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DTStudy: The Little Brown Bulls

DigiTrad:
THE LITTLE BROWN BULLS


Joe Offer 06 Jan 09 - 06:51 PM
Joe Offer 06 Jan 09 - 06:57 PM
masato sakurai 07 Jan 09 - 05:06 AM
Joe Offer 07 Jan 09 - 05:27 AM
Mr Happy 07 Jan 09 - 06:20 AM
Artful Codger 07 Jan 09 - 01:05 PM
Artful Codger 07 Jan 09 - 02:05 PM
Nerd 07 Jan 09 - 02:17 PM
GUEST,TM 07 Jan 09 - 04:43 PM
Artful Codger 07 Jan 09 - 08:41 PM
GUEST,Allan S. 08 Jan 09 - 10:44 AM
Artful Codger 08 Jan 09 - 06:06 PM
Artful Codger 08 Jan 09 - 07:49 PM
Nerd 09 Jan 09 - 03:30 AM
Joe Offer 15 Jan 09 - 04:01 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 02 Mar 14 - 07:38 PM
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Subject: ADD Version: The Little Brown Bulls
From: Joe Offer
Date: 06 Jan 09 - 06:51 PM

This is an edited DTStudy thread, and all messages posted here are subject to editing and deletion.
This thread is intended to serve as a forum for corrections and annotations for the Digital Tradition song named in the title of this thread.

Search for other DTStudy threads


A very nice person named Tony Morse e-mailed this to me for posting. Anybody know of other versions, or of background information about this song?
-Joe-


^^
THE LITTLE BROWN BULLS
Author unknown - traditional.

Not a thing on the River McClusky did fear,
As he swung his gord stick o'er his Big Spotted Steers;
They were round, plump and handsome, girding eight foot and three.
Says McClusky the Scotchman, "They're the laddies for me."

When up stepped Bold Gordon, whose skidding was full,
As he hollered "whoa hush" to his Little Brown Bulls,
Short-legged and shaggy, girding six foot and nine,
"Too light," says McClusky, "to handle our pine."

"For it's three to the thousand our contract doth call,
Our skidding is full and our timber is tall,
I'll tell you Bold Gordon, we'll make the day full,
And we'll skid three to one of your Little Brown Bulls."

"Oh no," says Bold Gordon, "That you cannot do,
Though your Big Spotted Steers are the pets of the crew,
I'll tell you McClusky, you'll have your hands full
When you skid one more log than my Little Brown Bulls."

So the day was appointed and soon did draw nigh,
For twenty-five dollars their fortunes to try,
All eager and anxious next morning were found,
The judge and the scaler appeared on the ground.

With a whoop and a yell came McClusky in view
With his Big Spotted Steers, the pets of the crew,
He says "Chew your cuds boys and keep your mouths full,
For we easilie can beat them, the Little Brown Bulls."

Then along came Bold Gordon with his pipe in his jaw,
To his Little Brown Bulls he hollered "whoa haw"
He says, "Chew your cuds boys, you need never fear,
For we will not be beat by the Big Spotted Steers."

After supper was over, McClusky appeared
With a belt ready made for his Big Spotted Steers.
To make it he tore up his best Mackinaw;
He was bound to conduct it according to law.

Says McClusky to Sandy, "We'll take of their skins,
We'll dig them a hole and we'll tumble them in,
We'll mix up a dish and we'll feed it to them hot,
We'll teach them damn Yankees to face the bold Scot.

When up stepped the scaler, sayin "Hold ye a while,
Your Big Spotted Steers are behind just one mile;
You've skidded one hundred and ten and no more,
Whilst Bold Gordon has beat you by ten and a score!"

All the boys they did laugh and McClusky did swear,
As he tore out by handfuls his long yellow hair.
He says to Bold Gordon, "My dollars I'll pull,
And you take the belt for your Little Brown Bulls."

