Wild and Windy Places

The Brazos River Song
Drill, Ye Tarriers, Drill / Cruising Down the Boyne (Eddie Smyth)
No, Not Columbus (David Campbell)
White Woman‘s Clothes (Andy Wilkinson)
Garry Owen
Mick Ryan's Lament (Robert Lee Dunlap)
The Grand Coulee Dam (Woody Guthrie)

Don't Ask What a River is for (Pete Seeger)
Dust Bowl Refugee
(Woody Guthrie)
The Preacher and the Slave (Joe Hill)
Ludlow Massacre (Woody Guthrie)
Manzanar (Tom Russell)
The Whistle in the Night
Old Wing (Pat Garvey)
Blue Wing (Tom Russell)
Magpie (Ian Tyson)
Cowboy's Lament

Bluebird Café Berlin Records
CD 06 - 0024

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To learn more about the musicians involved click on 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).

Wild and Windy Places

In the vastness of the American West, time has always been a slippery object, has always followed its own twisted path. Those peoples who have known the land for thousands of years understand time not as a straight line, leading from the past over the present to the future, but as a circular process, always returning to the beginning. In circular time there is no progress, only change within a never-ending cycle. In the West, past and present have always mingled with one another. San Francisco was a cosmopolitan city while just a few hundred miles to the east, native peoples still lived as their ancestors had done thousands of years before. Tourists were traveling west on the transcontinental railroad before the tribes of the Plains had been defeated. The story of the West can best be told by the places where it has taken place: along the rivers of Texas, in the border town of Laredo, the mining camp of Ludlow, the valley of the Little Big Horn, in Hell's Canyon, at the Grand Coulee Dam, in the Manzanar Internment Camp, in the hobo jungles along the endless rails, in a rundown trailer park in Seattle and in all the dry and dusty places where men and women don't belong. For all who have lived in the West it has meant adjusting to the rapid changes taking place and coming to terms with all those wild and windy places.

the musicians

The Brazos River Song
John Shreve – vocals
with Colinda:
Axel Rosenbauer – accordion
Stephan Gatti – backing vocals, guitar
Susanne Filep – fiddle
Thomas Baumgarte – bass

Drill, Ye Tarriers, Drill / Crusing Down the Boyne
John Shreve – vocals
Axel Rosenbauer – guitar
Eddie Smyth – accordion
Thomas Baumgarte – bass

No, Not Columbus
John Shreve – vocals
Stephan Gatti – guitar
Axel Rosenbauer – dobro
Thomas Baumgarte – bass

White Women's Clothes

Stefanie Zill – vocals
Erhardt Rothe – guitar
Jens Kommnick – low whistle
Güno van Leyen – mandolin
Thomas Baumgarte – bass

Garry Owen
Síobhan Kennedy – flute
Jens Kommnick – guitar

Mick Ryan's Lament
John Shreve – vocals
Stefanie Zill – backing vocals
Jens Kommnick – uillean pipes, guitar

The Grand Coulee Dam
John Shreve – vocals
Stephan Gatti – 5-string banjo
Axel Rosenbauer – guitar
Kat Baloun – harmonica
Thomas Baumgarte – bass

Don't Ask What a River is For
John Shreve – vocals
Heiner Thomas – 5-string banjo

Dust Bowl Refugee
John Shreve – vocals
Axel Rosenbauer – guitar, accordion
Stephan Gatti – 5-string banjo
Stan Block – washboard
Thomas Baumgarte – bass

The Preacher & the Slave
John Shreve– vocals
Stephan Gatti – vocals, guitar
Uwe Langer – tuba
Bernhard Kähler – clarinet

Ludlow Massacre
John Shreve – vocals
Axel Rosenbauer – guitar
Kat Baloun – harmonica
Thomas Baumgarte – bass

John Shreve – vocals
Stefanie Zill – backing vocals
Jens Kommnick – guitar, low whistle

The Whistle in the Night
John Shreve

Old Wing
John Shreve – vocals, guitar
Heiner Thomas – 5-string banjo
Kat Baloun – harmonica
Thomas Baumgarte – bass

Blue Wing
John Shreve – vocals
Axel Rosenbauer – guitar, accordion, shaker
Thomas Baumgarte – bass

John Shreve – vocals
Axel Rosenbauer – guitar, percussion
Stephan Gatti – guitar
Thomas Baumgarte – bass
Stefanie Zill – backing vocals

Cowboy's Lament
John Shreve – vocals
Jens Kommnick – uillean pipes
Axel Rosenbauer – guitar
Insa Bernds – viola


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The Brazos River Song

Well, we crossed the broad Pecos, and we crossed the Nueces .
We swam the Guadalupe, and we followed the Brazos .
Red River runs rusty, the Wichita clear,
But down by the Brazos , I courted my dear.

Lie-lie-lie, lee-lee-lee, give me your hand
Lie-lie-lie, lee-lee-lee, give me your hand
Lie-lie-lie, lee-lee-lee, give me your hand,
There's many-a river that waters the land.

The fair Angelina runs glossy and gliding,
The crooked Colorado runs weaving and winding.
The old San Antonio , it courses the plain,
But I never will walk by the Brazos again.

I hugged her and I kissed her, and I called her my candy.
he Trinity is muddy, the Brazos quicksandy.
I hugged her and I kissed her, and I called her my own,
But down by the Brazos she left me alone.

With the girls of little River you can't do no wrong,
The Sulphur and the Sabine are still mighty long,
And down by the Neches there's girls by the score,
But I never will walk by the Brazos no more.

The Brazos River Song
Also known as "Rivers of Texas" or "Down along the Brazos", this is one of the oldest folksongs from Texas .

Irene Carlisle, Songs of the Mormons & Songs of the West, Library of Congress AFS L30, CD (2002/1952)
Skip Gorman, Lonesome Prairie Love, Rounder 0359, CD (1996)
Frank and Mary Hamilton, Treasures from the Folk Den, Appleseed CD 1046, CD (2001)
Larry Hanks, Cowboy Songs, National Geographic Soc. 07786, LP (1976)
Carolyn Hester, That's My Song, Dot DLP 3604, LP (196?), (Rivers of Texas)
Ann Mayo Muir, Magic of Mayo Muir, 2Oth Century Fox TFM 3122, LP (1963), (There‘s Many a River)
Mill Okun and Ellen Stekert, Everybody Sing, Vol 2., Riverside RLP-1419, LP (196?), (River Brazos)
Mill Okun and Ellen Stekert, Traditional American Love Songs, Riverside RLP 12-634, LP (1956)
Caroline and Sandy Paton, Sandy and Carolyn Paton, Folk Legacy EGO-o3o, LP (1966), (Rivers of Texas)
Faith Petric, Faith Petric, Bay 216, LP (1979), (Rivers of Texas)
Revels Chorus, Seasons for Singing. A Celebration of Country Life, Revels 1095, CD (1995), (Rivers of Texas)
Scragg Family, Nobody Knows You When You t re Down and Out, Sonyatone ST-1001, LP (1973)
Bil Staines, Whistle of the Jay, Folk Legacy FSI-07o, LP (1979), (Rivers of Texas)
Weavers. Weavers Reunion at Carnegie Hall, Part 2, Vanguard VSD 79161, LP (1964)
Mason Williams, Of Time and Rivers Flowing, Skookum SK 1001, LP (1984), (Rivers of Texas)

musical notation
Irene Carlisle, Duncan Emrich, Folklore on the American Land , Little, Brown, 1972.
Irene Carlisle, Vance Randolph, Ozark Folksongs. Volume II, Songs ofthe South and University of Missouri, 1980/1946.
Don Edwards, Saddle Songs: A Cowboy Songbag, Sevenshoux Enterprises, 2003 (The Brazos)

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Drill, Ye Tarriers, Drill /Cruising Down the Boyne

Early in the morning seven o'clock
There are twenty tarriers drilling at the rock
The boss comes around and he says, „Keep still
And come down heavy on the cast iron drill."

And drill, ye tarriers drill
Drill, ye tarriers drill
Well, it's work all day for the sugar in your tay
When you work on the UP railway
So drill, ye tarriers, drill, and blast and fire.

Now the boss sent us to drill a hole
He cursed and damned our Irish soul
He cursed the ship that brought us through
To work on the railway crew.

Now our new foreman was Jim McCann
By golly, he was a blame mean man
Last week a premature blast went off
And a mile in the sky went Big Jim Gough.

Now the boys quit work to tell his wife
About how Jim had lost his life;
Says she, „We'll take him into town.“
Says they, „Well, he ain't yet come down.“

But the very next day we heard a cry,
And saw big Jim comin‘ down from the sky.
He lit on the top of a big rock dump
And he said, „My Lord, that's a hell of a bump.“

Now when next payday comes around
Jim Goff a dollar short was found
When asked the reason, came this reply,
"You were docked for the time you were up in the sky."

Chad Mitchell Trio: "The Tarriers Song"

further recordings of "Drill, Ye Tarriers, Drill"
Richard Dyer-Bennet, Richard Dyer-Bennet 4, Dyer-Bennet 4000, LP (1957)
Bob Gibson, 1 Come for to Sing, Riverside RLP 12-806, LP (1957)
Sam Hinton, Real McCoy, Decca DL 857, LP (196?)
Cisco Houston, Life Treasury of American Folk Music, Time-Life Records L 1001, LP (1961)
Limeliters, Fourteen 14K Folk Songs, RCA (Victor) LSP-2671, LP (1963)
Barry Luft and Tim Rogers, Songs of the Iron Trail. The Canadian Railroad Experience..., Sefel SEF83IT01, LP (1983)
Dan Milner and Bob Conroy, Irish in America, Folk Legacy CD-129, CD (2001)
Mitchell Trio, Reflecting, Mercury MG 20891, LP (1964) (Tarrier‘s Song)
Dan Quinn, Minstrels and Tunesmiths, JEMF 109, LP (1981)
Tarriers. Tarriers, Glory PG 1200, LP (195?)

musical notation
James F. Leisy, (ed.) Songs for Pickin‘ and Singin‘, Gold Medal Books, 1962.
Frank Lynn, (ed.) Songs for Swinging Housemothers, Fearon, 1963/1961.
Dick & Beth Best, (eds.) New Song Fest Deluxe, Charles Hansen, 1971/1948.
Winds of the People, Sing Out, 1982.
E. John Miller Jr. & Michael Cromie, Folk Guitar, Quadrangle, 1968.
Edith Fowke & Joe Glazer (eds.) Songs of Work and Protest, Dover, 1973/1960.
Peter Blood and Annie Patterson (eds.) Rise Up Singing, Sing Out, 1992/1989.
Margaret Bradford Boni, (ed.) Fireside Book of Folk Songs, Simon & Shuster, 1947.
Alasdair Clayre, (ed.) 100 Folk Songs and New Songs, Wolfe, 1968.
Bess B. Lomax, Alan Lomax , Folksongs of North America, Doubleday Dolphin, 1975/1960.
Chubby Parker, Norm Cohen, (ed.) Long Steel Rail. The Railroad in American Folksong, Univ. of Illinois, 1981.
John Richardson, Alton C. Morris, Folksongs of Florida, Univ. Florida , 1950.
Phil Thomas, Songs of the Pacific Northwest Hancock House, 1979.

