From Texas to Montana

John Shreve

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To learn more about the songwriters, click on their names. The Musicians.

Song lyrics on these pages only for the purpose of study, review, critical analysis or as a courtesy to the majority of people in the world whose mother tongue is not English. Any copyrighted material on these pages is used in "fair use," for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s).


From Texas to Montana

From Texas to Montana. It's a journey through a wild and windy land, a journey through time and a tough trip of transformation, from the buffalo range to the cattle range, from prairie grass to power dam. Riding wild mustangs, cowboys - former southern soldiers, former slaves, vaqueros from Mexico, all just a step past boyhood - drove longhorn cattle north to the railheads in Kansas and to the northern plains beyond. The buffalo herds were still enormous and the Comanches and other plains peoples still lived free, but both were doomed. Their destruction paved the way for the future. Immigrants came to the West seeking gold and work and hope. But the land is harsh. For most, the dream of gold proved to be a nightmare. Some were overwhelmed by the vastness of the land and their own isolation therein. Work was to be had, yes, but it demanded men willing to following it, building dams, cutting trees and harvesting wheat. For many, rootlessness became a way of life and some never found their way home.

There is nothing fanciful about these songs. They are hard-bitten reality. They tell the tales of actual events, honest emotions and above all of real people: the buffalo hunter Crego, Quanah Parker, Charlie and Mary Goodnight, Bob Fudge, the Blocker brothers, Bessie Mulhern, Wagner Dodge as well as the Cherokee cowboy, the Mexican immigrants, the unemployed cowboys, the dead hobo and all the others who remain nameless.

From Texas to Montana. A tough trip.





The Musicians

Old Chisholm Trail
John Shreve – vocals
Gregor Bosch – background vocals
Kat Baloun – harmonica
Olaf Block – banjo
Axel Rosenbauer – guitar
Jörg Fischer – bass

The Range of the Buffalo

John Shreve – vocals, guitar
Bernd Lütke – fiddle

Anthem 1
John Shreve

Power in the Wind
John Shreve – vocals
Stefanie Zill – background vocals
Bernd Lütke – fiddle
Axel Rosenbauer – guitar
Jörg Fischer – bass

Soldier’s Joy
Yves Le Mao – banjo

The Pecos Stream
John Shreve – vocals
Yves Le Mao – banjo

A Woman’s Life
John Shreve – lead vocal, guitar
Stefanie Zill – lead vocal
Güno van Leyen – mandolin

The Freedom Song
John Shreve – vocals
Bernd Lütke – fiddle
Axel Rosenbauer – guitar
Jörg Fischer – bass
Gregor Bosch – background vocals
Stefanie Zill – background vocals

Los Estados Unidos
John Shreve – vocal, guitar
Jörg Fischer – bass
Sabine Bremer – fiddle
Stefanie Zill – background vocals
Insa Bernds – viola

Anthem 2
John Shreve

The Old Double Diamond
John Shreve – vocals
Bernd Lütke – fiddle
Waltraut Steinhäuser – cello
Axel Rosenbauer – guitar
Güno van Leyen – mandolin

Diamond Joe
John Shreve – vocals, guitar
Olaf Block – banjo
Jörg Fischer – bass, background vocals
Gregor Bosch – background vocals
Johannes Sauer – background vocals

Bob Fudge
John Shreve
– vocals
Waltraut Steinhäuser – cello
Bernd Lütke – fiddle
Axel Rosenbauer – guitar

Nothin‘ to Do But Go
John Shreve

Old Buddy, Goodnight
John Shreve – vocals
Gregor Bosch – background vocals
Kat Baloun – harmonica
Axel Rosenbauer – banjo
Jörg Fischer – bass

Sourdough/The Miner’s Song
John Shreve – vocals, guitar
Bernd Lütke – fiddle
Jörg Fischer – bass
Heiner Thomas – banjo
Waltraud Steinhäuser – cello

Jackhammer John
John Shreve – vocals
Axel Rosenbauer – guitar, accordeon
Uli Peus – snare drum
Gregor Bosch – background vocals
Jörg Fischer – bass

Bessie and Me
John Shreve – vocals
Erhardt Rothe – guitar
Kat Baloun – harmonica
Güno van Leyen – mandolin
Jörg Fischer – bass

Deep Water, Ice and Snow
John Shreve – vocals, guitar
Axel Rosenbauer – accordeon

Cold Missouri Waters
John Shreve – vocals
Erhardt Rothe – guitar
Kat Baloun – harmonica
Jörg Fischer – bass

Roll On, Owyhee
John Shreve – vocals
Stefanie Zill – background vocals
Axel Rosenbauer – guitar, dobro
Jörg Fischer – bass, percussion

Anthem 3
John Shreve

Montana Backroads
John Shreve – vocals
Axel Rosenbauer – guitar, dobro
Güno van Leyen – mandolin
Jörg Fischer – bass

bonus track:
Walking After Midnight
Kay Shreve – vocals
Richie Reinholdt – guitars, bass

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The Old Chisholm Trail

Well, come along boys and listen to my tale,
I'll tell you of my troubles on the Old Chisholm Trail .

Come a ti-yi yippee, yippee yeah, yippee yeah,
Come a ti-yi yippee, yippee yeah!

Now, a ten-dollar horse and a forty-dollar saddle,
Going to Texas to punch them longhorn cattle

I‘m in my saddle before daylight,
And afore I sleeps, the moon shines bright.

A-roping and a-tying and a-branding all day,
I‘m working mighty hard for mighty little pay.

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

The wind began to blow and the rain began to fall
It looked like to me we's gonna lose them all.

Popped my foot in the stirrup and I gave a mighty yell
Tail cattle broke and the leader went to hell.

Me and old Blue Dog riding on the spot
And we got them to millin‘ like the boilin‘ of a pot.

Well, I jumped in the saddle and grabbed hold the horn,
Best god-damned cowboy ever was born.

We all hit town, and we hit her on the fly,
We bedded down the cattle on a hill nearby.

Then we rounded ‘em up and we put em in the cars,
And that was the end of the Old Two Bars.

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

I‘ll sell my horse and I‘ll sell my saddle;
You can go to hell with your longhorn cattle.


Jesse Chisholm and the Chisholm Trail

Jesse Chisholm was born in Tennessee in 1805, the son of a Scottish father and a Cherokee mother. When Jesse was ten, the family traveled with the Cherokees to Arkansas and later settled at Fort Gibson, an army post in Indian territory. From 1832 on, when he marked an almost 140-mile trail for the Choctow Indians, Jesse Chisholm was a trail blazer. By the early 1850s, he was selling cattle and during the Civil War Chisholm drove cattle through Indian Territory to supply Union army posts in Kansas. Chisholm established a trading post at Council Grove, on the north fork of the Canadian River . In 1866, he drove 600 steers to New Mexico, where he sold them to government contractors at Bosque Grande on the Pecos . During the following year, he blazed a trail to move the Wichita Indians south, using a small herd of horses, which he drove back and forth across the rivers many times, to create easier crossings. When the trail drives to Kansas began after 1867, many followed routes blazed by Jesse Chisholm. The first herd to be driven along what became known as the Chisholm Trail belonged to O. Wheeler, who had purchased 2400 steers in San Antonio in 1867. In the early years, the trail was called simply „the Trail“ or the Kansas Trail, the Abilene Trail or the McCoy Trail. The name „Chisholm Trail“ was first mentioned in the May 27, 1870 issue on the “ Kansas Daily Commonwealth .” The Chisholm Trail was the main route for the trail drives from Texas to Kansas . Until 1871, it ended in Abilene , later in Ellsworth, Junction City , Newton or Wichita. The name „Chisholm Trail“ was extended south all the way to south Texas below San Antonio and to the Gulf Coast. After the Chisholm Trail became so crowded that the cattle had trouble finding grass, ranchers laid out a new trail, which became known as the Western Trail, ending in Dodge City. The Chisholm Trail was closed down by the introduction of barbed wire and a Kansas Quarantine law. In 1884, its final year, it led only as far as Caldwell, Kansas. More than five million cattle and a million mustangs had been driven along it. Jesse Chisholm, who blazed so many trails during his life, did not blaze the one which bore his name and he never drove cattle north along it. While on a trip to his Council Grove trading post, Jesse Chisholm died of food poisoning on March 4, 1868 and was buried near present-day Greenfield, Oklahoma. The tune for „The Old Chisholm Trail “ came from Stephen Foster's song „Old Ned.“

Photograph of Jesse Chisholm

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The Range of the Buffalo

Come all you old-time cowboys and listen to my song.
Please do not grow weary, I will not detain you long;
Concerning some wild cowboys who did agree to go
And spend the sommer pleasant on the range of the buffalo.

