Cowboy Songs and Singers: Of Lifeways and Legend

Orejana Bull for Cowboys Only
by Gail Gardner


I used to make money a-runnin' wild cattle,
In them good old days 'fore the business went wrong,
When a hot runnin' iron and a good long riata
Was all that was needed to start you along.

I had no book-keeper to help run my outfit,
I just kept her all in a small tally book;
A Durham tobaccer sack held my spare money,
And I ran my layout all on my own hook.

And no one asked questions concerning my business,
I wouldn't have answered a one anyhow.
I just would have told them to go to the Devil.
But things is quite different with cattlemen now.

With the bankers and lawyers and the forest officials,
The land office men and inspectors as well,
A-ridin' the cowman all over the county,
No wonder his business has all gone to Hell.

For nowdays it seems that the whole durn creation
Has got to know everything under the sun,
They even keep cases on all of your dogies,
And they tell you the way that your outfit should run.

I went to a banker to borry some money,
When times they was hard and my pocket was low;
He looked over his glasses and he pulled his chin-whiskers,
And these was the things that he wanted to know:

"Who was your father and who was your mother?
"And where were you born, and if so tell me why?
"How many times have you been in the cooler?
"And where do you think you will go when you die?"

"Then we'll mortgage your outfit at eight per cent interest,
"I'm sure it's the only thing for you to do,
"Go see our lawyer an' for five hundred dollars,
"He'll draw up the papers and fix it for you."

There come to my ranch house a young forest ranger,
A slim scissor-bill in some leather puttees;
He had him a hatchet tied onto his saddle,
And all that he knowed was the herding of trees.

Well he got out a pencil and seventeen papers,
And spread them all out just as neat as could be,
He then looked as wise as a tree full of barn owls,
And these was the words that this man said to me:

"How many cattle have you on your ranges?
"And how many head did you say you had sold?
"Let's have your calf-tally with the steers and the heifers?
"How many have you eat and how many have you stole?"

When you drive to the railroad to ship out some cattle,
You'll find the inspector a-hanging around;
He'll set on a fence post and chaw your tobaccer,
And these is some laws he is apt to lay down:

"Them critters that's packin' two irons must be vented,
"And all of them calves must have mothers," says he,
"The Board down in Phoenix claims all `orejanas'."
(But there's a Hell of a lot that they never do see.)

Oh the income tax "hombre" will ask you more questions,
The assessor will think up a dozen or two,
Each one of these buzzards cuts in on your bank roll,
And soon there is nothing at all left for you.

Now maybe the cowman's reward is in Heaven,
If Heaven is a place where a cowhand could go;
But I'll bet you my saddle that here's what would happen,
There would be forty things that Saint Peter must know.

"Oh, how many angels have you in your chorus?
"And how many tunes on your harp can you play?
"How many white robes have you got in your war bag?
"How many gold streets have you dug up today?"

If there is no other place that is safe for the cowman,
I believe that a journey to Hell would be best,
Where they'd shovel him into the door of the furnace,
And there's where old cowman might get him some rest.

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