Drill, Ye Tarriers, Drill

In 1862, in the midst of the Civil War, Congress passed legislation which initiated the construction of the first transcontinental railway. It endorsed the efforts of the Central Pacific Railroad to build a line from California and chartered the Union Pacific Railroad Company (“the UP railway”) to build west from the Missouri River . Ever since the admission of California as a state, the idea of a rail link had been under consideration. The intense sectional differences prior to the Civil War had, however, made it impossible to agree on a route.

The passage of the legislation was one of the greatest achievements of the Lincoln presidency, which is otherwise remembered only for the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln had begun his political career as a Whig supporter of internal improvements. Now the biggest technical challenge of 19 th century America was to be built by private companies receiving subsidies from the government in the form of land grants and direct financial support.

The initial labor force of the Central Pacific in California was a few hundred Irishmen, but soon the company began to hire workers from China . First, there were only a few, but soon the company's management came to consider them more reliable than the Irish, who had the reputation of spending their pay on drink and agitating for higher pay. By the end of 1865, 6000 Chinese were building the railway, by 1868, 12,000 Chinese were employed and they were to constitute 80% of the labor force which build the Central Pacific line. Until the end of the war, the Union Pacific suffered labor shortages. With peace, thousands of demobilized soldiers were glad to find work. Many were of Irish descent. By 1866, Irishmen from the Eastern cities were also imported to do the work.

The work was hard and to move things along as fast as possible, the job done was often shoddy, but the lines progressed from East and West. On May 10, 1869, the final spike was driven at Promontory Summit in the Utah desert and the United States finally had a rail line from coast to coast. On May 11, the first transcontinental freight train left California for the East with a load of Japanese tea. On May 15, regular passenger service began. No longer did travelers between the East Coast and California have to take the arduous route around the tip of South America or risk crossing the Isthmus of Panama . Now they could travel in relative comfort and the trip took only a week.

It had been hoped that the transcontinental railway would become an important trade link between Europe and Asia, but when in November, 1869, Egypt's Suez Canal was opened linking Asia and India to Europe, it was clear that trade between the two would continue to be carried by ships and not over American soil. Yet, ten years after its completion, the transcontinental railway was transporting 50 millions dollars worth of goods from coast to coast, connecting the East Coast to Asia and opening the American West to Eastern industrial goods while at the same time delivering raw materials from the West to the industrial centers in the East.

The transcontinental railway did much to unite the country. Distances became shorter and Americans could see the vastness of their land and learn to identify with it as a whole rather than with just a region. The railroad brought Americans of different regions closer together.

For the native peoples of the West, the transcontinental railway was a disaster. It increased and speeded up the intrusion of the American way of life. Not only did the number of settlers increase but the railway provided a convenient means to transport bison hides back East, making them commercially interesting and accelerating their demise and the end of the societies which depended on them.

"Drill Ye Tarriers, Drill" was written by Charles Connolly and Thomas Casey in 1888. Some say the word tarrier meant “terrior” or dog.


Stephen E. Ambrose, Nothing Like It In The World; The men who built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-1869. Simon & Schuster. 2000.
David Howard Bain, Empire Express: Building the first Transcontinental Railroad. Viking Penguin, 1999..

railroad building in the US

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No, Not Columbus
David Campbell

Burn your history books, use your head
Tell me now what you know
Tell me who was it found this land
A long, long time ago?

No, not Columbus , he thought he‘d reached India
30,000 years ago, guess who found Canada

No, it wasn‘t a man with a big red beard
No, it wasn‘t a man with a gun
It was a little brown man with an arrow and bow
Chasin‘ after the sun.

No, it wasn‘t a man with a big black beard
Or an endless Pepsodent smile
It was a little brown man with an arrow and bow
Who‘d been hunting for many a mile

No, it wasn‘t a salesman hungry for gold
Who had lost his soul and his hair
It was a little brown man with an arrow and bow
Who followed the wind everywhere.

recording of "No, Not Columbus"
David Campbell, Through Arawak Eyes


No, Not Columbus

It is only from our Europe-centered perspective that we can say that Columbus discovered America . Not only did other Europeans precede him, but he “discovered” a “new” world has been inhabited for tens of thousands of years. It has long been assumed that the settlement of the American continents took place over a land bridge that periodically existed between what is today Siberia and Alaska . Today, it is considered possible that settlers also arrived by water from the West. We will never know with security who “discovered” America . It was certainly not Columbus , but his voyages did open up the Americas to European exploration, settlement and exploitation, with all the accompanying deadly results for the peoples of the American continents and islands.


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White Woman‘s Clothes
Andy Wilkinson

In the moon you call December,
On the river you call the Pease,
It was cold, and I remember
We had just packed-up to leave,
When a mounted line of soldiers,
A-sparkle in the sun,
Rode down upon our warriors
And shot them one-by-one.

And the ponies of our women,
They were loaded down and slow
With our lodge-poles and equipment
And the meat of our buffalo.
So the cowards of your cavalry,
When all the fight was o‘er,
Killed the women and their babies,
‘Cept for me and Prairie Flower.

The white man‘s liberation
Took me from my home
For the prison of his houses
And his white women‘s clothes.

You could see my hair was flaxen‘
You could see my eyes were blue,
See my skin was white and ashen
Or you would‘ve shot me, too.
But you could not see the baby
That I cradled in my robes,
A small, red-skinned Comanche,
The color of my soul.

Dressed-up for your amusement
In your used and second-hands,
You parade me through your settlements
And you call me Cynthia Ann.
In these walls, I‘m suffocating
Where the wind never blows,
While my heart is strangulating
In these white women‘s clothes.

recording of “White Women's Clothes”:
Andy Wilkinson, Charlie Goodnight. His Life in Poetry and Songs, Grey Horse Press, 1994, CD.

White Woman‘s Clothes

Cynthia Ann Parker was the daughter of Lucy and Silas M. Parker. She was born around 1825 in Crawford County, Illinois, but while still a child moved with her family to the headwaters of the Navasota River in what is today Limestone County, Texas. The family established a settlement around the church of Elder John Parker, the head of the Primitive Baptist Church in Texas. What became known as Fort Parker was surrounded with substantial walls for defence. On May 19, 1836, the fort was attacked by a force of Commanches, Kiowas and Caddo. Forty residents of the settlement were killed.

Of her immediate family, only she and her brother John survived. They were among the five who were taken captive. The other four were eventually released, but Cynthia Ann remained with the Comanche for a quarter of a century. She was qiven to a Comanche couple, who raised her as their own daughter. She soon forgot her white past, including the English language, and became a Comanche. She married a prominent warrior and Comanche chief, Peta Nocona, and gave birth to two sons, Quanah and Pecos, and a daughter, Topsannah. Contrary to Comanche custom of the time, her husband took no other wife. She rejected efforts to get her to return to white society, among them by her brother John Parker.

On December 18, 1860, a Comanche camp at Mule Creek, a tributary of the Pecos River, was attacked by Texas Rangers led by Lawrence Sullivan Ross. The warriors were away hunting. At least sixteen women with their children were murdered. One woman was sparred with her infant daughter when it was seen that she had blue eyes. Through an interpreter, it was discovered that she was Cynthia Ann Parker. She was further identified by her uncle Isaac Parker. She did not wish to return to white society. In the belief that her husband had been killed and on the condition that the military interpreter Horace P. Jones would bring her sons to her, she accompanied her uncle to Birdville. While passing through Fort Worth she was photographed. Her hair is cut short, a Comanche symbol of mourning.

Photograph of Cynthia Ann Parker

She was instructed in the Bible, made to wear white women's clothes and locked in her room at night to prevent her from escaping. On April 8, 1861, the Texas legislature granted her land and $100 a year child support for five years as compensation for the „woe and suffering“ she was supposed to have endured. Isaac and Benjamin Parker were appointed her guardians. She was moved from one relative to another, but she never accepted the white world. She never saw her Comanche family again. In 1863 she learned that her her Pecos had died of smallpox and soon thereafter, her daughter died of influenza. She often refused to eat of speak. Cynthia Ann Parker died of influenza in 1870 and was buried in the Fosterville Cemetery in Anderson County, Texas.

Peta Nacona never remarried and died not long after his wife. Ironically, Quanah Parker, who had bitterly fought the white invaders, adapted well to the new life after he and his band surrendered at Fort Sill on June 2, 1875. When it became clear to him that there was no alternative, Quanah Parker led his people down the „white man's road.“ He learned English, became a successful farmer, negotiated grazing rights with Texas cattlemen, invested in a railroad, became a reservation judge and lobbied for his people in Washington. Among his friends he counted Charlie Goodnight and Theodore Roosevelt. But Quanah Parker retained his independence. He did not divorce any of his seven wives and was a leader of the peyote cult. It was not until after his surrender that he learned of his mother's death.

He located her remains and had them removed to the Comanche Reservation in Oklahoma in 1910. He died just a few months later on February 23, 1911 and was buried next to his mother.

Cynthia Ann Parker, Grace Jackson, Naylor Co., 1959.
Cynthia Ann Parker: Comanche Captive, Tracie Egan, Rosen Publishing Group; 1st edition, 2003.
Cynthia Ann Parker: The Life and the Legend (Southwestern Studies, No. 92), Margaret Schmidt Hacker, Texas Western Press, 1990.
Cynthia Ann Parker: The Story of Her Capture , James T. DeShields, (St. Louis, 1886; rpts.: The Garland Library of Narratives of North American Indian Captivities, Vol. 95, New York: Garland, 1976; Dallas: Chama Press, 1991).
Cynthia Ann Parker: Reprint of James T. Deshields 1886 Account
, edited by John Graves, Chama Press; 1 edition, 1991.
Frontier Blood: Saga of the Parker Family , Jo Ella Powell Exley, Texas A&M University Press, 2001.
Life With the Comanches: The Kidnapping of Cynthia Ann Parker (Great Moments in American History), Nancy Golden, Rosen Central, 2003.
Sunshine on the Prairie: The Story of Cynthia Ann Parker , Jack C. Ramsey, Jr., Eakin Press, 1990.
Where the Broken Heart Still Beats: The Story of Cynthia Ann Parker , Carolyn Meyer, G ulliver Books Paperbacks, 1992.
The White Comanche;: The story of Cynthia Ann Parker and her son, Quanah , Margaret Waldraven Johnson, Comet Press, 1956. Paul I. Wellman, "Cynthia Ann Parker," Chronicles of Oklahoma 12 (June 1934). Women of Texas , Waco: Texian Press, 1972 .
Killing Cynthia Ann : A Novel, Charles Brashear, Texas Christian University Press (October 1, 1999
“Spirit bondage :” (The story of Cynthia Ann Parker) A play in three acts, Jack Reid Hill.