I found myself in Jacksboro in the spring of '73,
When a man by the name of Crego come a-walkin' up to me,
Said, "How do you do young fellow, and how'd you like to go
And spend the summer pleasant on the range of the buffalo?"

Well, me being out of work right then, to old Crego I did say,
"This goin' out on the buffalo range depends upon your pay.
But if you pay good wages, transportation to and fro,
I think I might go with you on the range of the buffalo."

"Well, of course I pay good wages and transportation, too,
If you'll agree to work for me until the season's through.
But if you should get homesick and try to run away,
You'll starve to death out on the trail, and you'll also lose your pay.

Well, with all this flatterin' talkin' he signed up quite a train
Some ten or twelve in number, some able-bodied men.
Our trip it was a pleasant one out on the western range
‘Til we crossed old Boggy Creek, in old New Mexico .

T‘was there our pleasures ended and our troubles all began,
A lightening storm it hit us and it made the cattle run.
Got all full of the stickers from the cactus that did grow,
And the outlaws waitin' to pick us off in the hills of Mexico .

He fed us on such sorry chuck I wished myself most dead,
And all we had to sleep on was a buffalo robe for a bed;
The fleas and gray-backs worked on us, boys, and they were not slow,
I‘ll tell you there‘s no worse hell on earth than the range of the buffalo.

Our hearts were cased with buffalo hocks, our souls were cased with steel
And the hardships of that summer would nearly make us reel.
While skinning the damned old stinkers our lives they had no show,
For the Indians tryin‘ to kill us all on the plains of Mexico .

The season being near over, old Crego he did say
The crowd had been extravagant, was in debt to him that day;
We coaxed him and we begged him and still it was no go,
We left the bastard's bones to bleach on the range of the buffalo.

Oh, it‘s now we‘ve crossed Pease River and homeward we are bound,
No more in that hell-fire country shall ever we be found.
Go home to our wives and sweethearts, tell others not to go,
For God‘s forsaken the buffalo range and the damned old buffalo.

The Destruction of the Buffalo

The buffalo – actually the bison and related to the European wisent – has played a decisive role in the history of the United States . When the Europeans arrived, the buffalo ranged in an area stretching from the Rocky Mountains to the Appalachians and from present-day Canada to Texas . At the beginning of the 19 th century as many as 30,000,000 buffalo lived on the Great Plains . By 1860, before the slaughter began, their numbers had already been greatly reduced. By 1830, all of the buffalo east of the Mississippi had been killed. In the 1840s, it is said that the tribes sold as many as 100,000 buffalo hides to the American Fur Company. The ever-increasing number of horses were competitors for grazing land and the settlers who traveled over the plains also destroyed much grassland. Their oxen brought diseases against which the buffalo had no natural resistance. During the construction of the transcontinental railroad, large numbers of buffalo were killed in order to feed the laborers. Yet, there were still millions of buffalo. It took days for the herds to pass and they blackened the landscape for as far as the eye could see. The Indians of the plains were nomads and followed the buffalo herds. Their culture and their physical existence were dependent on the buffalo. They ate the meat, used the hide to make clothing and for housing, made tools from the bones, glue form the hooves and used the tendons for their bows. The buffalo was a walking warehouse. And the role it played in their spiritual life was just as central as that played in their economic life. The importance of the buffalo for the peoples of the plains had even greatly increased after the introduction of the horses by the Europeans. The native peoples thereafter killed more buffalo than they themselves could consume so the women could prepare the hide for trade with the Europeans and Americans, acquiring with them desired objects of the white man's culture. As long as they had this source of wealth, the peoples of the plains were undefeatable and stood in the way of white settlement of the West. In 1870, a method was developed for making fine leather from buffalo hides. The slaughter began. The American government put a bounty on buffalo hides. The existence of the railroad made possible the killing-off of the buffalo herds by providing transportation to the eastern markets. Groups of buffalo hunters set off: two men to shoot, four to skin and a cook. The slow-moving animals were easy prey for the hunters. A good shot could easily kill 75 to 100 buffalo with just as many shots. Soon the plains were covered with carcasses, food for the wolves and the vultures, no longer for the Indians. The hides brought good prices in the East. Sometimes the slaughter approached the absurd. Trains took „hunters“ to the herds. These „hunters“ killed thousands of buffalo without leaving the train. It was called „sport.“ Soon one could walk for miles on buffalo skeletons without touching the ground.   By 1872, a half a million buffalo had been killed on the southern plains, killed only for their hides. The slaughter assumed such dimensions that in 1874, a bill was introduced into Congress making it illegal to kill a buffalo one did not eat. Both houses of Congress passed the bill, but President Grant did not sign it, so the slaughter continued. Those peoples whose existence depended upon the buffalo resisted. During the summer of 1874, Kiowa, Comanche, Arapaho and Cheyenne drove the buffalo hunters from the plains. The United States Army struck back, pursued the tribes and saw to it that the hunters could continue their „work.“ The killing increased and by the end of the decade, virtually all the buffalo on the southern plains has been slaughtered. The song „Range of the Buffalo “ in a document from that period.

Photographs of the destruction of the buffalo

On the northern plains, the mass killing of the buffalo was delayed by the strength of the Sioux. But by 1879, almost all the buffalo in Wyoming and Nebraska were dead, four years later, the buffalo in Montana and the Dakota Territory . In 1884, the last wagon of buffalo hides left Dickinson, Dakota Territory.
Later, the animals were economically exploited once more. The collection and sale of buffalo bones was good business as long as they lasted. Twenty to twenty-five dollars was paid for the bones, which were turned into fertilizer. The railroads transported settlers to the West in so-called “buffalo wagons.” For the return trip they were filled with buffalo bones. By the end of the 19th century, there were no more than a few hundred buffalo left on the North American continent.

Cowboys had no use for the buffalo hunters and their „capital“ Jacksboro, Texas. The buffalo hunters were known for their brutality. John A. Lomax passed on the story of a man said to have been involved in the creation of the song. „It was a hell of a trip down Pease River , lasting several months. We fought sandstorms, flies, bedbugs, wolves and Indians. At the end of the season old Crego announced he had lost money and could not pay us off. We argued the question with him.
“He didn‘t see out side of things, so we shot him down and left his damned old bones to bleach where we had left so many stinking buffalo. On the way back to Jacksboro, one of the boys started up a song about the trip and the hard times and old Crego and we all set in to help him. Before we got back to Jacksboro we had shaped it up and the whole crowd could sing it.“ (Folksong U.S.A. The 111 Best American Ballads , collected, adapted and arranged by John A. Lomax and Alan Lomax. New York : Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1947. p. 160.)   “The Range of the Buffalo ,” also known as „ Buffalo Skinners,“ collected by Lomax at the beginning of the 20 th century, has sometimes been called the best of all American ballads. Victor Grossman is of the opinion that the melody came originally from the English love song „ Caledonia .“ (Victor Grossman, If I Had a Song. Lieder and Sänger der USA. Berlin: Musikverlag Berlin, 1990. p. 55.) In America , it was first a song from the Maine woods.

It happened late one season in the fall of '53,
A preacher of the gospel one morning came to me.
Said he, „My jolly fellows, how would you like to go
To spend one pleasant winter up in Canada-I-O.“

When the loggers went west, the song became „Michigan-I-O.“ Someone took the song to Texas .

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Anthem 1
Buck Ramsey

Oh, we would ride and we would listen
And hear the message on the wind.
The grass in morning dew would glisten
Until the sun would dry and blend
The grass to ground and air to skying.
We‘d know by bird or insect flying
Or by their mood or by their song
If time and moon were right or wrong
For fitting works and rounds to weather.
The critter coats and leaves of trees
Might flash some signal with a breeze
Or wind and sun on flow‘r or feather.
We knew our way from dawn to dawn,
And far beyond, and far beyond.

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Power in the Wind
Andy Wilkinson

It was cold in the Palo Duro
In the winter of seventy-eight.
From the reservation in the Territory
Come rumors of an escape.
The cowhands grew uneasy
‘Cause we was losin‘ beeves;
It was feared it was Comanches,
Quanah Parker in the lead.

We remembered Blanco Canyon
And the battle of Adobe Walls,
And a young Comanche warrior
Who could not be killed at all.
So I thought it best to parley
With the leader of their band,
Strike ourselves a treaty
To live together on the land.

When I rode out to make my call
I knew right where he‘d been, I felt
His magic in the canyon walls,
His power in the wind.

Locating their encampment,
I stood down off my mount,
I asked to see their cápitan
As the warriors circled ‘round.
A young man, tall and handsome,
Fixed me in his sight
Saying, “Red men call me Quanah;
Parker, say the white.“

As a few snowflakes began to fall
Upon the cedar glen, I felt
His magic in the canyon walls,
His power in the wind.

