The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #8085   Message #953410
Posted By: Joe Offer
15-May-03 - 07:10 PM
Thread Name: Origins: State of Arkansas
Subject: ADD Version: State of Arkansas
Here's a version collected by Vance Randolph. Randolph says it is part of a family of songs that has been traced by Eckstorm to a nineteenth-century sea song, "Canada I O," in turn believed to be based on an eithteenth-century Scots love song, "Caledonia."
Randolph says a "turkey" is a hobo's valise. "Bummer" is either "bum" or "boomer" (a transient or temporary railroad worker).

I have to say that I have an easier time with the rhyme and meter of the version in the Digital Tradition - but I suppose this version is more authentic.
-Joe Offer-


I landed in Saint Louis, six dollars an' no more,
I read the daily papers until my eyes was sore;
A-readin' advertisements, it was my chance, I saw,
They needed daily lab'rers in the state of Arkansas.

Bill Hughes was the agent, straightway to him I did go,
He says there was five dollars in money I must pay;
I paid him down the money, a ticket I did draw,
Which carried me over the railroad in the state of Arkansas.

I paid him every dollar, I never received a show,
Until I was safely landed in the town of Little Rock,
I had neither friend or relative to extend to me their paw
Or tell me I was welcome in the state of Arkansas.

While walkin' on the platform I thought I had met a friend,
He was a man-catcher, he said his name was King;
He says, "You are a stranger, this idea I do draw;
On yonder hill is my hotel, the best in Arkansas."

I followed my conductor to his well-respected place,
Where hunger an' starvation was pictured in its face;
His bread it was corn-dodger, his beef I could not chaw,
He charged me fifty cents a meal in the state of Arkansas.

Next mornin' so early I set out for Ozark,
A-feelin' low in spirit, an' hungry as a shark;
I bought a pint of whiskey my feelings for to thaw
An' trudged along the railroad in the state of Arkansas.

It would make your heart melt with pity to see me walk the track,
Or to meet a charter bummer with a turkey on his back,
Plenty stout an' able to work his under jaw
Around a scanty table in the state of Arkansas.

There's another grand connection located with the camp.
Where every accommodation is waitin' for a tramp,
A-sleepin' round a campfire without sheet, bed, or straw,
A-scratchin' ticks an' chiggers in the state of Arkansas.

Workin' on the railroad at four bits a day,
These kind of wages they do not like to pay;
I'm goin' out to the Nation an' marry me a squaw,
I'll bid farewell to all the roads in the state of Arkansas

as sung by Emma L. Dusenbury, Mena, Arkansas, Nov 7, 1930

From Ozark Folksongs (abridged), Vance Randolph/Norm Cohen, 1982

Click to play