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Garry Owen

“Garry Owen” is an Irish tune going back to the 19th century. It was used by Irish regiments as a drinking song. The story goes one of Custer's first official acts after assuming command of the Seventh Cavalry was to organize a regimental band. One day he heard a drunk soldier of Irish background singing “Garry Owen” and soon found himself humming the tune. Before long the regimental band played the tune so often that the Seventh Cavalry became known at the “Garry Owen Regiment.” In 1981, the tune became the official song of the First Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas.

Here are the original lyrics:

Garry Owen

Let Bacchus' sons be not dismayed,
But join with me, each jovial blade;
Come booze and sing, and lend your aid,
To help me with the chorus.

Instead of spa we'll drink down ale,
And pay the reck'ning on the nail;
No man for debt shall go to jail
From Garryowen in glory,

We are the boys that take delight in
Smashing the Liverick lights when lighting,
Through the streets like sporters fighting
And tearing all before us.

We'll break windows, we'll break doors,
The watch knock down by threes and fours;
Then let the doctors work their cures,
And tinker up our bruises.

We'll beat the bailiffs out of fun,
We'll make the mayor and sheriffs run;
We are the bys no man dares dun,
If he regards a whole skin.

Our hearts so stout have got us fame,
For soon 'tis known from whence we came;
Where'er we go they dread the name
Of Garryowen in glory.


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Mick Ryan's Lament
Robert Lee Dunlap

click here for lyrics

photograph of George Armstrong Custer

The Battle of the Little Big Horn

On May 17, 1876, the Seventh Cavalry along with Arikara and Osage scouts left Fort Lincoln in the Dakota Territory. There were 1200 men and 1700 horses. The 7th Cavalry Band played, ”The Girl I Left Behind Me.”

Late in 1875, President Grant had ordered the hostile tribes to report to the reservations and Indian agencies by January 1, 1876. The Cheyenne and the Sioux had ignored this order.

The Seventh Cavalry's mission was the Yellowstone expedition under the command of Brigadier General Alfred H. Terry to trap “hostile” Indians in the Little Big Horn Valley. Terry planned to meet up with forces under Colonel John Gibbon from Fort Ellis , Montana and General George Crook from Fort Fetterman, Wyoming. Originally, Custer was to have had overall command of the expedition, but having incurred the wrath of President Grant in connection with an investigation of corruption within the Indian service of the Grant administration, he was only allowed to accompany the expedition only at the express wish of General Terry.

General Crook became involved in a serious battle and was unable to meet the troops coming from Fort Lincoln. With his about 700 soldiers, Custer had orders to move all the way down the Rosebud Creek, cross the Little Big Horn Valley and then proceed north to prevent the Indians from escaping south. On the 24 th of June, contact was made with a party of Sioux. That night his Crow scouts reported that a camp under Sitting Bull stretched for three miles along the Little Big Horn River and warned him that it was too large to be attacked by the small number of troops at his command, Custer nevertheless made plans to attack the Sioux encampment on the following day, the 25 th of June, 1876, not waiting for support from General Terry, due to arrive on the 26 th. He pushed his men to the point of exhaustion on a night march.

Just after noon on the 25 th , Custer divided his command into three battalions. Major Marcus A. Reno, in command of three companies, was ordered to attack the southern end of the camp, being promised support by Lieutenant Colonel Custer. Reno carried through the attack on the the southern end of the village with his 125 men, but when Custer's promised support did not materialize, he ordered a retreat. Captain Frederick W. Benteen, likewise in command of three companies, was to explore in a southwesterly direction and “pitch into anything that might fight.” This column later met Reno 's retreating troops and saved them from annihilation.

Custer, having received intelligence that warriors were escaping from the other end of the valley, rode with five companies to head them off. About three and a half miles north of Reno, Custer and his 210 troopers were met by a force of perhaps 3000 Lakota, Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho warriors, many equipped with repeating Spencer and Winchester rifles while Custer's troops had only single-shot carbines. Under the given circumstances, the arrows of the Indians were also superior weapons. The soldiers were also far from being first-rate soldiers. As many as 40% of them were recruits without sufficient military training, many recent immigrants from Europe. Archaeological studies have proved that they were undernourished after many days on the trail and more than 24 hours in the saddle before the fight. They were unable to offer decisive resistance. It is estimated that the fight lasted no more than half an hour. All 210 men of Custer's column – including five members of the Custer family – were killed.

Having destroyed Custer and his men, the Indians turned on the remaining soldiers under Reno and Benteen. The outcome of the fight was in doubt for 24 hours until the Indians retreated south at the approach of troops under General Terry. A total of 268 troopers under Custer's command lost their lives in his precipitous, glory-seeking action.

George Armstrong Custer

George Armstrong Custer had had a checkered past as a soldier. It is said his great-grandfather had come to America as a Hessian mercenary during the War of Independence. In 1861, he had graduated last in his class of 34 from West Point, having become notorious for his lack of discipline, just in time to participate in the opening battle of the American Civil War, the first battle of Bull Run. He served on the staffs of Generals McClellan and Pleasanton. In June 1863, he was appointed to the rank of “brevet” brigadier general of volunteers. In command of cavalry, he participated in the battle of Gettysburg as well as the Shenandoah Valley campaign. Custer was a reckless commander who ignored intelligence reports and ordered wild charges. No union division commander had a higher rate of casualties than Custer. In April 1865, he was promoted to brevet major general of volunteers. It was Custer who accepted the white flag from General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox. At the end of the war, he was reduced to the rank of captain in the small regular army.

In March 1867, under the command of General Hancock, a task force of 1400 soldiers was created at Fort Larned to fight the Indians. During the summer of 1867, Custer and the Seventh Cavalry searched unsuccessfully for Indians. As a result of a number of indiscretions, among them cruelty to disserters and marching his troops too hard, Custer was court-martialed, convicted and suspended from rank and pay for one year. He rejoined his troops on September 24, 1868, on Bluff Creek, near present-day Ashland, Kansas. Soon thereafter, the army was attacked by Indians. General Sheridan and Custer thereupon planned a winter campaign.

Pursuing Cheyenne in a snowstorm, Custer found a Cheyenne camp well within the borders of the Cheyenne reservation. The camp had been guaranteed safety by the commander of nearby Fort Cobb. With the regimental bank playing “Gary Owen,” Custer ordered an attack from as many directions as possible at dawn on November 27, 1868. Within ten minutes, the camp had been captured. It turned out, however, that it was the camp of the peaceful Black Kettle, who had survived the massacre of Sand Creek in Colorado four years before. He was killed along with many others, including women and children. Suddenly discovering he had attacked but one of a series of villages and realizing that he was outnumbered; Custer withdrew, abandoning a small number of his soldiers, who were annihilated. The Cheyenne suffered more than 100 casualties and lost 800 horses.

In September 1871, when the seventh cavalry was distributed over seven southern states to collect federal taxes, Custer was assigned to Kentucky to purchase horses for the Army. In February 1873, however, the Seventh was reunited and sent to the Dakota Territory. From 1873 to 1876, Custer commanded Fort Lincoln, south of Mandan. In 1874, Custer led a sortie into the Black Hills, which was part of the Great Sioux Reservation. He reported the presence of gold, leading to an influx of prospectors, which was tolerated by the Army. This led many Sioux to leave the reservation to join Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, who were resisting the American government, setting the stage for the Campaign that would cost Custer and his men their lives.

The Aftermath

On the morning of the 27 th, generals Gibbon and Terry arrived at the scene of the fight and rescued the survivors. The bodies of most of Custer's troops had been stripped of their clothes, mutilated and being in an advanced stage of decomposition, many bodies were impossible to identify. Custer's body was found near the top of the hill, having been shot at least twice. He may have committed suicide to avoid capture. On June 28, 1876, the bodies of the fallen of the battle of the Little Big Horn were given a hasty burial on the field where they had fought and died. The following year, Custer's body was disinterred and given a military burial at the West Point on October 10, 1877

Mick Ryan?

The 7th Cavalry was known as a “melting-pot” unit. At the time of the Battle of the Little Big Horn men who had been born in 20 foreign countries were serving in the 7th Cavalry, among them 131 soldiers born in Ireland. 97 were involved in the Battle at the Little Big Horn. Mick Ryan is a fictive character, but 32 soldiers born in Ireland died in Custer's column, the largest foreign-born contingent. Corporal Daniel Ryan, company C, died with Custer, but he had been born in Syracuse, New York in 1851, probably the child of immigrants.

All told, soldiers born in 19 foreign countries fought in the battle, 110 soldiers from 11 foreign countries died in Custer's column, that is well more than half. (from Ireland, 32; Germany, 31; England, 16; Canada, 9; Switzerland, 4; Denmark, 3; Wales and Scotland, from each 2; as well as one soldier each from France, Greece and Russia.)

Remembering the Battle

For many years, George Armstrong Custer was considered a hero is still seen so by many today. With time, however, he has been viewed more critically in light of the eccentricities of his personality and his questionable stile of military leadership. Likewise, the battle of the Little Big Horn, a decisive episode in the Indian Wars of the West, has come to be understood as a conflict between an expanding American nation and the native peoples of the West desperately trying to defend their homeland and their way of life. As is clear in “Mick Ryan's Lament,” the Indian Wars can be interpreted as colonial wars.

