The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #35911 Message #496238
Posted By: Joe Offer
01-Jul-01 - 10:24 PM
Thread Name: Strawberry Roan - ( & Sheepherder version?)
Subject: ADD: Strawberry Roan (Ohrlin Transcription)^^^
From Glenn Ohrlin's the Hell-bound Train, A Cowboy Songbook:
The late Curley Fletcher's "Strawberry Roan" is another cowboy song familiar throughout the United States and Canada. George B. German reports hearing both Curley Fletcher and Romaine Lowdermilk sing about the old roan outlaw in Arizona in the twenties. When German started broadcasting at Yankton, South Dakota, in 1928, this was the first song he performed. It was sung by many of my childhood friends and by an aunt and uncles on my mother's side of the family.
Curley Fletcher was himself a bronc rider and knew what he was writing about. I have Curley's booklet, Songs of the Sage (1931), that includes "The Strawberry Roan." It also contains photos of the curly-headed Fletcher riding bucking horses and bulls, bulldogging, and trick roping. The photos are interesting, as the clothing, saddles, and livestock are typical of the early twenties. The bull-riding pictures were taken before the advent of Brahma bulls to the rodeo arena; they show Curley decked out in the old angora fur chaps and riding a spotted bull of doubtful breeding. Cowboy artist, rodeo hand, and movie rider Walt Larue used to mention Curley Fletcher when we would discuss songs; they had worked together in western movies.
The story is always the same, but a few words are usually different, such as "hangin' round town," "layin' round town," and so on. In some versions the strawberry roan is branded with a big "44" brand or a "map of Chihuahua." In Curley Fletcher's original poem the roan is carrying a "double square" brand. The old Double Square ranch in Nevada actually was known among cowboys as having a cantankerous bunch of horses. I've seen several broncs in West Coast rodeo strings bearing this brand.
I was hangin' round town just spendin' my time,
Out of a job, not makin' a dime,
When a stranger steps up, says he, "I suppose
That you're a bronc fighter by the looks of your clothes."
"Well, you guesses me right, I'm a good one," I claim,
"Do you happen to have any bad ones to tame?"
He said, "I've got one, a bad one to buck,
And at throwin' good riders he's had lots of luck."
He says that this pony ain't never been rode,
The man that gets on him is bound to get throwed.
Well, I gets all excited and asks what he pays
If I ride this old cayuse a couple of days.
He offers me ten. Says I, "I'm your man,
For the bronc never lived that I couldn't fan,
For the bronc never lived or ever drew breath
That I couldn't ride till he starved plumb to death."
He says, "Get your saddle, I'll give you a chance."
We hops in the buckboard and rides to his ranch.
I stays until morning, and right after chuck
I goes out to see how this outlaw can buck.
Down in the horse corral, standing alone,
Is this caballo, a strawberry roan.
He had little pin ears that touch at the tip,
And a "double square" brand was stamped on his hip.
His legs are all spavined, he's got pigeon toes,
Little pig eyes, and a long Roman nose.
He's ewe-necked and old, with a long lower jaw,
I can see with one eye he's a regular outlaw.
I buckles on my spurs and was sure feelin' fine,
Pulls down my hat and I coils up my twine.
I throws my loop on him, and well I knew then,
If I ride this old pony I sure earn my ten.
I gets the blinds on him, it sure was a fight.
My saddle comes next and I screws her down tight.
Then I piles on him and raises the blind,
And it's get out of the way to see him unwind.
He bowed his old neck and he leaped from the ground.
Twenty circles he made before coming down.
He went up in the east and went down in the west,
To stay in his middle I'm doin' my best.
He sure was a frog walker, he heaves a big sigh.
He only lacked wings for to be on the fly.
He turned his old belly right up to the sun,
He sure is a sunfishin' son of a gun.
He was the worst bucker I seen on the range,
He can turn on a nickel and give you some change.
While he's a-buckin' he squealed like a shoat.
I tell you that pony has sure got my goat.
He hits on all fours and turned up his side,
I don't see how he keeps from losin' his hide.
I loses my stirrups and also my hat,
I starts pullin' leather as blind as a bat.
With a phenomenal jump he goes up on high
And leaves me a-settin' up there in the sky.
And then I turned over and comes back to earth,
And I lit into cussin' the day of his birth.
Then I knows there's old ponies I ain't able to ride.
There's some of them livin', they haven't all died.
But I bet all my money the man ain't alive
Can ride old Strawberry when he makes his high dive.
Source: The Hell-Bound Train: A Cowboy Songbook, Glenn Ohrlin, University of Illinois Press, 1973.
In the Whorehouse Bells Were Ringing, Guy Logsdon says Curley Fletcher wrote the original song in 1914. It was printed in the Globe Arizona Record on December 16, 1915, under the title "The Outlaw Bronco." Two years later, Fletcher included it, with revisions to the original poem, under the title "The Strawberry Roan" in his first collection of poems, Rhymes of the Roundup. It did not take long for some unknown singer to set the words to music, and it soon became a cowboy favorite. The first printing of a field-collected text was in 1925 after Freda Kirchwey, a journalist and writer, heard a cowboy named Charlie sing it in the Green River Valley country of Wyoming....
The song did not have a chorus as originally written. In 1931, two Hollywood songwriters, Fred Howard and Nat Vincent, published a sheet music version that included a chorus and other alterations they had written. Fletcher had asked them to help promote the song, but was furious over their tampering with it...in order to get even with them, Fletcher wrote the bawdy version, including a chorus.
[I couldn't figure out from Logsdon's book which of the three bawdy versions was written by Fletcher - I gather it's version "B" (below)]