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A Few of My Favourite Things: Cowboy Songs

 I like old songs and ballads, and I've been in a Western mood lately, so here are some of the cowboy songs I like to sing. Sometimes I even sing them to my horse!

Cattle Call
When the new day is dawning I wake up a yawning,

Drinking my coffee strong;

Make my bed in a roll, down the trail I will stroll

Singing this old cattle call.


With my saddle all shedded and the cattle all bedded

Nothing wild seems to be wrong;

Make my bed 'neath the skies,
I look up at the stars,

And then I can sing you this call.

Well, each day I do ride o'er a range far and wide.

I'm going home this fall;

Well I don't mind the weather,
my hearts like a feather,

'Cause always I'll sing you this call.

(bridge 1)
He rides in the sun till his days work is done

And he rounds up the cattle each fall.

(bridge 2)
He's brown as a berry from riding the prairie

And he sings with an old western drawl.

Get Along Little Dogies

As I walked out one morning for pleasure,

I met a cowpuncher a jogging along;

His hat was throwed back and his spurs was a jingling,

And as he advanced he was singing this song.

Yippee Ti Yi Yo, get along little dogies

It's your misfortune and none of my own

Yippee Ti Yi Yo get along little dogies

For you know that Wyoming will soon be your home.

Early in the springtime we round up the dogies

Mark them and brand them and bob off their tails

Round up the horses and load the chuck wagon

Throw them little dogies right out on the trail.

In the evening we round in the dogies

As they are grazing from herd all around

You have no idea the trouble they give us

As we are holding them on the bed ground.

In the morning we throw off the bed ground

Aiming to graze them an hour or two

When they are full, you think you can drive them

On the trail, but damned if you do.

Some fellows go on the trail for pleasure,

But they have got this thing down wrong;

If it hadn't been for these troublesome dogies,
I never would thought of writing this song.

I Ride an Old Paint

I ride an Old Paint, I lead Old Dan

I'm off for Cheyenne to do the hoolihan.

Good-bye, Old Paint, I'm leaving Cheyenne

Good-bye, Old Paint, I'm leaving Cheyenne

Old Paint's a good pony, he paces when he can,

Good-bye, my little Annie, I'm off for Cheyenne.

Go hitch up your horses and feed 'em some hay,

And sit yourself by me as long as you'll stay.

My horses ain't hungry, they won't eat your hay

My wagon is loaded and rolling away.

They feed in the coulies, they water in the draw,

Their tails are all matted, their back are all raw.

Bill Jones had two daughters and a song,

One went to Denver, the other went wrong.

His wife she died in a barroom fight,

And still he sings from morning to night.

Oh, when I die, take my saddle from the wall,

Put it on my pony and lead him from the stall.

Tie my bone to his back, turn our faces to the West

And we'll ride the prairie that we have loved best.

Red River Valley

From this valley they say you are going,

I shall miss your sweet face and bright smile
For they say you are taking the sunshine

That has brightened my pathway awhile.

I've been thinking a long time my darling,

Of those sweet words you never would say,

But the last of my fond hopes have vanished

For they say you are going away.

Then come sit here awhile ere you leave us

Do not hasten to bid us adieu,

And remember the Red River Valley

And the cowboy who loves you so true.

I have promised you, darling, that never

Would words from my lips cause you pain;

My life will be yours forever

If only you sill love me again.

There never could be such a longing

In the heart of a poor cowboys breast,

As dwells in this heart you are breaking

While I wait in my home in the west.

Do you think of this valley you are leaving,

Oh, how lonely and dreary it will be?

Do you think of the kind hearts you are breaking,

And the pain you are causing to me?

Riding Down the Canyon

When evening chores are over at the ranch house on the plains

And all I have to do is lay around,

I saddle up my pony and go ridin' down the trail

To watch the desert sun go down.

Ridin' down the canyon to watch the sun go down

A picture that no artist ere can paint.

White faced cattle lowing on the mountain side,

I hear a coyote calling for its mate.

Cactus plants are blooming, sage brush everywhere,

granite spires are standing all around,

I tell you folks it's heaven to go riding down the trail

When the desert sun goes down.

The Streets of Laredo

As I walked out on the streets of Laredo,

As I walked out in Laredo one day,

I spied a young cowboy all wrapped in white linen

Wrapped in white linen as cold as the clay.


"Oh, beat the drum slowly and play the fife lowly,

Play the Dead March as you carry me along,

Take me to the green valley and lay the sod o'er me

For I'm a young cowboy and I know I've done wrong."

"I see by your outfit that you are a cowboy"

These words he did say as I boldly stepped by,

"Come sit down beside me and hear my sad story,

I was shot in the breast and I know I must die."

"Let sixteen gamblers come handle my coffin,

Let sixteen cowboys come sing me a song,

Take me to the graveyard and lay the sod o'er me

For I'm a poor cowboy and I know I've done wrong."

"My friends and relations, they live in the Nation,

They know not where their boy has gone,

He first came to Texas and hired to a ranchman

Oh, I'm a young cowboy and I know I've done wrong."

"Go write a letter to my gray-haired mother, 

And carry the same to my sister so dear, 

But not a word of this shall you mention

When a crowd gathers round you my story to hear."