Reflecting this change in attitude,the Custer Battlefield National Monument was renamed Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in 1991. And on June 25, 2003, an Indian Memorial war finally dedicated on the battlefield. The Naional Park Service now sums up the battle thusly: “Here on June 25 and 26, 1876, two divergent cultures clashed in a life or death struggle.” (http://www.nps.gov/libi/indmem.htm) In this case, however, the victors in the battle were the losers of the war. The Battle of the Little Big Horn was the final victory of the native peoples of America.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee ‘ Dee Brown, Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
Pine Ridge Reservation, Yesterday and Today, Gregory Gagnon & Karen White Eyes, Badlands Natural History Association, Interior, SD
Cheyenne Memories of the Custer Fight, Richard G. Hardorff, Univ. Nebraska Press.
Lakota Recollections of the Custer Fight: New Sources of Indian-Military History, Richard
G. Hardorff, Univ. of Nebraska Press.
Lakota Noon: The Indian Narrative of Custer‘s Defeat, Gregory F. Michno, Mountain Press Pub.
The Arikara Narrative of Custer‘s Campaign and the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Orin Grant Libby (Editor), Univ. of Nebraska Press.
Killing Custer, James Welch, Norton. (Video)
Son of the Morning Star, Evan S. Connell, North Point Press. (Video)
Archaeology, History, and Custer‘s Last Battle: The Little Big Horn Reexamined, Richard Allan Fox Jr., W. Raymond Wood, Univ. Oklahoma Press.
Archaeological Perspectives on die Battle of Little Bighorn, Douglas D. Scott, Richard A. Fox, Jr., Melissa A. Connor, Dick Harmon, Univ. Oklahoma Press.
Archaeological Insights into the Custer Battle : An Assessment of the 1984 Field Season/With Map, Douglas D. Scott, Richard A. Fox, Univ. Oklahoma Press.
The Mystery of E Troop: Custer‘s Gray Horse Company at the Little Bighorn, Gregory Michuo, Mountain Press Pub.
They Died With Custer: Soldiers‘Bones from the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Douglas D. Scott, P. Willey, Univ. Oklahoma Press.
I Fought With Custer: The Story of Sergeant Windolph, Last Survivor of the Battle of the Little Big Horn, Charles Windolph, Robert Hunt, Univ. Nebraska Press.
A Dispatch to Custer: The Tragedy of Lieutenant Kidder, Randy Johnson & Nancy P. Allen, Mountain Press Pub.
Custer‘s Last Campaign: Mitch Boyer and the Little Bighorn Reconstructed, John Shapley Gray, Robert M. Utley, Univ. Nebraska Press.
Custer and the Great Controversy: The Origin and Development of a Legend, Robert M. Utley, Univ. Nebraska Press.
Court Martial of General George Armstrong Custer, Lawrence A. Frost, Univ. Oklahoma Press.
Custer and Company: Walter Camp‘s Notes on the Custer Fight, Walter Mason
Camp & Bruce R. Liddic, Paul Harbaugh, Bruce R. Liddic (Editors) ‚ Univ. Nebraska Press.
Custer in ‘76: Walter Camp‘s Notes on the Custer Fight, Walter Mason Camp, Kenneth Mason (Editor), Univ. Oklahoma Press.
In Custer‘s Shadow: Major Marcus Reno, Ronald H. Nichols, Univ. Oklahoma Press.
Cavalier in Buckskin: George Armstrong Custer and the Western Military Frontier, Robert M. Utley, Univ. Oklahoma Press.
Custer and Little Bighorn: The Man, the Mystery, the Myth, Jim Donovan & Richard S. Wheeler, Voyageur Press.
Elizabeth Bacon Custer And the Making of a Myth, Shirley Anne Leckie, Univ. Oklahoma Press.
‘Boots and Saddles‘ Or, Life in Dakota With General Custer, Elizabeth B. Custer, Univ. Oklahoma Press.
Following the Guidon into the Indian Wars with General Custer and the Seven the Cavalry, Elizabeth B. Custer, Univ. Oklahoma Press.
Tenting on the Plains or General Custer in Kansas and Texas , Elizabeth B. Custer, Univ. Oklahoma Press.
The Civil War Memories of Elizabeth Bacon Custer : Reconstructed from Herb Diaries and Notes, Elizabeth B. Custer, Univ. Texas Press.
My Life on the Plains: Or Personal Experiences With Indians, George Armstrong Custer, Univ. Oklahoma Press.
Custer and the (Cheyenne: George Armstrong Custer‘s Winter Campaign on the Southern Plains, (Custer Trails Series), Louis Kraft, Upton & Sons
The Custer Album: A Pictorial Biography of General George A. Custer, Lawrence A. Frost, Univ. Oklahoma Press.
The March of the Montana Column: A Prelude to the Custer Disaster (The American Exploration and Travel Series, Vol 32), James J. Bradley & Edgar I. Stewart (Editors), Univ. Oklahoma Press.
Troopers With Custer: Historic Incidents of the Battle of the Little Big Horn (The Custer Library), E. A. Brininstool & J. W. Vaughn, Stackpole Books.
The Story of the Little Big Horn: Custer‘s Last Fight (The Custer Library), W. A. Graham, Stackpole Books.
The Reno Court of Inquiry: Abstract of the Official Record of Proceedings (The Custer Library), W. A. Graham & Brian C. Pohanka, Stackpole Books.
Legend into History and Did Custer Disobey Orders at the Battle of the Little Big Horn? (The Custer Library), Charles Kuhlman & Brian C. Pohanka, Stackpole Books.
Personal Recollections of a Calvaryman Willi Custer‘s Michigan Calvary (Collector‘s Library of the Civil War), James Harvey Kidd.
The Custer Myth : A Source Book of Custeriana (The Custer Library), W. A. Graham, Stackpole Books.

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The Grand Coulee Dam
Woody Guthrie

click here for the lyrics

Woody Guthrie: "Grand Coulee Dam"

Arlo Guthrie: "Grand Coulee Dam"


The Grand Coulee Dam

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 Woody Guthrie was suggested for the job, probably by Alan Lomax. At the time, Woody was living with his wife and family in California. Without waiting to see if he had been given the job – there were other candidates – Woody 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 50 th 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.“ At the time of its construction, the Grand Coulee Dam, the world's largest structure made of concrete, appeared to be a case of too much in the wrong place. It would produce more electricity than could ever be used by the sparsely populated, non-industrial region.

But as Marc Reisner put it, „It probably won the Second World War...No one knows exactly how many planes and ships were manufactured with Bonneville and Grand Coulee electricity, but it is safe to say that the war would have been seriously prolonged at the least without the dams.“ (Marc Reisner, Cadillac Desert. The American West and Its Diappearing Water. New York: Penguin Books, 1986, 1993. p. 158 and 162.) The United States possessed what no other nation had, an overabundance of hydroelectrical power. By June of 1942, 90% of the power produced by the Bonneville and Grand Coulee dams was going to war production. Soon half of the country's aluminium production was located in the Northwest and virtually all of it was devoted to the war effort. At war's end, the Grand Coulee Dam was generating 2,138,000 kilowatts of electricity.

recordings of the Grand Coulee Dam
Derroll Adams, Hommage a Woody Guthrie , Le Chant du Monde LDX 74 684/85, LP
Norman & Nancy Blake, Blind Dog , Rounder C D0254-C, CD
Bluestein Family. Sowing on the Mountain, Fnetless FR 141, LP (1979) (Big Grand Coulee Dam)
Lonnie Donegan, Lonnie Donegan, Dot DLP 3394, LP (1961)
Ramblin‘ Jack Elliot, Hard Travelin‘: Songs by Woody Guthrie and Others, Fantasy F 24720, LP (1977)
Hard Travelin': Songs by Woody Guthrie and Others
, Fantasy F 24720, LP
Woody Guthrie, The Ashe Recordings, Vol. 1 , Smithsonian/Folkways SF 40103, CD
Woody Guthrie, Bound for Glory , Folkways FA 2481, LP
Woody Guthrie, This Land is Your Land , Folkways FTS 31001, LP
Woody Guthrie, Woody Guthrie “Columbia River Collection „‚ Rounder 1036, LP (1987)
Cisco Houston, Cisco Houston Sings the Songs of Woody Guthrie , Vanguard VSD-2131, LP
James Talley, Woody Guthrie and Songs of My Oklahoma Home, Cimarron CIM 1009, CD (‘999/t994)

musical notation
Woody Guthrie, Folk Songs von A-Y, Zweitausendeins, 1977.
Woody Guthrie, Woody Guthrie, Roll On Columbia . Columbia River Songs, BPA
The Woody Guthrie Songbook, Grosset & Dunlap, 1976.
DOE/BP-977, 1987. (Ballad of the Great Grand Coulee )
A Tribute to Woody Guthrie, Woody Guthrie Publications, Inc. 1972.


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Don't Ask What a River is for
Pete Seeger

click here for lyrics

Don‘t Ask What a River is for

The rivers of the American West have been radically altered, dammed, rerouted, exploited, or even dried up. The engineers of the Bureau of Reclamation and the Corps of Engineers could not resist, „the grand adventure of playing God with our waters.“ (Marc Reisner, Cadillac Desert. The American West and Its Disappearing Water. New York: Penquin Books, 1986,1993. p. 14.) Only counting those dams of any size, during the 20 th century, 30,000 dams were built across the arid American West.

Few western rivers still run free and wild. Whole landscapes have been destroyed, beautiful canyons have disappeared, wildlife habitat has been flooded or turned into irrigated farm land. The huge salmon runs in the great western rivers are gone or have been radically diminished. No river has been more exploited and more regulated than the Colorado . Its water is used as many as 18 times before it reaches the Gulf of California. In dry years, it does not even reach the Gulf. The Colorado River delta has been destroyed.

Franklin Roosevelt's „New Deal“ led to the construction of numerous small and large dams in the Northwest. The Columbia and its tributaries have been dammed no less than 36 times. On the Snake River, whose source is in Yellowstone National Park and which is the Columbia 's largest tributary, conflicting interest groups are locked in bitter conflict about the question of what a river is for. After the dams were built, towns and water districts secured water rights for themselves. It was not until much later that it became clear that the development also had its negative sides. The salmon in the Snake were almost entirely decimated. Of the four salmon species native to the Snake River, one is already extinct and the other three are endangered. Allowing their extinction would not only be a violation of the Endangered Species Act, but also be a violation of a number of treaties made with the native peoples of the Northwest. The only feasible way to prevent the end of the salmon seems to be the removal of four dams on the lower Snake.

