clouds of white
That swim in the summer skies;
And his jolly song 
Speeds the hours along
As he thinks of that little gal
With the golden hair
Who'll be waiting there
At the gate of the home corral.
Hi-lo!  Hi-lay!
For the work is play
When love's in the cowboy's eyes,
When his heart is light
As the clouds of white
That swim in the summer skies;
And his jolly song 
Speeds the hours along
As he thinks of that little gal
With the golden hair
Who'll be waiting there
At the gate of the home corral.

traditional, from Songs of the Cowboys, 1921

 


 

The Pecos Stream

A cowboys life is a weary dreary life
Some people think it free from all care
Its rounding up cattle from morning to night
On the lone prairie so drear

When the spring work comes in then our troubles begin
The weather being fierce and cold
We get almost froze with the water on our clothes
And the cattle we can scarcely hold.

Just about four o'clock the cook will holler out
"Roll our boys its almost day"
Through his broken slumbers the puncher he will ask
Has the short summer night passed away.

"Saddle up," "Saddle Up," the boss will holler out
When we're camped by the Pecos stream
Where the wolves and the owls with their terrifying howls
Disturb us in our midnight dreams.

Once I loved to roam but now I stay at home
All you punchers take my advice
Sell your bridle and your saddle quit your roaming and travels
And tie on to a cross eyed wife.

from Jack Thorp's 1908 Songs of the Cowboys (as it was printed, with a minimum of punctuation and no apostrophes on "cowboy's" or "it's").

 

This tune has also been called "The Dreary, Dreary Life" (see the piece below) and by other names. 

In the Songs of the Cowboys, by N. Howard ("Jack") Thorp, with Variants, Commentary, Notes, and Lexicon by Austin E. and Alta S. Fife they write, 

"Lomax, in preparing his own first two editions, was perplexed by the significant variation shown in the fifteen to twenty separate texts he had assembled.  In fact, he made two separate songs-- "The Kansas Line" and "The Dreary, Dreary Life"--apparently by combining stanzas from his various sources in a more or less random manner... In 1908 Thorp gave five of the most usual stanzas [in "The Pecos Stream"]. In 1921 he offered eight by combining some of Lomax's text with his own [in "The Dreary, Dreary Life"]."  

The Fifes devote a chapter to the song, and, as Don Edwards does in his Classic Cowboy Songs book, they note that the song probably came from "The Shantyman's Life," a nineteenth century Maine lumberman's song.

Don Edwards sings a version of "A Cowboy's Life" on his Best of Don Edwards CD and sings "The Pecos Stream" on his Saddle Songs CD. Glenn Ohrlin sings "A Cowboy's Life" on his CD, A Cowboy's Life.

 

The Dreary, Dreary Life

An old song, a jumble of several. Authorship unknown. I first heard it at Kingston, New Mexico, sung by a man named Sam Jackson.

A cowboy's life is a dreary, dreary life,
Some say it's free from care;
Rounding up the cattle from morning till night
On the bald prairie so bare.

Just about four o'clock old cook will holler out,
"Roll out, boys, it's almost day."
Through his broken slumbers the puncher he will ask,
Has the short summer night passed away?

The cowboy's life is a dreary, dreary life,
He's driven through the heat and cold;
While the rich man's a-sleeping on his velvet couch,
Dreaming of his silver and gold.

When the spring work sets in, then our troubles will begin,
The weather being fierce and cold;'
We're almost froze, with the water on our clothes,
And the cattle we can scarcely hold.

The cowboy's life is a dreary, weary one,
He works all day to the setting of the sun;
And then his day's work is not done,
For there's his night guard to go on.

"Saddle up! Saddle Up!" the boss will holler out,
When camped down by the Pecos Stream,
Where the wolves and the owls with their terrifying howls
Will disturb us in our midnight dream.

You are speaking of your farms, you are speaking of your charms,
You are speaking of your silver and gold;
But a cowboy's life is a dreary, dreary life,
He's driven through the heat and cold.

Once I loved to roam, but now I stay at home:
All you punchers take my advice;
Sell your bridle and your saddle, quit your roaming and travels,
And tie on to a cross-eyed wife.

from Jack Thorp's 1921 Songs of the Cowboys


 

  The Tenderfoot

I thought one spring, just for fun,
I'd see how cow-punching was done;
And when the round-ups had begun
I tackled the cattle-king.
Says he, " My foreman is in town,
He's at the plaza, his name is Brown;
If you'll see him he'll take you down."
Says I, "That's just the thing."

We started for the ranch next day;
Brown augured me most all the way.
He said that cow-punching was child play,
That it was no work at all,—
That all you had to do was ride,
'T was only drifting with the tide;
Oh, how that old cow-puncher lied—
He certainly had his gall.

He put me in charge of a cavyard,
And told me not to work too hard,
That all I had to do was guard
The horses from getting away;
I had one hundred and sixty head,
I sometimes wished that I was dead;
When one got away, Brown's head turned red,
And there was hell to pay.

Straight to the bushes they would take,
As if they were running for a stake,—
I've often wished their neck they 'd break,
But they would never fall.
Sometimes I could not head them at all,
Sometimes my horse would catch a fall,
And I'd shoot on like a cannon ball
Till the earth came in my way.

They saddled me up an old gray hack
With two set-fasts on his back;
They padded him down with a gunny sack
And used my bedding all.
When I got on he quit the ground,
Went up in the air and turned around,
And I came down and hit the ground,—
It was an awful fall.

They picked me up and carried me in
And rubbed me down with an old stake-pin.
"That's the way they all begin;
You're doing well," says Brown.
"And in the morning, if you don't die,
I'll give you another horse to try."
"Oh, say, can't I walk?" says I.
Says he, "Yes—back to town."

I've traveled up and I've traveled down,
I've traveled this country round and round,
I've lived in city and I've lived in town,
But I've got this much to say:
Before you try cow-punching, kiss your wife,
Take a heavy insurance on your life,
Then cut your throat with a barlow knife, —
For it's easier done that way.

from Jack Thorp's 1921 Songs of the Cowboys

The words to "The Tenderfoot" have been sung and recorded by many, and the song has had a number of names. Glenn Ohrlin writes in his book 1973 book, The Hell-Bound Train:

Another song from my earliest working days is "Cowboy's Life" (also known as "The Tenderfoot" and "The Horse Wrangler")...Early radio singer John White dug up the dope on this song. The verses first appeared as a poem entitled "D2 Horse Wrangler" in a livestock journal printed in Miles City, Montana. It was written by cowboy poet D. J. O'Malley....

John White's 1975 book, Git Along, Little Dogies, has details about the poem and comments on the words and references in the poem. As to its origin, he writes, in part:

...On February 3, 1894, the Stock Grower's Journal published an extremely humorous yarn called "The 'D2' Horse Wrangler"...in the Journal the verses are signed R. J. Stovall. O'Malley told me that he himself wrote them but because the subject wanted to surprise his wife by blossoming out as a poet, he was allowed to sign his name—for a consideration—a five dollar hat, which was the most O'Malley ever received for a set of verses....

White tells the story in his 1934 introduction to D. J. O'Malley's Reminiscences and Poems of Early Montana and the Cattle Range, which is included in the 2000 book from Cowboy Miner Productions, Cowboy Poetry: Classic Rhymes and Prose by D. J. O'Malley, The N Bar N Kid White and posted here in our feature about the contemporary book and D. J. O'Malley.

White's book also includes a great vintage photo of D. J. O'Malley in his baseball uniform, where he played as "catcher on the Miles City Nine" from 1889-1893. White notes that the "D2 Wrangler" was set to the tune of "The Day I Played Base Ball" and includes the first stanza.

You can see O'Malley's "D2 Wrangler" here.


Night-Herding Song

This is part of an old song, slightly changed. I lost the other verses when one of my ranch
buildings burned down at Palma, New Mexico, some years ago.

Oh, slow up, dogies, quit your roving round,
You have wandered and tramped all over the ground;
Oh, graze along, dogies, and feed kinda slow,
And don't forever be on the go,—
Oh, move slow, dogies, move slow.

I have circle-herded, trail-herded, night-herded, and cross-herded, too,
But to keep you together that's what I can't do;
My horse is leg-weary and I'm awful tired,
But if you get away I'm sure to get fired,—
Bunch up, little dogies, bunch up.

