Cowboy Songs and Singers: Of Lifeways and Legend

SWEET BY-AND-BY REVISED

The accompanying poem, which Mr. O'Malley recalls having written in the middle '80s, was originally sung to the tunes of both "Red River Valley" and "My Bonnie". It appears to have furnished the idea for the more polished ballad generally known, as "The Cowboy's Dream", written by Mr. Will C;. Barnes, another veteran cowman who had ridden herd on many a Bogie. When writing for the Saturday Evening Post a few years ago, Mr. Barnes contributed the following information on the history of the song. At that time he had not heard that Mr. O'Malley claimed to 'be the author of the original verses.

"I first heard this song in 1886 or '87 on the Hash Knife range in northern Arizona. A half-breed Indian boy from southern Utah sang about four verses which he had picked up from some other singers. He knew nothing of their authorship. 1 wrote these four out in my calf-branding book one evening. Later on a boy from down the Pecos way drifted into our camp and sang the four with slight variations, with two new ones, one of which he claimed as his own work. I wrote another and eventually picked up three more, until I finally had ten verses in all. With the idea of using it as the motif for a cowboy story, I rewrote two or three verses, changed the words of several, added the chorus, and cut the ten down to six verses. These were published with one of my earliest Western stories--Stampede on the Turkey Track Range."

Mr. O'Malley recalls that he got the inspiration for his verses from one of the N-Bar-N "hands," Tam Phelps, who was a great fellow to sing hymns. "Tom was singing `Sweet By and By' most of the time. He had a habit of closing a verse with, `I wonder if ever a cowboy will get to that Sweet By and By'. This gave me the idea for the poem."

To-night as I lay on the prairie,
Looking up at the stars in the sky,
I wonder if ever a cowboy
Will go to that sweet by-and-by.

For the trail to that bright mystic region
Is both narrow and dim, so they say,
While the broad one that leads to perdition
Is posted and blazed all the way.

Now I wonder whose fault that so many
Will be lost at the great final day,
When they might have been rich, and had plenty
Had they known of the dim narrow way.

I hear there will be a grand roundup,
When the cowboys, like others, will stand,
To be cut by the riders of judgment,
Who are posted and know every brand.

Then perhaps there may be a stray cowboy,
Unbranded, unclaimed by none nigh,
To be mavericked by the riders of judgment,
And shipped to the sweet by-and-by.

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