Cowboy Songs & Frontier Ballads

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Wild Rovers

Come all you wild rovers
And listen to me
While I retail to you
My sad history.
I’m a man of experience
Your favors to gain,
Oh, love has been the ruin
Of many a poor man.

When you are single
And living at your ease
You can roam this world over
And do as you please;
You can roam this world over
And go where you will
And slyly kiss a pretty girl
And be your own still.

But when you are married
And living with your wife,
You’ve lost all the joys
And comforts of life.
Your wife she will scold you,
Your children will cry,
And that will make papa
Look withered and dry.

You can’t step aside, boys,
To speak to a friend
Without your wife at your elbow
Saying, “What does this mean?”
Your wife, she will scold
And there is sad news.
Dear boys, take warning;
‘Tis a life to refuse.

If you chance to be riding
Along the highway
And meet a fair maiden,
A lady so gay,
With red, rosy cheeks
And sparkling blue eyes, —
Oh, heavens! what a tumult
In your bosom will rise!

One more request, boys,
Before we must part:
Don’t place your affections
On a charming sweetheart;
She’ll dance before you
Your favors to gain.
Oh, turn your back on them
With scorn and disdain!

Come close to the bar, boys,
We’ll drink all around.
We’ll drink to the pure,
If any be found;
We’ll drink to the single,
For I wish them success;
Likewise to the married,
For I wish them no less.

Fancy roping in Oklahoma

Fancy roping in Oklahoma

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 brazen 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 were 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.

Yellow Rose of Texas

The Yellow Rose of Texas was a woman fair to see
Though many loved her beauty, she lived in slavery,
When war was fought in Texas and the battles shook our lives
General Santa Anna took Emily as a prize.

Cho: She’s the sweetest rose of color that Texas ever knew
Her eyes are bright as diamonds, they sparkle like the dew,
You may talk about your Clementine, And sing of Rosa Lee
But the Yellow Rose of Texas is the only girl for me.

He tried to win her favors, thought himself a dashing man
But his courtship she rejected, and she stole his battle plan;
Then sent it to Sam Houston, for this she found a way
And so the Union Army fought and won the day.

Where the Rio Grande is flowing lived a woman brave and fine
A heroine of the people and honored in her time
The Yellow Rose of Texas has long been laid to rest
But history would be different without the lovely Emily West

Around the campfire

Around the campfire

Young Companions

Come all you young companions
And listen unto me,
I’ll tell you a story
Of some bad company.

I was born in Pennsylvania
Among the beautiful hills
And the memory of my childhood
Is warm within me still.

I did not like my fireside,
I did not like my home;
I had in view far rambling,
So far away did roam.

I had a feeble mother,
She oft would plead with me;
And the last word she gave me
Was to pray to God in need.

I had two loving sisters,
As fair as fair could be,
And oft beside me kneeling
They oft would plead with me.

I bid adieu to loved ones,
To my home I bid farewell,
And landed in Chicago
In the very depth of hell.

It was there I took to drinking,
I sinned both night and day,
And there within my bosom
A feeble voice would say:

“Then fare you well, my loved one,
May God protect my boy,
And blessings ever with him
Throughout his manhood joy.”

I courted a fair young maiden,
Her name I will not tell,
For I should ever disgrace her
Since I am doomed for hell.

It was on one beautiful evening,
The stars were shining bright,
And with a fatal dagger
I bid her spirit flight.

So justice overtook me,
You all can plainly see,
My soul is doomed forever
Throughout eternity.

It’s now I’m on the scaffold,
My moments are not long;
You may forget the singer
But don’t forget the song.

Compiled by Kathy Alexander/Legends of America, updated November 2022.

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Also See:

Adventures in the American West

Cowboys & Trail Blazers

Frontier Recipes – The Real Old Stuff From The Old West

Western Slang, Lingo, and Phrases – A Writer’s Guide to the Old West