Well he had not come a-beggin‘
Though his fortunes, they were low;
I could see his tribe was hungry
For want of the buffalo.
So I promised I‘d provision
Every week a couple of beeves
For the ranchers und Comanches
To abide their time in peace.

The words he spoke were straight and tall
His heart feared not of men, I felt
His magic in the canyon walls,
His power in the wind.

I stood behind our bargain,
Quanah did as he had said;
I never knew a promise broken
By a man whose skin was red.
And as an old man now, I tremble
When I stand upon the rim,
Looking down into the canyon
Remembering what had been.

There‘s an eagle soaring over all;
As I watch‘im turn and spin, I feel
His magic in the canyon walls,
His power in the wind.


Andy Wilkinson's source for this song is undoubtedly J. Evetts Haley's biography of Charles Goodnight, in which one finds the following passage:

„All went well until the fall of 1878, when a large band of Indians left the Territorial Reserves and headed back into Texas , ostensibly upon a buffalo hunt. They passed Fort Elliott and struck into the cañons of the Palo Duro, expecting to find game on the way. Five years before, the killing of the vast herds had got into good swing, and in spite of its serious interruption by the Indian battle at Adobe Walls in 1874, the slaughter was practically done by the winter of 1878. Disappointed at not finding game, and having many hungry mouths to feed, the Indians found and began killing JA cattle in the lower reaches of the Palo Duro. The line riders on the east side ‘sent me a runner,‘ said Goodnight, ‘stating that Indians were coming in considerable numbers. I at once mounted a good horse and started to meet them. ‘The weather was bitter cold, with snow on the ground. Before I could meet the Indians, they had entered the cañon, where they split into three bands. There being no buffaloes at this late year, they were killing cattle at a fearful rate. The Kiowas seemed to be in one band, with two bunches of Comanches co-operating. When I met the Kiowas, they were in an ugly mood, and it looked like trouble. I met one bunch of them north of the Tule, another on the Tule, and Quanah and the Comanches passed up the cañon behind me while I was after these. I followed them up, and at sundown found them making camp in the main cañon, five or six miles below the ranch. I rode up and inquired for the principal, as among them were a renegade Mexican and a captiva, a woman captive, who spoke beautiful Spanish. Designated as the capitán, Quanah, upon my asking his name, made this reply: “Maybe so two names — Mr. Parker or Quanah.“ Quanah meant odor or perfume, and he was named from the fact that be was born on the prairie, among the flowers. ‘I told Quanah I wanted him at headquarters, up the cañon, for the purpose of making a treaty. He pointed out that it was late, his ponies worn, and his papooses tired, but agreed to report in the morning. In the forenoon the setting for the parley was laid. They came up, ten or twelve of the old heads and a few of the young ones. Eight or ten of the outstanding braves were selected as inquisitors. They formed a circle and the interpreter and I were in the middle. “‘Don‘t you know this country is ours?“ one asked. I answered that I had heard they claimed the country, but that the great Captain of Texas also claimed it, and was making me pay for it, as they could see by the land corners they had passed. The controversy, I declared, was a matter between them and the State of Texas , and if they owned the land, I was quite willing to settle with them. Quanah said this was fair. “‘Where are you from?“ they asked. “Are you a Tejano?“ Knowing their bitterness toward the Texans, and knowing that they knew little about the United States as a whole, I told them I was from Colorado — which was in a sense true. I was in a trying position, never knowing from which inquisitor would come the next question. “‘What are you doing here?“ and every face was on me.
“‘Raising cattle.“
“‘Aren‘t you killing buffaloes?“
“‘Aren‘t you killing them to eat?“
“‘No. I have plenty of fat cattle, and buffaloes aren‘t much good.“
‘Then, being suspicious, they started in to prove whether I was a Texan or not by testing my knowledge of the Western country.
“‘What are the nearest mountains?“ they asked.
“‘Sierras de Ratónes,“ I answered.
‘Then they asked me where the Cimarrón was; the Capulín; the Tucumcari. Finally they questioned me about the Pecos River , and what I had been doing on it, saying that they used to handle cattle on that stream. “‘Yes,“ I said, “you damned pups licked me once and stole my cattle.“ ‘Though this was a false statement, the interpreter translated it, and they just roared. They were finally convinced that I was “no Tejano“ and said they were ready to negotiate a treaty. “‘What have you got to offer?“ they asked.
“‘I‘ve got plenty of guns and plenty of bullets, good men and good shots, but I don‘t want to fight unless you force me.“ Then, pointing to Quanah, I said:
“‘You keep order and behave yourself, protect my property and let it alone, and I‘ll give you two beeves every other day until you find out where the buffaloes are“‘ And so they treated and settled down together in perfect peace. The cowman kept his word in regard to the beeves, and Quanah —? Goodnight says he never knew an Indian who failed to keep his.“
(J. Evetts Haley, Charles Goodnight. Cowman and Plainsman. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1936. pages 307-309.)

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Soldier’s Joy

“Soldier's Joy” appeared in sheet music and dance instruction manuals on both sides of the Atlantic in the late 18 th century. According to Wayne Erbsen, it might have descended from an English tune called “The King's Head.” He relates the story that a condemned man won a reprieve by playing the tune for the king.  

“Soldier's Joy” enjoyed great popularity during the Civil War. Also known as “Payday in the Army,” “Love Somebody” or “Sweet Sixteen,” it was beloved by soldiers of both the South and the North. It was probably former Confederate soldiers, making up a large part of the first generation of cowboys, who brought the tune to the West.

On October 29, 1929, in Atlanta, the Skillet Lickers made the first recording of “Soldier's Joy” with Gid Tanner and Clayton McMichen playing fiddles, accompanied by Riley Puckett on guitar and Fate Norris on banjo.

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The Pecos Stream

Cowboy life is a dreary, dreary Iife,
Some say it‘s free from care;
Rounding up cattle from morning till night
In the middle of the prairie so bare.

At half past four, the noisy cook‘ll roar
„Hey, boys, it's the breaking of day.“
Slowly we rise with sleepy feelin‘ eyes
As the sweet dreamy night passed away.

Cowboy life is a dreary, dreary life,
All out in the heat and the cold;
While the rich man is a-sleeping on his velvet couch,
And he's dreaming of his silver and gold.

Spring sets in and our troubles all begin,
The weather being fierce and cold;
And we‘re almost froze from the water on our clothes,
And the cattle we can scarcely hold.

Cowboy life is a dreary, dreary life,
From dawn til setting sun
And then his day‘s work it is not done,
There‘s his night guard to go on.

Now the wolves and owls with their terrifying howls
Disturb us in our midnight dream.
While we're lying in our slickers in the cold, rainy night
Way over by the Pecos Stream

You can talk about your farms, and your big-city charms,
You can talk of your silver and gold;
But the cowboy life is a dreary, dreary life,
While you're driving through the heat and the cold.

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

The Pecos Stream

The lumberman's life is a wearisome life
Some say it's free from care
But we chop down the pine from mornin‘ till night
In the middle of the forest so drear

Those are the opening lines of „The Shantyman's Life,“ a song about the life of the lumbermen in Maine. It is obviously an ancestor of „The Pecos Stream.“ It was probably adapted from a shanty, as were many cowboy songs. „The Pecos Stream“ was first published in Jack Thorp 's 1908 collection Songs of the Cowboys. He said it had been put together from fragments of several old songs. In the 1921 edition of the book, the song appeared under the title „The Dreary, Dreary Life.“ It is also known as „The Cowboy's Life.“

