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Lyr Req: Down in the Lehigh Valley...(poem)


Related threads:
Lyr Add: Lehigh Valley / The Tramp (14)
Lyr Req: In the Heart of the Lehigh Valley (5)

Joe Offer 31 Mar 17 - 11:47 PM
Dave Hanson 01 Apr 17 - 02:22 AM
Joe Offer 02 Apr 17 - 12:06 AM
Joe Offer 03 Apr 17 - 09:09 PM
Joe Offer 05 Apr 17 - 01:35 AM
Mark Ross 05 Apr 17 - 10:40 AM
Joe Offer 06 Apr 17 - 02:38 AM
Joe Offer 06 Apr 17 - 02:55 AM
Joe Offer 06 Apr 17 - 03:06 AM
Joe Offer 06 Apr 17 - 03:10 AM
Joe Offer 06 Apr 17 - 03:15 AM
Joe Offer 06 Apr 17 - 03:24 AM
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Subject: Lyr Req: Down in the Lehigh Valley...(poem)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 31 Mar 17 - 11:47 PM

Got this request by email today:

I grew up in Oklahoma, my grandfather was a drinking man and the sheriff of Kay county Okla up on the Kansas line both family's ran in the Oklahoma land run. But as I said my grandfather was a drinking man and when he got to drinking he would start doing poultry , I have heard this start to a poem so many times I remember it but , as a kid my grandmother would run us kid off so I never heard it past the first line,
    Down in the Lehigh Valley, me and my brother Luke,
    got us a job cow punching, and a dam good job too.

That's all I know, and I got to looking to see if it just might be on the internet, and I found you, so here I be, if anyone can me find out any more lines, man oh man 60 years waiting to hear it, well that's my story!!!!

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Down in the Lehigh Valley...(poem)
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 01 Apr 17 - 02:22 AM

There is a song of this name in Ed Cray's book ' Bawdy Ballads '

first verse goes:-

Don't look at me this way buddy,
I didn't shit in your seat,
I just came down from the Lehigh Valley,
With my balls all covered in sleet.

Dave H

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Down in the Lehigh Valley...(poem)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 02 Apr 17 - 12:06 AM

The version Dave refers to is in the Digital Tradition. The only Lehigh Valley I know of is in eastern Pennsylvania - Easton, Bethlehem, and Allentown are in the Lehigh Valley. I visited Bethlehem to see the headquarters of Sing Out! Magazine. It's an interesting place, but not much of a market for cow punchers there. It's more of a steelworker area (at least it was).

Are there other Lehigh Valleys that might be more amenable to cow punchers?

Now, there is a recitation about a man who had a job as a blacksmith (click) in Lehigh Valley....


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Down in the Lehigh Valley...(poem)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 03 Apr 17 - 09:09 PM

Refresh. Any help on this?

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Down in the Lehigh Valley...(poem)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 05 Apr 17 - 01:35 AM

Anyone? This poor guy has been waiting all his life to hear the rest of this recitation.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Down in the Lehigh Valley...(poem)
From: Mark Ross
Date: 05 Apr 17 - 10:40 AM

I think I saw it in a book, might have been THE HOBO'S HORNBOOK. It was described as a bawdy variant of MAY I SLEEP IN YOUR BARN TONIGHT MISTER?

Mark Ross

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Subject: ADD: Down in the Lehigh Valley...(poem)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 06 Apr 17 - 02:38 AM



Here is the logical grandparent of all sentimental hobo
ballads. The hobo, having learned to strike a contrast
between the sentiment and the reality of his existence,
subjects "Lehigh Valley" to frequent burlesques.

Let me sit down a minute, stranger,
A stone got in my shoe-
Now don't commence your cussin'.
I ain't done nothing to you.

Yes, I'm a tramp-—-what of it?
Some says we ain't no good,
But tramps has to live, I reckon,
Tho' folks don't think we should.