Oh, say, little dogies, when are you goin' to lay down
And quit this forever siftin' around?
My limbs are weary, my seat is sore;
Oh, lay down, dogies, like you've laid before,—
Lay down, little dogies, lay down.

Oh, lay still, dogies, since you have laid down,
Stretch away out on the big open ground;
Snore loud, little dogies, and drown the wild sound
That will all go away when the day rolls round,—
Lay still, little dogies, lay still.

from Jack Thorp's 1921 Songs of the Cowboys

"Night-Herding Song" has been recorded by many, including Woodie Guthrie, Ramblin' Jack Elliot, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Sam Hinton, Glenn Ohrlnn, Skip Gorman, Don Edwards, and perhaps most notably, Harry Stephens ( (1888-1965) who claimed authorship.

At the Western Folklife Center site here, you can listen to Harry Stephens singing the song and commenting on how the song came about. The recording is from Cowboy Songs, Ballads & Cattle Calls From Texas, a collection of interviews and songs collected by John A. Lomax in the 1930s and 1940s. The site also includes Henry Stephens' words, a variation of Thorp's version. Many other variations exist.

In his book Cowboy Songs, John Lomax notates the song, starting with a quote from Harry Stephens "'I made up this song while I was night-herding for the Wylie Company, Yellowstone Park.' One morning in the spring of 1909 Harry leaned over the gate of my home on the campus of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas and called to me: 'Professor, I come to say good-bye. Grass is a-rising and I've got to move on.' Though afterwards he has often written to me, I have never seen him since.  He has left behind him a beautiful 'Night-Herding' song."

But they did meet again, and John I. White, in his 1975 book, Git Along Little Dogies, includes a number of interesting pages about the song and information about that meeting, along with photos of Harry Stephens. White comments, "In his youth Harry was, indeed, as restless as the dogies he wrote about. While still in his teens he left his birthplace, Denison, Texas, to roam Arizona and New Mexico, learning the cowboy's trade—breaking broncos, branding calves at the spring roundups, in the fall collecting beef cattle for shipping, taking his turn at night-herding. But to please his mother, he came back to Texas at the end of the summer of 1908 enrolled at the Texas A& M College at Bryan. He brought along his saddle trimmed with silver, his bridle, his spurs, and other cowboy gear, which he hung on the walls of his room. He slept in a bedroll instead of a bed. He often wore his boots and ten-gallon hat to class." White goes on to tell how Lomax and Stephens met again in the 1940s and how the recording now on Cowboy Songs, Ballads & Cattle Calls From Texas came about.

(The Cowboy Songs, Ballads & Cattle Calls From Texas CD is available here from the Library of Congress Archive of Folk Culture).

 


 

Thorp's version

The Cowboy's Dream
Given me by Wait Roberts, Double Diamond Ranch,
 White Mountains, 1898. Authorship ascribed to
father of Captain Roberts, of the Texas Rangers.

Last night, as I lay on the prairie,
And looked at the stars in the sky,
I wondered if ever a cowboy
Would drift to that sweet by and by.

I hear there's to be a grand round-up
Where cowboys with others must stand,
To be cut out by the riders of judgment
Who are posted and know all the brands.

The trail to that great mystic region
Is narrow and dim, so they say;
While the one that leads down to perdition
Is posted and blazed all the way.

Whose fault is it, then, that so many
Go astray, on this wild range fail,
Who might have been rich and had plenty
Had they known of the dim, narrow trail?

I wonder if at the last day some cowboy
Unbranded and unclaimed should stand,
Would he be mavericked by those riders of judgment
Who are posted and know all the brands?

I wonder if ever a cowboy
Stood ready for that Judgment Day,
And could say to the Boss of the Riders,
"I'm ready, come, drive me away"?

For they, like the cows that are locoed,
Stampede at the sight of a hand,
Are dragged with a rope to the round-up,
Or get marked with some crooked man's brand.

And I'm scared that I'll be a stray yearling,
A maverick, unbranded on high,
And get cut in the bunch with the "rusties"
When the Boss of the Riders goes by.

For they tell of another big owner
Who's ne'er overstocked, so they say,
But who always makes room for the sinner
Who drifts from the straight, narrow way.

They say he will never forget you,
That he knows every action and look;
So for safety you'd better get branded,
Have your name in the great Tally Book.

My wish for all cowboys is this:
That we may meet at that grand final sale;
Be cut out by the riders of judgment
And shoved up the dim, narrow trail.

from Thorp, Songs of the Cowboys
 

Lomax' version

The Cowboy's Dream

Last night as I lay on the prairie,
And looked at the stars in the sky,
I wondered if ever a cowboy
Would drift to that sweet by-and-by.

Roll on, roll on;
Roll on, little dogies, roll on
Roll on, roll on, roll on;
Roll on, little dogies, roll on.

The road to that bright, happy region
Is a dim, narrow trail, so they say;
But the broad one that leads to perdition
Is posted and blazed all the way.

Oh, bring back, bring back,
Bring back my nighthorse to me.
Oh, bring back, bring back,
Bring back by nighthorse to me.

They say there will be a great round-up,
And cowboys, like dogies, will stand,
To be marked by the Riders of Judgment
Who are posted and know every brand.

I know there's many a stray cowboy
Who'll be lost at the great final sale,
When he might have gone in the green pastures
Had he known of the dim narrow trail.*

I wonder if ever a cowboy
Stood ready for that Judgment Day,
And could say to the Boss of the Riders,
"I'm ready, come drive me away."

For they, like the cows that are locoed,
Stampede at the sight of a hand,
Are dragged with a rope to the round-up,
Or get marked with some crooked man's brand.

And I'm scared that I'll be a stray yearling,—
A maverick, unbranded on high,—
And get cut in the bunch with the "rusties "
When the Boss of the Riders goes by.

I often look upward and wonder
If the green fields will seem half so fair,
If any the wrong trail have taken
And will fail to be over there.

No maverick or slick will be tallied
In that great book of life in his home,
For he knows all the brands and the earmarks
That down through the ages have come.

But along with the strays and the sleepers,
The tailings must turn from the gate'
No road brand to give them admission,
But that awful sad cry, "Too late!"

For they tell of another big owner
Who's ne'er overstocked, so they say,
But who always makes room for the sinner
Who drifts from the strait narrow way.

They say he will never forget you,
That he knows every action and look;
So, for safety, you'd better get branded,
Have your name in his big Tally Book,

To be shipped to that bright mystic region,
Over there in green pastures to lie,
And be led by the crystal still waters
To the home in the sweet by-and-by.

from Lomax, Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads, 1937 edition

* A parallel stanza:

Oh, they say that the boss is a-coming,
To rope and to brand and earmark,
And will take all the cuts back to the Judgment
To be registered in his great Tally Book.

Lomax also includes some definitions:

By "cuts" the cowboy refers to cattle not suitable for driving up the trail, or not up to the standard of their class. "Maverick" and "slicks" are unbranded cattle. "Slicks" are young cattle lightly branded by thieves who plan to come back later and steal them. [Rustie's are] underdeveloped, and therefore not acceptable, cattle; "sorry dogies."

 

 

 

Who wrote "The Cowboy's Dream"? Austin and Alta Fife comment in their 1966 book, Songs of the Cowboys, "So what are the facts? Only these: (a) More than one cowboy poet has had a hand in the creation of this classic among night-herding songs, and (b) Several more have tried to crown themselves with the glory of its creation. Quien sabe?"

The Fifes present stories of some who claim authorship. In a chapter, "Grand Round-up," they suggest that "we may be dealing here with two songs," the one known as "The Cowboy's Dream" which begins "Last night as I lay on the prairie..." and the other, "The Great Roundup," which usually begins "When I think of the last great roundup ..." They mention that Jack Thorp does not credit the five stanzas he includes in his 1908 edition of Songs of the Cowboys, under the name "Grand Round-up," and that in his 1921 edition of Songs of the Cowboys, he adds new and expanded text and calls it "The Cowboy's Dream," and credits it to "the father of Captain Dan W. Roberts, of the Texas Rangers." Thorp includes another song in the 1921 edition, "The Great Round-Up." They note that when Captain Roberts was interviewed by J. Frank Dobie in 1926, he said he had no knowledge of his father having written the song.