So here's to Bold Gordon and Sandbury John,
Where the biggest day's work on the River is done,
And it's fill up your glasses, and fill them up full,
And we'll drink to the health of the Little Brown Bulls.

Learned in 1950s from James E. Schwedland of Milwaukee, Master of Forestry, Yale University. Well-known logging ballad from the Wisconsin lumber woods. This version has more verses and different arrangement than another seen in Mudcat.


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Subject: RE: DTStudy: The Little Brown Bulls
From: Joe Offer
Date: 06 Jan 09 - 06:57 PM

For comparison, here is the Digital Tradition text - any corrections?
THE LITTLE BROWN BULLS

Not a thing on the river McClusky did fear
As he skidded the log with his big spotted steers.
Says Bull Gordon, the Yankee," You'll have your hands full
If you skid one log more than my little brown bulls.

They day was appointed and soon it drew nigh
For twenty-five dollars their fortune to try.
"Twas up to the logs and then fasten them on
"Hurry up! time's a-wastin' and it's no longer dawn!"

Then shouted McClusky as they started to pull
"I'll skid two to one of the little brown bulls."
To his little brown bulls Gordon said," Never fear
For we'll easily beat them, those big spotted steers."

Now the sun had gone down when the foreman did say,
"Turn out, boys, turn out. You've enough for the day."
As they scaled them and counted McClusky did smile
'Til the foreman says, "Mac, you're behind by a mile."

The boys then all laughed and McClusky did swear
As he tore out in handfuls his long yellow hair.
So it's fill up your glasses and fill them up full,
And we'll drink to Bull Gordon and his little brown bulls."

A very popular song, based on a log-skidding contest in Wisconsin
in the 1870s. This version from Folk Songs out of
Wisconsin,(Peters)
DT #603
Laws C16
@logger @animal @contest
filename[ BRWNBULL
TUNE FILE: BRWNBULL
CLICK TO PLAY
RG
PLEASE NOTE: Because of the volunteer nature of The Digital Tradition, it is difficult to ensure proper attribution and copyright information for every song included. Please assume that any song which lists a composer is copyrighted ©. You MUST aquire proper license before using these songs for ANY commercial purpose. If you have any additional information or corrections to the credit or copyright information included, please e-mail those additions or corrections to us (along with the song title as indexed) so that we can update the database as soon as possible. Thank You.
Here's the entry from the Traditional Ballad Index:

Little Brown Bulls, The [Laws C16]

DESCRIPTION: Bold McCluskey believes his steer can out-pull anything on the river, and backs his belief by betting that they can out-pull Gordon's little brown bulls. Despite McClusky's confidence, the bulls are victorious
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1923 (Rickaby)
KEYWORDS: contest animal gambling lumbering
FOUND IN: US(MW,NE) Canada(Mar,Ont)
REFERENCES (17 citations):
Laws C16, "The Little Brown Bulls"
Rickaby 13, "The Little Brown Bulls" (1 text plus a fragment, 2 tunes)
Peters, pp. 248-249, "The Little Brown Bulls" (1 text, 1 tune)
Gardner/Chickering 107, "The Little Brown Bulls" (1 text)
Lomax-Singing, pp. 224-226, "The Little Brown Bulls" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax-FSNA 54, "The Little Brown Bulls" (1 text, 1 tune)
Leach, pp. 775-777, "The Little Brown Bulls" (1 text)
Botkin-AmFolklr, pp. 849-851, "The Little Brown Bulls" (1 text, 1 tune)
Beck 37, "The Little Brown Bulls" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fowke-Lumbering #47, "The Little Brown Bulls" (1 text, 1 tune)
Ives-NewBrunswick, pp. 168-171, "The Little Brown Bulls" (1 text, 1 tune)
Cohen-AFS2, pp. 431-432 "The Little Brown Bulls" (1 text)
Darling-NAS, pp. 178-179, "The Little Brown Bulls" (1 text)
DT 603, BRWNBULL*
ADDITIONAL: _Sing Out_ magazine, Volume 39, #2 (1994), pp, 96-97, "The Little Brown Bulls" (1 text, 1 tune, a combination of two versions sung by Robert Walker)
Robert E. Gard and L. G. Sorden, _Wisconsin Lore: Antics and Anecdotes of Wisconsin People and Places_, Wisconsin House, 1962, pp. 68-70, "The Little Brown Bulls" (1 text, presumably from Wisconsin although no source is listed)
James P. Leary, Compiler and Annotator, _Wisconsin Folklore_ University of Wisconsin Press, 2009, article "The Wanigan Songbook" by Isabel J. Ebert, pp. 210-212, "The Little Brown Bulls" (1 text, 1 tune, sung by Emory DeNoyer)

