LITTLE JOE THE WRANGLER lyrics by “Jack” Thorp (N. Howard Thorp, 1867-1940)



lyrics by “Jack” Thorp (N. Howard Thorp, 1867-1940)

Little Joe, the wrangler,
will never wrangle more;
His days with the “remuda”
—they are done.
‘T was a year ago last April
he joined the outfit here,
A little “Texas stray”
and all alone.

‘T was long late in the evening
he rode up to the herd
On a little old brown pony
he called Chow;
With his brogan shoes and overalls
a harder-looking kid
You never in your life
had seen before.

His saddle ‘t was a southern kack
built many years ago,
An O.K. spur on one foot
idly hung,
While his “hot roll” in a cotton sack
was loosely tied behind
And a canteen from the saddle horn
he’d slung.

He said he’d had to leave his home,
his daddy’d married twice
And his new ma beat him
every day or two;
So he saddled up old Chow one night
and “lit a shuck” this way—
Thought he’d try and paddle now
his own canoe.

Said he’d try and do the best he could
if we’d only give him work,
Though he did n’t know “straight” up
about a cow;
So the boss he cut him out a mount
and kinder put him on,
For he sorter liked the little stray

Taught him how to herd the horses
and to learn to know them all
To round ’em up by daylight;
if he could
To follow the chuck-wagon
and to always hitch the team
And help the “cosinero”
rustle wood.

We’d driven to Red River
and the weather had been fine;
We were camped down on the south side
in a bend,
When a norther commenced to blowing
and we doubled up our guards,
For it took all hands
to hold the cattle then.

Little Joe, the wrangler,
was called out with the rest,
And scarcely had the kid
got to the herd,
When the cattle they stampeded;
like a hailstorm, long they flew,
And all of us were riding
for the lead.

‘Tween the streaks of lightning
we could see a horse far out ahead—
‘T was little Joe, the wrangler,
in the lead;
He was riding “Old Blue Rocket”
with his slicker ‘bove his head,
Trying to check the leaders
in their speed.

At last we got them milling
and kinder quieted down,
And the extra guard
back to the camp did go;
But one of them was missin’
and we all knew at a glance
‘Twas our little Texas stray
—poor wrangler Joe.

Next morning just at sunup
we found where Rocket fell,
Down in a washout
twenty feet below
Beneath his horse, mashed to a pulp,
his spurs had rung the knell
For our little Texas stray
—poor Wrangler Joe.

by Jack Thorp from “Songs of the Cowboys,” 1921

There’s no better introduction to “Little Joe the Wranger” than that by the great cowboy troubadour Don Edwards, in a video from the 2008 Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, a part of his “The Ghost of Jack Thorp.”

Jack Thorp collected 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, was greatly expanded, and included over a hundred songs and poems, including 25 pieces written Thorp.

Thorp introduces the poem in the 1912 book, “Written by me on the trail of herd of O Cattle from Chimney Lake, New Mexico, to Higgins, Texas, 1898. On trail were the following men, all from Sacramento Mountains or Crow Flat: Pap Logan, Bill Blevens, Will Brownfield, Will Fenton, Lije Colfelt, Tom Mews, Frank Jones, and myself. It was copyrighted and appeared in my first editions of Songs of the Cowboys published in 1908.”

There are many fine and varied renditions, including those by Red Steagall; Roy Rogers and Emmy Lou Harris; and for something entirely different, Marlene Dietrich chimes in, in the 1939  film, Destry Rides Again.

Baxter Black has some moving memories about the song on a 2009 edition of NPR’s What’s in a Song.

You can view Jack Thorp’s entire book on line in many places, including and on Google Books.

Find more about Jack Thorp in features at

This 1917 photo by Lewis Wickes Hine (1874-1940) is described,”Bartrum Choate, a 12-year-old boy driving colts to town. Works for W.F. Barber, Route 3, Lawton, Okla.” It is from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Find more about it here.


THE OLD DOUBLE DIAMOND lyrics by Gary McMahan



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
These lyrics should not be reposted or reprinted without 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 here.

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

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.

See Gary McMahan at Colorado’s 29th annual Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering, October 5-8, 2017. He joins Andy Nelson, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Floyd Beard, Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns, R.P. Smith, Terry Henderson, and many others.

This year’s theme is “cowboy humor.”