Others mentioned as authors by the Fifes are J. H. Nation, a Texas cattleman; cowboy J. W. Benham and writer Will C. Barnes; D. J. O'Malley, who credits cowboy Tom Phelps with the first stanzas; Prescott, Arizona Reverend C. A. Clark; and Charlie Hart (sometimes spelled "Charley" Hart). Footnotes credit the sources of the various claims.

John I. White, in his 1975 book, Git Along Little Dogies, devotes a chapter to "Will Barnes and 'The Cowboy's Sweet By and By,'" which tells of Barnes' and others' publication of the song. He quotes Sharlot Hall's 1908 article "Songs of the Old Cattle Trails," in Out West magazine, in which she acknowledges Will Barnes, but adds, "every night-herding puncher from the Sonora line to the San Francisco Mountains had added a verse to suit himself."

In a chapter by White, "A Montana Cowboy Poetry, in Cowboy Poets and Cowboy Poetry, edited by David Stanley and Elaine Thatcher (2000), White writes about his correspondence with D. J. O'Malley and about O'Malley's claim to the song.

In John Lomax' Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads, first published in 1910, he writes that "['The Cowboy's Dream'] was a favorite of the Texas evangelist, Rev. Abe Mulkey, when urging the cowboys to 'come up to the mourner's bench' at the frontier camp meetings. I. P. Skinner of Athens, Texas, surmises: 'Charley Hart of Carrolton, Miss., was under the necessity of living (incognito) on the Black Ranch in Clay County, Texas, soon after the war. He found surcease of sorrow in writing, and composed this song, I think in 1873, with the title 'Drift to That Sweet By-and-By.'"



   

Thorp's version

John Garner's Trail Herd 
Written by one of the waggoners at Fort Worth, Texas, many
years ago. I first heard it sung in the Spearfish Valley, Dakota.

Come all you old-timers and listen to my song;
I'll make it short as possible and I'll not keep you long;
I'll relate to you about the time you all remember well
When we with old Joe Garner drove a beef herd up the trail.

When we left the ranch it was early in the spring,
We had as good a corporal as ever rope did swing,
Good hands and good horses, good outfit through and through,—
We went well equipped, we were a jolly crew.

We had no little herdtwo thousand head or more
And some as wild brush beeves as you ever saw before.
We swung to them all the way and sometimes by the tail,
Oh, you know we had a circus as we all went up the trail.

Till we reached the open plains everything went well,
And then them cattle turned in and dealt us merry hell.
They stampeded every night that came and did it without fail,
Oh, you know we had a circus as we all went up the trail.

We would round them up at morning and the boss would make a count,
And say, "Look here, old punchers, we are out quite an amount;
You must make all losses good and do it without fail,
Or you will never get another job of driving up the trail."

When we reached Red River we gave the Inspector the dodge.
He swore by God Almighty in jail old Joe should lodge.
We told him if he'd taken our boss and had him locked in jail,
We would shore get his scalp as we all came down the trail.

When we reached the Reservation, how squirmish we did feel,
Although we had tried old Garner and knew him true as steel.
And if we would follow him and do as he said to,
That old bald-headed cow-thief would surely take us through.

When we reached Dodge City we drew our four months' pay.
Times was better then, boys, than they are today.
The way we drank and gambled and threw the girls around,
"Say, a crowd of Texas cowboys has come to take our town."

The cowboy sees many hardships although he takes them well;
The fun we had upon that trip no human tongue can tell.
The cowboy's life is a dreary life, though his mind it is no load,
And he always spends his money like he found it in the road.

If ever you meet old Garner, you must meet him on the square,
For he is the biggest cow-thief that ever tramped out there.
But if you want to hear him roar and spin a lively tale,
Just ask him about the time we all went up the trail.

 

Lomax' version

John Garner's Trail Herd 

Come all you old timers and listen to my song;
I'll make it short as possible and I'll not keep you long;
I'll relate to you about the time you all remember well
When we, with old Joe Garner, drove a beef herd up the trail.

When we left the ranch it was early in the spring,
We had as good a corporal as ever rope did swing,
Good hands and good horses, good outfit through and through,
We went well equipped, we were a jolly crew.

We had no little herd--two thousand head or more
And some as wild a brush beeves as you ever saw before.
We swung to them all the way and sometimes by the tail,
Oh, you know we had a circus as we all went up the trail.

All things went on well till we reached the open ground,
And then them cattle turned in and they gave us merry hell.
They stampeded every night that came and did it without fail,
Oh, you know we had a circus as we all went up the trail.

We would round them up at morning and the boss would make a count,
And say, "Look here, old punchers, we are out quite an amount;
You must make all losses good and do it without fail
Or you will never get another job of driving up the trail."

When we reached Red River we gave the Inspector the dodge.
He swore by God Almighty, in jail old John should lodge.
We told him if he'd taken our boss and had him locked in jail,
We would shore get his scalp as we all came down the trail.

When we reached the Reservation, how squirmish we did feel,
Although we had tried old Garner and knew him true as steel.
And if we would follow him and do as he said do,
That old bald-headed cow-thief would surely take us through.

When we reached Dodge City we drew our four months' pay.
Times was better then, boys, that was a better day.
The way we drank and gambled and threw the girls around,
"Say, a crowd of Texas cowboys has come to take our town."

The cowboy sees many hardships although he takes them well;
The fun we had upon that trip, no human tongue can tell.
The cowboy's life is a dreary life, though his mind it is no load,
And he always spends his money like he found it in the road.

If ever you meet old Garner, you must meet him on the square,
For he is the biggest cow-thief that ever tramped out there.
But if you want to hear him roar and spin a lively tale,
Just ask him about the time we all went up the trail.



 

 

"John Garner's Trail Herd" appears above on the left as it is included in Jack Thorp's 1921 edition of Songs of the Cowboys and on the right as it is in the 1929 edition of John A. Lomax' Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads; the differences are minor.

One of the most familiar recordings of "John Garner's Trail Herd" is by Slim Critchlow (c.1908-1969) on his Cowboy Songs: Crooked Trail to Holbrook. Critchlow—a cowboy, deputy sheriff, National Park ranger, radio host, and friend of John A. Lomax—began performing in the 1930s and was a part of the folk music revival in the 1950s and 1960s. You can listen to Slim Critchlow in two segments on the Ranch Rhymes podcasts from The Western Folklife Center.

In her classic book, Ten Thousand Goddam Cattle; A History of the American Cowboy in Song, Story and Verse, Katie Lee writes about Sam Critchlow, who became her friend, "...a sweeter-voiced cowboy never wiggled a tonsil. He has the sort of voice I'm sure Easterners thought all cowboys had—a lyrical, night-herding, true-note, storytelling voice—plus the manner to go with it: soft-spoken, open and friendly. A gentle fella..."

"The Educated Fellers," Bill Siems and Ted Hensold, include the song on their Songs of the Cowboys recording. The liner notes comment, "This is my favorite song picture of the trail drives in the 1860s to 1880s. The drovers with their huge her of 3000 head are guided through it all by their boss, that 'old bald-headed cow thief' John Garner. We couldn't improve on the quality of Slim Critchlow's 1968 recorded version..."

In Austin and Alta Fife's 1966 book, Songs of the Cowboys, they suggest that "John Garner's Trail Herd" was influenced by "Buffalo Range," a song that merits an entire, detailed chapter in the book, based on the "sixty-some-odd stanzas and significant variants" they studied.

The 1941 book, Wyoming: A Guide, edited by T. A. Larson for the Federal Writers' Project, calls the song "Joe Garner's Trail Herd" (the name "Joe" is used within the song in both the Thorp and Lomax versions) and writes, "a member of the Garner outfit in Fort Worth, Texas, wrote a ballad that has been sung in Wyoming, especially in the northern part, for years..."  Thorp writes that the song was "written by one of the waggoners at Fort Worth, Texas, many years ago. I first heard it sung in the Spearfish Valley, Dakota."


 

The Dying Cowboy
Authorship credited to H. demons, Deadwood, Dakota,
1872. I first heard it from Kearn Carico, at Norfolk,
Nebraska, in 1886.