Roud #2224
RECORDINGS:
Charles Bowlen, "The Little Brown Bulls" (AFS, 1941; on LC55)
Warde Ford, "The Little Brown Bulls" (AFS 4213 B, 1939; in AMMEM/Cowell)
Carl Lathrop, "The Little Brown Bulls" (AFS, 1938; on LC56)

NOTES: According to Fred Bainter, who sang Rickaby's "A" text, "the ballad was composed in Mart Douglas's camp in northwestern Wisconsin in 1872 or 1873. It was in this camp and at this date... that the contest between the big spotted steers and the little brown bulls was held" (quotation from Botkin, not Bainter; Laws quotes this information from Rickaby, but without comment on its truth or falsehood. Fowke notes that Beck had a different story).
Rickaby's second version lacks the Derry Down refrain, but the informant apparently knew it with the Derry Down tune. Fowke describes her tune as a "Villikens" variant. The Robert Walker recording is said to use the tune of "Rye Whisky." - RBW
Beck notes that some lumberjacks have suggested this song comes from Maine, but it is not included in R. P. Gray's collection Songs and Ballads of the Maine Lumberjacks. - PJS
This is going to be hard to solve. As best I can tell, there are 23 or 24 versions of this known from tradition (depending on whether the Gard/Sorden text is independent or copied from someone else; the text gives no indication, although they say that almost all lumberjacks in Wisconsin knew it, and on page 3 they mention hearing it from "an old lady in Forest County").
Five of these versions (found in Kentucky, Missouri, Texas, and two from the Ford family in California) are clearly not native to their area. Of the other 18, six are from Michigan and six or seven from Wisconsin (plus the Ward and Pat Ford versions surely derive from that state). Two are from Maine, two from Ontario, one from New Brunswick, and one from Nova Scotia.
In addition, Emery DeNoyer, who sang in lumber camps all over Wisconsin, claimed to have met McCloskey, the hero of the song, who was "a big Scotchman and popular wherever he worked." DeNoyer also said that McCloskey had heard several tunes for this song but considered DeNoyer's to be the original. (It may have been changed because it is hard to sing, with a range of an octave and a fourth.)
Did the song originate in the Midwest and travel east? The fact that 14 versions are ultimately from Wisconsin and Michigan argues for this. But it is more likely for a song to move west with the lumbermen than for six versions to make their way east. I think we just have to say we don't know. If I had to choose, I'd argue for the Wisconsin origin, but I'm far from sure. - RBW
Last updated in version 3.2
File: LC16

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List

Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography

The Ballad Index Copyright 2014 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.


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Subject: RE: DTStudy: The Little Brown Bulls
From: masato sakurai
Date: 07 Jan 09 - 05:06 AM

Three recordings (Pat Ford, 1938; Robert Walker, 1937; and Warde Ford, 1939) and a textual transcription with notes (of Pat Ford) are at American Memory from the Library of Congress.

Eleven recordings (Warde H. Ford, 1937-07; Charley Bowlen, 1941-08-18; Unknown, no date; Dan Grant, 1940-08-30; Arthur (Happy) Moseley, 1940-09-05; Robert Walker, 1941-08-14; Harry G. Dyer, 1941-08-08; Emery De Noyer, 1941-07-27; Adolf Williams, 1946-08-13; Warde H. Ford, 1937-07; Robert Walker, 1937-07) are at Wisconsin Folksong Collection, 1937-1946.