Much goes on at the event in addition to cowboy poetry and music stage shows: the popular Cowboy Poet Train, the Cowboy Poet Trail Ride, the Cowboy Parade, a chuck wagon breakfast, theatre performances, art exhibits, and more.

There’s a particular special event this year: A showing 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. Find more about the film at and on Facebook.

This image is this year’s great fine art poster with the painting, “Ten Below Zero,” by artist Andrew Peters (

Find more about the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering at and on Facebook.


HE ALWAYS RODE GOOD HORSES lyrics by Jay Snider and Jean Prescott


lyrics by Jay Snider and Jean Prescott

He always rode good horses
From my memory as a kid
I hoped to have my horses work
The way his always did

But my youthful lack of patience
So often got me throwed
That same old lack of patience
In my horses plainly showed

So I sat down at the drawing board
He’d built throughout the years
His words, though not abrasive
Only reinforced my fears

Trust ain’t freely given
It’s elusive, slowly earned
A man’s the mirror image of
The things his horses learned

“It’s gentle hands that make a good mount
Not fear nor fight nor dread
Good men ride good horses
That’s all that need be said”

With trust, respect soon follows
Like a wobbly legged foal
They both are most important
If good manners is your goal

His choice of words cut fast and deep
Just like a surgeon’s knife
Yet changed my perspective
And rearranged my life

Do what’s right while you’re still living
Makes no difference when you’re dead
Good men ride good horses
That’s all that need be said

Trust ain’t freely given
It’s elusive, slowly earned
A man’s the mirror image of
The things his horses learned

“It’s gentle hands that make a good mount
Not fear nor fight nor dread
Good men ride good horses
That’s all that need be said

“If he rebels from disrespect
He’s trying hard to say
Let me spur you in the shoulder
And see how long you’ll stay

“But given half of half a chance
He’ll rise up to the task
And die a thousand mournful deaths
Just doing what you ask”

So, ask yourself this question
Of this noble gallant steed
Would you do the very same for him
If asked a fearful deed

Trust ain’t freely given
It’s elusive, slowly earned
A man’s the mirror image of
The things his horses learned

“It’s gentle hands that make a good mount
Not fear nor fight nor dread
Good men ride good horses
That’s all that need be said”

At his service, just this morning
A tear fell as they read
He always rode good horses
That’s all that need be said

© Jean Prescott/Jay Snider, Line Camp Music
These lyrics should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

The collaboration between Jay Snider and Jean Prescott is a standout on the new Satisfied Hearts from Jean and Gary Prescott. Listen to the song  here.

It’s been twenty years since Jean and Gary Prescott recorded together, and they have made up for lost time with their new release. After working offshore for years, Gary has returned to Texas to raise horses and cattle and get back to songwriting and performing. Each are outstanding songwriters and performers in their own right and their talents shine on this new release.

Listen to a recent interview (and tracks from Satisfied Hearts) with Jean Prescott on
Equestrian Legacy Radio, hosted by Gary I. Holt and Bobbie Jean Bell.

Few songwriters collaborate with as many poets as Jean Prescott. She is known particularly for her work with Yvonne Hollenbeck, and this album includes collaborations with Deanna Dickinson McCall, Darrell Arnold, Chris Isaacs, the late Pat Richardson, Jeff Gore, Debra Coppinger Hill and Jay Snider. There are also selections by songwriters Randy Huston, Joyce Woodson, and others. One song is a tribute to the memory of Buck Ramsey and another features the late Ed Stabler’s arrangement of Henry Herbert Knibbs’ classic “Where the Ponies Come to Drink.”

Find Satisfied Hearts” at and CDBaby. You can also message Jean on Facebook at Jean Prescott Music to order.

Find more about Jean Prescott at and at her web site,

Oklahoma rancher, poet, reciter, and songwriter poet Jay Snider wrote his lyrics in 2008 and told us that this song was inspired in part by an introduction Joel Nelson gave him at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, saying that Jay “rode good horses.” Jay comments, “To a horseman that is the ultimate compliment, especially coming from a horseman such as Joel. It stuck with me and looking back on the years, most all the ‘great’ men I’ve known have ridden good horses.”

Find more about Jay Snider at and at

CHOPO by “Jack” Thorp 1867-1940


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

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.