 
"Oh, bury me not on the lone prairie";
Those words came slow and mournfully
From the pallid lips of a youth that lay
On his dying couch at the close of day.

He had wasted and pined till o'er his brow
Death's shadows fast were drawing now;
He had thought of home and the loved ones nigh,
As the cowboys gathered to see him die.
 
How oft have I listened to those well-known words,
The wild wind and the sound of birds;
He had thought of home and the cottonwood boughs,
Of the scenes that he loved in his childhood hours.
 
"I have always wished to be laid, when I died,
In the old churchyard on the green hillside,
By the grave of my father, oh, let my grave be;
Oh, bury me not on the lone prairie.
 
"I wish to be laid where a mother's care
And a sister's tear can mingle there;
Where friends can come and weep o'er me;
Oh, bury me not on the lone prairie.
 
"Oh, bury me not — " and his voice failed there;
They paid no heed to his dying prayer;
In a narrow grave just six by three,
They laid him there on the lone prairie.

Where the dewdrops fall and the butterfly rests,
The wild rose blooms on the prairie's crest,
Where the coyotes howl and the wind sports free,
They laid him there on the lone prairie.

from Jack Thorp's 1921 Songs of the Cowboys

 

There are many variations of the song, and two are presented in a 1939 article by Myra Hull, "Cowboy Ballads," available here at the Kansas Historical Society web site.

Rex Rideout points out that in We Pointed Them North, E.C. "Teddy Blue" Abbott writes, "'Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie' was another great song for a while, but it ended up just like a lot of songs on the radio today; they sung it to death. It was saying on the range that even the horses nickered it and the coyotes howled it; it got so they'd throw you in the creek if you sang it. I first heard it along about '81 or '82, and by '85 it was prohibited."

The Western Folklife Center Ranch Rhymes podcast has a recording of Slim Critchlow performing "The Dying Cowboy."

 


Hell in Texas
     This song was originally entitled "The Birth of New Mexico." I  have five different versions of it. As each version is supposed
     to be by a different author, and I can only procure the names of three of them, I shall brand it as a "maverick" and let it
     go at that.

The devil, we're told, in hell was chained,
And a thousand years he there remained;
He never complained nor did he groan,
But determined to start a hell of his own,
Where he could torment the souls of men
Without being chained in a prison pen.
So he asked the Lord if he had on hand
Anything left when he made the land.

The Lord said, "Yes, I had plenty on hand
But I left it down on the Rio Grande;
The fact is, old boy, the stuff is so poor
I don't think you could use it in hell anymore."
But the devil went down to look at the truck,
And said if it came as a gift he was stuck;
For after examining it carefully and well
He concluded the place was too dry for hell.

So, in order to get it off his hands,
The Lord promised the devil to water the lands;
For he had some water, or rather some dregs,
A regular cathartic that smelled like bad eggs.
Hence the deal was closed and the deed was given
And the Lord went back to his home in heaven.
And the devil then said, "I have all that is needed
To make a good hell," and hence he succeeded.

He began to put thorns in all of the trees,
And mixed up the sand with millions of fleas;
And scattered tarantulas along all the roads;
Put thorns on the cactus and horns on the toads.
He lengthened the horns of the Texas steers,
And put an addition on the rabbit's ears;
He put a little devil in the bronco steed,
And poisoned the feet of the centipede.

The rattlesnake bites you, the scorpion stings,
The mosquito delights you with buzzing wings;
The sand-burrs prevail and so do the ants,
And those who sit down need half-soles on their pants.
The Devil then said that throughout the land
He'd managed to keep up the Devil's own brand,
And all would be mavericks unless they bore
The marks of scratches and bites and thorns by the score.

The heat in the summer is a hundred and ten,
Too hot for the devil and too hot for men.
The wild boar roams through the black chaparral, —
It's a hell of a place he has for a hell!
The red pepper grows on the banks of the brooks;
The Mexicans use it in all that they cook.
Just dine with a Greaser* and then you will shout,
"I've hell on the inside as well as the out"

*The offensive word, "Greaser,"  is sometimes changed to "vaquero."
 

There are many versions of the song and there is no definitive author.

In the 1966 Songs of the Cowboys with notes by Austin E. and Alta S. Fife, Thorp writes, "'Hell in Texas' is a popular ballad describing a supposed deal between the Lord and the Devil by which the latter acquired some land so bad that the Lord couldn't use it, but perfectly suited to the Devil's needs for a little hell on earth: he 'put thorns on the cactus and horns on the toads...poisoned the feet of the centipede,' and did more of the same—and called it Texas."

In American Ballads and Folk Songs by John A. Lomax and Alan Lomax (1934) they write several pages about the song, mentioning that the song has been called "The Devil in Hell" and "The Founding of New Mexico"...They trace one version of the song to a man who asserts he "learned it in 1907 at a summer camp in Maine, from a man named Scott who had been a cowboy in New Mexico and learned the song there."  There are notes about many other claims to the song's origin, and a forerunner song, "Arizona, How it was made and who made it."


Introduction to Songs of the Cowboys by Alice Corbin Henderson

 

We talk in the East of a public for poetry, and when we use this term we are usually thinking of the public that will, or will not, be prevailed upon to buy the books of poetry regularly issued by the standard Eastern publishers. But there is in this country a considerable public for poetry of which no account is taken in the yearly summaries of The Publisher's Weekly; that is, the public that enjoys and creates folk-poetry in the United States, a public much larger and more varied than we imagine.  In this connection we have the story of a cowboy down on his luck who had a collection of cowboy songs printed (some of which he had written himself) and sold enough copies of the little volume to set himself up in business again.  This does n't mean that he sold enough to buy a new outfit -- "a forty-dollar saddle on a twenty-dollar horse" -- and start punching cattle again.  No; the sum made on the little paper-covered volume was very much more than that; it would have made any Eastern poet jealous.  And the book was sold, not at news stands or book stores, but, like the old broad-sheet ballads, at cow-camps and round-ups and cattle-fairs.

The title of this little book was Songs of the Cowboys, the collector, N. Howard Thorp, and the book was set up by an Estancia print-shop in 1908.  Mr. Thorp himself was the author of five of the songs in this volume, later included in Mr. John A. Lomax's collection of Cowboy Songs -- "Chopo," "The Pecos River Queen," "Little Joe, The Wrangler," "Whose Old Cow?," and "Speckles," this last re-printed in Mr. Lomax's book under the title of "Freckles: A Fragment," just as it came from the hands of the local printer who had lost half the copy.

The present collection is, therefore, an enlarged edition of this little volume of 1908, with much new material, not the least interesting of which are the twenty-five songs by the author.

As a cowboy poet, N. Howard Thorp -- better known as "Jack Thorp" to his many friends in the Southwest -- is the genuine thing.  He is an old-time cattleman and cowpuncher, and his songs are the fruit of experience.  His gift is instinctive and naive, like that of all real cowboy poets, and its charm is precisely in its fresh and "unliterary" quality.


"How long have you been in this country?" I asked "Jack" Thorp one day soon after I met him. We were sitting in the well-curb in the plaza of an Indian pueblo watching a Rain-Dance.

"You see those cedars up there on the hills?" he said, looking above the roof-tops to the foothills. "Well, I planted them."

It was a typical cowboy answer, evasive and symbolic, and it indicated perfectly well that he might be regarded as a part of the soil.  The cowboy does n't "loosen up" until he knows you fairly well.  When he does, it is usually worth while.  I recall now innumerable reminiscences of "Jack" Thorp's when he was in a more expansive mood, of which I wish I could give the exact tone and flavor.

His account of the "Sooners" at the opening-up of the Indian Territory -- Guthrie's first citizen:  The house set for taking up claims was twelve o'clock in the morning; but when they came upon this old man at noon he had three acres ploughed with a pair of oxen, which he claimed to have done since sunrise!  His stories of the early days in Lincoln County, New Mexico-- Pat Garrett unveiled (see postscript to "Billy the Kid," by which there hangs a tale)....Running down a bunch of stolen cattle through the Four Corners country, i. e., Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah -- some of the wildest country still to be found in these States....Old days in the backwoods of Texas, scene of "The Little Cow-girl," where "they may not know the national anthem, but they all know "Turkey in the Straw."...Early times along and across the Mexican border, when "headin' west from San Antone" was a part of the regular ritual....Also an experience of only a few years back, which, as it illustrates a bit of international diplomacy, maybe worth telling here.