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Subject: RE: DTStudy: The Little Brown Bulls
From: Joe Offer
Date: 07 Jan 09 - 05:27 AM

The image that came to mind when I first saw this song was Joe Hickerson singing The Big Black Bull (Sam Houston). If you've seen Joe do that song, it's an image you'll never be able to clear from your mind. It's my understanding that "Big Black Bull" was supposed to have been a favorite of Abraham Lincoln.

Nope. Different song.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: DTStudy: The Little Brown Bulls
From: Mr Happy
Date: 07 Jan 09 - 06:20 AM

Not same's this 'un either! http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=eVddTjF-CEM
    [The famous song 'Little White Bull' from the film Tommy the Toreador, 1959. Written by Lionel Bart.]


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Subject: RE: DTStudy: The Little Brown Bulls
From: Artful Codger
Date: 07 Jan 09 - 01:05 PM

The Smithsonian CD Anglo-American Ballads, Vol. 1 has a version sung by Emery DeNoyer, recorded at Rhinelander, WI in 1941.

There was something I really liked about this song, but his tune is rather nondescript, so I wrote my own.


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Subject: RE: DTStudy: The Little Brown Bulls
From: Artful Codger
Date: 07 Jan 09 - 02:05 PM

BTW, the version posted by Joe appears word for word as DeNoyer sang it, a decade previous to Schwedland. As it is highly improbable that two singers would sing it exactly this same way, even if they learned it from the same source originally, I must conclude that Schwedland's source was not just DeNoyer, but the Smithsonian recording made of DeNoyer.

In particular, I believe the phrase "gord stick" was a mental blip arising from saying "goad stick" while thinking "Gordon" (the protagonist's surname). I don't believe it is a regional pronunciation of "goad" or has any other meaning in a lumbering/ox-driving sense, and its meaning "an instrument of gaming" hardly applies here.

I find this song curious in that the big event--the race itself--is not described in progress. The Peters version above, though obviously condensed, bridges over the race gracefully, while the DeNoyer/Schwedland version makes an abrupt jump, as if a verse or two have been omitted. Obviously, the whole race couldn't be covered, as this would spoil the surprise at McCluskey being quite behind when he expected to be far ahead, but are there versions which describe the start of the race (and some obstacle Gordon encounters, that being de rigeur)?


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Subject: RE: DTStudy: The Little Brown Bulls
From: Nerd
Date: 07 Jan 09 - 02:17 PM

To gently correct Artful Codger, that's a Library of Congress (not Smithsonian) CD Anglo-American Ballads, Vol. 1, also known as Rounder CD 1511.

To give some background on some of Masato's finds, Warde and Pat Ford were brothers, and Robert Walker was their uncle, their mother's brother. They both learned the song from him. All three were from Wisconsin, but Warde and Pat later went to Northern California to work on the Shasta Dam. Sidney Robertson Cowell recorded them both in Wisconsin and in California.

Although most of these are not available for online listening, you can see the catalog cards for all the versions in AFC's disc-era collections, here.


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Subject: RE: DTStudy: The Little Brown Bulls
From: GUEST,TM
Date: 07 Jan 09 - 04:43 PM

"Word for word" sounds good to me and flatters the capacity of my memory. I only dig this one out about every decade, so I'm glad it worked. I do suspect Schwed got it from the recording. Gord may just have been Jim's wayward pronunciation of goad, which I'm sure is the correct word. Thanks for the comments, Artful Codger.

TM


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Subject: ADD Version: The Little Brown Bulls
From: Artful Codger
Date: 07 Jan 09 - 08:41 PM

Thanks for catching that, Nerd. Yes, Library of Congress Archive of Folk Culture.

I noticed that the Traditional Ballad Index description says "Bold McCluskey", when it seems the epithet "bold" is usually (or only) applied to Gordon.