The positive economic effects of the dam removal would include a regeneration of the salmon fishing and a boost for the tourist industry. The dams currently produce hydroelectric power and make barge transportation upriver as far as Lewiston , Idaho possible. In addition, the Ice Harbor dam irrigates 37,000 acres of high-value crops. The federal government estimates removal of the dams would directly or indirectly result in the loss of 2,256 jobs and an annual economic loss of 72,2 million dollars for the region. Alternatives would have to be considered and compensation provided. Alone the comprensation to the irrigation farmers for the loss in property value, which an end of irrigation would bring with it, would be at least 134 million dollars. On the other hand, it has been estimated that removal of the dams would create over 3000 long-term and 23,500 short-term jobs in recreation, fishing, and construction. And, reparation to native people for treaty violations could range anywhere from three to thirteen billion dollars. (http://www.americanrivers.org/)

recording of “Don't Ask What a River is For”
Pete Seeger, Banks of Marble, Folkways FTS 31040, LP


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Dust Bowl Refugee
Woody Guthrie

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Dust Bowl Refugee

The term „Dust Bowl“ refers to an area which suffered from extreme wind erosion during the 1930s, parts of Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico. The term was used for the first time by an Associated Press writer reporting about the disastrous dust storm of April 14, 1935. Huge clouds of dust rolled over the land, like a wall, as people recalled. Day became night, the brightest light could only be seen a few inches away. The wind blew so hard that boxcars were pushed along the tracks. The topsoil, the seeds and the plants were ripped off the fields. Barns, fences and roads were buried in dust. It was the worst storm of the Dust Bowl, but between 1932 and 1941, dust storms were an everyday occurrence. During those years, the region was practically dead and still today it is a land marked by those events.

The area affected by the dryness reached all the way to Canada. Most of the people living in the Dust Bowl stuck it out, but the dust combined with the Great Depression left many with no other choice but to flee the area. In Cimarron County, Oklahoma, there was no harvest between 1932 and 1937. During the worst year, 1938, as much as 850 tons of topsoil was blown away by the wind. In the worst-hit areas, half the population left. 114 counties in the western parts of Kansas and Nebraska practically emptied of people, some areas given up forever. 37,000 people left the state of Nebraska.

The Great Plains had long been known as the „Great American Desert“ and was considered uninhabitable. But after the railway and roads opened up the area, a stream on settlers poured in and no one considered the natural limitations for agricultural development. The 1870s and 1880s were years of sufficient rainfall on the prairies. People took the saying, „the rain follows the plow,“ seriously. The railroad companies had received huge grants of land as compensation for the costs of building the lines and were interested in attracting settlers to their land, settlers who would be future customers. The territories which were one after the other being admitted to the union as states also had large amounts of public land. They did whatever they could to attract settlers and future tax payers and advertised in Europe.

The Homestead Act of 1862 made it possible to get land practically for nothing. A large part of the new settlers were immigrants, arriving directly from Europe. Englishmen, Irishmen, Dutch, French, Jews from Eastern Europe, Germans and Swedes sought a new home on the prairie. In 1875, the majority of Nebraska 's population lived in households whose heads had been born outside the United States. Among the older Americans who settled the plains during these decades there were 15,000 former slaves fleeing the repression of the post-Reconstruction South. (Geoffrey C. Ward, The West, p. 267 u. 244.)

By 1886, three and a half million people were living on the Great Plains. Fifty years later, it was 15 million people. Up to 1907, a large part of the land which later became the Dust Bowl was still untouched by the plow. Then, that which had kept the plains green for millions of years was destroyed in a couple of decades. The fact is that there had always been dry spells on the plains at regular intervals and during those periods there was wind erosion. But the problem worsened as more and more grassland disappeared. Many farmers were financially unable to take measures to protect the soil. The demand for wheat and its price rose during the First World War. Between 1910 and 1920, the amount of cultivated land doubled.

After the war, the price of wheat dropped but did remain stable for many years. The farmers, with the aid of newer technology, further expanded their production in order to raise their profits. The amount of grazing land decreased and that which remained was destroyed by overgrazing, leaving the soil unprotected. Even before the beginning of the dry spell, soil experts had recommended returning millions of acres to grassland and practicing soil conservation on the rest. When the Depression set in, the Great Plains farmer was faced with sinking prices, overcapacity, debts and mortgages he could not repay. Three factors led to the Dust Bowl: the makeup of the soil of the Great Plains , the climate with its periodic dry spells and human settlement.

The Dust Bowl was therefore not a „natural catastrophe,“ but an environmental disaster produced by human beings, the worst environmental disaster in American history, the result of ignorance, greed and irresponsibility toward the earth. (Prof Paul P. Taylor, Univ. of California, quoted in Kenneth Allsop, Hard Travellin' , p. 410.) In the years after 1932, nature struck back when a dry period set in on the plains. The soil, no longer protected by grass, was swept away and with it many of the people. The land had been raped by the plow. Many of those who gave up and set out for California had not been living on the plains very long. They had heard of the legendary harvests, but had remained strangers in a land that they had never gotten to know. By the time the dry spell set in, they had not become established themselves enough to survive the hard times. For most of those who gave up, California was the goal, the promised land. In three years, 350,000 left the Dust Bowl for California. In 1935, the Los Angeles Times was already calling for closure of the state's borders.

The movement of people from the Dust Bowl to California was not so much a migration as flight. The people had no choice. The Dust Bowl refugees were not pioneers who moved further west to seek new opportunities, but people who had failed. They were beggars, dependent o the help of others, waste products of the American dream. The Dust Bowl refugees, „were victims of, products of, an increasing rootlessness in American life.“ (Prof Paul P. Taylor, Univ. of California, quoted in Kenneth Allsop, Hard Travellin' , p. 410.)

Woody Guthrie wrote: „I've lived in these dust storms just about all my life (I mean I tried to live). I met millions of good folks trying to hang on and to stay alive with the dust cutting down every hope. I am made out of this dust and out of this fast...“ (The Collected Reprints from SingOut! The Folk Song Magazine Volumes 7-12, 1964-1973.p. 193.)

John Steinbecks novel about the Dust Bowl refugees, The Grapes of Wrath, as well as the film made from it in 1940 starring Henry Fonda put the „Okies“ in the spotlight and brought them much sympathy. The novel sold 420,565 copies during the first year after its publication in 1939. Then the Associated Farmers, an organization of large-scale growers, started a propaganda campaign against the book, calling it obscene, vulgar, immoral and managed to have it banned from libraries. The public lost interest in the „Okies.“ In 1941, the rains returned. Then the United States entered the Second World War.

Dust Bowl in internet:

Woody Guthrie, Dust Bowl Ballads, Rounder 1040, LP (1988)
The Woody Guthrie Songbook, Grosset & Dunlap, 1976.
Cisco Houston, I Ain‘t GotNo Home, Vanguard VRS 9107, LP (1962?)
James Talley, Woody Guthrie and Songs of My Oklahoma Home, Cimarron CIM 1009, CD (1999/1994)

musical notation
Woody Guthrie, Folk Songs von A-Y, Zweitausendeins, 1977.
Sing Out! Reprints, Sing Out, (196?)

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The Preacher and the Slave (Pie in the Sky)
Joe Hill

click here for lyrics

"The Preacher and the Slave"

recordings of “The Preacher and the Slave”:
Jeff Cahill, Rebel Voices: Songs of the Industrial Workers of the World, Flying Fish FF-484, LP
Joe Glaser, Songs of Joe Hill
Houston, the open road, Le Chant du Monde FWX-M-52480, LP
Utah Phillips, All Used Up: A Scrapbook, Philo C1050, Cas
Utah Phillips, We Have Fed You all a Thousand Years, Philo CD1076, CD
Earl Robinson, Strange Unusual Eve
Weavers, Travel On
Tom Winslow, It's the Clear Water, Biograph BLP 12018, LP

The Preacher and the Slave (Pie in the Sky)

The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) was known as the „singing union.“ When the IWW protested in the streets against corrupt labor exchanges, their speakers were drowned out by the brass bands of the Salvation Army. The IWW counterattacked with songs based on the melodies of the songs sung by the Salvation Army. The first song card was published in 1908. The first edition of the Little Red Songbook was printed the following year. The book has changed over the years, new songs have been added, old ones dropped, but it still carries the subtitle, „Songs to fan the flames of discontent.“

One of the most popular Salvation Army hymns was, „In the Sweet Bye and Bye,“ which promises a beautiful life in the hereafter. Joe Hill wrote a parody, „The Preacher and the Slave,“ also known as „Pie in the Sky.“ Hill contributed many of the most beloved IWW songs. „The Preacher and the Slave“ was first printed in the Little Red Songbook in 1912. Utah Phillips has written:„ I‘ve heard a lot of stories about 'The Preacher and the Slave' or 'Pie in the Sky.'

An old-timer up in Seattle said, 'I think that song was written in Yakima when Joe came into the IWW‘s office and found that the organizers were sitting around on their duffs while the whole street was full of people who were unemployed.' They‘d be down there gathered around the Starvation Army or they‘d be standing in the labor shark‘s line, standing outside the soup kitchen And Joe said, 'Let‘s go down on the street, and if we don‘t do anything else, let‘s at least sing something to these people that makes sense. Get them to cross over the street and join the union so they can begin to change their lives.''(Utah Phillips, Starlight on the Rails & Other Songs. San Francisco: Wooden Shoe, 1973. p. 54.)

Joe Hill wrote, „If a person can put s few cold, common sense facts into a song and dress them up in a cloak of humor to take the dryness out of them, he will succeed in reaching a great number of workers who are too unintelligent or too indifferent to read a pamphlet or an editorial on economic science.“ (Solidarity , December 23, 1911.) In 1927, Carl Sandburg included seven of Joe Hill's songs in his book American Songbag (New York, 1927), among them „The Preacher and the Slave.“

Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)
IWW in internet
Little Red Songbook

Brand, Oscar. Pie in the Sky, Tradition TLP 1022, LP (1960), (Pie in the Sky)
Jeff Cahill, Rebel Voices: Songs of the Industrial Workers of the World, Flying Fish FF-484, LP (1987)
Cisco Houston, Cisco Houston Sings Songs of the Open Road, Folkways FA 2480, LP (1960) (Pie in the Sky)
Tom Juravich, Rising Again, UAW 002, LP (1982)
U. Utah Phillips and Ani Difranco, Fellow Workers, Rightous Babe RBR 015, CD (1999)
U. Utah Philips, We Have Fed You all a Thousand Years, Philo 5008, LP (1984)
U. Utah Philips, All Used Up: A Scrapbook, Philo 1050, LP (1979)
Earl Robinson, Strange Unusual Evening - A Santa Barbara Story, UAW, LP (197?) (Pie in the Sky)
Barry Toeiken, Garland of American Folksong, Prestige International INT 13023, LP (196?) (Pie in the Sky)
Tom Winslow, It's the Clear Water, Biograph BLP 12018, LP (1969)

musical notation
Winds of the People, Sing Out, 1982.
Man Lomax, Folksongs of North America , Doubleday Dolphin, 1975/1960. (Pie in the Sky)
Edith Fowke & Joe Glazer (eds.), Songs of Work and Protest, Dover , 1973/1960.
Peter Blood and Annie Patterson (eds.), Rise Up Singing, Sing Out, 1992/1989.
Helga Sandburg (ed.), Sweet Music, Dial, 1963. (You Will Eat Bye and Bye)
IWW Songs. Songs of the Workers to Fan the Flames of Discontent, IWW, 1973.
Linda Allen (ed.), Washington Songs and Lore, Melior, 1988.
Rosalie Sorrels (ed.), Way Out in Idaho , Confluence, 1991.
Pete Seeger and Bob Reiser, Carry It On!, Simon & Shuster, 1985.
Richard E. Lingenfelter, et.al. Songs of the American West, U. Calif Press, 1968.
Lloyd Lewis, Carl Sandburg, American Songbag, Harcourt Brace Jovanvich, 1955/1928.