The first cattle arrived in the new world at Vera Cruz in 1521, six heifers and a bull. Twenty years later, when Don Francisco Vásques de Coronado traveled north in search of the golden cities of Cibola, he drove five hundred head of cattle with him, the first cattle in Texas. Three centuries later, herds of wild cattle and horses were roaming the Southwest. Spaniards and Mexicans had created the cattle business and the culture of the vaqueros long before Americans began to enter Texas . In 1836, Texas gained its independence from Mexico and was admitted to the United States in 1845. By the 1850s, Americans dominated the cattle business. To reach the eastern markets, the cattle were originally driven to Shreveport and New Orleans . Hide, tallow, hooves, and horns were shipped to the east coast. The carcasses were discarded. After gold had been discovered in California , a half a million cattle were driven there. During the Civil War, many of the ranches were abandoned by men gone to fight and the cattle could breed without limits. The number of cattle in Texas at the end of the war was said to have increased from three and a half million to perhaps six million. After the war, a rancher could claim all the cattle he was able to catch. But it was not an easy task to catch them, for they ran wild in the brush country of southern Texas . The animals had become savage in the fight for survival and were equipped with long and sharp horns. Yet the toughness which made them hard to capture also made them excellent animals for the trail drive. They, „could walk to Hell and back again.“ The American cowboys adopted the work methods and even the dress of the Mexican vaqueros . The vocabulary of the cowboy is filled with Spanish terms: remuda, lariat, stampede, rodeo, pinto, corral, buckaroo, arroyo, chaps, hombre, coyote, chili, gringo, quirt, riata, rancho, sombrero, lasso, and others. The mustang horses used by the cowboys were descended from the horses the Spanish had brought to the new world and which had had time in the wild to adapt to the environment. The first post-war cattle drives were to mining towns in New Mexico and Colorado as well as to reservations and military posts, but the big markets were in the densely populated states of the North. The decisive question became that of transportation. Because of the political conflicts of the previous years between North and South – no none could agree where the first transcontinental railroad should be built, there was no rail connection between southern Texas the Northeast. To transport the cattle to the Northeast by rail, they had to be driven north to the new railheads in Missouri , Kansas , and Nebraska . Between 1865 and 1890, it is said that around 40,000 cowboys drove more than ten million cattle north. Five million were shipped east, while the other five million were driven to Wyoming , Idaho , and Montana to stock the northern plains. The era of the cattle drive thus lasted just a little over two decades. When it was over, however, the cattle industry was, along with mining, firmly established as one of the two dominant economic factors on the central and northern plains. The first cowboys were young men, still in their teens or early twenties. A great many of them were former confederate soldiers, who had seen no future in the devastated South and had found no employment there. Initially, they often wore remnants of their confederate uniforms. A smaller number of Union veterans, men who were unable to settle down, also found their way to the southern plains. It is estimated that a fourth of all the trail cowboys were Blacks. Many of them had learned to drive cattle while slaves. They received the same pay as the white cowboys, but faced racial discrimination, were not able to advance to the position of foremen and were often relegated to low-status jobs like that of horse wrangler. Perhaps another 12% of the cowboys were Mexicans or Mexican-Americans, who likewise faced racial discrimination. During the first drives, a number of Mexican vaqueros and black cowboys were essential in order to train the inexperienced Anglos how to handle the cattle. There were some Indians among the cowboys and even a few Englishmen and Scotsmen, many of the last group outcast members of noble families, who received financial support from their families. They were known as „remittance men.“ Two-thirds of the cowboys were never willing to sign onto more than one drive. During the drives, which could last as long as four months, the trail hands worked seventeen-hour days, seven days a week for thirty or forty-five dollars a month. Dealing with thousands of nervous cattle was always a dangerous proposition, especially in the case of a night stampede. The inexperienced cowhand had to ride „drag,“ that is, behind the herd, and eat dust all day long. The food was monotonous and the men slept out in the open, regardless of the weather. Diversions were few. Most trail bosses forbid liquor and some even gambling. They were, „poorly fed, underpaid, overworked, deprived of sleep, and prone to boredom and loneliness. It is no wonder that most cowboys spent but about seven years on the range before seeking out a more settled existence in the towns of the West.“ The trip north was wrought with numerous obstacles. Rivers had to be crossed, the tribes demanded payment for the herds crossing their lands, and rustlers stole what cattle they could, often causing stampedes in order to take advantage of the ensuing chaos. When the cowboys reached the cowtowns, Abilene, Coffeyville, Ellsworth, Hays, Wichita, Great Bend, Caldwell, Dodge City, Ogallala, or Cheyenne, all hell broke loose. After months of biscuits and beans, water and coffee, hardly a change of clothes, little sleep, and only cows and other men for company, the men were out to have a good time. After a shave and a haircut and a bath, they celebrated the end of the drive with limitless amounts of liquor, were after sex and they were armed. Aside from the merchants and the saloon owners, who saw to it that they were well-stocked with everything the free-spending cowboys might desire, the residents of the new frontier towns were not pleased by the presence of the cowboys. One Cheyenne newspaper wrote: “Morally, as a class, [cowboys] are foulmouthed, blasphemous, drunken, lecherous, utterly corrupt. Usually harmless on the plains when sober, they are dreaded in towns, for then liquor has an ascendancy over them.“ What made matters worse was the fact that the sheriffs of the cowtowns were generally from the North. The mostly unreconstructed former confederate soldiers resented them and had no intention of letting themselves be arrested by a „Yankee.“ Few of the cowboys owned their own horses and the trip back to Texas was often by steamboat and later by train with a „cowboy ticket“ provided by his employer. Abilene had been the first of the cowtowns and its history was typical. In 1866, it had been nothing more than a little settlement with a few log structures. Joseph G. McCoy of Chicago came to Kansas looking for a place from which he could ship the cattle being driven up from Texas to Chicago . At Abilene , he bought 250 acres for a stockyard and with the help of the governor of Kansas and the Kansas Pacific Railroad, which by 1867 had a line running to Abilene , he created the first cowtown. During the first year, 35,000 head of cattle were shipped out of Abilene and the numbers increased year for year. But the history of Abilene as a cowtown was not to be long. More and more settlers were moving onto the plains and the herds trampled their crops and carried with them the „Texas fever,“ a disease spread by ticks, which killed the farmers‘ livestock. The settlers made every effort to keep the herds away from their farms and their towns. So-called „deadlines“ were established that were not to be crossed by the herds and with ever-increasing settlement, the „deadlines“ were pushed ever further west. Townspeople also wanted to be rid of the Texas cowboys and those who served their needs. In 1871, Texas cattle destroyed hundreds of acres of crops around Abilene , causing the farmers to call for an end to the cattle drives. Abilene became a normal town. The story repeated itself with variations in the cowtowns which succeeded it. With the growing use of barbed wire, the era of the big trail drives came to an end and with it the cowboy of the trail drive. He was succeeded by the ranch cowboy.

Ranch cowboys continued to need many of the skills as the trail cowboys, but more of their time was spent doing farm chores: repairing fences, tending windmills, and other ranch maintenance. It was still a rather lonely job and the bunkhouse offered few comforts. Those employed in the winter often had to „ride line,“ patrol the outer edges of large ranches, alone or at most with one other cowboy, chasing strays and killing predators.

Today, cattle ranchers use all-terrain vehicles and even helicopters to keep track of and control cattle, but there are still cowboys on the job and the horse remains an essential tool of their trade.

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A Woman’s Life
Andy Wilkinson

The wind blows day and night through the canyon
Never stopping at the door,
While these log cabin walls stand like a prison
For a ranch wife walking the floor.

A woman‘s life is lonely,
The prairie for her home.
What is life but lonely?
Nothing, ... but being alone.

A woman can find her a good man to marry,
But a good man marries to his call.
He‘ll take her away to his wild open prairie,
Leave her climbing the walls.

She‘ll talk to herself, wait for an answer,
Talk to the chickens in the yard.
Silence of voices grows like a cancer;
Nothing in life is so hard.

A song about Mary Goodnight, who shared the fate of most women in the early days of white settlement on the West. Mary Ann Dyer was born on September 12, 1839 in Madison County, Tennessee, the daughter of Joel and Susan Dyer. When she was fourteen, her parents took her to the Eastern Cross Timbers region of Texas . After the early death of her parents, she took care of her five brothers, later working as a school teacher to support the youngest of them. About 1864, „Molly,“ as she was known to all but her later husband, met Charles Goodnight at Fort Belknap . They married on July 26, 1870 in Hickman , Kentucky . The couple had no children. Mary and Charles Goodnight made their first home near Pueblo, Colorado, where Goodnight had established a ranch. Three of his wife's brothers worked on the ranch, one with one-fourth interest in the herds. Drought and the panic of 1873 caused the Goodnights to return to Texas . With the backing of Englishman John Adair, the Goodnights established the JA Ranch in the Palo Duro Canyon in the Texas Panhandle. The couple initially moved into a two-room cabin, Mary Goodnight being the only woman on the ranch. As doctor, nurse, mother and sister, the „Mother of the Panhandle“ cared for the young men who worked on the ranch. Even when other women moved into the area, Mary often went six to twelve months without seeing another woman. She hat three pet chickens given to her by a cowhand. In 1887, the Goodnights moved to Armstrong County. Mary helped establish the Goodnight College in 1898. She died in April 1926.

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The Freedom Song
Andy Wilkinson

Johnny was a Cherokee cowboy
Long braids hangin‘ from his hat
He wrangled up on the Little S Ranch
And he rode with my uncle Jack.

He sat like a shadow in the saddle,
And wrote poetry with his rope,
He had a light hand for the horses,
And a smile for us little folk.