TM, in case "word for word" was a slight overstatement, here is the transcription from the Anglo-American Ballads liner notes; I might have changed some punctuation.


THE LITTLE BROWN BULLS

Not a thing on the river McCluskey did fear
As he swung his gored stick o'er his big spotted steers;
They were round, plump and handsome, girdin' eight foot and three;
Said McCluskey, the Scotchman, "They're the laddies for me."

Then along came Bob Gordon whose skidding was full,
As he hollered, "Whoa, hush!" to his little brown bulls,
Short-legged and shaggy, girdin' six foot and nine;
"Too light," said McCluskey, "to handle our pine.

For it's three to the thousand our contract doth call;
Our skidding is good and our timber is tall."
McCluskey he swore that he'd make the day full,
And he'd skid three to one of the little brown bulls.

"O no," says Bold Gordon, "that you cannot do,
Although your big steers are the pets of the crew.
I tell you, McCluskey, you will have your hands full
When you skid one more log than my little brown bulls."

So the day was appointed and soon did draw nigh,
For twenty-five dollars their fortune to try,
All eager and anxious next morning was found,
The judge and the scaler appeared on the ground.

With a 'hoop and a yell came McCluskey in view
As with his big spotted steers, the pets of the crew,
He says, "Chew your cud, boys, and keep your mouth full,
for we easilye can beat them, the little brown bulls."

Then along came Bold Gordon with his pipe in his jaw;
To his little brown bulls he hollers, "Whoa, haw!"
He says, "Chew your cud, boys, you'd need never fear,
For we will not be beat by the big spotted steers."

Says McCluskey to Sandy, "We'll take off their skins,
We'll dig them a hole and we'll tumble them in.
We'll mix up a dish and we'll feed it to them hot,
We will learn them damn Yankees to face the bold Scot."

After supper was over McCluskey appeared
With a belt ready made for his big spotted steers;
To make it he tore up his best mackinaw,
He was bound to conduct it according to law.

When up stepped the scaler saying, "Hold ye a while,
Your big spotted steers are behind just one mile;
You skidded one hundred and ten and no more
Whilst Bold Gordon has beat you by ten and a score."

All the boys then all laughed and McCluskey did swear,
As he tore out by hands full his long yellow hair.
He says to Bold Gordon, "My dollars I'll pull
And you take the belt for your litle brown bulls."

O it's here's to Bold Gordon and Sandberry John,
For the biggest day's work on the river is done.
It's fill up your glass, boys, and fill them up full
And we'll drink to the health of the little brown bulls.


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Subject: RE: DTStudy: The Little Brown Bulls
From: GUEST,Allan S.
Date: 08 Jan 09 - 10:44 AM

I first heard it from Robert "Gene" Patton U Conn Outing Club 1951 or so Identical to first verson except he used "Bull Gordon" all the way through"


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Subject: RE: DTStudy: The Little Brown Bulls
From: Artful Codger
Date: 08 Jan 09 - 06:06 PM

Google Books has a limited preview of Ballads and Songs of the Shanty-Boy, by Franz Lee Rickaby, in which one full text and two tunes are readable on pp. 65-68. The full version is as sung by Fred Bainter (Ladysmith, WI), who got the words from Joe Bainter (Gordon, WI). The second tune, with the same first stanza, was sung by W.H Underwood (Bayport, MN). Also see the author's footnotes on p. 206.

Google Books' preview of Our Singing Country, by Alan Lomax &o., includes another text with tune, as sung by Carl Lathrop (Mt. Pleasant, MI, 1939). Sadly, only the first nine verses are viewable.

The authors include this interesting quotation: "When you get to the last of the song, you speak the words so that everyone will know the song is ended, at least I suppose that's why you do it. Anyhow, whether that is why or not, that's what all the old-time woods singers I ever heard always did." —Bill McBride, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.