"Then beat your drum slowly and play your fife lowly,

Beat the Dead March as you carry me along,

We all love our cowboys so young and so handsome, 

We all love our cowboys although they've done wrong."

"There is another more dear than a sister

She'll bitterly weep when she hears I am gone,

There is another who will win her affections,

For I'm a young cowboy and they say I've done wrong."

"Go gather around you a crowd of young cowboys,

And tell them the story of this, my sad fate; 

Tell one and the other before they go further

To stop their wild roving before 'tis too late."

"Oh muffle your drums, then play your fifes merrily

Play the Dead March as you go along

And fire your guns right over my coffin,

There goes an unfortunate boy to his home."

"It was once in the saddle I used to go dashing

Once in the saddle I used to go gay,

First down to the dram-house and then to the card house

Got shot in the breast, I am dying today."

"Get six jolly cowboys to carry my coffin,

Get six pretty maidens to carry my pall,

Put bunches of roses all over my coffin, 

Put roses to deaden the clods as they fall."

"Then swing your rope slowly, and rattle your spurs lowly,

And give a wild whoop as you carry me along, 

And in the grave throw me and roll the sod o'er me

For I'm a young cowboy and I know I've done wrong."

"Go bring me a cup, a cup of cold water 

To cool my parched lips," the cowboy said; 

Before I turned, the spirit had left him

And gone to its Giver --- the cowboy was dead.

We beat the drum slowly and played the fife lowly,

And bitterly wept as we bore him along,

For we all loved our comrade, so brave, young and handsome,

We all loved our comrade although he'd done wrong.

The Tall Men

Oh, the high hawk knows where the rabbit goes,
and the buzzard marks the kill

But few there be with eyes to see the tall men riding still

We hark in vain on the speeding train 
for an echo of hoof beat thunder

And the yellow wheat is a winding sheet 
for cattle trails plowed under

Hoof dust flies at the low moon's rise 
and the bullbat's lonesome whir
an echoed note from the longhorn throat of a steer,
in the days that were

Inch by inch, time draws the cinch,
till the saddle will creak no more

And they who were lords of the cattle hordes 
have tallied their final score

This is the song that the night birds
 sing as the phantom herds trail by

Horn by horn where the long plains fling
 flat miles to the Texas sky

And this is the song that the night birds wail
 where the Texas plains lie wide

Over the dust of a ghostly trail 
where the phantom tall men ride

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.

The Cowboy's Ride

Oh, for a ride o'er the prairies free,

On a fiery untamed steed,

Where the curlews fly and the coyotes cry

And the western wind goes sweeping by

For my heart enjoys the speed.
With my left hand light on the bridle rein,

And the saddle girth pinched behind,

With the lariat tied at the pony's side

By my stout right arm that's true and tried,

We race with the whistling wind.
We're up and away in the morning light

As swift as a shooting star,

That suddenly flies across the sky,

And the wild birds whirl in quick surprise

At the cowboy's gay "Hurrah!"

As free as a bird o'er the rolling sea

We skim the pasture wide,

Like a seagull song we hurry along,

And the earth resounds with a galloping song

As we sail through the fragrant tide.

You can have your ride in the crowded town!

Give me the prairies free.

Where the curlews fly and the coyotes cry,

And the heart expands 'neath the open sky:

Oh, that's the ride for me!

The Cowboy

The bawl of a steer,

To a cowboy's ear,

Is music of sweetest strain;

And the yelping notes

Of the gray cayotes

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 wouldn'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 broncho's feet

On the sod as he speeds along,

Keeps living time

To the ringing rhyme

Of his rollicking cowboy 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 a dig of a roweled heel!

The winds may blow

And the thunder growl

Or the breezes 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.

and, just because I love singing them, a couple of "new" cowboy songs:

Riding to Amarillo (from Rio Bravo)
The sun is sinking in the west
The cattle go down to the stream
The redwing settles in the nest
It's time for a cowboy to dream

Purple light in the canyons
That's where I long to be
With my three good companions
Just my rifle, pony and me

Gonna hang my sombrero
On the limb of a tree
Comin' home sweetheart darlin' 
Just my rifle, pony and me
Just my rifle, my pony and me

Whippoorwill in the willow
Sings a sweet melody
Riding to Amarillo
Just my rifle, pony and me

No more cows to be roping
No more strays will I see
Round the bend she'll be waitin'
For my rifle, pony and me
For my rifle, my pony and me


Desperado, why don't you come to your senses?
You been out ridin' fences for so long now
Oh, you're a hard one
I know that you got your reasons
These things that are pleasin' you
Can hurt you somehow

Don't you draw the queen of diamonds, boy
She'll beat you if she's able
You know the queen of hearts is always your best bet

Now it seems to me, some fine things
Have been laid upon your table
But you only want the ones that you can't get

Desperado, oh, you ain't gettin' no younger
Your pain and your hunger, they're drivin' you home
And freedom, oh freedom well, that's just some people talkin'
Your prison is walking through this world all alone

Don't your feet get cold in the winter time?
The sky won't snow and the sun won't shine
It's hard to tell the night time from the day
You're losin' all your highs and lows
Ain't it funny how the feeling goes away?

Desperado, why don't you come to your senses?
Come down from your fences, open the gate
It may be rainin', but there's a rainbow above you
You better let somebody love you, before it's too late

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November 2013


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