THE PITCHFORK GRAYS by Darrell Arnold and Jean Prescott

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THE PITCHFORK GRAYS
by Darrell Arnold and Jean Prescott

It was not so strange on the Pitchfork range
To find a gray in a cowboy’s string
You could always bet he was from the get
Of their stud, Joe Bailey’s King

Now the gray I rode sure pulled his load
Not a job he could not do
I could rope and cut, really crack the nut
On the gray horse I called Blue

CHORUS
In the golden haze of those Texas days
When the Pitchfork trails were new
We were young and proud and we bragged out loud
To be part of the Pitchfork crew

Through dust and heat and the tall mesquite
We rode sorrels and browns and bays
But, we felt the best, as if we’d been blessed
When we forked those Pitchfork grays

Well, you give your best till it’s time to rest
You get stiff and your vision blurs
You’re past your prime and you know it’s time
That you quit and hang up your spurs

I felt sad and old when my bed I rolled
T’was the only life I knew
But, it made my day when I heard them say
“You done good, just keep ol’ Blue”

In the golden haze of those Texas days
When the Pitchfork trails were new
We were young and proud and we bragged out loud
To be part of the Pitchfork crew

Through dust and heat and the tall mesquite
We rode sorrels and browns and bays
But, we felt the best, as if we’d been blessed
When we forked those Pitchfork grays

He was a good cayuse so I turned Blue loose
He deserved to work no more
He was twenty-eight when he broke the gate
And came up to the big barn door

He came home to die, how my heart did cry
On that cold and bitter day
I’m a-tellin’ you that I sure was blue
When I lost my Pitchfork gray

In the golden haze of those Texas days
When the Pitchfork trails were new
We were young and proud and we bragged out loud
To be part of the Pitchfork crew

Through dust and heat and the tall mesquite
We rode sorrels and browns and bays
But, we felt the best, as if we’d been blessed
When we forked those Pitchfork grays

But, we felt the best, as if we’d been blessed
When we forked those Pitchfork grays

© 2014, Jean Prescott and Darrell Arnold, used with permission

Darrell Arnold, poet, photographer, and editor of  the much-missed COWBOY MAGAZINE and singer/songwriter Jean Prescott have received the Spur Award from the Western Writers of America for their collaboration. Jean and Gary Prescott include the song on their new Satisfied Hearts CD, and they will be at the Western Writers’ 65th annual convention, June 20-23, 2018, in Billings, Montana to perform the song. (Jean’s song, “The Ridge,” was also a Spur finalist.)

Watch Jean perform “Pitchfork Grays” in a live performance.

Darrell Arnold was inspired to write the poem after reading about Pitchfolk Grays. Find more about him and COWBOY MAGAZINE at CowboyPoetry.com.

Jean Prescott is known for her collaborations with poets. In addition to Darrell Arnold, she has created songs from the poems of Yvonne Hollenbeck, Deanna Dickinson McCall, Chris Isaacs, the late Pat Richardson, Jeff Gore, Debra Coppinger Hill, Jay Snider, and others.

This photo is by Jean Prescott, taken at the Saunders Ranch on a photo shoot with the late, respected photographer David Stoecklein.

Find more about Jean Prescott at CowboyPoetry.com;  her web site, JeanPrescott.com, and on Facebook.

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

THE ZEBRA DUN anonymous

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THE ZEBRA DUN
anonymous

We were camped on the plains at the head of the Cimmaron
When along came a stranger and stopped to arger some.
He looked so very very foolish that we began to look around,
We thought he was a greenhorn that had just ‘scaped from town.

We asked him if he had he been to breakfast; he had n’t had a smear;
So we opened up the chuck-box and bade him have his share.
He took a cup of coffee and some biscuits and some beans,
And then began to talk and tell about foreign kings and queens,

About the Spanish War and fighting on on the seas
With guns as big as steers and ramrods big as trees,–
And about old Paul Jones, a mean-fighting son of a gun,
Who was the grittiest cuss that ever pulled a gun.

Such an educated feller, his thoughts just came in herds,
He astonished all them cowboys with them jaw-breaking words.
He just kept on talking till he made the boys all sick
And they began to look around just how to play a trick.

He said he had lost his job upon the Santa Fe
And was going across the plains to strike the 7-D.
He did n’t say how come it, some trouble with the boss,
But said he’d like to borrow a nice fat saddle horse.

This tickled all the boys to death; they laughed ‘way down in their sleeves–
“We will lend you a horse just as fresh and fat as you please.”
Shorty grabbed a lariat and roped the Zebra Dun
And turned him over to the stranger and waited for the fun.

Old Dunny was a rocky outlaw that had grown so awful wild
That he could paw the white out of the moon every jump for a mile.
Old Dunny stood right still–as if he didn’t know–
Until he was saddled and ready for to go.

When the stranger hit the saddle, old Dunny quit the earth,
And traveled right straight up for all that he was worth.
A-pitching and a-squealing, a-having wall-eyed fits,
His hind feet perpendicular, his front ones in the bits.

We could see the tops of mountains under Dunny every jump,
But the stranger he was growed there just like the camel’s hump;
The stranger sat upon him and curled his black moustache,
Just like a summer boarder waiting for his hash.

He thumped him in the shoulders and spurred him when he whirled,
To show them flunky punchers that he was the wolf of the world.
When the stranger had dismounted once more upon the ground,
We knew he was a thoroughbred and not a gent from town;

The boss, who was standing round watching of the show,
Walked right up to the stranger and told him he need n’t go–
“If you can use a lasso like you rode old Zebra Dun,
You are the man I’ve been looking for ever since the year one.”

Oh he could twirl the lariat and he did n’t didn’t do it slow;
He could catch them fore feet nine out of ten for any kind of dough,
There’s one thing and a shore thing I’ve learned since I’ve been born,
That every educated feller ain’t a plumb greenhorn.

…anonymous

One of the oldest cowboy songs, “The Zebra Dun” is sometimes known as “The Educated Fellow.” The author is unknown. When Jack Thorp collected the song, he noted that he “first heard the song sung by Randolph Reynolds, Carizozo Flats, in 1890.”

Cowboy and singer Jules Verne Allen (1883-1945) recorded “Zebra Dun” in 1928, the first known commercial recording. Listen to a great version by Cisco Houston (1918-1961) here from Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.

Many others have recorded “Zebra Dun,” and Don Edwards has an outstanding version on his “Saddle Songs” album that you can listen to here.

Find more in our feature about Jack Thorp’s 1912 Songs of the Cowboys.

This 1940 photo of a cowboy at the Quemado, New Mexico rodeo by Russell Lee (1903-1986) is from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Find more about it here.

 

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

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LITTLE JOE THE WRANGLER
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
somehow.

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 Archive.org and on Google Books.

Find more about Jack Thorp in features at CowboyPoetry.com.

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

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THE OLD DOUBLE DIAMOND
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 CowboyPoetry.com; visit his site, singingcowboy.com (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 everythinginthesongistrue.com and on Facebook.

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

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

 

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

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HE ALWAYS RODE GOOD HORSES
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

(Chorus)
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 jeanprescott.com and CDBaby. You can also message Jean on Facebook at Jean Prescott Music to order.

Find more about Jean Prescott at CowboyPoetry.com and at her web site, jeanprescott.com.

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 CowboyPoetry.com and at jaysnider.net.

CHOPO by “Jack” Thorp 1867-1940

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CHOPO
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.

 

RAIN lyrics by Daron Little

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

RAIN
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, ranchcowboymusic.com.