Johnny and Jack come a-callin‘
Took my brothers and my sisters and I
To the Hale County picnic,
Ought-seven, the fourth of July.

They had a big tent and a little brass band,
Box lunches on the lawn.
When they raised Old Glory to the top of the pole
We all sang the Freedom Song.

Oh say can you see?
Johnny why aren’t you singin‘?
Oh say can you see?
Johnny is there something wrong?
Oh say can you see?
Johnny, where are you goin‘?
Johnny, won’t you stay
And help us sing the Freedom Song?

The men all whipped their hats off,
And they hollered and whooped it up.
But Johnny just stood there silent,
With a hurt and angry look.

Then his face grew soft and he kneeled right down
And he sounded plumb wore out.
When he said, „Little pardner, it’s not my freedom
That they’re singin‘ about.“

He mounted his horse in a couple of strides
And I watched as he rode away,
Across the plains of the Land of the Free
’Til he vanished in the Home of the Brave.

Since then, I’ve sung the Freedom Song
A thousand times or more,
And, every time, I wonder just whose freedom
It is we’re singin‘ for?


Several years ago, Andy Wilkinson was invited to sing at the centennial celebration in Hale Center, Texas, which was to be celebrated on the 4th of July. He offered to write a special song for the occasion. „So they sent me a whole package of Chamber of Commerce stuff,“ Andy later explained, „like how many of their kids went to West Point and how many bushels of milo they harvested or how many bales of cotton they ginned. That's all important stuff if I wanted to build a motel there, or relocate my business, but it wasn't songwriting material.“ Andy did his own research. In the journal of the Hale County Historical Association he found two stories about the 4th of July. One of them was the basis for this song.

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Los Estados Unidos
Sid Hausman

Twenty-five people on the run
headed north in the desert sun
nearing noon, the water's running low.
It's a hundred and ten degrees
far from the shade of trees
near the route el Camino del Diablo.

Desert dwellers know
seek the shade till the sunlight goes
or you won't live to reach your goal.
The Raven's left ahead
in Lechuguilla three found dead
died of thirst, said the border patrol.

Caminando por la bajada
vamanos norte del rio
hay trabajo y esperanza
en los Estados Unidos.

Locked behind a boxcar door
nineteen men lay on the floor
dreamed of life they had never known.
Only one man breathed again
to tell the story of his friends
who crossed the river to send some money home.

There's a code of law and order
when you live along the border
travel fast, life is cheap, take the gold
El coyote leaves to trail
when the posse's on his tail
pockets full of the lives that he's sold.


This song is based on two incidents from the summer of 1987. Many Mexicans wade through the Rio Grande to enter the United States . Others pay good money to be smuggled into the country. Sometimes, as in these two cases, they pay with their lives. The Raven is a volcanic mountain in the desert of Lechugilla , which serves as a point of orientation. It is on the route known as „El Camino del Diablo,“ the devil's path. The „coyotes“ are the smugglers.

The large landowners in California were once extremely powerful. They were in possession of huge tracts of land, in some cases Spanish land grants. In 1915, the California legislature determined that 310 people owned four million acres. Since the 1870s, the large landowners have been employing whole armies of migrant workers for minimal wages to bring in the harvest. First, it was Chinese laborers, then Japanese and Filipinos. Finally, Mexicans made up the largest part of the harvest workers. In some years, as many as 200,000 people crossed the border, many of them lured by unscrupulous agents. Hiring these „illegals“ had many advantages for the landowners. They had no legal rights, could be blackmailed and, when their usefulness had ended, they could be sent away. The housing provided for them consisted of tent camps, or they lived in shanty towns.

With the coming of the Depression, the Mexicans were no longer needed. The Dust Bowl and the Depression drove the „Okies“ to California , where they worked in the harvest and replaced the Mexicans. The owners were not afraid to use violence to keep their harvest workers under control and prevent the unions away from gaining a foothold in the fields. Okies were hated by the Californians. During the Second World War and the years following, labor was short and the Mexican fields hands (baceros) were brought back. Still today, the „illegals“ play a decisive role in agriculture.

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Anthem 2
Buck Ramsey

The grass was growing scarce for grazing,
Would soon turn sod or soon turn bare.
The money men set to replacing
The good and true in spirit there.
We could not say, there was no knowing,
How ill the future winds were blowing.
Some cowboys even shunned the ways
Of cowboys in the trail herd days
(But where‘s the gift not turned for plunder?),
Forgot that we are what we do
And not the stuff we lay claim to.
I dream the spell that we were under;
I throw in with a cowboy band
And go out horseback through the land.

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The Old Double Diamond
Gary McMahan

Now the old Double Diamond
Lay our east of Dubois
In the land of the buffalo
And the auctioneer’s gavel
How it rapped and it rattled
As I watched the old Double Diamond go

Won’t you listen to the wind
Mother Nature’s violin

When I first hired on
To the old Double Diamond
I was a damned poor excuse for a man
Never learned how to aim
When the spirit was tame
Couldn’t see all the cards in my hand

And the wind whipped the granite above me
Blew the tumbleweed clear through my soul

Well I fought her winters
And I busted her horses
And I took more than I thought I could stand
But the battles for the mountains and cattle
Seem to bring out the best in a man

I guess a sailor, he needs an ocean
And a mama her baby to hold
And I need the hills of Wyoming
In the land of the buffalo.

Now she’s sellin‘ out I’m movin‘ on
But I’m leaving with more than I came
Cause I’ve got this saddle
And it ain’t for sale
And I got this song to sing

Find a new range to ride, new knots to tie
In a country where cowboys are king
I turn my tail to the wind
And the old Double Diamond
And disappear into the sage.

Gary McMahan wrote me that this song is a true story. In the early seventies, he and his father went to stay with a rancher friend in Wyoming . He took them to the auction of the Double Diamond Ranch. There were several cowboys, long-term employees of the ranch, who were packing their saddles and duffels, preparing to head in different directions to find work. Gary wrote the song from their perspective.

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Diamond Joe

Old Diamond Joe was a rich old jay,
Had lots of cowboys in his pay;
Rode the range with his cowboy band,
And many a mav'rick got his brand.

Well, I hired on, offered Joe my hand
Got a string of horses so old they couldn‘t stand
Liked to died from hunger, he mistreated us so
Never earned a dollar off-a Diamond Joe.

Roll on, boys, roll, don't you roll so slow,
Roll on, boys, roll, don't you roll so slow,
Ki yipee i, yipee ki yi yo,
Roll on, boys, roll, don't you roll so slow,
Roll on, boys, roll, don't you roll so slow,
Ki yipee i, yipee ki yi yo.

Just a cowboy, ain’t got no home
Got no folks, so I’m bound to roam
I work for the L’s, or the old Bar-O
Won’t burn no brand for Diamond Joe

Well, if I was rich like Diamond Joe
I’d work today and I’d work no more
He works me hard and pays so slow
Don’t give a damn if I work or no. (chorus)


This is the less well-known and probably older version of the story of Diamond Joe. It appeared in the later editions of John Lomax's Cowboy Songs. The chorus, which one also hears in Merle Travis‘ „Nine Pound Hammer,“ which, as Don Edwards writes, was based on an old Appalachian song.

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Bob Fudge
Ian Tyson

My name is Bob Fudge, I was born in Texas
Lampassas County back during the war
Smallpox and Comanches took most of my family
Left my poor mother and my brothers and me

So I headed north for to ride for the Blockers
They were contracting herds for the Montana range
In the spring of the year '82 we left old Lampassas
With 2000 steers for the Little Big Horn

Crossing our trails were many great rivers
All to be crossed not a bridge could be found
In the cold roiling waters and the wild plunging cattle
There was many a young man took leave of his life

Well we crossed at Doan's store into the Indian nations
Saw the blood on the rocks where those cowboys had died
And on to Fort Dodge on the Arkansas River
Where gamblers and whores came to welcome us there

The great snow cap peaks were on our left side now
For many a mile in a great silent land
When I first saw Montana I knew I would love her
I'd ride her great ranges for the rest of my days

Well she's all cut and dried now, the trails are all gone now
I've been to Yellowstone Park in an automobile
But I can still see ‘em swimming
Boys I can still hear ‘em runnung
Yes I came off the trail when cowboys was king

My name is Bob Fudge I died in Montana


Bob Fudge

G. R. „Bob“ Fudge was born 1862 in Lampasas County, Texas. When he was ten, his father, mother, sister, two brothers, two aunts and two uncles set off with a thousand steers and two-hundred horses for California. In New Mexico, Comanches robbed them of the cattle and all but four horses. Soon thereafter, all but his mother and two brothers died of smallpox. The remaining family members returned to Texas . When he was just twelve years old, Bob began to do ranch work. In 1881, he helped trail a herd to Colorado and the following spring, at age twenty, he went with a Blocker herd to the Little Big Horns in Montana. Many trail drives followed and for eighteen years he worked for the XIT Ranch on its Montana range. Bob Fudge died Biddle, Montana in 1933 and was buried in Broadus. He was a rarity, a 250-pound cowboy.

