Gwen Peterson: Cowboys used to sing songs about home, love and horses | TheFencePost.com

Gwen Peterson: Cowboys used to sing songs about home, love and horses

In early days, cowboys drove cattle herds up the trails from Texas to Kansas, to Nevada to Montana, where the animals were then loaded onto railroad cars to be shipped to eastern markets. The journey could take weeks.

At night after the cattle had bedded down in a tight bunch, one or two nightriders — usually in two hour shifts — would slowly circle the sleeping herd. As he rode, the cowboy would sing quietly.

Whether he was particularly melodious or not didn't matter. The sound of the drover's voice was soothing and calming to the cows.

Though there are still "drives" of the local sort, no longer do cowboys drive herds of bovines miles and miles to railheads. Those days have faded into history, but the old songs live on.

Songs of home, songs of sweethearts left behind, songs of longing and loss, nostalgic tunes and humorous ditties sometimes made up or parodied to a familiar melody.

TRAIL SONGS

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At the end of a day on a dusty trail

When the sun begins to set

The cows bunch up and soon lie down

A prairie meadow their bed

And soon a cowboy saddles up

And through the dark of night

He slowly circles the sleeping herd

And sings until morning light

The songs of the trail have been handed down

They're part of cowboy lore

Listen! Listen! As night winds whisper

Those plaintive tunes once more

Songs of the trail, songs of the herd

Songs of horses and riding

Songs of home, of sweethearts left

Songs of young men sighing

Come sing along as we repeat the words

Of tunes from yesteryear

That help us remember times gone by

Those days we still hold dear

"I ride an old Paint, I lead an old Dan

I'm goin' to Montana to throw the houlihan,

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

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

Ride around, little doggies, ride around them slow,

For the fiery and snuffy are rarin' to go.

Old Bill Jones had two daughters and a song,

One went to Denver, the other went wrong.

His wife, she died in a poolroom fight

But still he keeps singing from morning to night:

Ride around, little doggies, ride around them slow,

For the fiery and snuffy are rarin' to go.

When I die, take my saddle from the wall,

Put it on my pony, and lead him from his stall.

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

We'll ride the prairie that we love the best.

Ride around, little doggies, ride around them slow,

For the fiery and snuffy are rarin' to go. ❖