Back at the Ranch: Cowboy Poetry & Music / Life Around the Wagon

Night Herding Song
Written and sung by Harry Stephens, Dennison, Texas
Recorded and with comments by John A. Lomax
Audio Source: Cowboy Songs, Ballads & Cattle Calls From Texas / Rounder CD 1512

"First Saddling," Photo © Barbara Van Cleve. All Rights Reserved.


Slow down, dogies, quit your roving around,
You’ve wandered and trampled all over the ground;
Oh, haze along dogies, feed kinda slow,
And don’t be forever on the go;
Move slow, little dogies, move slow.
Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, heigh-ho.

I’ve trail-herded, cross-herded, night-herded too,
But to keep you together is what I can’t do;
My horse is leg weary, and I’m awful tired,
But if you get away I’m sure I get fired—
Bunch up, little dogies, bunch up.
Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, heigh-ho.

Oh say, little dogies, when you gonna lay down
And quit this forever shifting around?
My legs they are weary, my seat it is sore,
So lay down, little dogies, like you laid down before—
Lay down, little dogies, lay down,
Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, heigh-ho.

Lay still, little dogies, since you have laid down,
Stretch away out on the big open ground;
Snore loud, little dogies, and still the wild sound
That will go away when the day rolls around---
Lay still, little dogies, lay still.
Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, heigh-ho.

When They've Finished Shipping Cattle in the Fall
Written by Bruce Kiskaddon; recited by Jesse Smith
Audio Source: Jesse Smith - Creak of Leather

"Shipping Time" Photo © Barbara Van Cleve. All Rights Reserved.

"Shipping Time" Photo © Barbara Van Cleve. All Rights Reserved.


Though you're not exactly blue,
Yet you don't feel like you do
In the winter, or the long hot summer days.
Seem to sort of go together,
And you're quiet in the dreamy autumn haze.
When the last big steer is goaded
Down the chute, and safely loaded;

And the summer crew has ceased to hit the ball;
When a fellow starts to draggin'
To the home ranch with the wagon --
When they've finished shipping cattle in the fall.

Only two men left a standin'
On the job for winter brandin',
And your pardner, he's a loafing by your side.
With a bran-new saddle creakin',
But you never hear him speakin',
And you feel it's goin' to be a quiet ride.
But you savvy one another
For you know him like a brother--
He is friendly but he's quiet, that is all;
For he' thinkin' while he's draggin'
To the home ranch with the wagon--
When they've finished shippin' cattle in the fall.

And the saddle hosses stringin'
At an easy walk a swingin'
In behind the old chuck wagon movin' slow.
They are weary gaunt and jaded
With the mud and brush they've waded,
And they settled down to business long ago.
Not a hoss is feelin' sporty,
Not a hoss is actin' snorty;
In the spring the brutes was full of buck and bawl;
But they 're gentle, when they're draggin'
To the home ranch with the wagon --
When they've finished shippin' cattle in the fall.

And the cook leads the retreat
Perched high upon his wagon seat,
With his hat pulled 'way down furr'wd on his head.
Used to make that old team hustle,
Now he hardly moves a muscle,
And a feller might imagine he was dead,
'Cept his old cob pipe is smokin'
As he lets his team go pokin',
Hittin' all the humps and hollers in the road.
No, the cook has not been drinkin'--
He's just settin' there and thinkin'
'Bout the places and the people that he knowed
And you watch the dust a trailin'
And two little clouds a sailin',
And a big mirage like lakes and timber tall.
And you're lonesome when you're draggin'
To the home ranch with the wagon--
When they've finished shippin' cattle in the fall.

When you make the camp that night,
Though the fire is burnin' bright,
Yet nobody seems to have a lot to say,
In the spring you sung and hollered,
Now you git your supper swallered
And you crawl into your blankets right away.
Then you watch the stars a shinin'
Up there in the soft blue linin'
And you sniff the frosty night air clear and cool.
You can hear the night hoss shiftin'
As your memory starts driftin'
To the little village where you went to school.
With its narrow gravel streets
And the kids you used to meet,
And the common where you used to play baseball.
Now you're far away and draggin'
To the home ranch with the wagon
For they've finished shippin' cattle in the fall.

And your school-boy sweetheart too,
With her eyes of honest blue--
Best performer in the old home talent show.
You were nothin' but a kid
But you liked her, sure you did--
Lord! And that was over thirty years ago.
Then your memory starts to roam
From Old Mexico to Nome.
From the Rio Grande to the Powder River,
Of the things you seen and done--
Some of them was lots of fun
And a lot of other things they make you shiver.
'Bout that boy by name of Reid
That was killed in a stampede--
'Twas away up north, you helped 'em dig his grave,
And your old friend Jim the boss
That got tangled with a hoss,
And the fellers couldn't reach in time to save.

You was there when Ed got his'n--
Boy that killed him's still in prison,
And old Lucky George, he's rich and livin' high.
Poor old Tom, he come off worst,
Got his leg broke, died of thirst
Lord but that must be an awful way to die.

Then them winters at the ranches,
And the old time country dances--
Everybody there was sociable and gay.
Used to lead 'em down the middle
Jest a prancin' to the fiddle--
Never thought of goin' home till the break of day.
No! there ain't no chance for sleepin',
For the memories come a creepin',
And sometimes you think you hear the voices call;
When a feller starts a draggin'
To the home ranch with the wagon--
When they've finished shippin' cattle in the fall.