Good-bye, Old Paint, I’m a-leavin’ Cheyenne,
Good-bye, Old Paint, I’m a-leavin’ Cheyenne.

My foot in the stirrup, my pony won’t stand;
Good-bye, Old Paint, I’m a-leavin’ Cheyenne.

I’m a-leavin’ Cheyenne, I’m off for Montan’;
Good-bye, Old Paint, I’m a-leavin’ Cheyenne.

I’d a ridin’ Old Paint, I’m a-leadin’ Old Fan;
Good-bye, Old Paint, I’m a-leavin’ Cheyenne.

With my feet in the stirrups, my bridle in my hand;
Good-bye, Old Paint, I’m a-leavin’ Cheyenne.

Old Paint’s a good pony, he paces when he can;
Good-bye, Little Annie, I’m off for Cheyenne.

Oh hitch up your horses and feed ’em some hay,
And seat yourself by me so long as you stay.

My horses ain’t hungry, they’ll not eat your hay;
My wagon is loaded and rolling away.

My foot in the stirrup, my reins in my hand;
Good morning, young lady, my horses won’t stand.

Good-bye, Old Paint, I’m a-leavin’ Cheyenne,
Good-bye, Old Paint, I’m a-leavin’ Cheyenne.

…traditional, from Jack Thorp’s Songs of the Cowboys, 1921

Thorp noted, “Heard this sung by a puncher who had been on a spree in Pecos City. He had taken a job temporarily as a sheep-rustler for an outfit in Independence Draw, down the river, and was ashamed of the job. I won’t mention his name.”

Jess Morris popularized the song, which he credited to cowboy Charley Willis, who taught him the song when he was a boy.

Listen to a 1942 recording of Jess Morris singing “Old Paint” and playing on a fiddle made by John Lomax.

Songster Dom Flemons has a much more complex, outstanding rendition, closer to Jess Morris’s, on his recent Black Cowboys” album from Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.

Generous liner notes in Black Cowboys tell about Jess Morris, “…raised in the Texas Panhandle region, where his father was a trail boss on the XIT ranch, an establishment known for hiring many black cowboys.” Charley Willis was one of those cowboys. Flemons quotes Willis’s great grandson on his ancestor, “He had a knack for singing. He had a gift, if you will. His voice was real soothing to the cattle, and this is why they wanted him to participate in these big cattle drives….”

Black Cowboys illuminates the history of African Americans in the West with songs and poems as diverse as “Home on the Range,” Gail I. Gardner’s “Tyin’ Knots in the Devil’s Tail,” “Going Down the Road Feelin’ Bad,” and Wallace McRae’s “Old Proc.” Dom Flemons offers a meaty introduction and notes on each track, and Jim Griffith contributes an essay, “Black Cowboys of the West.” Vintage photographs and illustrations further enhance the noteworthy project.

Dom Flemons is no stranger to cowboy poetry gatherings. He has been featured at the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering and will appear next month at the Texas Hill Country Cowboy Gathering in Fredericksburg, November 8-10, 2018, along with Joel Nelson, Amy Hale Auker, Cowboy Celtic, Mike Blakely, Pipp Gillette, Andy Hedges, Waddie Mitchell, Randy Rieman, and Trinity Seely.

“Black Cowboys,” with its distinctive William Matthews cover art, is also available now on vinyl. Find more at Smithsonian Folkways and listen at YouTube.  Visit Dom Flemons’ web site.

(This song is in the public domain.)