Cowboy Songs & Frontier Ballads


Texas Rangers

Texas Rangers Company D 1887 in Realitos, Texas. Click for prints & products.

Texas Rangers

Come, all you Texas rangers, wherever you may be,
I’ll tell you of some troubles that happened unto me.
My name is nothing extra, so it I will not tell, —
And here’s to all you rangers, I am sure I wish you well.

It was at the age of sixteen that I joined the jolly band,
We marched from San Antonio down to the Rio Grande.
Our captain he informed us, perhaps he thought it right,
“Before we reach the station, boys, you’ll surely have to fight.”

And when the bugle sounded our captain gave command,
“To arms, to arms,” he shouted, “and by your horses stand.”
I saw the smoke ascending, it seemed to reach the sky;
The first thought that struck me, my time had come to die.

I saw the Indians coming, I heard them give the yell;
My feelings at that moment, no tongue can ever tell.
I saw the glittering lances, their arrows round me flew,
And all my strength it left me and all my courage too.

We fought full nine hours before the strife was o’er,
The like of dead and wounded I never saw before.
And when the sun was rising and the Indians they had fled,
We loaded up our rifles and counted up our dead.

And all of us were wounded, our noble captain slain,
And the sun was shining sadly across the bloody plain.
Sixteen as brave rangers as ever roamed the West
Were buried by their comrades with arrows in their breast.

‘Twas then I thought of mother, who to me in tears did say,
“To you they are all strangers, with me you had better stay.”
I thought that she was childish, the best she did not know;
My mind was fixed on ranging and I was bound to go.

Perhaps you have a mother, likewise a sister too,
And maybe you have a sweetheart to weep and mourn for you;
If that be your situation, although you’d like to roam,
I’d advise you by experience, you had better stay at home.

I have seen the fruits of rambling, I know its hardships well;
I have crossed the Rocky Mountains, rode down the streets of hell;
I have been in the great Southwest where the wild Apaches roam,
And I tell you from experience you had better stay at home.

And now my song is ended; I guess I have sung enough;
The life of a ranger I am sure is very tough.
And here’s to all you ladies, I am sure I wish you well,
I am bound to go a-ranging, so ladies, fare you well.

Lincoln County Ranch Hands

Lincoln County Ranch Hands

Top Hand

While you’re all so frisky I’ll sing a little song, —
Think a little horn of whiskey will help the thing along?
It’s all about the Top Hand, when he busted flat
Bummin’ round the town, in his Mexican hat.
He’s laid up all winter, and his pocket book is flat,
His clothes are all tatters, but he don’t mind that.

See him in town with a crowd that he knows,
Rollin’ cigarettes and smokin’ through his nose.
First thing he tells you, he owns a certain brand, —
Leads you to think he is a daisy hand;
Next thing he tells you ’bout his trip up the trail,
All the way to Kansas, to finish out his tale.

Put him on a hoss, he’s a handy hand to work;
Put him in the brandin’-pen, he’s dead sure to shirk.
With his natural leaf tobacco in the pockets of his vest
He’ll tell you his California pants are the best.
He’s handled lots of cattle, hasn’t any fears,
Can draw his sixty dollars for the balance of his years.

Put him on herd, he’s a-cussin’ all day;
Anything he tries, it’s sure to get away.
When you have a round-up, he tells it all about
He’s goin’ to do the cuttin’ an’ you can’t keep him out.
If anything goes wrong, he lays it on the screws,
Says the lazy devils were tryin’ to take a snooze.

When he meets a greener he ain’t afraid to rig,
Stands him on a chuck box and makes him dance a jig, —
Waves a loaded cutter, makes him sing and shout, —
He’s a regular Ben Thompson when the boss ain’t about.
When the boss ain’t about he leaves his leggins in camp,
He swears a man who wears them is worse than a tramp.

Says he’s not carin’ for the wages he earns,
For Dad’s rich in Texas, — got wagon loads to burn;
But when he goes to town, he’s sure to take it in,
He’s always been dreaded wherever he’s been.
He rides a fancy horse, he’s a favorite man,
Can get more credit than a common waddie can.

When you ship the cattle he’s bound to go along
To keep the boss from drinking and see that nothing’s wrong.
Wherever he goes, catch on to his name,
He likes to be called with a handle to his name.
He’s always primping with a pocket looking-glass,
From the top to the bottom he’s a bold Jackass.

Tumbleweed and barbed wire fence.

Tumbling Tumbleweeds

I’m a roaming cowboy riding all day long,
Tumbleweeds around me sing their lonely song.
Nights underneath the prairie moon,
I ride along and sing this tune.

See them tumbling down
Pledging their love to the ground
Lonely but free I’ll be found
Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds.

Cares of the past are behind
Nowhere to go but I’ll find
Just where the trail will wind
Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds.

I know when night has gone
That a new world’s born at dawn.

I’ll keep rolling along
Deep in my heart is a song
Here on the range I belong
Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds.

Westward Ho Motel, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Westward Ho Motel Neon Sign in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Photo by Robert Garcia. Click for prints & products.

Westward Ho

I love not Colorado
Where the faro table grows,
And down the desperado
The rippling Bourbon flows;

Nor seek I fair Montana
Of bowie-lunging fame;
The pistol ring of fair Wyoming
I leave to nobler game.

Sweet poker-haunted Kansas
In vain allures the eye;
The Nevada rough has charms enough
Yet its blandishments I fly.

Shall Arizona woo me
Where the meek Apache bides?
Or New Mexico where natives grow
With arrow-proof insides?

Nay, ’tis where the grizzlies wander
And the lonely diggers roam,
And the grim Chinese from the squatter flees
That I’ll make my humble home.

I’ll chase the wild tarantula
And the fierce cayote I’ll dare,
And the locust grim, I’ll battle him
In his native wildwood lair.

Or I’ll seek the gulch deserted
And dream of the wild Red man,
And I’ll build a cot on a corner lot
And get rich as soon as I can.