Once I was young and handsome,
Had plenty of cash and clothes,
But that was before I tippled
And gin colored up my nose.

It was down in Lehigh Valley
Me and my people grew.
I was a blacksmith, captain;
Yes, and a good one, too.

Me and my wife and Nellie;
Nellie was just sixteen,
And she was the prettiest creature
The valley had ever seen.

Beaus—why she had a dozen-
Had 'em from near and fur,
But they was most of them farmers—
None of them suited her.

Then came a city stranger,
Young, handsome and tall,
Dang him, I wish I had him,
Strangled against that wall.

He was the man for Nellie,
She didn't know no ill;
Her mother tried to tell her,
But you know how a young girl will.

Well, it's the same old story;
Common enough, you'll say:
He was a smooth-tongued devil,
And he got her to run away.

It was less than a month later
That we heard from the poor young thing:
He had gone away and left her,
Without a wedding ring.

Back to our home we brought her
Back to her mother's side,
Filled with a raging fever,
She fell at our feet and died.

Frantic with grief and trouble,
Her mother began to sink.
Dead—in less than a fortnight-—
That's when I took to drink,

Give me a drink, bartender,
And I'll be on my way.
I'll tramp till I find that scoundrel,
If it takes till judgment day.

Transcribed from the PDF of The Hobo's Hornbook, page 43:

But I don't think this is the requested song. Maybe so, maybe not. This guy's good job was as a blacksmith in the Lehigh Valley. Maybe the requester's family changed the recitation to fit Oklahoma.

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Subject: ADD: The Honest Tramp
From: Joe Offer
Date: 06 Apr 17 - 02:55 AM

Second in the Lehigh Valley Sequence is "The Honest Tramp."


The story of the honest tramp is closely akin to "Down
in Lehigh Valley" and other sentimental tramp narratives.
The following version is not from the jungles.
J. Frank Dobie notes it in his Texas and Southwestern
Folk Lore

Let me sleep in your barn tonight, mister;
It's too cold to lie out on the ground,
With the cold rain falling upon me
And the north wind whistling around,

You may see that I use no tobacco,
And I carry neither matches nor pipe.
I am sure that I will do you no harm, sir.
Let me sleep in your barn just tonight.

You ask me how long I've been tramping,
Or leading this kind of a life.
If you'll listen I'll tell you my story—
Though it cuts through my heart like a knife.

It was three years ago last summer—
I shall never forget that sad day™
When a stranger had come from the city,
So tall, so handsome, and gay.

He was tall, fine dressed, and looked sporty;
He looked like a man who had wealth,
And he said he had come to the country
To stay just awhile for his health.

My wife said she would like to be earning,
With something to add to our home;
She coaxed me until I consented
That the stranger would stop in and board.

And one night when I came home from my work, sir,
I was whistling and singing with joy,
Expecting a warm-hearted welcome
To receive from my wife and my boy.

Nothing did I find but a letter
That someone had placed on the stand,
And the moment my eyes fell upon it
I picked it up in my hand.

And the words that were wrote there upon it
Seemed to burn through my brain and drive me wild,
For they told me the stranger and Nellie
Had run off and taken my child.

Then I stopped at a farmhouse last summer;
There they told me my baby had died;
It was there for the first time in my life, sir,
I knelt to my knees and I cried.

Then they took me down to the churchyard;
There they showed me a newly made mound,
And they told me that Nellie, my darling,
Lay asleep in that cold, solid ground.

Now I'm sure there is a God up in heaven,
Or, at least, I've been taught to believe;
I am sure He will keep on the record
The doom that he ought to receive.

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Subject: ADD: Down in the Mohawk Valley
From: Joe Offer
Date: 06 Apr 17 - 03:06 AM

Third in the Hobo Hornbook's Lehigh Valley Sequence is "Down in the Mohawk Valley."