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Ludlow Massacre
Woody Guthrie

click here for lyrics

recordings of “ Ludlow Massacre”:
Ramblin' Jack Elliot, Talking Woody Guthrie, Topic 12 T 93, LP
Woody Guthrie, The Ashe Recordings, Vol. 3, Smithsonian/Folkways SF 40103, CD
Woody Guthrie, Struggle , Smithsonian/Folkways SF 40025, CD

Ludlow Massacre

The conditions on the coal mining region of southern Colorado were not dissimilar to many other industrial areas in the United States before the First World War, but in Colorado the situation was especially dramatic. On the Colorado Fuel & Iron Company and Victor Fuel Company, the two largest coal producers in the area, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. was the majority shareholder. The Colorado Fuel & Iron Company alone produced 40% of the coal mined in Colorado and dominated the market in the entire Southwest of the United States.

In 1913, the situation in the coal fields had almost feudal dimensions. Colorado Fuel & Iron Company had 27 miners' settlements. These settlements, the stores in them, the churches, the streets and the ground upon which they were built were company property. Company watchmen patroled the streets and saw to it that company law was enforced. Watchmen at the edges of the settlements made sure that only residents entered them. The coal miners were not paid in money but in „scrip,“ which was forbidden by Colorado law. With it they could only shop on company stores and the prices reflected this monopoly situation.

„No words can adequately describe the contrast between the wild beauty of the Colorado countryside and the unspeakable squalor of these mining camps. The miners‘ huts, which were usually shared by several families, were made tip of clapboard walls and thin-planked floors, with leaking roofs, sagging doors, broken windows; and old newspapers nailed to the walls to keep out the cold, Some families, particularly the Black families, were forced to live in tiny cubicles not much larger than chicken coops? “

The landscape around the mines was destroyed, the water poisoned. The majority of the miners were immigrants from 21 countries, among them Greeks, Italians, Croats, Russians, Serbs, Montenegrins, Bulgarians and Poles. When the miners struck in 1913, it was basically an uprising against the political and economic reality. A federal grand jury determined in December 1913 that the mine owners had the politics of southern Colorado completely under their control. Colorado congressman Keating called the situation a disgrace for the state. The governor of Colorado, Elias Ammons, admitted that the coal field counties Huerfano and Las Animas were not under constitutional control.

On September 23,1913, the United Mine Workers decided to strike. They demanded a 10% pay raise, the right to organize union, the eight-hour work day, independent weight controllers, the right to shop in the store of one's choice and choose ones own doctor, as well as the enforcement on the laws of Colorado. The most important point was union organization. From September 1903 to October 1904, the miners had already struck, but without success.

Many of the strikers of 1913 had bee hired as strikebreakers in 1903. 12,000 workers walked out, 95% of the miners. The employers rejected an offer of mediation by the federal secretary of labor. The mine owners evicted the miners and their families from the company-owned houses. The union leased land, had tents brought in from West Virginia and founded thirteen tent colonies, among them the one at Ludlow. The employers hires detectives to attack the colonies. Shots were regularly fired at the tents. In October, the detectives were armed with machine guns, of which they made use The workers built breastworks and dug ditches under the tents for the protection of the women and children. Soon there were dead and wounded among the strikers and their families.

The governor sent in the National Guard. When the troops arrived in Ludlow on October 31, 1913, they were greeted warmly by the miners, who lined the streets. American flags were waved, a band played and union songs were sung. Some of the men, veterans of the Balkan wars, wore their old uniforms from the Greek, Bulgarian, Montenegrin or Serbian armies. Soon, however, they discovered that the National Guard was on the side of the mine owners. The soldiers were paid and fed by the mine owners and lived in company houses. The Guard recruited the company watchmen. On November 28, despite the fact that it was forbidden by Colorado law, the governor allowed the importation of strikebreakers from other states. They were placed under the protection of the National Guard. Soldiers searched the tents for weapons and there were arrests, thefts and rapes.

In January 1914, the cavalry destroyed the tent colony in Forbes and drove the residents away. At the beginning of April 1914, the governor was forced to pull most of the Guard troops back. This sort of state aid for the mine owners had proved to be too expensive. On 35 men remained, all of them former company watchmen. On April 18, a hundred sheriffs deputies in the pay of the Colorado Fuel & Iron Company were formed into a National Guard company. The two groups, under the leadership of Major Pat Hamrock and Lieutenant K.E. Linderfelt, united on a hill overlooking the tent colony in Ludlow , in which around a thousand people were living. (Major Hamrock had been involved on the massacre of the Lakota at Wounded Knee and Lieutenant Linderfelt in suppression of the revolt in the Philippines.)

The leader of the tent colony was Louis Tikas, a Greek and a graduate of the University of Athens, who exercises a strong influence on the strikers, especially the Greeks, who were the most militant. Soldiers entered the colony and demanded that Tikas hand over two Italians. The Greek asked if they had an arrest warrant and when they could not produce one, refused. At 9:20 am on April 20, the troops opened fire on the tent colony, with, among other weapons, at least to rapid fire weapons. Five strikers and a ten-year old boy were killed immediately. The men ran back and forth among the tents, hoping to draw fire to themselves and away from the women and children, who sought cover in the surrounding hills and in the ditches dug under the tents. Those workers who were armed fought back.

Tikas and a woman named Pearl Jelly ran from tent to tent to get the people out of the ditches and into the hills. The soldiers caught Tikas. Lieutenant Linderfelt hit Tikas so hard with the butt of his gun that the butt broke. Then the Greek was shot, as were two other captured strikers. The shooting did not stop until sundown. The soldiers, by now drunk, soaked the tents in kerosine and sat the colony on fire. The exact number of dead could not be determined, maybe as many as 32. On the day after the fire, a hole was discovered in which eleven children and two pregnant women had hidden. They were all dead.

Upton Sinclair organized a protest in front of Rockefeller's office in New York. The protesters were arrested. Hundreds of protest meetings were held and thousands of dollars were raised for weapons and munitions. Armed union men headed for Colorado . After the massacre, Colorado became a battleground. Strikers and sympathizers attacked mines and company camps. Governor Ammons called six hundred more soldiers into service. Only 125 reported. The situation was getting out of control and the governor asked Washington for help.

On April 28, the president declared a national emergency and immediately sent soldiers into the area. They arrived on May 2. The company watchmen and the National Guard were pulled out and the sheriffs deputies and the strikers were required to give up their weapons. Strikebreakers from outside Colorado were sent home. The armed conflict was ended, the strike continued. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. supported those responsible for his company in Colorado and rejected any moral responsibility for the dead women and children. Most important for him was fighting the principle of union organization in and of itself.

In September 1914, President Wilson suggested terms to end the strike. The union accepted them; the mine owners rejected them. On December 10, the union ended the strike and on January 1, 1915, the soldiers began to withdraw. After fifteen months, the mine owners had defeated the workers. The conflict had cost the lives of 66 men, women and children. The union had been unable to win recognition, had however gained 150,000 new members during the strike. (Philip P. Foner, Vol. 5. p. 211.) Not until 1928 did the United Mine Workers gain recognition. Today, there is a monument at the site of the massacre, erected not by the state of Colorado, but by the union.

youTube: Ludlow Massacre

Buried Unsung: Louis Tikas and the Ludlow Massacre, Zeese Papanikolas, University of Nebraska Press; Reprint edition, 1991.
Legacy of the Ludlow Massacre: A Chapter in American Industrial Relations, Howard M. Gitelman, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1988.
The Ludlow massacre, Walter Hedges Fink, Allied Printing Trades Council, 1914.
Ludlow massacre, Jan Torres, 1980.
The Ludlow Massacre of 1913-14 (American Workers), Rosemary Laughlin, Morgan Reynolds Publishing, April 30, 2006.
Massacre at Ludlow: four reports (American labor), Leon Stein, Arno, 1971.
Memories of a massacre: The Ludlow massacre, Crist S. Lovdjieff, 1996.
Remember Ludlow: Ludlow massacre, April 20, 1914, Joanna Simpson, J. Simpson, 1999.
Songs of the Ludlow Massacre: Reprint from the United Mine Workers Journal, John Greenway, United Mine Workers of America, 1955.
"The Ludlow Massacre: Took place 50 years ago," Rex Lauck, United Mine Workers Journal, January 1, 1964.

The Ludlow Massacre: A mini-play, Larry Stevens, Relevant Instructional Materials; 1st ed edition, 1978.

Ludlow Massacre in internet
"The Ludlow Massacre and the Birth of Company Unions," by Stephen Millies, in Workers World, 26 January, 1995.

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Tom Russell

click here for lyrics

recordings of “Manzanar”
Tom Russell, Box of Visions, Philo Records
Tom Russell, The Long Way Around, Hightone HCD 8081, CD


In 1940, 126,947 people of Japanese origin lived in the United States – not counting the territory of Hawaii – most of them in the states of Washington, Oregon and California. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor initiated a dark chapter of racial discrimination.

The discrimination of people of Japanese origin already had a long history. The fear of the „yellow danger,“ of which German Kaiser Wilhelm II had first warned, was widespread. That, even though of the 30 million immigrants who entered the United States between the end of the Civil War and 1924, when Japanese immigration was forbidden, there were only 300,000 Japanese.

The Japanese who sought a new home in America were intelligent, hard-working and successful, especially in the field if agriculture. This caused envy. Already in 1913, Japanese were forbidden from purchasing land in California. They got around this though because their children born on American soil were citizens. The immigrants themselves were banned from becoming citizens on account of their race. This fact divided the Japanese community in the United States into two camps, the Issei, the first generation, and the Nesei , the second generation, who were automatically American citizens. The anti-Japanese movement covered the entire political spectrum, from the American Legion to the socialists and the unions and brought forth numerous organizations. The California legislature dealt with anti-Japanese initiatives in virtually every session. Those are the facts which laid the groundwork for the internment people of Japanese origin.

After Pearl Harbor , the people on the West Coast became hysteric. Every person of Japanese origin was considered a potential spy or saboteur. An exclusion zone was established, within which no „Japanese“ were allowed to reside, that is to say, also no American citizen of Japanese origin. President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which provided for their evacuation and internment. A War Relocation Authority (WRA) was established, initially under the leadership of Milton Eisenhower, brother of Dwight Eisenhower, to set up War Relocation Centers.

