I’D LIKE TO BE IN TEXAS FOR THE ROUNDUP IN THE SPRING
In a lobby of a big hotel in New York town one day,
Sat a bunch of fellows telling yarns to pass the time away.
They told of places where they’d been and all the sights they’d seen,
And some of them praised Chicago town and others New Orleans.
I can see the cattle grazing o’er the hills at early morn;
I can see the camp-fires smoking at the breaking of the dawn,
I can hear the broncos neighing I can hear the cowboys sing;
Oh I’d like to be in Texas for the round-up in the spring.
In a corner in an old arm chair sat a man whose hair was gray,
He had listened to them longingly, to what they had to say.
They asked him where he’d like to be and his clear old voice did ring:
“I’d like to be in Texas for the round-up in the spring.
They all sat still and listened to each word he had to say;
They knew the old man sitting there had once been young and gay.
They asked him for a story of his life out on the plains,
He slowly then removed his hat and quietly began:
“Oh, I’ve seen them stampede o’er the hills,
when you’d think they`d never stop,
I’ve seen them run for miles and miles until their leader dropped,
I was foreman on a cow ranch—that’s the calling of a king;
I’d like to be in Texas for the round-up in the spring.”
There’s a grave in sunny Texas where Molly Deming sleeps,
‘Mid a grove of mossy live oaks a constant vigil keeps.
In my heart’s a recollection of a long, long bygone day
When we rode the range together like truant kids astray.
Her gentle spirit calls me in the watches of the night
And I hear her laughter freshening the dew of early light.
Yes I was foreman of a cow ranch–the callin’ of a king,
And I’d like to be in Texas for the roundup in the spring.
I’d like to sleep my last long sleep with Mother Earth for bed
And my saddle for a pillow, and the bright stars overhead.
Then I could hear the last stampedes, the songs the rivers sing
Way back down in Texas when they roundup in the spring.
The authorship of “I’d Like to Be in Texas…” is uncertain. In the late Glenn Ohrlin’s The Hell-Bound Train, he writes, “Vernon Dalhart recorded ‘Roundup in the Spring’ on November 1, 1926… The song was first printed in sheet music copyrighted in 1927 by Lou Fishback (Fort Worth, Tex.); Carl Copeland and Jack Williams were listed as co-writers. The following year, the Texas Folklore Society printed an article by J. Frank Dobie, who claimed it was an old song he had obtained from Andy Adams.”
The Lomax’s include information from the Dobie article, writing that “…he found two lines in an unpublished play of Mr. Andy Adams. When he requested the full version, Mr. Adams sent him two stanzas and the chorus, which he had obtained fifteen years previously from W. E. Hawks, a ranchman now living in Burlington, Vt. However, he claimed to be responsible for most of the second stanza….”
Thanks to Stanton Howe who commented when we previously posted this piece, “Duane Dickinson sang the best version of this I ever heard. He included the last verse[s] which makes the song make much better sense.” The less frequently heard second- and third-to-last verses above are from “Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads” by John and
Alan Lomax. The final verse is more commonly heard. As with most folk songs, there are many variations.
Cowboy and poet JB Allen (1938-2005) recorded an outstanding recitation of this work at the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. The recording is on The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Ten.
Find more about “I’d Like to Be in Texas” at CowboyPoetry.com.
This 1929 photo by Russell Lee (1903-1986) is titled, “Cowboys roping horses at roundup near Marfa, Texas.” It is from The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs.
Russell Lee taught photography at the University of Texas, Austin, from 1965-1973, and is best known for his FSA photos. Find more about him at Texas State University’s Russell Lee Collection.
For some impressive photographs of Texas bluebonnets, check out Jason Weingart Photography, where there is one dazzling photo that has been shared all over social media without attribution.
(This poem/song and posted photograph are in the public domain.)