RAIN lyrics by Daron Little


“Sunrise at Pass Creek” by Daron Little; request permission for use

lyrics by Daron Little

Neighbor shipped his spring calves early today.
It don’t seem to make much sense at all.
But this years been all wrong since I can’t remember when
And it’s got our backs up against the wall.

And it’s hard to pray when the dust devils dance
Nine months of drought leaves little to chance.
And Lord, I ain’t asking you to take the swear and pain,
But we sure could use a little Rain.

Something so simple that means so much
To those that feel the earth’s touch.
Ranchers and wives and Cowboys out on the broken plain
Sure know the meaning of just a little Rain.

And it’s hard to pray when the dust devils dance
Nine months of drought leaves little to chance.
And Lord, I ain’t asking you to take the swear and pain,
But we sure could use a little Rain.

And I don’t know if you can hear me tonight
You know I ain’t scared of a fight
And I’m thankful for this life I’ve been given
And I’ll do what it takes to make it worth livin’

And it’s hard to pray when the dust devils dance
Nine months of drought leaves little to chance.
And Lord, I ain’t asking you to take the swear and pain,
But we sure could use a little Rain.

© Daron Little
These lyrics should not be reprinted or reposted without the author’s permission

In Monday’s post, Ken Cook mentioned respected cowboy and songwriter Daron Little’s song, “Rain.” Ken commented, “My favorite piece about moisture comes from Daron Little’s 307 album. The song is ‘Rain,’ masterfully crafted by Daron. ‘Sure could use a little rain.’ He says it all right there.”

Daron Little cowboys on the TA Ranch north of Saratoga, Wyoming. His bio tells, “His area code is 307, a detail that is close to his heart. In fact, his third album is titled 307, a tribute to the land and the region.” He has performed at the WesternFolklife National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering,  the Western Heritage Classic Ranch Rodeo, the Grand Encampment Cowboy Gathering, the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering, the Heber Valley Music and Cowboy Poetry Gathering, and other events.

Find some of his songs on his YouTube channel. Find more about him at his site,





by Don Edwards

See him out there a-rangin’ alone
A solitary rider from out of the past
Hidin’ and singin’ all by himself
Of the old singin’ cowboys, he may be the last.

With a war bag of songs and a wore-out guitar
He chases the sundown and sings to the stars
Listen to him singin’ his melancholy strain
This wanderin’ minstrel of the range.

No wanderer I’ve known could ever sing
A more welcome song to a trail weary herd
As he sang to the cattle on those dark lonely nights
His voice softly ringin’ like his jingle-bob spurs.

He’d rather be singin’ to the cattle at night
Feel the warmth of a campfire than cold city lights
And he don’t give a damn about fortune and fame
This ramblin’ minstrel of the range.

No troubles no worries just travelin’ on
Don’t care where he’s goin’ don’t care where he’s been
The rhythm of his song is the gait of his horse
And he tunes his guitar to the wind.

Soft falls the tune of the troubadour’s song
“I’m a poor lonesome cowboy, I know I’ve done wrong”
Singin’ ’bout cowboys, horses and trains
This wanderin’ minstrel of the range.

Now the range is a-changin’ into neon and noise
And folks have lost touch with the land
They may tap their feet to an old cowboy song
But mostly they won’t understand.

That sad, lonesome feelin’ when the last coyote cries
For the soul of the drifter with nowhere to ride
Soon only the night wind will sing his refrain
This vanishing minstrel of the range.

© 1987 Don Edwards, Night Horse Songs/BMI,used with permission

Great troubadour and music historian Don Edwards is an ambassador of cowboy music to the wide world. Known for his generosity as well as his humility, he has nurtured the talents of other deserving artists who carry on the traditions.

In Don Edwards’ Classic Cowboy Songs, he writes about his inspiration for “Minstrel of the Range”: “I wanted to write a song that paid tribute to Curley Fletcher and other cowboy minstrels of the early days. I didn’t have the foggiest idea how or what I was going to write with the title I had dreamed up, until one day I was reading some of William Wordsworth’s poetry and came across a poem called ‘The Solitary Reaper.’ As I read and reread this poem, words began coming to me as the ‘Solitary Reaper’ became a ‘Solitary Cowboy.’ Where the tune came from, I don’t know…”

Listen to Don Edwards sing “Minstrel of the Range” on YouTube.