By mid-June 1942, there were eleven Relocation Centers with a capacity for 130,000 people. The internment of the „Japanese“ – of the 110,000 internees 70,000 were American citizens – was without rational basis. It was an entirely racist measure. Germans and Italians were not interned. After October 2, 1942, Germans and Italians could even enter the exclusion zone. California governor Culbert L. Olson, a liberal democrat, felt he could distinguish between „good“ and „bad“ Germans and Italians. The Japanese were condemned as a bad race. Yet the FBI estimated the number of „dangerous“ Japanese at about 1500. In Hawaii , which was much closer to Japan , and after all had been attacked by the Japanese, the 150,000 Japanese, 37% of the population, were also not interned.

The internment cost the economy about 45,000 workers at a time when every able hand was desperately needed, at an economic cost of as much as $70,000,000. The construction and upkeep of the camps for the first year alone cost another $70,000,000. (Allan R. Bosworth, America's Concentration Camps. New York: Bantam Books, 1967. p. 119.) The first camp was Manzanar. The internees came mainly from Los Angeles County . Up to 1941, Los Angeles had been the center of the Japanese community on the mainland. The camp was in Owens Valley , more than 600 kilometers north of Los Angeles, near Death Valley.

The first internees arrived in the camp on March 21, 1942, 61 men and 20 women. By the first week in May, there were 7200 people in the camp. Two weeks later, the number had increased to 9000. They had to accustom themselves to the camp conditions, the lack of space, the lack of intimacy, the bad food, the weather and the fear that they would not be paid for the work they did. The days were extremely hot, the nights cold. A strong wind blew steadily. The most serious enemy of the internees, however, was the blowing sand.

At first, the camp consisted of fourteen barracks, each divided into 21 feet by 20 feet „apartments“ shared by two families. There were 10,000 people interned within a square mile. Initially, Manzanar was under the control of the U.S. Army, later by the WRA. Armed guards kept watch. In Manzanar there was a school, a hospital, a dental clinic and a prison. The camp police were recruited from among the internees. A newspaper, the Manzanar Free Times, with a Japanese language section, was published. In public meetings, however, the Japanese language was forbidden. A factory in the camp produced camouflage nets for the army. There were three pay categories for labor done in the camp: 11 dollars, 16 dollars, and 9 dollars a week. Even dentists received no more than 19 dollars a week. Baseball teams were organized and every weekend there was a dance.

A „riot“ in Manzanar on December 6, 1942 left two people dead and nine injured. The deeper cause of the unrest was the frustration among the internees, but the more immediate reason was a demonstration for the release of an internee who had attempted to form a union for the kitchen helpers. After the riot, several people who had been responsible for the newspaper, among them the editor-in-chief, were removed to other camps. Among the internees, there were tensions, for example between the Issei und the Nesei . Only citizens could work in the camouflage net factory. Those who did were criticized by the internees who had become anti-American, reflecting the gap between the anti-Americans and those people who, despite everything, remained loyal to the United States. Some did not want their young men to volunteer for the army.

That was, however, one possibility of getting out of the camps. „Some internees received leaves in order to work outside the camp, but not those who had been born in Japan and therefore were not American citizens. Another way to escape detention was to volunteer to resettle further inland. 33,000 Americans of Japanese origin served in the army, half in Europe , half in the Pacific theater. A purely Japanese unit, the 442 nd Regimental Combat Team, became the most highly decorated unit in the history of the American military. The 442nd did not experience a single desertion.

On December 18, 1944, the US Supreme Court found the internment of American citizens to be constitutional. After the order concerning the exclusion zone was rescinded on January 2, 1945. Individual loyalty tests were introduced. 109,000 of the 110,000 internees passed the tests. Yet it took time though to empty the camps, there acts of violence against returning Japanese-Americans and boycotts of Japanese stores continued. For most of the internees, their old lives had been destroyed; they were not sure how to make a new start. During the war, there had not been a single case of espionage or sabotage by an American of Japanese origin. The former internees received restitution for about 10% of the value of their lost property, calculated according to 1941 price levels. There was no further compensation.

It was not until 1952 that the racial limitations on acquiring American citizenship were abandoned, not until 1965 that racial quotas were strickened from the immigration laws. Since 1969 there has been a yearly pilgrimage to Manzanar and thanks to the work of a Manzanar Committee the camp was recognized as an historic site by the state of California. On the memorial plaque the camp is described as a „concentration camp.“ In 1992, the former camp was declared a National Historic Site, but it was not until April 1997 that the National Park Service could take possession from the former owner, the city of Los Angeles. The preservation and development of the site has made slow progress and there are still veterans who consider the development of the site „anti-American.“ The National Park Servive official in charge receives threatening letters.

Manzanar in internet

Manzanar videos on youTube
Images of Manzanar
Manzanar "Kenje by Fort Minor
Manzanar 65 Years Later
Manzanar, This is Your Life
WWII: Japanese Internment Camps in US
Japanese Internment: This is the Enemy

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The Whistle in the Night

There's a water tower and
and a pale moon shining down
There‘s a warm and cheery sand-house
in a railroad junction town;
There‘s a lumber-loaded freight train
puffing up a desert grade
With hot wheels in the noontime
whanging out their serenade;
There‘s a fire crackling cheerfully
beside the right of way.
While over all is the purple haze
that mourns the dying day
Oh, the old and stirring pictures
that flame up clear and bright
When I hear a distant freight train
go whistling through the night.

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Old Wing
Pat Garvey

We been travelling thirty-five years or so,
Working from town to town.
Seen the jobs roll in and the dough get thin;
We been up and we been down.

So, it‘s goodbye, Pete, and the Windy City Kid
Goodbye to the Shoe.
Old Wing‘s got a date on the long, slow freight,
And his bumming days are through.

He lost his arm on the Great Northern line
Back in nineteen and thirty-five,
But he done more work and he drank more wine
Than any ten men alive.

We was gonna move up to Montana , too,
When the winter warmed up a spell.
We had a job in a mining town
Forty miles from Kalispell.

He was sitting by the fire with a can of beans
When he tumbled to his side.
When we felt him there on the hard, cold ground,
Twas then we know he‘d died.

There was no one there to pay his fare,
So they laid him in the county ground.
When you write him down in the paper, son,
Put Old Wing in “Lost and Found.”

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Blue Wing
Tom Russell

click here for lyrics

recordings of “Blue Wing”:
David Alvin, King of California , HIGT CD 8054, CD
Tom Russell, Poor Man's Dream , Philo Records 1139, CD
Tom Russell, The Long Way Around, Hightone HCD 8081, CD
Tom Russell Band, Raw Vision: The Tom Russell Band 1984-1994, Philo CD

Blue Wing

Among the various segments of the American population, the Native Americans have the shortest life expectancy, the highest infant mortality rate, the lowest per capita income, the highest percentage of school dropouts, the lowest quality housing, the poorest health care, and the incidence of diabetes, tuberculosis, high blood pressure, respiratory diseases, and alcoholism are above the national average. Today, one third to one half of all Indians live in cities, cut off from their culture and under difficult social circumstances. The native peoples of America were not only conquered, their world was shattered. Their efforts to find path of their own in the new situation was often sabotaged. Tom Russell wrote about this song: „'Blue Wing' owes a lot to my first years performing in skid row bars in Vancouver...An ex-con from B.C. Pen said the song meant a lot to brothers inside the walls. Those types of comments keep you going.“ (Booklet in the CD Tom Russell, The Long Way Around Hightone HCD 8081.)

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Ian Tyson

check here for lyrics



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Cowboy's Lament

As I walked out in the streets of Laredo
As I walked out in Laredo one day
I spied a young cowboy all wrapped in white linen
All wrapped in white linen and cold as the clay.

"I can tell by your outfit that you are a cowboy,"
These words he did say as I proudly stepped by;
"Come sit down beside me and hear my sad story,
I'm shot in the breast and I know I must die."

"Twas once in my saddle I used to go dashing,
Twas once in my saddle I used to go gay;
First to Miss Rosie's and then to the card house,
I'm shot in the breast and I know I must die."

"Get six jolly cowboys to carry my coffin,
Get six pretty girls to carry my pall;
Throw bunches of roses all over my coffin
Throw roses to deaden the clods as they fall."

"Oh, beat the drum slowly and play the fife lowly,
And play the death 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 done wrong."

We beat the drum slowly and we played the fife lowly,
And bitterly wept as we carried him along,
For we loved our dear comrade, so young and so handsome,
We loved our dear comrade though we know he done wrong.

Cowboy's Lament
(Streets of Laredo)

The story and the imagery for this song came from an Irish street ballad, “The Unfortunate Rake” ( and perhaps from an even earlier ballad, “My Jewel, My Joy"). It dated from the 1790's and was the story of a young British soldier who died after having been infected with syphilis by a young woman. In some of the early version, St. James Hospital plays a role. Alan Lomax claimed the song spread to American about 1830 as “The Bad Girl's Lament” and as a rowdy sailor's version “Wrap Me Up in My Tarpaulin Jacket.”

“The Unfortunate Rake” survived as a song in it own right, but it also inspired a number of other songs, including the well-known ballad “St. James Infirmary.” Lumberjacks sang their own version called “The Wild Lumberjack.” Perhaps the song was carried to the West by former lumberjacks or black cowboys.

Francis Henry Maynard claimed he wrote the words to the “Cowboy's Lament” in 1876 while working on the Kansas-Indian Territory line. He said he based the song on “The Dying Girl's Lament,” changing the scene from a hospital to Tom Sherman's barroom. Tom Sherman ran a bar and dancehall in Great Bend , Kansas before moving to Dodge City in 1872 to open a similar business there. His saloon was simply a tent with a wooden floor. The Dodge City version of the “Cowboy's Lament” was extremely popular.

Soon the song was adapted to a second locale. Alongside the Dodge City version was one set in Laredo , Texas , the town founded in 1755. The song in this second version spread quickly. Owen Wister (who wrote The Virginian) included two verses in his novel Lin McLean (New York: Harper & Bros., 1898).

Jack Thorp said he first heard the song in Wisner, Nebraska and gave credit to Troy Hale of Battle Creek, Nebraska. Another authority on American ballads, Robert Frothingham, also wrote that the song was usually credited to Hale. Both of these claims came about five years after Maynard is said to have written the words.

Whatever the truth about the creation of the version we know today, it is surely the adaptation of an adaptation of an adaptation. That is to say, it is a true folksong.