Another incomplete text appears in Ballads and Songs of Southern Michigan, by Emelyon Elizabeth Gardner, but this version contains corruptions such as "gourd stick" and "gourding eight foot and three". Apparently learned from Lady Mondegreen.


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Subject: RE: DTStudy: The Little Brown Bulls
From: Artful Codger
Date: 08 Jan 09 - 07:49 PM

The A Traditional Music Library has a full scan of Our Singing Country. That version of "The Little Brown Bulls" can be seen here.


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Subject: RE: DTStudy: The Little Brown Bulls
From: Nerd
Date: 09 Jan 09 - 03:30 AM

Good find, AC. One of the cards I linked to in the post above shows that the American Folklife Center has a sound recording of Carl Lathrop singing the song. More than that, it was released on an LP back in the LP era, which can still be ordered as a cassette. It'll be the same version transcribed for the book. Details are here.


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Subject: ADD Version: The Little Brown Bulls
From: Joe Offer
Date: 15 Jan 09 - 04:01 AM

from Wolf River Songs recorded and with notes by Sidney Robertson Cowell, Folkways #FE4001.

THE LITTLE BROWN BULLS
Sung by Robert Walker, Crandon, Wis, 1954

Not a thing in the woods had McClusky to fear
As he swung his gored stick o'er the big spotted steers.
They were young, sound and. quick, girding eight foot and three.
Said McClusky the Scotsman, "They're the laddies for me."

Oh, it's next come Bull Gordon, the skidding was full
As he hollered, "Wau-hush" to his little brown bulls.
They were . . . (young) . . . short legged and shaggy, girding six foot and nine,
"Too light," said McClusky, "to handle our pine,

"For it's three to the thousand our contract does call,
Our skidding 'tis good and our timber 'tis tail."
Said McClusky to Gordon, "To make the day full,
I will skid two to one of your little brown bulls!"

"Oh no," said Bull Gordon, "that you never can do,
Though your big spotted steers are the pets of the crew.
But mind you, my laddie, you'll have your hands full
When you skid one more log than my little brown bulls!"

O the day was appointed, and soon it crew nigh,
For twenty-five dollars their fortunes to try.
Both eager and. anxious, the morning 'twas found
The scalers and judges appeared on the ground.

That morning said Gordon with blood in his eye,
"Today I will conquer McClusky or die."
Said Sandy to Gordon, "We'll take off their skins
We'll dig them a grave, and we'll tumble them in."

'Twas first come Bull Gordon with the little brown bulls,
With a pipe in his mouth and a cud in his jaw.
But little did I think when I saw them come down
That a hundred and forty they'd easily yank 'round.

With a whoop and a yell came McClusky in view
With the big spotted steers, the pets of the crew,
Saying, "Chew your cuds slowly, boys, keep your
mouths full,
For you easily can conquer those little brown bulls."

O the sun had gone down, the foreman did say,
"Turn in, boys, turn in, you've enough for today,
For well we have called each man for his team;
Very well do we know which team holds down the beam."

After supper was over, McClusky appeared,
With a belt ready made for his big spotted steers;
To make it he'd tore up his best maCkinaW,--
He was bound to conduct it according to law.

O the scaler speaks up, said he, "Hold on a while,-
Your big spotted steers are behind just a mile.
You've skidded one hundred and ten and no more,
While Gordon has beat you by ten and a score."

O the boys they all hollered and McClusky did swear
As he tore out in handfulls his long yaller hair.
Said. McClusky to Gordon, "MY dollars you'll pull
And the belt you shall have for your little brown bulls!"

So here's to Bull Gordon and big Sandy John
For the biggest day's work on the Wolf River ever was done.
So fill up your bumpers, boys, fill them plumb full,
And we'll drink to the health of the little brown bulls."

Notes:
Stanza 1: gored stick -- goad. Girding 8 foot and 3 (inches). A team animal's girth, or the diameter of a tree, or the waist of a pretty girl, is always worth mention where these songs are sung.

