CHAPS by Gary McMahan


by Gary McMahan

To: Mr Ralph Lauren
505 5th Ave
New York City

I seen on the TV Mr. Lauren
That you have a men’s cologne you call “Chaps”
And it’s probably a manly scent
Or you wouldn’t have called it that.

I confess I’ve never used the stuff
And this may sound a little harsh
But I suspect men use cologne to hide
The fact that they didn’t warsh

So I can’t really comment on the product
Though I’m sure it smells just fine
It’s the way you say the name “chaps”
That chaps my cowboy behind

You see the name is derived
From the Spanish word chaparro, well
It in turn got its name
from the word chaparral

Which again in Spanish means
A dense thicket of thorny brush and trees
Which all manner of cowboys
have ridden through for centuries

Thus needing protection for their legs
These chaparros were fashioned from cowhide
and are the leather leggin’s cowboys wear
That comes without a backside

Then us gringos got hold of the word
And shortened chaparro to chaps
Kinda like when we took the word
Tappaderos and condensed it to “Taps”

So that’s why “ch” is really pronounced
With an “sh” sound you see
And to an ol’ cowboy that’s worn chaps all his life
It seems a travesty

That you would use the cowboy’s manly image
To sell your fancy smell to the herd
And never even take the time
To learn how to say the word

‘Cause fact is Mr. Lauren
Even though I’d like to console ya
anyone who says “chaps” for chaps
Don’t know chit from chineola

© Gary McMahan
This poem should not be reprinted or reposted without permission.

You can watch Gary McMahan, accompanied by popular musician Ernie Martinez, as they performed this poem at the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. The clip is included in Doug Morrione’s award-winning film, Everything in the Song is True.

(The entire film “of four iconic western characters”: Gary McMahan, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Brice Chapman, and Greg Nourse is available for streaming at Amazon.

Gary McMahan tells that this poem was inspired by a letter that former longtime Western Horseman publisher (and Gary’s father-in-law) Dick Spencer wrote to Ralph Lauren.

The bio at Gary McMahan’s web site tells:

Gary is known for his award-winning songs, captivating stories, uproarious humor, and national championship yodeling. His songs have been recorded by artists such as Garth Brooks, Ian Tyson, Chris LeDoux, Riders in the Sky, Dave Stamey, and Juni Fisher. His songs, stories, and poems embody what many believe to be the heart of the new West.

Gary comes by his cowboy heritage naturally. He was born into it and has ridden, wrangled, and roped all over the West, all the while collecting reflections on cowboy ways. Those reflections are the backbone of all his songs, stories, and poems.

Find more about Gary McMahan at and visit his site, (where there are full-length versions of all tracks on all of his albums).

This 1939 photo by Arthur Rothstein is titled, “Spurs, chaps and broad-rimmed hat, the cattleman’s distinctive features of dress. Quarter Circle ‘U’ Ranch, Montana.” It’s from The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem with this post, but for other uses, request permission. The photo is in the public domain.)



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
These lyrics should not be reposted or reprinted without the author’s 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.”

Listen to Gary McMahan’s rendition at his web site  and see a video on Youtube.

Find an Ian Tyson version on YouTube and one by Chris LeDoux here .

Gary McMahan is featured at the Western Folklife Center’s 35th annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, January 28 – February 2, 2019. The lineup has just been announced: 3hattrio, Amy Hale Auker, Mike Beck, Geno Delafose & French Rockin Boogie, John Dofflemyer, Joshua Dugat, Maria Lisa Eastman, Mary Flitner, Jamie Fox & Alex Kusturok, Ryan & Hoss Fritz, Dick Gibford, DW Groethe, Andy Hedges, Brenn Hill, Tish Hinojosa, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Ross Knox, Ned LeDoux, Daron Little, Corb Lund, Carolyn Martin’s Swing Band, Sid Marty, Deanna Dickinson McCall, Gary McMahan, Waddie Mitchell, Michael Martin Murphey, Joel Nelson, Rodney Nelson, Diane Peavey, Shadd Piehl, Vess Quinlan. Halladay & Rob Quist, Henry Real Bird, Brigid Reedy, Randy Rieman, Jake Riley, Matt Robertson, Olivia Romo, Trinity Seely, Sean Sexton, Sourdough Slim, Dave Stamey, Gail Steiger, Colter Wall, Swift Current, and Paul Zarzyski.

The event will include three showings of Everything in the Song is True, Doug Morrione’s award-winning feature-length documentary film “of four iconic western characters”: Gary McMahan, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Brice Chapman, and Greg Nourse. The excellent film is now available for streaming at Amazon. Find more about the film at

This vintage photo is of Gary and his dog, Cutie Pie. Check out “Cutie Pie (the Yodeling Dog)” at his site for audio from the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering with Ranger Doug of the Riders in the Sky, Gary, and Cutie Pie.

Find more about Gary McMahan at; visit his site, (where there are full-length versions of all tracks on all of his albums); and find him  on Facebook,

(Please respect copyright. You can share these lyrics with this post, but for other uses, please request permission.)