The Unfortunate Rake
Tom Sherman's Barroom

The Streets Of Laredo
Joan Baez, Very Early Joan, Vanguard VSD 79446/7, LP (1982)
Pete Brady and the Blazers. Murder Ballads, ABC Paramount ABC 310, LP.
Saul Broudy, Cowboy Songs, National Geographic Society 07786, LP
John Doan, Remembrance. Melodies from a Forgotten Era, Tapestry TD 1001,1993.
Don Edwards, Saddle Songs, Shanachie 6025, CD (1997)
Brownie Ford, Stories from Mountains, Swamps & Honky-Tonks, Flying Fish FF 0559, Cas (1990)
Brownie Ford, Cowboy Tour, NCTA, Cas (1983)
Hank Hill and the Tennessee Folk Trio. Folk Song Hall of Fame, Palace M-716, LP (1960)
Will Holt, Will Holt Concert, Stinson SLP 64, LP (1963)
Cisco Houston, I Ain‘t Got No Home, Vanguard VRS 9107, LP (1962)
Jorgs. Street Musician, Shogren, LP (198?)
Peter La Farge, Songs of the Cowboys; Iron Mountain, Bear Family BCD 15627, CD (1992) (Cowboy‘s Lament)
Hamper McBee, Raw Mash, Rounder oo6i, LP (1978)
Brownie McNeil, Folksongs, Sonic, LP (195?)
Wade Hampton Millar, In the Days I Went A-courtin‘, Acoustic Revival AR 33005, LP (1981)
Ray Oman, Trail Dust ‘n‘ Saddle Leather, Oman, LP (1962) (Cowboy‘s Lament)
Johnny (John G.) Prude, Back in die Saddle Again; American Cowboy Songs, New World NW 314/15, LP (1983)
Johnny (John G.) Prude, Cowboy Songs, Ballads and Cattle Calls from Texas, Library of Congress AFS L28, LP (1952)
Tex Ritter, Blood on the Saddle, Capitol T 1292, LP (1960)
Smothers Brothers, Two Sides of the Smothers Brothers, Mercury MG 20675, LP (196?) ( Laredo )
Randy Sparks, Randy Sparks, Verve MGV 2103, LP (1960)
Burl Ives, Wayfaring Stranger, Columbia CS 9041, LP (1964/1955)
Burl Ives, Burl Ives Sings... In the Quiet of the Night, Decca DL 8247, LP (1956)
Alan Lomax, Texas Folk Songs, Tradition TLP 1029, LP (1958) (Dying Cowboy)
Ed McCurdy, Blood, Booze ‘n Bones, Elektra EKL-108, LP (1956)
Jean Ritchie, Best of Jean Ritchie, Prestige International 13003, LP (196?) (Dying Cowboy)
Seraffyn. Of Love, of War, of Many Things, Columbia CL 2157, LP (1964)
Sons of the Pioneers. Favorite Cowboy Songs, RCA (Victor) LPM-1 130, LP (1956)
Jim Bob Tinsley, He Was Sin gin‘ This Song, Mark Five MV 6045, LP (1982)
Dick Devall, When I Was a Cowboy; Songs of Cowboy Life, MorningStar 45008, LP (1984)
New Lost City Ramblers, New Lost City Ramblers, LP
Almeda Riddle, Granny Riddle‘s Songs and Ballads, Minstrel JS-2o 3 , LP (19v)
POP Wagner and Bob Bovee. Pop Wagner & Bob Bovee, Train on the Island TI 1, LP (1977) (Cowboy)

musical notation
Dick & Beth Best (eds.), New Song Fest Deluxe, Charles Hansen, 1971/1948.
Albert E. Brumley‘s Songs of the Pioneers, Brumley, 1973.
Peter Blood, Peter and Annie Patterson (eds.), Rise Up Singing, Sing Out, 1992/1989.
Bruce Drawdy, Alton C. Morris, Folksongs of Florida , University of Florida , 1950. (Cowboy‘s Lament)
Jim Fitzhugh, Vance Randolph, Ozark Folksongs. Volume II, Songs of the South and University of Missouri, 1980/1946. (Cowboy‘s Lament)
Albert B. Friedman (ed.), Viking Book of Folk Ballads of the English-S, Viking, 1963.
William Gross, Sharp & Karpeles, English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians II, Oxford , 1932/1917. ( St. James Hospital )
Richard and Michele Heller,. Jean Ritchie Dulcimer People, Oak, 1975.
Delta Hicks, Hicks Family. A Cumberland Singing Tradition, Tennessee Folklore Soc. TFS-104, LP (1982) (Once in the Saddle)
Bessie Musick, Dorothy Scarborough, A Song Catcher in the Southern Mountains, AMS, 1966/1937. (Dying Cowboy)
John A. Lomax & Man Lomax, Folk Song USA , Signet, 1966/1947.
Frank Lynn (ed.), Songs for Swinging Housemothers, Fearon, 1963/1961.
Johnny (John G.) Prude, Duncan Emrich, Folklore on die American Land , Little, Brown, 1972.
Mrs. J. A. Rollyson, John Harrington Cox, Folk-Songs of die South, Dover , 1967/1925. (Cowboy)
Jerry Snyder (arr.), Golden Guitar Folk Sing Book, Charles Hansen, 1972. P109
James F. Leisy (ed.),Songs for Pickin‘ and Singin', Gold Medal Books, 1962.
Carl Sandburg, American Songbag, Harcourt Brace Jovanvich, 1955/1928. (As I Walked Out in the Streets of Laredo )
Pete Seeger, Pete Seeger, American Favorite Ballads, Oak, 1961.
Harry Taussig, Teach Yourself Guitar, Oak, 1971.
Dick (Richard) Weissman, Five String Banjo. Vol. 3, Advanced Techniques, United Artists, 1977.
Malcolm G. Laws, Native American Balladry, Amer. Folklore Society, 1964/1950 (Dying Cowboy)
Ed Bostwick, Dorothy Scarborough, A Song Catcher in tue Southern Mountains, AMS, Bk 1966/1 937. (Young Cowboy)
Mrs. Lloyd Burton, John Harrington Cox, Folk-Songs of the South, Dover , 1967/1925. (Dying Cowboy)
Addie Gibson, Addie. Dorothy Scarborough, A Song Catcher in die Southern Mountains, AMS, 1966/1937. (Cowboy)
Morgan Tamblyn Hamrick,, John Harrington Cox, Folk-Songs Mainly from West Virginia , WPA, 1939. (Dying Cowboy)
Etta Mae Howard, Dorothy Scarborough, A Song Catcher in die Southern Mountains, AMS, 1966/1937 (Cowboy Song)
Burl Ives, Burl Ives Song Book, Ballantine Books, 1963/1953.
Harry Jackson, Richard E. Lingenfelter, et.al. Songs of the American West, U. Calif. Press, 1968.
Lizzie Kelley, John Harrington Cox, Folk-Songs of the South, Dover , 1967/1925. (Cowboy)
Mrs. Albert King, Vance Randolph, Ozark Folksongs. Volume II, Songs of the South, University of Missouri, 1980/1946.
Frank Lomax, Frank Shay (ed.), My Pious Friends and Drunken Companions and More ...‚ Dover , 1961/1927.
John L. Perry, Ethel Moore, Ethel and Chauncey 0. (ed.), Ballads and Folk Songs of the South, University of Oklahoma , 1964.
Mrs. Joseph Pointer, Vance Randolph, Ozark Folksongs. Volume II, Songs of the South and ...‚ University of Missouri, 1980/1946.
G. S. Robinson, Dorothy Scarborough, A Sony Catcher in the Southern Mountains, AMS, 1966/1937. (Dying Cowboy)
Asher Sizemore and Liftle Jimmy. Sizemore, Asher; and Little Jimmy. Old Fashioned Hymns and Mountain ..‚ Sizemore, 1933. (Dying Cowboy)
Asher Sizemore and Little Jimmy. Sizemore, Asher; and Little Jimmy. Favorite Mountain Ballads & Old 7‘..., Sizemore, 1932. (Dying Cowboy)
Louise Pound, (ed.), American Ballads and Songs, Scribner‘s, 1972. (Dying Cowboy)
A. L. Lloyd & Isabel Arete de Ramon y Rivera (eds.), Folk Songs of the, Oak, 1966. (Dying Cowboy)
Aan Lomax, Folksongs of North America , Doubleday Dolphin, 1975/1960. (Dying Cowboy)
Mildred Blum, John Harrington Cox, Folk-Songs Mainly from West Virginia , WPA, 1939. (Dying Cowboy)
Lowery Davis , Alton C. Morris, Folksongs of Florida , Univ. Florida , 1950. (Dying Cowboy)
J. Harrison Miller, John Harrington Cox, Folk-Songs of the South, Dover , 1967/1925. (Wild Cowboy)
Almeda Riddle, Roger D. Abrahams, (ed.), A Singer and Her Songs. Almeda Riddle's Book, Louisiana State U. Press, 1970.
Cora Starkey, John Harrington Cox, Folk-Songs of the South, Dover , 1967/1925. (Dying Cowboy)
Gladys Wilson,. Dorothy Scarborough, A Song Catcher in the Southern Mountains, AMS, 1966/1937: (Dying Cowboy)


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At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Owens Valley was bought up to serve as the basis for a project designed to divert water to Los Angeles. Between 1890 and 1904, the population of the city had grown from 50,000 to 200,000, already then too great a concentration of people in such a dry region. Work on the project lasted six years, cost $23 million and 43 human lives. In 1923, humorist Will Rogers wrote, „Ten years ago this was a wonderful valley with one quarter of a million acres of fruit and alfalfa. But Los Angeles had to have more water for its Chamber of Commerce to drink more toasts to its growth, more water to dilute its orange juice and more water for its geraniums to delight the tourists...“ (The West: An Illustrated History, Geoffrey C. Ward. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1996, S. 403.)




















books by Robert Frothingham
Songs of Men, an Anthology
Fredonia Books (NL) (May 31, 2005)
Songs of the Sea and Sailors Chanteys (Granger index reprint series) Ayer Co. Pub (September 1924)
Songs of the Sea and Sailor's Chanteys: An Anthology Selected and Arranged By Robert Frothingham Houghton Middflin Company (1 924)










Eddie Smyth
was born in the historical town of Trim, County Meath, Eddie taught himself to play accordion and is now regarded as one of Ireland 's top players at home and abroad. Eddie drew the inspiration for his passionate style from the great masters such as Joe Cooley, Paddy O'Brien and Jackie Daly. He is a seasoned performer, appearing since his childhood on TV and radio and in front of packed houses in Europe and the US . When not on stage with INISH, he writes and arranges new musical compositions.