The Classic Cowboy Songs book includes the melody line and guitar chords. You can also find Wordsworth’s poem in our feature about Don Edwards.

A film about Don Edwards’ work and life, The Last Coyote, was recently released. Find more about it on Facebook and at

Find more about Don Edwards on Facebook; on his web site;; and also see more at Western Jubilee Recording.

Don Edwards joins Dave Stamey and Trinity Seely as headliners at the 30th annual Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering, taking place in Prescott, August 10-12, 2017. The favorite event of many, other performers include Gary Allegretto, Charlotte Allgood-McCoy, Sally Bates, Floyd Beard, Valerie Beard, Curt Brummet, Dale Burson, Dani Sue Carter, Dean Cook, Mikki Daniel, Kevin Davis, Marina Davis, Daisy Dillard, Jody Drake, Jim Dunham, Mike Dunn, Avery Ervien, Slim Farnsworth, Don Fernwalt, Ray Fitzgerald, Rolf Flake, Oscar Gray, Amy Hale Auker, Audrey Hankins (Balow), Larry Harmer, Paul Hatch, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Randy Huston, Chris Isaacs, Sue Jones, Suzi Killman, Gary Kirkman, Ross Knox, Steve Lindsey, Mary Matli, Monk Maxwell, Wanda Macwell, Dave McCall, Deanna Dickinson McCall, Slim McWilliams, Janet Moore, Nika Nordbrock, Donn Pease, Vess Quinlan, Gary Robertson, Frank Rodrigues, Buck Ryberg, Tom Sharpe, Jay Snider, Gail Starr, Gail Steiger, Duane Steinbrink, Rocky Sullivan, Duke Vance, Tom Weathers, Ashley Westcott, Bob Wood, Byrd Woodward, Rusty Pistols Cowboy Band, Arizona Old Time Fiddlers, and Broken Chair Band.

This year’s poster features a painting by George Molnar, “Long Way Home.” George Molnar’s art was featured on the 20th anniversary poster as well. Find more about him and his work at

Find more about the 30th annual Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering on Facebook and at


Submission Guidelines



Send one poem to:

•     Include your poem’s title in the subject line.
•     Use plain email, no attachments
•     Do not type in all CAPS
•     Include your name with your poem

Our focus is on stories about the life of rural communities and today’s real working West. We look for poems and lyrics that say something original about cowboying, ranching, or rural life, well-written poems and lyrics with strong, developed stories with themes that are uniquely Western.

We encourage poems and lyrics inspired by personal experiences.

We look for works that go beyond platitudes, seeking those that say something new, or say something in a new way about today’s real working West.

We are not looking for idealized “Old West” poems or lyrics. We do consider works with factual historical themes that relate to cowboying, ranching, or rural life.

We are not looking for poems or lyrics inspired by a “Hollywood” view of the West, worn jokes turned into poems or songs, or “bathroom humor.” We do not accept blatantly political, patriotic, religious or romantic poems or lyrics that are not original, well-developed stories about today’s working West. Our focus does not include Christian cowboy poetry.

Works should be suitable for our wide audience, which includes young readers. Works that have been published elsewhere previously are welcome.

Occasionally, poems outside of those guidelines are posted, at the invitation of the editor. Such works are usually poems of merit by poets with a body of work at

All are welcome to submit poetry and lyrics. We respond to all submissions; we do not have the resources to offer critiques. Our editorial decisions are final.

Accepted poems and lyrics are posted.



Works must be submitted by email (no attachments; please make the subject line your poem title). We do not accept postal mail submissions.

Poems and lyrics submitted must be your original work. They may have been published elsewhere previously.

Send just one poem or song.

We do not accept unsolicited prose, essays, or commentary.

Occasionally, poems outside of those guidelines are posted, at the invitation of the editor. Such works are usually poems of merit by poets with a body of work at

All submissions are judged for acceptance.

Send one poem to:

•  Include your poem’s title in the subject line.
•  Use plain email, no attachments
•  Do not type in all CAPS
•  Include your name with your poem

Once you hear back about whether your submission is accepted (we confirm receipt right way and then generally respond about acceptance within 8-12 weeks) you may send another. Accepted works get posted at

(Find the submission page on here.)

Above image from a postcard in the Center’s collection, postmarked 1910.