Bob Fudge, Texas Trail Driver, Montana-Wyoming Cowboy 1862-1933, Jim Russell. Denver: Big Mountain Press, 1962.

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Nothin‘ to Do but Go
Henry Herbert Knibbs

Beat it, Bo, while your feet are mates.
We‘ll see the whole United States
With a smoke and a pal and a fire at night -
Up again in the morning bright
With nothin‘ but road and sky in sight
And nothin‘ to do but go.

Beat it, Bo, while the walking‘s good.
The birds on the wire are still sawin‘ wood —
If today ain‘t the best for you and me,
There‘s always tomorrow that‘s comin‘, see
And the day after that is going to be,
And there‘s nothin‘ to do but go.

I‘m the ramblin‘ son with the nervous feet.
I never was meant for a steady beat.
I‘ve had many a job for a little spell.
I‘ve been on the bum and I hit it swell -
But there‘s only one road to fare-thee-well,
And nothin‘ to do but go.

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Old Buddy, Goodnight
Utah Phillips

I was there when they opened the boxcar
And found him stone dead on the floor
Though thumbing and bumming was all of our trade
No one had seen him before

He wore the face of a stranger
Lost and unseen in a crowd
He looked so small as we carried him down
Wrapped in a newspaper shroud

The wind blows cold in Wyoming
The stars shine clear and bright
If you don't wake up tomorrow at all
I guess it's old buddy goodnight

His hair was the color of winter
All streaked with iron and coal
And all you could see in his soft prairie eyes
Was the wind and the grass and the snow

The backs of his hands were like roadmaps
The lines in his face were the same
And on his left arm a faded tattoo
Bordered a rose and a name

I don't know where he came from
His train was a U.P. freight
If there's someone waiting for him down below
He'll be a little bit late

So give him a line in your paper
And here's what I want you to say
"There's some things worse than dying alone
And one of them's living that way."

Utah Phillips: „The snow in Wyoming is not the fluffy Eastern kind that makes good snowmen. Wyoming is high and the wind seems to blow all the time. The snow is little kernels of ice and the wind picks it up and sends it rattling like bullets against anything higher than a jack rabbit One winter a bunch of guys came up (to Joe Hill House in Salt Lake City) from the Roper yards after switching down from a U.P. westbound. They were almost frozen blue. We fed them our stew and pretty soon when everyone was warm, one guy came up to me and said, ’There‘s an old fellow down in the yard who came in with us but he‘s sick and can‘t make it up.’ That made me mad, because they could have told us an hour earlier when they first came in. But that‘s the bum‘s ethic - me first. So some of us went down into the yard to look for the missing one. We cracked open four or five boxcars and found him. That‘s how I got this song...“ (Sing Out! Vol. 24, No. 3, 1975. p. 4.)

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Sourdough/The Miner's Song
Bill Staines

When first unto this country, a stranger I came,
Pick and shovel on my back, no money to my name,
No money to my name.

I landed in old Juneau , Seattle far behind,
I boated 'cross the channel where I worked the Treadwell Mine,
I worked the Treadwell Mine.

Well, it was hard times in the open pit, eighteen hundred down,
One day you'd make two dollars and the next you're glory bound,
The next you're glory bound.

Well, I dodged the rocks from the sudden slides and swam out of the mud
In the rain and cold I dug for gold
Through the water and the mud.

There's color in the eagle's eye and in the sun at the break of day,
But there ain't no color I could find to keep me on that pay,
To keep me on that pay.

So it was straightway through the wilderness to Fairbanks up the line,
And down the frozen Yukon in the year of ninety-nine,
The year of ninety-nine.

Now there's twenty thousand of us here out on the beach at Nome ,
And there ain't but one in fifty who can pay his way back home,
Pay his way back home.

God find the snow-blind trapper and help him on his way,
God bless the drunken fiddler when he finds the time to play,
And hear the words of the dying man left frozen in the cold,
And pity the weary miner who's never found his gold,
Who's never found his gold.

Well, I wish I was in Portland or some other seacoast town,
I'd sail around this whole wide world and lay this cradle down,
Lay this cradle down.



The Alaska Gold Rush

In 1897, it appeared as though history were going to repeat itself, almost half a century after the California Gold Rush. The news hit the nation like a shock wave : gold had been discovered in Alaska . In August 1896, two Indians, Skookum Jim and Tagish Charlie, and a white gold seeker, George Washington Cormack, had found gold on the Klondike River , a tributary of the Yukon . Cormack was one of those men who had always kept moving on, looking for adventure, fleeing civilization. Alaska was a last refuge for such men. Appropriately, Cormack had been born in San Francisco , the son of a „49er.“ In 1741, Vitus Bering and Aleksei Tschirikow had reached the southern coast of Alaska. After having driven off the natives, Grigorii Shelekov established a base on Kodiak Island in 1784. Fifteen years later, he helped create the Russian American Company. The company founded Novo Arkhangel'sk (later renamed Sitka) and despite fierce resistance from the Tlingits, the Russians managed to establish themselves in Alaska. In 1867, Secretary of State William Seward purchased Alaska from the Russian Empire, 59,000 square miles for 7.2 million dollars. People laughed at „Seward's folly“ or „Seward's icebox“ and the American government proceeded to ignore the new acquisition. On July 17, 1897, the steamship Portland docked in Seattle carrying seventy passengers with a million dollars in gold. Seattle , it is said, „went absolutely mad.“ Within ten days of the arrival of the ships, 1,500 people left the city for Alaska . Soon armies of mostly men from all over the country set off for the North. During the first 24 hours after the news reached New York , 2,000 people attempted to book passage to Alaska . In Chicago , 1000 people tried to book passage every day. Again, as in 1849, men - there were also women and in rare cases whole families who set off for the Klondike . - left familes, jobs, and businesses behind and set off for the unknown. But only a small percentage of those who set off actually arrived. 10,000 men and boys from Seattle left for the gold fields. Even the mayor resigned to go to Alaska to try his luck. Yet the population of Seattle doubled during the following four years. Of the perhaps 100,000 gold seekers who traveled to Alaska , as many as 70,000 passed through Seattle and what is more important, they oufitted themselves there. That was so was the result of an advertising campaign by the Seattle Chamber of Commerce. Rousing itself from the depression of the 1890s, Seattle concentrated on the economic possibilities presented by the gold rush and soon became the most important commercial center in the Northwest. The city transformed itself from a town to a metropolis. (Norbert MacDonald, Distant Neighbors: A Comprehensive History of Seattle and Vancouver. University of Nebraska Press, 1987. p. 47)   Those gold seekers who went overland underestimated both the distance and the harsh northern wilderness. Many perished or turned back. Most who reached the Klondike had to climb the dangerous passes in Alaska's panhandle, among them Chilkoot Pass, 1100 feet, often carrying 100 to 200 pounds of gear on their backs. Dawson, invaded by thousands of gold seekers in the summer of 1897, nearly ran out of food during the following winter. Many prospectors left and those who remained held out in one of the small boomtowns along the river. These emptied when gold was discovered in Nome in 1899. By 1900, the gold rush was already over and most of the gold seekers returned home and the era of industrial mining began in Alaska. The rush lasted long enough, however, to disrupt the lives of the native people and destroy many of them. It also created a new consciousness of Alaska in the American mind. In 1906, Alaska was organized as a territory, but it did not become the 49th state until 1958.  

Alaska Gold Rush in internet:  

Adney, Tappan, The Klondike Stampede (1900; repr. Vancouver, B.C., 1994).
Bolotin, Norman, A Klondike Scrapbook: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Times (San Francisco,1987).
Berner, Richard C., Seattle 1900-1920: From Boomtown, Urban Turbulence, to Restoration (Seattle, 1991).
Berton, Pierre, Klondike: The Last Great Gold Rush, 1896-1899 (1958, repr. Toronto, 1993).
Holeski, Carolyn, and Marlene Conger, In Search of Gold: The Alaska Journals of Horace S. Conger, 1898-1899 (Anchorage, 1983).
LaRoche, Frank, Photographic Views En Route to the Klondike (Chicago, 1898).
Martinsen, Ella Lung, Black Sand and Gold: A True Story of the Alaska-Klondike Gold Rush (Portland, 1956).
Marks, Paula Mitchell, Precious Dust: The American Gold Rush Era, 1848-1900 (New York, 1994).
Mayer, Melanie, Klondike Women: True Tales of the 1897-98 Gold Rush (Athens, Ohio, 1989).
Morgan, Murray, One Man's Gold Rush: A Klondike Album. Photographs by E.A. Hegg (Seattle, 1967).