Mr. Thorp was driving some cattle from Old Mexico up to Lamy, near Santa Fe.  As it happened, he was unarmed, since on the way down from Tucson, Arizona, to El Sasabe on the line, he fell in with a priest who used up all the ammunition for Thorp's six-gun shooting prairie dogs.  Finding when he got to El Sasabe that he could n't get any more cartridges of the right size, Thorp tossed the gun into a drawer of the priest's secretary, and went into Mexico with two other men whom he had hired on the border. Having found the herd and started back with it, these three met a company of about forty Villistas.  The ragged general (nothing lower than a general in Villa's army) accosted the outfit.  "Are you armed?" he asked Thorp.  "Yes."  "And Your men?"  "Again Thorp said, "Yes."  "Who gave you the right to carry arms in Mexico?" asked the general. "The Governor of the State of Texas," said Jack. There was a world of remembered history in that answer, and the general, in spite of his superior numbers, permitted them to pass unmolested, though eyeing the cattle hungrily. If Thorp had said, "The President of the United States," it would have been of small avail, as the Republic of Texas is still far more real to most Mexicans than is our flourishing Union, of which it is now a member.

All this is but a suggestion of the extraordinary richness of a life lived during the frontier period in the Southwest -- a period that is, happily, not ended, although old-timers will tell you, as the old settler in the Organ Mountains said, when he found a few cattle with strange brands straying into his eighty-mile solitude, "It's gettin' too crowded here -- guess I'll have to move on."

Monotonous on the surface, the cowboy's life is usually an adventurous one.  When I asked Mr. Thorp for a sketch of his life, he said, "Just say that I've been everything but a telegraph operator or a preacher."  (But if he has n't preached, he once gave a series of lectures on the Holy Land with stereopticon slides!)

The task of trying to give a portrait of a man of this character is like trying to give a composite picture of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and the Indian Territory during the last thirty years ....


The hundred songs that make up this book are typical and genuine cowboy songs; the river and hobo and outlaw songs that are also a part of the cowboy's repertory having been omitted.  Wherever possible, Mr. Thorp has given the names of the authors of the songs and, when these could not be discovered, the cowboys who sang them, or the place where he found them.

The fact that most of these songs are of known authorship, or that some of them appeared originally in print, in no way lessens their genuine folk quality.  Otherwise, many of the old English and Irish broad-sheet ballads which have come down to us through oral tradition, but were, as the term indicates, originally printed, could not be called folksongs. (As indubitable examples of folk-songs with a printed origin and individual authorship, one may mention the "Suwanee River" and "Old Kentucky Home" and other songs by Stephen Foster.  "Auld Lang Syne" is another folk-song, which, if the identify of its celebrated author were forgotten, would be included in all the folk-lore collections.)

The more one examines the evidence, the more one is convinced that is is the use of a song, rather than its origin, which determines what is known as folk-song.  Conditions favorable to the production of preservation of folk-song are: a communal unity of interest or occupation, and a certain degree of isolation from the larger world of affairs, and from continuous contact with printed sources.  These are the conditions which produced the cowboy songs -- probably our largest body of native folk-songs, except, of course, the folk-songs of negro source or inspiration.  (The songs of the American Indians are available only in translation.)

Cowboy songs are, generally speaking, of two types; first, songs transmitted by purely oral tradition; and, second, songs originally printed, clipped from a local newspaper or magazine, fitted to a familiar air, and so handed down from one cowboy to another, becoming genuine folk-songs in the process. During the transition a certain amount of reshaping often takes place.  Verses may be added or left out, or the wording altered -- these changes usually tending toward a greater simplicity and directness and a more graphic cowboy lingo. An interesting recent example of such a reshaping through oral transmission is furnished by Badger Clark's "The Glory Trail," sung among the cowboys in southern Arizona under the the title of "High-Chin Bob."

The differences between the two versions may be noted by referring to the original in Mr. Clark's Sun and Saddle Leather.  Obviously some one found the song somewhere in print, adapted it to a familiar tune, and passed it on.  This is the history of a number of songs.  Again, others have been built upon well-known airs; "The Cowboys Dream" is sung to the tune of "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean," and Jack Thorp's "Little Joe, The Wrangler," was composed to the tune of "The Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane."

Many of the cowboy songs, and almost all of the earlier ones, belong to the first type; they exist independent of any printed origin and have come down to us through oral tradition.  They are anonymous because their authors have been forgotten, but this does not mean that they were not in the place of individual authorship; although songs of such loose and catchy structure as "The Old Chisholm Trail," "Old Paint," or "The Deer Hunt" lend themselves easily to composite touches.  Nor are all of the earlier songs without antecedents. "The Dying Cowboy" was modeled upon a sea-chantey and "The Cowboy's Lament" has been traced to a popular Irish military song of the eighteenth century -- the cowboy who had the old song in his memory may well have been of that race.  Indeed, the accent of many of the songs has a distinctly Celtic echo:

There was a rich old rancher who lived in the country by;
He had a lovely daughter, on whom I cast my eye.

But such adaptation and borrowing, far from proving the cowboy songs merely "derelicts," as Professor Gerrould called them in a recent number of the New York Evening Post, is a very usual process, not only with folk-poets, but with other poets as well.  Burns modeled many of his poems on well-known songs and airs of the countryside, and they are not therefore merely "derelicts"; nor is Mr. Yeats's "When I am Old and Gray and Full of Sleep" a "derelict" because Ronsard fathered it. In this connection it is interesting to see the cropping-up of an old theme, although perfectly unconsciously and with no debt to Villon, in Mr. Thorp's "What's Become of the Punchers We Rode with Long Ago?"  This is a case, not of borrowing, but of the eternal recurrence of certain old themes.

To test American cowboy songs by the finest flower of English or European balladry, as is sometimes done by the distinguished folk-lore students who come over here to obtain survivals of their own songs, in the Kentucky mountains and elsewhere, is of course a mistake.  Cowboy ballads represent a folk-tradition still in the making -- their greatest antiquity is only a little over a half a century -- and the European ballads are several centuries old, and have the advantage of a literary tradition even older.  Indeed, this tradition is so distinctly literary in origin that, but for the oral use and transmission of the songs, one might hesitate to call them folk-songs! But to say, as Mr. Cecil Sharp does, that "The cowboy has been despoiled of his inheritance of traditional song; he has nothing behind him," is again a mistake.  There are various degrees of sophistication among the cowboys, as one can see in these songs.  James Russell Lowell, when he wrote the "Biglow Papers," was not thereby despoiled of his literary of his literary inheritance, nor was John Hay when he wrote "Jim Bludso," or Charles Godfrey Leland when he wrote the Hans Breitmann Ballads. The lack of literary associations in the cowboy songs is not necessarily an indication of a corresponding lack of tradition or background in their composers.  American cowpunchers have, indeed, been drawn from all walks in life, but the majority of them belong to that same pioneer stock which settled the East, the Middle West, the Far West, and the Southwest, in turn; the same sort of pioneer stock that produced Mark Twain and Bret Harte.

Whatever the cowboy's "inheritance of traditional song" may or may not have been (and it was that of the general American public of the period), the fact that counts is his creation of a new tradition -- a tradition of which these songs are the most authentic record.  What one appreciates in the survivals of the old English folk-songs is precisely the literary association, and their beautifully simple but highly evolved poetic form.  But the associations of cowboy songs are directly local and immediate, and perhaps these can be appreciated fully only by those familiar with the life that has produced them.

It is quite true that the world of the cowboy songs is less imaginary than actual.  It was a concrete world the cowboy lived in -- he could n't escape too much into the world of the imagination.  If he did, he might forget and let the old cow die bogged down, or slide to perdition from the back of the bucking bronco.  His world is not, it is true, peopled with fairies or ghostly apparitions or knights in steel armor. Instead, he writes of dying longhorns, buffaloes, mule-skinners, bucking broncos, stampeding cattle, and his hard-handed companions of the trail and chuck-wagon.  His armor is his own, and he celebrates it -- chaps, slicker, spurs, saddle reata, and horse. His life is -- cattle; but those who think this life prosaic overlook the hidden romance, the lonely and tragic and humorous events of the round-up, the long trail-drive, or the night-watch.