Here is one of the innumerable parodies on that hobo
classic, "Down in Lehigh Valley." It represents hobo
humour at its best. The sentimental tramp ballad is
frequently familiar to the '"homeguards," but from the
hobo elocutionists one is far more likely to hear some
take-off on the original poem.

Let me sit down here, stranger, and don't look at me so black,
I just got throwed off a freight-train, and now I'm hoofin' back.
Yes, I'm a bum and I know it; I reckon they's more like me,
But once I was young and handsome—as fair as you'll ever see.

It was down in the Mohawk Valley where me and my family grew,
And I ran the village gin mill and I made lots of jack, too.
Me and my wife and Nellie—Nellie was just sixteen—
And she was as a fair a crittur as mortal eyes ever seen.

Sweethearts? Say, she had a million that came from near and far
Just to have her serve 'em a snort of gin o'er my black walnut bar;
She could have married a fortune and been free from every harm
If she'd wanted to marry a "homeguard" and live on a Valley farm.

But Nell was danged perticuler, and she turned 'em all away.
She had no likin' fer churnin' cream or the smell of new mown hay;
Nell wanted to be a lady, and live in a high-class town
And wash her hands in a finger-bowl and wear a low-cut gown.

And then along came a stranger, with handsome face and fair,
With an eye-brow on his upper lip and lard on his raven hair;
One of them smooth-talkin' devils that talks with his flashin' eyes—
And he pitchered his life in the city-—stranger, they was all lies.

Well, Nellie's heart was a-flutter, and she fell for the man that day
And my heart melted like butter when we saw them on their way;
And Nell went into the city and the parson tied the knot
And she took a job in a beanery where they serve the hungry lot.

Well, it was the same old story; the man was a pizen snake,
And he spent every dime and jitney that little Nell could make,
And then one night he left her alone in the cold, wet rain,
Left her flat on her uppers and grabbed a east-bound train.

Well, Nell came home that autumn and brung her brindle pup,
And maw took sick a-thinkin' on how she had brought Nell up;
For Nell had the durndest notions ever spawned in human heads—
She made us buy new furniture and maw and me had twin beds.

She made maw have her hair cut and dresses to show her legs,
And she painted up maw's lips and cheeks so they looked like Easter eggs,
And I had to wear new-fangled pants that drug up dust and dirt,
And a coat that showed my hip pockets and a trick creton shirt.

And maw got to goin' to night clubs and we bought a brand new car,
That made me put a mortgage on our home and on the old gin bar;
And then things all went blooey and they throwed me in the can,
And Nell jumped the coop with a barber and maw 'loped with a travelin' man.

And I got so durned light-hearted I didn't give a darn,
And I started drinkin' moonshine with the gang at the livery barn;
So give me a drink, kind stranger, and I'll hit fer the railroad track
Fer I want to git out of this country—the old woman is comin' back!

Hobo's Hornbook, pp 50-51

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Subject: ADD: Down in Lehigh Valley II
From: Joe Offer
Date: 06 Apr 17 - 03:10 AM

We ain't done yet.


The following parody on the pathetic recitation "Down
in Lehigh Valley" is perhaps better known in the jungles
than the original. The setting is in a small town public

Don't move over, stranger;
I won't-------on your seat
Nor-------on the coat that's on yer back
Nor the shoes that's on yer feet.

Down in the Lehigh Valley,
Me and my pal, Bill,
Pimped three years for a callhouse
And the work was all uphill.

We had a girl named Nellie,
And she was some high flyer;
She had Bright's disease
And you couldn't satisfy 'er.

Along come a guy from the city
Handsome and smooth and rich,
And he stole away our Nellie;
The blue-------son of a -------!

Now, God be with you, stranger,
And I'll be on my way,
I'll hunt the runt that stole my -------
If it takes till Judgment Day.