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Jackhammer John
Woody Guthrie

Jackhammer John was a jackhammer man
Born with a jackhammer in his hand
Lord, Lord, I got them jackhammer blues.

I build your roads and your buildings, too,
And I'm gonna build a dam or two
Lord, Lord, I got them jackhammer blues.

I was borned in Portland Town ,
Built every port from Alasky down;
Lord, Lord, I got them jackhammer blues.

Built your bridges, dug your mines,
Been in jail a thousand times,
Lord, Lord, I got them jackhammer blues.

Jackhammer, Jackhammer, where you been?
Been out a-chasin' them gals again;
Lord, Lord, I got them jackhammer blues.

Jackhammer John from a jackhammer town,
I can hammer on the hammer til the sun goes down,
Lord, Lord, I got them jackhammer blues.

I hammered on the boulder, hammered on the butte,
Columbia River on a five-mile chute;
Lord, Lord, I got them jackhammer blues.

Workin' on the Bonneville, hammered all night
A-tryin' to bring the people some electric light
Lord, Lord, I got them jackhammer blues.

I hammered on the Bonneville, Coulee, too
Always broke when the job was through,
Lord, Lord, I got them jackhammer blues.

I hammered on the river from sun to sun,
Fifteen million salmons run;
Lord, Lord, I got them jackhammer blues.

I hammered in the rain, I hammered in the dust,
I hammered in the best, I hammered in the worst;
Lord, Lord, I got them jackhammer blues.

I got a jackhammer gal just as sweet as pie,
And I'll hammer on the hammer til the day I die
Lord, Lord, I got them jackhammer blues.
(repeat first verse)

The administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt started a program of public works. The idea was to tackle several problems at the same time: unemployment, reforestation, flood control, erosion prevention, and to provide industry and agriculture with inexpensive electricity. The largest of these projects were the power dams, among them, those on the Columbia River. The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) was created in 1937. The documentary filmmaker Gunther von Fritsch planned to do a film for the BPA. He had already made one film, Hydro, about the first series of Columbia River dams. The Grand Coulee Dam had originally been proposed in 1918, but the conflict over the concept of public power as opposed to private power had prevented the project's realization. The new film project, designed to support the idea of public power, was to have a folksy narrator and Alan Lomax suggested Woody Guthrie. At the time, Woody was living with his wife and family in California . Woody immediately packed the family up and headed for Portland, Oregon . They arrived hungry, broke and dirty. Along the way, Woody had had to hock the family radio to buy food for the children. Woody had no way of knowing that the financing of the film was not guaranteed. Von Fritsch took pity on Guthrie and convinced the director of the BPA to put him on the payroll for awhile. Woody got a 30-day contract as a laborer for 266 dollars and 66 cents. It was to be the most productive month of his life. It is said he wrote 26 songs during those weeks, though the number has never been confirmed. Among them though were some of his most enduring. Everyday, Woody used a BPA car to go look at different parts of the river. That such huge dams were being constructed by the government coincided with his own conception of socialism and he glorified the workers in songs such as „Jackhammer John“, „Hard Traveling,“ and „Dirty Overalls.“ During the day, he filled up his notebook with ideas and in the evening, in a small room in the BPA building, he honed them. As usual, Woody used old melodies, often entirely unconsciously, to make new songs. For „Roll On, Columbia ,“ he used the melody of Lead Belly's „Goodnight Irene.“ The melody of „The Grand Coulee Dam“ comes from „ Wabash Cannonball.“ For „Columbia‘s Waters,“ he borrowed Jimmie Rodger's „Muleskinner Blues.“ „Song of the Grand Coulee Dam“ used the music from „On Top of Old Smokey“ and the music for „Jackhammer Blues“ is taken from „Brown's Ferry Blues.“ There were also a few talking blues and in a pinch, he handed in a song he had written earlier. While working for the BPA, Woody's car was repossessed because he had not kept up the payments. Several of the songs were recorded for possible future use, but the money needed to produce the film was eaten up by the war effort. The film „ Columbia ,“ in which three of Woody's songs could be heard, was not completed until 1949. On the occasion of the BPA‘s 50th anniversary, copies of the recordings were located - the original recordings had disappeared – and a long-playing record was released. Today, the recordings, Columbia River Collection (Rounder CD 1040) are sold at the Grand Coulee Dam visitors' center.
Not until 1966 was the mortally ill Woody Guthrie honored for his earlier efforts. Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall named a 12,000 watt power generator station the „Woody Guthrie Substation.“  

in internet:
Grand Coulee Dam
Bonneville Dam
Bonneville Power Administration

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Bessie and Me
Tom May

The middle of Montana, a dirty cold night,
I inquired of lodging in a rough-looking bar.
They told me of Bessie, they said she welcomed
All sinner and saint from near and from far.

Above an old bookstore, the narrow stairs beckoned
To a tired old traveler fresh from the road.
At the top of the flight was a weathered old woman
With an accent as thick as a piece of old sod.

It’s just Bessie and Me this evening in old Butte, Montana,
In an empty hotel on a cold Friday night.
With the ghosts of the miners and the old thread-bare carpets,
Forty rooms vacant in the fading twilight,
The windows shut tight against the morning.

In 1909, these oak doors first opened
To the immigrant dreams of a thousand strong men.
In the thirties young Bessie took the ship here from Ireland
To be a maid for her uncle, to cook and to mend.

She married a man who came from her own country.
They carved out a life beneath the big sky.
Their boarders were hard men who toiled in the darkness,
For the copper and the silver they lived and they died.

Bessie spoke of her youth and of the Easter Rebellion
And a lad that she loved that has never been found.
She told tales of the thirties here in western Montana,
Of the unions who protected the men deep in the ground.

Butte was a good town, I can still hear her say,
The men were hard-working, and the churches were strong.
Now the churches are abandoned and the buildings are rotting
And the Berkeley Pit and the shafts have been idle too long.

Tonight I walk down the streets of old Butte, Montana,
Imagining the Friday nights this town did know,
The drinking and the fighting and the spirit of adventure
That epitomized this young land back so long ago.

Bessie’s rooms now are spotless, the towels are clean,
The hallways ring hollow with no one around.
Like this Friday night Main Street of old Butte, Montana,
There’s the echoes of the past, but there’s hardly a sound.

Bessie Mulhern's obituary

In 1981, Tom May performed for the first time in Butte, Montana, in the Silver Dollar Bar, once one of the city's whore houses. The owner, Jane Faught, booked the musicians who played in her bar into the Towey Hotel in Montana Street. Everyone in Butte knew the hotel simply as „Bessie's.“ Bessie was born as Bessie Towey in Ireland in County Roscommon in 1902. In 1937, she took a ship to New York and traveled on to Butte by train, where she worked as cook and chambermaid for her uncle. Martin Towey, who had founded the hotel in 1909. Her future husband, James Mulhern, lived in the hotel. When her uncle became ill, she cared for him until he died during World War II. After his death, she ran the hotel herself. Her husband died from wounds suffered during the war. Thereafter, until shortly before her death on July 2, 1996, she carried on alone. Tom May remembers paying six dollars a night. Utah Phillips, who used to stay at Bessie's, paid ten dollars, but the second night was free if you made your own bed.

Tom May wrote me:
„Bessie was very opinionated about a broad range of topics and a pleasure to visit with...She could always be relied upon for a smile and a story. Every Sunday at 2PM she would receive a call from her brother in New York, who she only met when she passed through that city in the 1930‘s. She never returned to Ireland to visit, and loved her adopted town of Butte, though she often berated the people who had brought it to the hard times of the 80‘s. She was an American original.“

Tom May's song was mentioned in Bessie Mulhern's obituary. Utah Phillips and Mark Ross have also written a song about Bessie, „Look for Me in Butte .“

In dem Nachruf zu Bessie wurde Tom Mays Lied „Bessie and Me“ erwähnt. Auch Utah Phillips und Mark Ross widmeten Bessie Mulhern, „Look for Me in Butte “. „Look for Me in Butte “ ist zu hören auf: Utah Phillips & Mark Ross, Loafer's Glory, Red House Records CD 103 und Mark Ross, Look for Me in Butte .

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Deep Water, Ice and Snow
Ben Perkins

Deep water, ice and snow
A thousand cattle we had to go
To get the cattle to the other side
You bet your life we had to ride.