Whenever the cowboy poet deserts the actual world, it is to dream of a cowboy heaven. (And, after all, was not just such an arbitrarily arranged heaven the basic fabric of Dante's dream?)  During the long night-watch, the cowboy looks up through the clear atmosphere to the star-besprinkled heavens and wonders about the Hereafter in terms amusingly translated from his daily occupation:

And I'm scared that I'll be a stray yearling,
A maverick unbranded on high,
And get cut in the bunch with the "rusties"
When the boss of the riders goes by.

He carried the same terminology into his courtship songs, and indeed into all of his songs, and thereby creates or perpetuates a new idiom. (In fact the cowboys have contributed a new idiom to our national speech.  We never have a big party convention without certain headlines appearing: "Politicians 'milling around'' leaders afraid of a 'stampede.'")  About this idiom in his songs, the cowboy poet is far more exacting than about any question of rhyme or meter; and any departure from the correct vernacular or handling of the various leathers is at once detected as the mark of a tenderfoot poet.

The tradition is, then, intact in these cowboy songs, and we may accept them for what they are -- naive records of the hard and free life on the range, celebrating such adventures as belong to virgin soil, pioneer hardships, dangers, and fun.  Fun is, indeed, one of the chief characteristics of these songs, and it is a fun that includes the same sort of humorous exaggeration in which Mark Twain excelled.

My excuse for touching, in this introduction, upon the pedagogical folk-aspect of these songs, which depends, after all, upon their spontaneous appeal to those for whom they were written, is simply that, in appropriate phraseology, I would rather be caught "heeled," and these are questions which will undoubtedly crop up in connection with the book.

But those who know and appreciate the life celebrated in these songs will need no introduction or explanation' and it is for such readers and old-timers particularly that the book is intended. If Mr. Thorp had written a preface for the book, his gesture would probably have been as simple as that of the Mayor of Las Vegas, who said at the recent Cowboy Reunion, "The town is yours, Boys, take care of it."

                                                                                                       ALICE CORBIN HENDERSON

Sante Fe, 
New Mexico

Notes on the introduction:

From Wikipedia: François Villon (ca.1431 - ca. 1474) was a French poet, thief, and general vagabond. He is perhaps best known for his Testaments and his Ballade des Pendus, written while in prison...His question, "Mais où sont les neiges d'antan?", translated by Algernon Charles Swinburne as "Where are the snows of yesteryear?", is one of the most famous lines of translated poetry in the English-speaking world.

About Alice Corbin Henderson:

Alice Corbin Henderson (1881-1949) was a poet an editor. She had a particular interest in Southwest folklore including Native American traditions. She was assistant editor to Harriet Moore, founder of Poetry magazine (Henderson is sometimes credited as the magazine's "co-founder").  She published several volumes of her own poetry, including Red Earth in 1920.  

  A new edition of Red Earth was compiled and edited by Lois Rudnick and Ellen Zieselman and published by the Museum of New Mexico Press in 2003, when "Red Earth: Poems of New Mexico," an exhibit of Henderson's poetry, accompanied by selections from the collection of the New Mexico Museum of Fine Arts, was held at the Museum of Fine Arts. The book includes illustrations from artists from that exhibit, the original poetry collection, and historical and biographical information.

One of her poems, Ten Thousand Texas Rangers, is included in Songs of the Cowboys.

  Henderson edited the first major collection of New Mexico poetry, The Turquoise Trail, in 1928.  The cover describes the book as "contemporary verse by more than thirty poets who live or have spent some time in News Mexico and the Southwest."  Among the poets included are S. Omar Barker, Badger Clark, Henry Herbert Knibbs, Edgar Lee Masters, Willa Cather, Vachel Lindsay, D. H. Lawrence, Eugene Manlove Rhodes, Carl Sandburg, N. Howard Thorp, and Henderson.

Henderson and Moore edited The New Poetry, an anthology of modern English and American poets in 1917, which was reprinted in many subsequent editions.

A few additional links:

  • The Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin holds the Alice Corbin Henderson papers.  The site includes biographical information and indexes to the collection. 
  • An interesting Albuquerque Journal article (free subscription required) about the 2003 exhibit of Alice Corbin Henderson's work at the New Mexico Museum of Fine Arts, states:

"... Corbin published "Red Earth" with 25 poems, most of which were first published in "Poetry" magazine. Rudnik writes that the volume "reflects the mediating role that Henderson (Corbin) played between her high modernist colleagues, such as Ezra Pound and Wallace Stevens, and such low modernist colleagues as Vachel Lindsay and Carl Sandburg."

All this but a prelude to saying that I have just passed through the city of Santa Fe, New Mexico. It is a Santa Fe full of the glory of the New Architecture of which I have spoken, and the issuing of a book of cowboy songs collected, and many of them written, by N. Howard Thorp, a citizen of Santa Fe, and thrilling with the issuing of a book of poems about the Glory of New Mexico. This book is called Red Earth. It is by Alice Corbin Henderson. And Santa Fe is full of the glory of a magnificent State Capitol that is an art gallery of the whole southwest, and the glories of the studio of William Penhallow Henderson, who has painted our New Arabia more splendidly than it was ever painted before, with the real character thereof, and no theatricals. This is just the kind of a town I hoped for when I wrote my first draft of The Art of the Moving Picture. Here now is literature and art. When they become one art as of old in Egypt, we will have New Mexico Hieroglyphics from the Hendersons and their kind, and their surrounding Indian pupils, a basis for the American Motion Picture more acceptable, and more patriotic, and more organic for us than the Egyptian.

 


photo courtesy John Stauffer
Jack Thorp, Alice Corbin Henderson, and her daughter


 

thorpsongslgz.JPG (28188 bytes)   Songs of the Cowboys, compiled by N. Howard Thorp ("Jack" Thorp) with an introduction by Alice Corbin Henderson. Boston, New York, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1921



From the inside flap of the dust jacket:

N. Howard ('Jack') Thorp of Santa Fé is an old-time cow-puncher and cattleman, and one of the best-known characters in the Southwest.  In this book he has included, besides a large number of his own inimitable poems, a unique collections of genuine cowboy songs, taken down for the most part from the lips of cowboy ballad-singers. The result is a book that will be enjoyed not only by collectors of folk-songs, but by every one who likes poems with a lilt and a swing, dealing with life in the old-time West.


Title Page:


Preface by Thorp:

TO THE FOLLOWING COW-GIRLS AND PUNCHERS
THIS LITTLE BOOK IS DEDICATED

Many of you I have worked with in the past, on the range, the trail, and in the branding pens.  All of you I have known well.  In looking over this list I find the names of some who will never read this, as unfortunately they've answered the call.  Those who are alive I heartily thank for having given me their assistance in collecting these songs.  May this little book tend to recall the times, good and tough, we had together.
                                                              N. Howard ("Jack") Thorp

Miss Windsor
Bronco Sue
Miss Jean Beaumondy
Miss Belle Starr
Miss Kitt Collins
Battle Axe
Jim Hagan
Frank Hayes
Sam Murray
Walker Hyde
Walt Roberts
Joe Cotton
Al Roberts
Tom Williamson
Sam Jackson
Jim Falls
Tom Hudspeth
"Sally" White
Jack Moore
Dick Wilson
Tom Beasley
Doc Henderson
Shorty Liston
John Caldwell
Dodge Sanford
Joel Thomas
Jim Brownfield
Clabe Merchant
John Collier
Randolph Reynolds
Kearn Carico

Acknowledgements by Thorp:

I wish to acknowledge the use of songs from the following authors:  James Barton Adams, Charles Badger Clark, Larry Chittenden, Alice Corbin, Austin Corcoran, J. W. Foley, Henry Herbert Knibbs, Phil Le Noir.

"A Cowboy's Prayer"; "A Border Affair"; and "High-Chin Bob" are published by permission of Richard G. Badger from Sun and Saddle Leather by Badger Clark; "Sky-High"; "Old Hank"; "The Little Cow-girl"; "Pecos Tom"; "'Light, Stranger, 'Light"; "Women Outlaws"; "Old Paint"; and "What's Become of the Punchers?" by N. Howard Thorp were published in Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, in August 1920; and Phil LeNoir's "Ol' Dynamite" and "Down on the Ol' Bar-G" in the same number of the magazine. The cowboy version of "High Chin Bob," by Charles Badger Clark, was published in Poetry in August, 1917.  Henry Herbert Knibbs' "Punchin' Dough" appeared in the Popular Magazine.

