by “Jack” Thorp 1867-1940
Through rocky arroyos so dark and so deep;
Down the sides of the mountains so slippery and steep;
You’ve good judgment, sure footed, wherever you go
You’re a safety conveyance my little Chopo.
Whether single or double, or in the lead of a team,
Over highways or byways or crossing a stream,
You’re always in fix and willing to go
Whenever you’re called on, my Chico Chopo.
You’re a good roping horse; you were never jerked down;
When tied to a steer, you will circle him around;
Let him once cross the string, and over he’ll go.
You sabe the business, my cow horse Chopo.
One day on the Llano, a hail storm began;
The herds were stampeded, the horses all ran;
The lightning it glittered, a cyclone did blow;
But you faced the sweet music my little Chopo.
Chopo my pony; Chopo, my pride;
Chopo my amigo; Chopo I will ride
From Mexico’s border ‘cross Texas Llanos;
To the salt Pecos River, I ride you Chopo.
…by Jack Thorp from Songs of the Cowboys, 1921
Listen to Andy Hedges’ latest COWBOY CROSSROADS and you will appreciate an unbroken line of music and history passed on from Jack Thorp to Don Edwards to Andy Hedges. In a far-ranging and deeply interesting interview, Andy engages our great American troubabour, Don Edwards, who talks about his lifelong interest in music and his investigation of and respect for the roots of cowboy music. Robert Johnson, Hank Snow, Maybelle Carter, Dylan, Gene Autry, Eric Clapton, the Blues, and more comes up in the conversation.
Don Edwards speaks of the kinship he feels for “Jack” Thorp (N. Howard Thorp), the first collector of cowboy music. Thorp gathered cowboy songs and poems across the West for nearly 20 years, starting in the late 1800s. He first published them in 1908, in a small book called Songs of the Cowboys. The next edition of the book, in 1921 (and shown above), was greatly expanded and included over a hundred songs and poems, including 25 pieces written Thorp.
Thorp commented that “Chopo” was “Written in Devil’s River, Texas, 1901 at Jeneaw, or Juno, Lake, when in camp with Frank Wilson. This little horse I got from Antelope George at Sierra Blanca, was branded O. I rode him from Sierra Blanca to Paris, Texas. This song was in my first publication, copyrighted in 1908.”
In his biographical book, Pardner of the Wind, written with Neil M. Clark, Thorp describes Chopo, “…the best night horse I ever had. Coal-black and branded O, he was one of those horses that made a good hand anywhere…Chopo’s daddy was a Morgan stud shipped out from the East, and his mammy a sure-enough mustang Arabian, one of the old Spanish stock that ran pretty much all over the Southwest. He first proved himself on the trail drive when Little Joe, the wrangler was killed—not in the same stampede, however.”
Find more about Thorp in features at CowboyPoetry.com.
Andy Hedges is doing important (and entertaining) work in presenting and preserving the authentic stories, poems, and music of the cowboy West. Those who care about this heritage are fortunate and are greatly indebted to people like Andy and Don Edwards who keep lit the torch for this small but vital genre.
It is easy to listen to the treasures that COWBOY CROSSROADS is collecting. And if you value the show, do what you can to help support it and spread the word. Find listening options and more here.