Cisco Houston Web Site

The Songs He Sang

Buffalo Skinners: Lyrics

As performed by Cisco Houston

Woody Guthrie

Appears on:
Come all you old time cowboys
And listen to my song
Please do not grow weary
I'll not detain you long
Concerning some wild cowboys
Who did agree to go
And spend the summer pleasant
On the range of the buffalo

Well I found myself in Griffin
In eighteen eighty-three
When a well-known famous drover
Come a'walkin' up to me
Sayin "How do you do young feller
And how'd you like to go
And spend a summer pleasant
On the trail of the buffalo?"

Well me being out of work right then
To that drover I did say
"This goin' out on the buffalo road
Depends upon your pay
If you pay good wages
Transportation to and fro
Well I think I might go with you
On the range of the buffalo"

Yes I will pay good wages
And transportation too
If you'll agree to work for me
Until the season's through
But if you do grow homesick
And try and run away
You'll starve to death out on the trail
And you'll also lose your pay

Well with all this flatterin' talkin'
He signed up quite a train
Some ten or twelve in number
All able bodied men
Our trip it was a pleasant one
As we hit the Westward Row
Until we struck ol' Boggy Creek
In old New Mexico

Well, here our pleasures ended
And our troubles all begun
When a lightnin' storm come up on us
And it made the cattle run
We got full of the stickers
From the cactus that did grow
And the outlaws waiting to pick us off
In old New Mexico

Well the working season ended
But the drover would not pay
He said "You went and drunk too much
You're all in debt to me"
But the cowboys never had heard
Of such a thing as a bankrupt law
So we left the drover's bones to bleach
On the range of the buffalo

Notes from the Folk Song & Minstrelsy Set

To reduce the number of buffalo on the Western Plains, the U.S. government offered a cash bounty on buffalo hides. This encouraged hunting so much that within a few decades the animals were almost extinct. Hunters would skin the carcasses, ship the hides to the East and leave the rest of the large animals to the buzzards. This ballad tells about some cowboys who went out to hunt buffalo, and how they dealt with their boss when he refused to pay them. It is patterned after the lumber industry song, "Canaday-I-O."

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