Stanza 2: skidding was full -- full in the old sense of plenty (of work skidding logs to the river bank.)

Stanza 3 : three to the thousand - - "pretty big trees," of which you'd need only 3 to make 1000 feet of lumber. The bigger the tree, the harder it was to handle, of course, but the men like the challenge of a hard contract, as much for the sake of bragging of difficulties overcome as for pride in setting out logs that would cut up into the finest, widest planks. Stands of timber of this size were not common after 1870 in Wisconsin.

Stanza 5: $25 was a month's cash wages in 1875. The scalers were experienced men, expert at judging standing timber to estimate the lumber it would produce, responsible for laying out the work of the crews in advance, and for keeping track of what was done in a day.

Stanza 9 : holds down the beam (of the scales). A fine Bunyanesque conception, as though a single set of scales might hold all the loss skidded out by a team in a day.

Stanza 10 : A belt ready made ... This was the "law" of prize ring, where it was customary for the winner to be given a fancy belt. A mackinaw is a heavy woolen jacket, usually a brilliant plaid of "such material are still on a cheaper level than the famous Hudson's Bay blankets, which were accurately marked in the weaving, and were a fixed medium of exchange in the fur trade. The name comes from the (Michilli) mackinac Indian tribe of the Great Lakes area.

Stanza 11: As Rickaby points out, the big Scotsman never believed for a minute that his team could be defeated. The crews normally worked out of sight of one another, so that both scores would be known only to the scaler, who kept tally. To skid 110 logs in a day was no mean feat, and Bull Gordon's 140 logs must have been quite unimaginable to McClusky. The men I met agreed that such a tally was credible, but impossible today. I was taken in 1937 to admire the only remaining stand of timber of such size in Wisconsin: It is preserved as a memorial to the old days by a lumber company in Laona that today must confine itself to pulp wood for paper and various sawdust products.
in 1875.

Stanza 12: The second line usually reads: biggest day's work in the woods or on the river ever was done. But the men in the Walker and Ford families all worked on the Wolf River, which runs from northern Wisconsin down to Green Bay; and it was customary to incorporate factual local detail where one could.
dollars you'll pull -- in the sense of pull down a prize.

Further notes:
The LITTLE BROWN BULLS
Sung by Robert Walker, Crandon, Wis, 1954

This is the classic ballad of American lumber camps. No information about the author seems ever to have been found. Rickaby was told that the song "was made in Mort Douglas' camp in northeastern Wisconsin in 1872 or 1873, where (or so the singer believed) the contest between the two woods teams was staged"
The song's Wisconsin provenience is borne out by its rarity farther east, where it has usually been traced to singers from Wisconsin or Michigan. Texts vary little from singer to singer, since the details are accurate and familiar to an experienced audience, and they are all necessary to the story.
The text written out below is taken from the recording Mr. Walker made in 1937, so that anyone interested may compare it with the song as he sang it in 1954. He varies the tune with great freshness and musicality, very differently at many points from the 1937 recording.

The vagaries of melody preservation, adaptation and exchange are well illustrated by this song. The tune Rob Walker and his family use for Little Brown Bulls belongs in general to the King John and the Bishop tune family; it is close to Rickaby's Wisconsin B tune and to the one sung 20 years later to William Doerflinger by Archie Lant, a native of Ontario. It lacks, however, the down derry down refrain that usually travels with King John tune variants , whether the associated text is the King John ballad, or this song, or a different text entirely. A somewhat reduced southern relative of the variant Walker uses for Little Brown Bulls is the familiar Way Up On Old Smoky, now well established in juke boxes here and in Europe.

Bob Walker sings a much finer King John tune variant, refrain and all, for a hair-raising text called The Pickled Jew, embodying the widespread folk tale of the body shipped in a cask of alcohol or brine, the cask being then innocently broached during the voyage under stress of thirst or famine.

On the other hand, the fine Ford-Walker family version of the traditional King John ballad goes to a different tune entirely, with a longer and quite different refrain.