Hobo's Hornbook, pp 52-53

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Subject: ADD: The Boss Tramp
From: Joe Offer
Date: 06 Apr 17 - 03:15 AM


The reference to horse-cars in the following burlesque
on "Down in Lehigh Valley" places the original's beginings
at some time before the advent of electricity. "With
the exception of the pornographic parody, the following
is the most brilliant item the Lehigh Valley school has

Give me a corned beef sandwich,
A horse-car run down my throat,
Or give me a whiskey straight,
Or surely I will choke.

Once I was married and miserable,
And had a loving wife,
And thought no more of spending a cent
Than I did of taking my life.

'Way over in the wilds of Joisey,
Where you'd sink in mud to yer knees,
I had a cross-eyed daughter,
And she was just the cheese.

Mashes! why she had 'em by the barrel
Each one a pimple-faced hick.
But Nell, she didn't like 'em;
She said they made her sick.

Then along come a Bowery actor,
A regular free-lunch tank-
He claimed he was a song and dance man
With money in the bank.

Well, it's the same old gag,
And many a one has tripped;
He sent her to pawn my Sunday suit,
And then to the river skipped.

Now the poor gal never knowed much
And she had a terrible fall,
And when I got out of jail that day
She up and told me all.

I took her to my aching heart,
I smashed her in the smeller,
Then I drug the floor with her,
And throwed her in the cellar.

Now you can laugh and chew tobacco,
And say whatever you like,
But I'll tramp till I find that actor
If It takes till Saturday night.

Hobo's Hornbook, pp 54-55

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Subject: ADD: The Bindle Stiff's Revenge
From: Joe Offer
Date: 06 Apr 17 - 03:24 AM


The Lehigh Valley cycle waited many years for completion,
and it is pleasant, indeed, to record that Nellie
has been avenged at last. The work was finished off only
recently by Harry Dawson, a bard who knows his hobo
lingo. The theme has tempted hobo ballad makers for
five decades, but the following poem leaves nothing to be
said. It was clipped from the Smokehouse Monthly.

At a jungle fire by the railroad track
Near the edge of a Kansas town
A hobo was boiling a bucket of slum
As the evening sun went down.

The fragrant smell from the Java can
Made his nostrils quiver and twitch,
As a freight train rattled around the bend
And came to a stop at the switch.

A moment's pause, then the train rolled on,
But during the minute it stopped
Another hobo eased from the rods
And down the embankment dropped.

His hat was greasy, his coat was torn
His pants were a total wreck,
And cinders clung to his grimy face
And coated his filthy neck.

"Ha! Friend of the road! Just in time,"
He croaked with a toothless smile,
"Hand over a shot of that good janoke,
For I've rambled many a mile."

The first bo cringed as he heard that voice
And his face went white as death
As he stumbled back from the jungle fire
With a sob and a catch in his breath.

The stranger noticed these actions strange
And peered through the gathering night
At a pair of eyes wide with fear
And a face aghast with fright.

"So at last it's come," he said with a sneer,
"I've hounded you down, you cur,
And you'll pay tonight for every wrong
That you ever did to her.

"These fifteen years reward me at last.
I knew that the day would come
When I'd see you grovel and cringe and whine
At my feet, you lousy bum.

'Twas you who ruint our little Nell
So that good folks passed her by.
I've hunted this wide world over since,
And tonight you're going to die.

"You led her away with your rotten lies,
Then, clothed in the mantle of shame,
You left her alone in the slums to die,
While you hunted other game.

"Your time has come and you'll never leave
The side of this fire alive!"
Then his hand flashed under his ragged coat
And out came a forty-five.

A muffled roar and a strangling cry,
Then the huddled form lay still
And the killer turned with a misty eye
And gazed at a distant hill.

Then up to the stars he raised his face
Aglow with a strange new light,
And murmured, "Nellie, the debt I owe
Is settled in full tonight."

Hobo's Hornbook, pp 56-58 - last of the Lehigh Sequence

I'm tired now. Some day, ask me to post the "Down in the Lehigh Valley" songs, #67 in Randolph/Legman "Unprintable Songs."

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