Phil LeNoir is the author of Rhymes of the Wild and Woolly (Phil LeNoir, Las Vegas, N.M.); Charles Badger Clark, of Sun and Saddle Leather and Grass Grown Trails (Richard C. Badger, Boston); Henry Herbert Knibbs, of Songs of the Outlands, Riders of the Stars and Songs of the Trail (Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston). Larry Chittenden, author of "The Cowboys' Christmas Ball" in this volume, has a book of songs called Ranch Verses (G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York).

                                                                                                                          N. H. T.

[You can view Poetry magazine's historical index here.]


thorpsongslgz.JPG (28188 bytes) Contents:  

(Notes in italics are Thorp's comments for about authorship and, sometimes, about where he first heard the song. Some pieces do not have notes.)

The Arizona Boys and Girls
     Don't know the author. Heard it sung by Kitt Collins in Deming, 
     New Mexico.
Arroyo Al's Cow-Pony  (By J. A. Squires, Helena, Montana)
     I first heard this sung in a cow-camp on the Guadalupe Montains,
     New Mexico.
The Biblical Cowboy
     Sent me by Jim Hagan, or Tulsa, Oklahoma
Billy the Kid or Wiliam H. Bonney  (By N. Howard Thorp)
     Down in Lincoln the native women still scare their children with
     the threat that Bilito will come and get them if they don't behave.
The Boozer
     Cut this out of a Colorado newspaper.
A Border Affair (By Charles Badger Clark, Jr.)
     Sung by Oroville Cox, a Taos Cowboy
Bronc Peeler's Song
     Authorship unknown. First heard sung by L. Brennon, at
     Indian Tanks, New Mexico
Bronco Jack's Thanksgiving (By James Barton Adams)
     Heard this recited by a young lady at a Cowboy's Reunion at Las
     Vegas, New Mexico, and afterwards learned the author's name.
Bucking Bronco (By Belle Star, Indian Territory)
     Written about 1878.  Song has been expurgated by me. The
     author was a member of a notorious gang of outlaws, but
     a very big-hearted woman. I knew her well.
Buckskin Joe
     Author unknown. First heard this recited by a medicine-vendor in
     Waco, Texas, on a public square.
California Trail (By Kate Childs, "Montana Kate")
     Written about 1869. I heard it sung first on Pecos River, at Horse
     Head Crossing, in 1900, by Sam Murray.
The Campfire Has Gone Out
     Author unknown. First heard this sung in San Andreas Mountains. 
     I think it was by 'Gene Rhodes.
Chase of the O L C Steer
     Sent me from Ogalala, Wyoming. Anonymous. Signed Miss ---.
Chopo (by N. Howard Thorp)
     Written in Devil's River, Texas, 1901 at Jeneaw, or Juno, Lake, 
     when in camp with Frank Wilson. This little horse I got from Antelope
     George at Sierra Blanca, was branded O. I rode him from Sierra
     Blanca to Paris, Texas. This song was in my first publication,
     copyrighted in 1908.
Chuck-Time on the Round-Up (By Austin Corcoran, Grand Junction,
   Colorado)
     I first heard it sung at Monte Vista, Colorado, by Jack Brenner.
A Cow-Camp on the Range
     Authorship credited to Tom Mew, Oklahoma. First heard it sung
     by Walker Hyde, Three Rivers, New Mexico
The Cowboy at Church
     Author unknown to me, but my hat off to him, whoever he may be.
     Heard it recited by a young high-school girl at Montrose, Colorado.
The Cowboy at Work
     Heard this song at a cow-camp in Rocky Arroyo, Eddy County, New
     Mexico
The Cowboys' Christmas Ball (By Larry Chittenden)
     I received this song for Miss Jessie Forbes, at Eddy, New Mexico,
     1898. I understand it was one of a collection of Chittenden's entitled
     Ranch Verse.
The Cowboy's Dream
     Given to me by Wait Roberts, Double Diamond Ranch, White
     Mountains, 1898. Authorship ascribed to father of Captain 
     Roberts, of the Texas Rangers.
The Cowboy's Lament
     Authorship credited to Troy Hale, Battle Creek, Nebraska. I first heard
     it sung in a bar-room at Wisner, Nebraska, about 1886.
The Cowboy's Life
     Heard this sung at a little round-up at Seven Lakes, New Mexico, 
     by a puncher named Spence.
The Cowboy's Meditation
     I regret that I do not know the author's name. Have tried to locate
     him, but so far have failed. Heard this sung in Bluff City, Utah, by
     an old puncher named Carter.
A Cowboy's Prayer (By Charles Badger Clark, Jr.)
     Given me by Phil LeNoir, Secretary of the Las Vegas Round-Up. 
     Afterwards found it in Charles Badger Clark, Jr.'s book, "Sun and
     Saddle Leather."
A Cowboy's Prize 
     Published in "Denver Post." I first heard it sung by Al Roberts in
     White Oaks, New Mexico.
Cowboys Victimized (By James Barton Adams)
     I first heard this song in El Paso, Texas, at a Stock Association
     meeting, sung between supper and breakfast by a man with a
     good voice, and long afterwards learned the author's name.
The Cowman's Prayer
     Don't know the author's name. Heard it sung in a cow-camp near
     Fort Sumner, on the Pecos River, New Mexico.
The Crooked Trail to Holbrook
     Mailed me from Douglas, Arizona, by an old friend named Cotton.
Crossing the Divide (By J. W. Foley)
     One of the best of the lot. Heard this at a round-up in the Mogollon
     Mountains, sung by a puncher named Freckles.
Dan Taylor
     Authorship credited to Len Doran, Mineral Wells, Texas. I first heard
     it sung by Tom Williamson, while carrying a bunch of horses from
     Monument Springs over to Midland, Texas.
A Deer Hunt
     There are several versions of this song. Everybody adds a new verse.
     The author of this no one knows, as the original song has been so
     changed by additions of verses that there is little of it.
Down on the Ol' Bar-G  (By Phil Le Noir)
The Dreary, Dreary Life
     An old song, a jumble of several. Authorship unknown. I first heard
     it at Kingston, New Mexico, sung by a man named Sam Jackson.
The Dying Cowboy
     Authorship credited to H. Clemons, Deadwood, Dakota, 1872. I
     first heard it from Kearn Carico, at Norfolk, Nebraska, in 1886.
     
The End of the Yaqui Trail
(By N. Howard Thorp)
     Written while near Altar, in State of Sonora, old Mexico, south of 
     El Sarsabi, receiving a herd of steers for Allen & Robinson, of the
     Lamy Grant, near Santa Fé, 1914.