Mr. Walker says he spoke the last 3 words instead of singing them "because it was kind of customary, I guess. . . just gettin' through with the song." He learned this song "from a fellow in Jennings a good many years ago. He probably took it up from some other lumberjack, I guess. The use of the term lumberjack by loggers themselves has been called into question, but none of my Wisconsin friends had any quarrel with it.


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Subject: RE: DTStudy: The Little Brown Bulls
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 02 Mar 14 - 07:38 PM

Rickaby has 14 verses in his text, otherwise similar to the version sung by Robert Walker on Wolf River Songs.

THE LITTLE BROWN BULLS
Verses from Joe Bainter, Wisconsin

Not a thing on the river McCluskey did fear
When he drew the stick o'er the big spotted steers.
They were young, quick, and sound, girting eight foot and three.
Says McCluskey to the Scotchman, "They're the laddies for me."

Chorus-
Derry down, down, down derry down.

2
Bull Gordon, the Yankee, on skidding was full,
As he cried "Whoa-hush" to the little brown bulls,
Short-legged and soggy, girt six foot and nine.
Says McCluskey the Scotchman, "Too light for our pine."
3
It's three to the thousand our contract did call,
Our hauling was good and the timber was tall.
McCluskey he swore he'd make the day full
And skid two to one of the little brown bulls.
4
"Oh no," says Bull Gordon; "that you cannot do,
Though it's well do we know you've the pets of the crew,
And mark you, my boy, you would have your hands full,
If you skid one more log than the little brown bulls."
5
The day was appointed and soon it drew nigh,
For twenty-five dollars their fortunes to try,
Both eager and anxious that morning were found,
And scalers and judges appeared on the ground.
6
With a whoop and a yell came McCluskey in view,
With the big spotted steers, the pets of the crew,
Both chewing their cuds- "O boys, keep your jaws full,
For you easily can beat them the little brown bulls."
7
Then out came Bull Gordon with a pipe in his jaw,
The little brown bulls with their cuds in their mouths;
And little we think, when we seen them come down,
That a hundred and forty could they jerk around.
8
Then up spoke McCluskey: "Come stripped to the skin.
We'll dig them a hole and tumble them in.
We'll learn the d----d Yankee to face the bold Scot.
We'll mix them a dose and feed it red hot."
9
Said Gordon to Stebbin, with blood in his eye,
"To-day we must conquer McCluskey or die,"
Then up spoke bold Kennebec, "Boy, never fear,
For you ne'er shall be beat by the big spotted steers."
10
The sun had gone down when the foreman did say,
"Turn out, boys, turn out; you've enough for the day.
We have scaled them and counted, each man to his team,
And it's well do we know now which one kicks the beam."
11
After supper was over McCluskey appeared
With the belt ready made for the big spotted steers.
To form it he'd torn up his best mackinaw.
he was bound he'd conduct it according to law.
12
Then up spoke the scaler, "Hold on, you a while.
The big spotted steers are behind just one mile.
For you have a hundred and ten and no more,
And Gordon has beat you by ten and a score."
13
The shanty did ring and McCluskey did swear.
He tore out by handfuls his long yellow hair.
Says he to Bull Gordon "My colors I'll pull.
So here, take the belt for the little brown bulls."
14
Here's health to Bull Gordon and Kennebec John;
The biggest day's work on the river they done.
So fill up your glasses and fill them up full;
We'll drink to the health of the little brown bulls.

13A, 65-68, with musical score.
Franz Rickaby, 1926, Ballads and Songs of the Shanty-Boy, Harvard University Press.

Note: According to Fred Bainter, the song was composed in Mart Douglas's camp in northwestern Wisconsin in 1872 or 1873. It was at this camp and at this date that the contest was waged.
Stebbin was the chainer, Gordon's team-mate, whose full name was evidently "Kennebec."


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Mudcat time: 16 July 6:23 AM EDT

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