Cowboy Songs & Frontier Ballads

Miners prospecting by Frederic Remington

Miners prospecting by Frederic Remington. Click for prints & products.

The Miner’s Song

In a rusty, worn-out cabin sat a broken-hearted leaser,
His singlejack was resting on his knee.
His old “buggy” in the corner told the same old plaintive tale,
His ore had left in all his poverty.
He lifted his old singlejack, gazed on its battered face,
And said: “Old boy, I know we’re not to blame;
Our gold has us forsaken, some other path it’s taken,
But I still believe we’ll strike it just the same.

“We’ll strike it, yes, we’ll strike it just the same,
Although it’s gone into some other’s claim.
My dear old boy don’t mind it, we won’t starve if we don’t find it,
And we’ll drill and shoot and find it just the same.

“For forty years I’ve hammered steel and tried to make a strike,
I’ve burned twice the powder Custer ever saw.
I’ve made just coin enough to keep poorer than a snake.
My jack’s ate all my books on mining law.
I’ve worn gunny-sacks for overalls, and ‘California socks,’
I’ve burned candles that would reach from here to Maine,
I’ve lived on powder, smoke, and bacon, that’s no lie, boy, I’m not fakin’,
But I still believe we’ll strike it just the same.

“Last night as I lay sleeping in the midst of all my dream
My assay ran six ounces clear in gold,
And the silver it ran clean sixteen ounces to the seam,
And the poor old miner’s joy could scarce be told.
I lay there, boy, I could not sleep, I had a feverish brow,
Got up, went back, and put in six holes more.
And then, boy, I was chokin’ just to see the ground I’d broken;
But alas! alas! the miner’s dream was o’er.

“We’ll strike it, yes, we’ll strike it just the same,
Although it’s gone into some other’s claim.
My dear old boy, don’t mind it, we won’t starve if we don’t find it,
And I still believe I’ll strike it just the same.”

Cowboy Singing, Thomas Eakins, 1892

Cowboy Singing, Thomas Eakins, 1892

Mustang Gray

There once was a noble ranger,
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-an,
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 senorita loved him,
And followed by his side;
She opened the gates and gave to him
Her father’s steed to ride.

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

And when this 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.

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

Night Herding Song

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.

Hi-oo, hi-oo, oo-oo.

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 I let you get away I’m sure to get fired, —
Bunch up, little dogies, bunch up.

Hi-oo, hi-oo, oo-oo.

O say, little dogies, when 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.

Hi-oo, hi-oo, oo-oo.

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.

Hi-oo, hi-oo, oo-oo.

By Harry Stephens

A life-sized silhouette of a trail cattle drive sits on a hill  outside Caldwell, Kansas, Kathy Weiser,

A life-sized silhouette of a trail cattle drive sits on a hill  outside Caldwell, Kansas, Kathy Weiser. Click for prints & products.

The Old Chisholm Trail

Come along, boys, and listen to my tale,
I’ll tell you of my troubles 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 morning on the old Chisholm trail,
Rope in my hand and a cow by the tail.

I’m up in the mornin’ afore daylight
And afore I sleep the moon shines bright.

Old Ben Bolt was a blamed good boss,
But he’d go 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’d 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-kicking up his heels and a-running like the devil.

It’s cloudy in the West, a-looking 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 pouring 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 loss ’em all.

I jumped in the saddle and grabbed holt 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 to hell.

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 damned cowboy ever was born.

I herded and I 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 a-eatin’ prairie hay.

I’m on my best 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 punching cows in the sweet by and by.

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