The railroad was but a mile away
But some men and horses would die that day
We held the herd on a ridge close by
As the north wind blew the snowflakes by

We were all chilled our bodies through
But from cold or fear nobody knew
We took a smoke and watched it blow
Then slacked our cinch, we gotta go

Deep water, ice and snow
A thousand cattle we had to go

I pointed them in, we hit her fast
But our luck by now was fadin‘ fast
That man was talkin‘ from down below
As my horse and I were next to go

My horse turned over and I floated free
And the waves was so high I couldn’t see
Then my horse swam by and I grabbed his tail
He dragged me out of that icy hell.

Deep water, ice and snow
A thousand cattle we had to go

I’ll never forget that terrible day
When strong men cried and I heard some pray
We crossed the cattle to the other side
Just to save a vain man’s pride

The hell I’ve seen was mighty cold
The other kind is worse or so I’m told
But I hope when I have to go
It ain’t in deep water, ice and snow.

Deep water, ice and snow
A thousand cattle we had to go
To get the cattle to the other side
You bet your life we had to ride.

This song by rancher Ben Perkins relates the true story of driving cattle through a river filled with cakes of ice and freezing mud which caused the horses to slip and fall. The “vain man” in the song was Ben Perkins' father, known as Old Nick. Ben Perkins' original title was “Special Aging of Finance Contracts – Deep Water, Ice and Snow.” Katie Lee, who included the song in her book, Ten Thousand Goddam Cattle , and knew Ben Perkins well has no explanation for it or the story behind it except noting that when Ben told her who the “vain man” was, he said it “with some bitterness.” (p. 195) “And hidden in [this] song that Benny wrote is a story I never really got to the bottom of – somehow, I'd just as soon let it hang there and mystify me. I could ask Dave, or Marion [Ben's brothers] or Betty [Ben's wife], or the rest of them, but sometimes a big ranch with four fighting Irish brothers and a piece of old rock itself, like Nick, goes by some rules that others might understand.” (p. 134) I learned this song from Katie Lee's cassette Ten Thousand Goddam Cattle, but this version is closer to that of Don Edwards on his CD Songs of the Trail.

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Cold Missouri Waters
James Keelaghan

My name is Dodge, but then you know that
It's written on the chart there at the foot end of the of the bed
They think I'm blind, that I can't read it
I've read it every word and every word it says is death
So, confession, is that the reason that you came?
Get it off my chest before I check out of the game
Since you mention it, well there's thirteen things I'll name
Thirteen crosses high above the cold Missouri waters

August, '49, North Montana
The hottest day on record, the forest tinder dry
Lightning strikes in the mountains
I was crew chief at the jump base, I prepared the boys to fly
Pick the drop zone, C-47 comes in low
Feel the tap upon your leg that tells you go
See the circle of the fire down below
Fifteen of us dropped above the cold Missouri waters

Gauged the fire, I'd seen bigger
So I ordered them to sidehill and we'd fight it from below
We'd have our backs to the river
We'd have it licked by morning even if we took it slow
But the fire crowned, jumped the valley just ahead
There was no way down, headed for the ridge instead
Too big to fight it, we'd have to fight that slope instead
Flames one step behind above the cold Missouri waters

Sky had turned red, smoke was boiling
Two hundred yards to safety, death was fifty yards behind
I don't know why I just thought it
I struck a match to waist high grass running out of time
Tried to tell them, step into this fire I set
We can't make it, this is the only chance you'll get
But they cursed me, ran for the rocks above instead
I lay face down and prayed above the cold Missouri waters

And when I rose, like the phoenix
In that world reduced to ashes there were none but two survived
I stayed that night and one day after
Carried bodies to the river, wonder how I stayed alive
Thirteen stations of the cross to mark to their fall
I've had my say, I'll confess to nothing more
I'll join them now, because they left me long before
Thirteen crosses high above the cold Missouri waters
Thirteen crosses high above the cold Missouri shore...

the Mann Gulch Fire

On August 5, 1949 at about 12:30, a fire was discovered in a narrow canyon known as Mann Gulch, on the Missouri River north of Seeley Lake, about 20 miles north of Helena, Montana. It was a hot, windy day with a high in Helena of around 90° F. A crew of 15 smoke jumpers, many of them veterans of World War II, set out from Missoula , a hundred miles west of the fire. Between 3:50pm and 4:10pm they jumped over the fire. Crew chief was R. Wagner „Wag“ Dodge. The DC-3 which dropped the equipment had problems and scattered it over a large area. The radio was broken. Not until about 5 o'clock did the men finish gathering their equipment. At that point, they did not yet feel threatened by the fire. At 3 o'clock, the wind had shifted directions and increased in velocity. Dodge had put the river at their backs as an escape route. Now the men pulled back toward the river. At 5:40, they still sensed no danger. But a combination of wind and intense heat caused a blow-up. The fire jumped from one side of the canyon to the other and cut the crew off from the river. At 5:45, the men realized that the escape route to the river was blocked. The men began to run up the gulch. Dodge ignited a rescue fire in tall grass and called to the crew to enter his fire. They considered him crazy and continued to run uphill. Dodge lay down in the hot ashes of his fire and only seconds later the main fire roared over him. The wind was so intense it picked him up off the ground three times. At 6:10, Dodge could get up and walk about. Only two others survived the fire, Robert Sallee and Walter Rumsey. Sallee was just 17, a year blow the minimum age for smoke-jumpers. For both of them, it had been their first jump. The Mann Gulch fire is the subject of Norman Maclean's book Young Men and Fire, which was the source for James Keelaghan's song.
Five years after the fire, Wagner Dodge died of Hodgkin's Disease.

The Mann Gulch Fire in internet:

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Roll On Owyhee
Ian Tyson

From the top of Mahogany Ridge
you can see forever
and forever is a long, long way
the desert rules - the first rule
you've got to know your way back home
and you'll be back to ride another day

When the night falls the silence all around you
the beating of your heart
is the only sound
down in some lonely canyon
beside a sagebrush fire
dreaming of the lights of paradise town

Roll on Owyhee
wild horse heaven
I hope it always will be
Roll on Owyhee
far across the sagebrush sea

So we'll raise our glasses high
to the big Owyhee
we'll have another round
for the fellas who still hear the call
you got to play the card that's dealt you
ride the horses that they cut you
coming off the Mountain Tapadero tall

Owyhee River in internet

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Anthem 3
Buck Ramsey

So mornings now I‘ll go out riding
Through pastures of my solemn plain,
And leather creaking in the quieting
Will sound with trot and trot again.
I'll live in time with horse hoof falling;
I'll listen well and hear the calling
The earth, my mother, bids to me,
Though I will still ride wild and free.
And as I ride out on the morning
Before the bird, before the dawn,
I'll be this poem, I‘ll be this song.
My heart will beat the world a warning --
Those horsemen will ride all with me,
And we‘ll be good, and we‘ll be free.

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Montana Backroads
Bruce Carlson
Shantih Publishing and Productions (ASCAP)

In an old pickup truck, with his hat pulled down,
He drives them old Montana backroads.
Remembering half-forgotten times and wondering where it's gone,
And if he can still carry the load.

Now, the summer sun is setting, and the moon is on the rise,
And he pulls that old pickup into town.
And he parks beside the place where the feed store used to be
And he heads for an old familiar sound.

Those honky-tonk bands still play old-time songs,
Remembering how things used to be.
Sitting at the bar with his head down in his hands,
So alone with his memories,
Lord, he's so alone with his memories.

He remembers back in '33, or was it '34,
The year that he won the rodeo.
The buckle that they gave him, well, he still wears today,
For that Brahma bull that he rode.

But his riding days are over now, his back is getting weak,
And his eyesight, it just ain't as good
As the days he'd spot a deer at a hundred yards or more,
And bring a month's supply of food.

Now the bar is getting set to close, they say he's got to leave,
But it feels like, Lord, he just arrived.
So he downs his last shot as he's heading for the door,
Getting ready for that long and lonely drive.

(repeat first verse)
(final chorus)
Those honky-tonk bands still play old-time songs,
Remembering how things used to be.
And he stumbles through the door, and he falls on his bed,
So alone with his memories,
Lord, he's so alone with his memories.

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INSA BERNDS studied piano, musical theory and violin in Lübeck, where she was born, Freiburg, Milan as well as Berlin. She received her diplomas at the Hochschule der Künste in Berlin and the Milan Conservatorium. There followed studies in musicology at the Free University in Berlin. She had a scholarship from Berlin and worked as an academic assistant on an academic research project in Berlin.
Chamber music, song accompaniment, and coaching in diverse formations and projects are important parts of her life as a pianist. Tours have taken her to various European countries as well as Israel, the United States and Canada. She also performs regularly with emsembles like the Casanova Society Orchestra, specializing in coffee-house and salon mucic as well as early jazz and swing.