THE OLD DOUBLE DIAMOND
lyrics by Gary McMahan
The old Double Diamond lay out east of Dubois
in the land of the buffalo
And the auctioneer’s gavel rapped and it rattled,
as I watched the old Double Diamond go.
Won’t you listen to the wind
Mother Nature’s violin.
When I first hired on the old Double Diamond
I was a dammed poor excuse for a man
Never learned how to aim,
well my spirit was tame
couldn’t see all the cards in my hand.
And the wind whipped the granite above me
and blew the tumbleweeds clean through my soul.
I fought her winters, busted her horses
I took more than I thought I could stand,
but the battle with the mountains and cattle
seems to bring out the best in a man.
I guess a sailor, he needs an ocean
and a mama, her babies to hold.
And I need the hills of Wyoming
in the land of the buffalo
Now shes sellin’ out, and I’m movin’ on
But I’m leavin’ with more than I came
‘Cause I got this saddle and it ain’t for sale,
and I got this song to sing
I got this a new range to find
and new knots to tie
in a country where cowboys are kings
I turned my tail to the wind,
and the old Double Diamond
disappeared into the sage.
Yay ee o-del o-hoo – dee
© 1975, words and music by Gary McMahan, used with permission
Gary McMahan’s widely loved song has been cited as one of today’s top cowboy songs by Western Horseman. It has been recorded by Chris LeDoux, Ian Tyson, and dozens of other artists. Gary tells about writing the song:
My dad was a cattle trucker and had hauled lots of cattle out of Dubois, Wyoming, for a fella named Ab Cross. Ab owned the grand old Cross Ranch outside of Dubois. Dad and Ab were good friends, and I became a friend of the Crosses as well.
I believe it was 1973 when Dad and I were up there in Dubois on a fishing trip. We stayed with the Crosses, and as we were getting ready to head out, Ab said, “You’re not leaving today, are you? The Double Diamond Ranch is going on the auction block today, and it’s kind of a big deal around these parts.” So Ab talked us into staying an extra day.
We all went to the sale and saw the fine old ranch go. There were a bunch of cowboys there who had just lost their jobs and were loadin’ up and moving out, all heading to what they hoped would be another cowboyin’ job somewhere. It struck my heart, and I thought this was kind of typical of what was going on in the West.
That next day on the drive back to Colorado, I wrote the basics of the song ‘The Old Double Diamond.’ I was living in Nashville at the time and over the next…I don’t know…nine months or so, I refined the song into the song you hear today.
It’s been cut I don’t know how many times by big names and small alike. I never tried to control who sang the song. I just let it have its head…I rarely meet a cowboy who doesn’t know the words to that song.
Gary McMahan is portrayed on the cover of the new Real Singing Cowboys by Charlie Seemann, in a painting, “A Fine Old Martin,” by William Matthews. (Matthews has created designs for two Martin cowboy guitars. See a recent article here.)
Folklorist Seemann, executive director emeritus of the Western Folklife Center, comments in his preface, “I once asked the late Glenn Ohrlin what he thought made a good cowboy singer. He answered, ‘First, you gotta see how good they can ride.’ That is the premise on which I have based this book.”
The insightful volume celebrates the depth and breadth of talent of many top singers and songwriters from today’s real working West.
The book includes a deep, informative introduction to cowboy music. There are are profiles, with photographs and discographies, of 50 Western singers, songwriters, and musicians: Jesse Ballantyne, Mike Beck, Adrian Brannan, Dale Burson and Family, Lyle Cunningham, Jay Dalton, Kevin Davis, Stephanie Davis, Geno Delafose, Duane Dickinson, Juni Fisher, Brownie Ford, Ryan Fritz, the Gillette Brothers, DW Groethe, Wylie Gustafson, Kenny Hall, R.W. Hampton, Joni Harms, Kristyn Harris, Don Hedgpeth, Michael Hurwitz, Ken Jones, Walt LaRue, Chris LeDoux, Daron Little, Corb Lund, Gary McMahan, Chuck Milner, Michael and Dawn Moon, Rooster Morris, Glenn Ohrlin, Ken Overcast, Howard Parker, J Parson, Bob Petermann, Jean and Gary Prescott, Buck Ramsey, Luke Reed, Ray Reed, Brigid Reedy, Dave Schildt, Trinity Seely, Clyde Sproat, Dave Stamey, Gail Steiger, T.R. Stewart, Linda Svendsen, Caitlyn Taussig, Rod Taylor, Ian Tyson, Jessie Veeder, Johnny Whelan, and Hub Whitt.
The Real Singing Cowboys is available from booksellers and the publisher, Two Dot Press, an imprint of The Rowman and Littlefield Publishing Group.
(Please respect copyright. You can share these lyrics with this post, but for other uses, please request permission.)