The Fate of the Beef Steer  (By J. W. Foley)
     Heard this sung at a cow-camp at Solidad Ranch, New Mexico.
Fightin' Mad
     Received from Miss Jean Beaumondy, Colorado Springs Round-up,
     1911.  Jean was then the champion girl trick roper of the world.
Forget the East (By N. Howard Thorp)
Frijole Beanses (By N. Howard Thorp, 1919)
The Gal I Left Behind Me
     This song is so old that all the descendants of the author,
     "I understand," have died of old age. I believe it was the 
     first cow song I ever heard.
Get Along, Little Dogies
     Heard this song sun in Tombstone, Arizona by Jim Falls.
The Gol-Darned Wheel
     Mailed me by a friend from Marfa, Texas, who heard it sung by
     a cow-puncher named Hudspeth.
Greaser Joe's Place
     From the "Denver Republican."
The Great Round-up
     I first heard this song sung by Sally White, at Toya, Texas, in 
     1909, although a slightly different version was published in my
     first edition of "Songs of the Cowboys."
Hell in Texas
     This song was originally entitled "The Birth of New Mexico." I
     have five different versions of it. As each version is supposed
     to be by a different author, and I can only procure the names
     of three of them, I shall brand it as a "maverick" and let it
     go at that.
The Hell-Bound Train
     Heard this sung at cow-camp near Pontoon Crossing, on the
     Pecos River, by a puncher named Jack Moore.
High-Chin Bob (By Charles Badger Clark, Jr.)
     This song was brought to Sante Fe by Henry Herbert Knibbs,
     Who got it from southern Arizona, where is was sung by the
     cowboys. The song was written by Charles Badger Clark, Jr.,
     and the original version is in his "Sun and Saddle Leather"
     under the title of "The Glory Trail."
John Garner's Trail Herd
     Written by one of the waggoners at Fort Worth, Texas,
     many years ago. I first heard it sung in the Spearfish Valley,
     Dakota.
The Jolly Cowboy
     First heard this sung by Dick Wilson, El Paso, Texas. Author
     unknown.
The Last Longhorn
     I have been unable to trace the authorship of this song.
     Have heard it sung in many places and also recited.
Las Vegas Reunion (By N. Howard Thorp)
     Written for the annual Las Vegas, New Mexico, Reunion.
"'Light, Stranger, 'Light" (By N. Howard Thorp)
Little Adobe Casa (By Tom Beasley)
     Written in the spring of 1887 and sung in the cow-camps by the
     author, who had a good voice.  While Beasley was working for me
     I heard him sing the song. There's a story about a nugget of gold,
     Henry Heap (the bank watchman in El Paso), and Tom Beasley
     that some of you old-timers may recall, but I can't write here.
     Remember?
The Little Cow-Girl  (By N. Howard Thorp)     
Little Joe, The Wrangler (By N. Howard Thorp)
      Written by me on the trail of herd of O Cattle from Chimney Lake,
     New Mexico, to Higgins, Texas, 1898. On trail were the following men,
     all from Sacramento Mountains or Crow Flat: Pap Logan, Bill Blevens,
     Will Brownfield, Will Fenton, Lije Colfelt, Tom Mews, Frank Jones, and
     myself.  It was copyrighted and appeared in my first editions of
     "Songs of the Cowboys" published in 1908
 
Love on the Range
     I got this from Doc Henderson at an Albuquerque Live Stock
     Association meeting.
A Man Named Hods
     Heard this first over on the Via Grande, sung by a puncher named
     Liston.

The Mule-Skinners
     Got this song from John Caldwell, at Lake Valley, New Mexico.  He was
     bronco-buster for S. L. C. outfit.
Mustang Gray
     Authorship credited to Tim Grey, Tularosa, New Mexico. I first heard
     it sung by man named Sanford, who kept a saloon in La Ascension,
     Mexico, about 1888.
My Little Brown Mule (By N. Howard Thorp)
     Written in 1912, at Santa Fe, concerning a pet trick mule I owned.
New National Anthem  
     Accredited to Burr Sims. Heard it sung at a matador camp in the
     Panhandle of Texas.
Ni--er "'Lasses": Three-Block Bronco-Buster (By N. Howard Thorp)
Night-Herding Song
     This is part of an old song, slightly changed.  I lost the other verses
     when one of my ranch buildings burned down at Palma, New Mexico,
     some years ago.
The Old Chisholm Trail
     The origin of this song is unknown.  There are several thousand
     verses to it -- the more whiskey the more verses.  Every puncher
     knows a few more verses.  Sung from the Canadian line to Mexico.
The Old Cowman (By Scott Levitt, Great Falls, Montana)
     Got song from Joel Thomas, but at the time I did not know 
     author's name.
Ol' Dynamite (By Phil Le Noir)
Old Grazin' Ben (By N. Howard Thorp)
Old Hank (By N. Howard Thorp)
"Old North" (By N. Howard Thorp)
Old Paint 
     Heard this sung by a puncher who had been on a spree in Pecos 
     City. He had taken a job temporarily as a sheep-rustler for an 
     outfit in Independence Draw,down the river, and was ashamed
     of the job. I won't mention his name.
Old Paint (By N. Howard Thorp)
Old-Time Cowboy  
     Understand this was written by an old cow-puncher who claims
     he was dragging his rope along and some one else's calf got 
     tangled up in it, and he landed in the Huntsville Pen. His name
     was Rogers. I first heard it sung by Tim Beasley, at Hueco 
     Tanks, Texas.
"Old Trouble," A L Ranch Colored Cook (By N. Howard Thorp)
On the Dodge (By N. Howard Thorp)
The Overland Stage (By N. Howard Thorp)
The Pecos River Queen (By N. Howard Thorp)
     Written on Lower Pecos, New Mexico, June, 1901, after Roy Bean
     had told me of this fact concerning Patty. Copyrighted in my book
     published in 1908.
Pecos Tom (By N. Howard Thorp)
A Prairie Song
     I heard this sung by a cow-girl at the Cheyenne Round-up-- a 
     Miss Windsor.
The Prospector (By N. Howard Thorp)
     Written at the Slash S W Ranch, on the door of the old ranch house,
     in the San Andreas Mountains.
Punchin' Dough (By Henry Herbert Knibbs)
The Railroad Corral
     Author unknown.  Mailed to me by a friend at Colorado City, Texas
The Rambling Cowboy
     Author supposed to have been K. Tolliver. I first heard it at Van 
     Horn, Texas.
Sam Bass  (By John Denton, Gainesville, Texas, 1879)
     This is the most authentic report on authorship I have received. I
     first heard the song sung in Sidney, Nebraska, at a dance hall, in
     1888.
Sky-High (By N. Howard Thorp)
A Song of the Range  (by James Barton Adams)
     Sent to me by Miss Nell Benson
Speckles (By N. Howard Thorp)
     This song was written in 1906 at Palma, New Mexico, my old ranch.  
     I gave the contract to print my first little book, entitled "Songs of 
     the Cowboys," to Mr. P. A. Speckman, News Print Shop, Estancia, 
     New Mexico, who printed it in 1908.
Ten Thousand Texas Rangers (By Alice Corbin)
     Written in March, 1917, at the time when Germany proposed
     to Mexico that they retake the "lost provinces" of Texas,
     New Mexico, Arizona, and California.
The Tenderfoot (By Yank Hitson, Denver, Colorado, 1889)
     I got the song from old Battle Axe, whom lost of old puncher
     remember, at Phoenix, Arizona, 1899
The Texas Cowboy
     An old song, credited to Al Pease of Round Rock, Texas.  I first 
     heard it sung by J. Latham at La Luz, New Mexico.
Thanksgiving on the Ranch (By James Barton Adams, Denver) (separate
      page)

Three-Block Tom (By N. Howard Thorp)
Top Hand
     From Jim Brownfield, Crow Flat, New Mexico, winter of 1899.
     Authorship credited to Frank Rooney; written about 1877.  
     This song has been expurgated by me, as all the old-timers 
     know that as originally sung around the cow-camps it could 
     not have been printed, as it would have burned  up the 
     paper on which it was written. Jim, do you remember how 
     you had to force those fresh eggs down and the jug said,
    "Goo-Goo"?  I published this song under the title of "Top Hand" 
     in my earlier edition. The old name, which all cow-punchers
     remember, did not sound good in print.
The U S U Range
     Received this song from Clabe Merchant, Black River, New Mexico
Western Life
     Appeared in "Denver Republican." Accredited to Bronco Sue, who I was
     told wrote it.
Westward Ho!
     Heard a horse-wrangler named Singleton sing this on the Delaware,
     at a point of the Guadalupe Mountains
What's Become of the Punchers? (By N. Howard Thorp)
When Bob Got Throwed
     Author unknown. Heard it sung in Arizona at Hachita by a puncher
     named Livingston
Whose Old Cow?  (By N. Howard Thorp)
     Written at Roswell, New Mexico, 1899.  Add was one of the best
     cow-hands on Pecos River. Everybody knew him. When he got 
     married each cow-man wanted to give him a present, no one 
     knowing what the other man had sent him, "as ranches were 
     far apart." He received nineteen stoves and ranges for wedding
     presents. This song was in my copyrighted book published in 1908.
Windy Bill
     Sung first to me by John Collier, Cornudas Mountain, New Mexico, 
     July 1899. Appeared first in my previous copyrighted book.
Women Outlaws (By N. Howard Thorp)
The Zebra Dun
     First heard the song sung by Randolph Reynolds, Carizozo Flats, in
     1890


 

 

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