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Tying a Knot in the Devil's Tail / Sierry Petes

DigiTrad:
TYIN TEN KNOTS IN THE DEVIL'S TAIL


Related thread:
Lyr/Chords Req: Tying a Knot in the Devil's Tail (27)


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Subject: Lyr Add: TYIN' TEN KNOTS IN THE DEVIL'S TAIL
From: Joe Offer
Date: 19 Feb 04 - 01:01 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


There was a question about this song in the "Attribution" PermaThread, so I thought it might be a good idea to do a study of this song and see if we can find the originqal version, and any variants that are floating around. I thought this was a graditional song, but I see it has been attributed to Gail Gardner.

Here is the Digital Tradition entry from this song. I don't know where it was taken from.

TYIN TEN KNOTS IN THE DEVIL'S TAIL
(Gail Gardner)

Way high up in the Sierry Peaks
Where the yellow-jack pines grow tall,
Old Buster Jiggs and Sandy Bob
Had a round-up camp last fall.

Well they took along their running irons
Maybe a dog or two,
And they 'lowed thy'd brand every long-eared calf
That came within their view.

Now every little long-eared dogie
That didn't push up by day,
Got his long ears whittled and his old hide scorched
In a most artistic way.

One fine day, says Buster Jiggs,
As he throws his seago down,
"I'm tired of cowpiography*
And I think I'm a goin' into town."

Well they saddled up, and they hit a lope
For it warn't no sight of a ride,
And them was the days that a good cow-punch
Could oil up his insides.

Well they started in at Kentucky Bar,
At the head of Whisky Row,
And they wound her up at the Depot House
About forty drinks below.

Well they sets 'em up and they turns around
And they started in the other way,
And to tell the God-forsaken truth
Them boys got drunk that day.

They was on their way, goin' back to camp
A-packin' that awful load,
When who should they meet but the Devil himself
Come a-traipsin' down the road.

He says, "You ornery cowboy skunks
You better go hunt for your holes,
'Cause I've come up from Hell's rim rock
Just to gather in your souls.

"The Devil be damned," says Buster Jiggs,
"Us boys is a little bit tight;
But you don't go gatherin' no cowboys' souls
Without one helluva fight."

Now Buster Jiggs could ride like hell
And throw a lasso, too,
So he threw it over the Devil's horns
And he took his dallies true.

Now Sandy Bob was a reata man
With his gut-line coiled up neat;
But he shook her out and he builds a loop
And he roped the Devils hind feet.

Well they stretches him out and they tails him down
While the running-irons were getting hot,
And they cropped and swallow-forked his ears
And they branded him up a lot.

Well they trimmed his horns way down to his head
Tied ten knots in his tail for a joke,
Then they went off and left him there
Tied up to a little pin oak.

Now when you're high in the Sierry Peaks
And you hear one hell of a wail,
Well you know it's just the Devil himself
Yellin' 'bout them knots in his tail.

* According to Utah Phillips, this was originally cow-pyrography
(or branding). I defer. RG

Recorded by Tony Kraber, Harry Jackson(?)
DT #384
Laws B17
@cowboy @devil
filename[ DVLTAIL
TUNE FILE: DVLTAIL
CLICK TO PLAY
RG

Here's the entry in the Traditional Ballad Index:

Tying a Knot in the Devil's Tail [Laws B17]

DESCRIPTION: Two cowboys, having spent a wild time in town, are returning to camp when they meet the Devil. The Devil tries to collect their souls; the cowboys have the better of the fight, leaving the Devil tied up, branded, and with its tail in knots
AUTHOR: Gail Gardner?
EARLIEST DATE: 1917
KEYWORDS: Devil cowboy fight humorous
FOUND IN: US(SW)
REFERENCES (8 citations):
Laws B17, "Tying a Knot in the Devil's Tail"
Fife-Cowboy/West 74, "Tying Knots in the Devil's Tail" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax-FSNA 203, "Tyin' a Knot in the Devil's Tail" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax-ABFS, pp. 406-409, "Tying a Knot in the Devil's Tail" (1 text)
Ohrlin-HBT 27, "The Sierry Petes" (1 text, 1 tune)
Darling-NAS, pp. 174-176, "Tying a Knot in the Devil's Tail" (1 text)
Silber-FSWB, p. 112, "Tyin' A Knot In The Devil's Tail" (1 text)
DT 384, DVLTAIL*

Roud #3238
RECORDINGS:
Cisco Houston, "Tying a Knot in the Devil's Tail" (Disc 5069, 1940s)
Powder River Jack & Kitty Lee, "Tying A Knot In The Devil's Tail" (Victor 23527, 1930; Montgomery Ward M-4462, 1934; on AuthCowboys, BackSaddle, WhenIWas1)
SAME TUNE:
East Texas Red (by Woody Guthrie) (on Thieme03)
File: LB17

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions

The Ballad Index Copyright 2003 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.


Thread #13471   Message #624533
Posted By: Dicho
09-Jan-02 - 09:47 PM
Thread Name: Favourite Cowboy Songs-Second Edition
Subject: Lyr Add: SIERRY PETES

Lyr Add: SIERRY PETES

Away up high in the Sierry Petes,
Where the yeller pines grow tall,
Ole Sandy Bob an' Buster Jig,
Had a rodeer camp last fall.

Oh, they taken their hosses and runnin' irons
And mabbe a dawg or two,
An' they 'lowed they'd brand all the long-yered calves,
That come within their view.

And any old dogie that flapped long yeres,
An' didn't bush up by day,
Got his long yeres whittled an' his old hide scortched,
In a most artistic way.

Now one fine day ole Sandy Bob,
He throwed his seago down,
"I'm sick of the smell of burnin' hair*,
And I 'lows I'm a-goin' to town."

So they saddles up an' hits 'em a lope,
Fer it warn't no sight of a ride,
And them were the days when a Buckeroo
Could ile up his inside.

Oh, they starts her in at the Kaintucky Bar,
At the nead of Whisky Row,
And they winds up down by the Depot House,
Some forty drinks below.

They then sets up and turns around,
And goes her the other way,
An' to tell you the Gawd-forsaken truth,
Them boys got stewed that day.

As they was a ridin' back to camp,
A-packin' a pretty good load,
Who should they meet but the Devil himself,
A-prancin' down the road.

Sez he, "You ornery cowboy skunks,
You'd better hunt yer holes,
Fer I've come up from Hell's Rim Rock,
To gather in yer souls."

Sez Sandy Bob, "Old Devil be damned,
We boys is kinda tight,
But you ain't a-goin' to gather no cowboy souls,
'Thout you has some kind of a fight."

So Sandy Bob punched a hole in his rope,
And he swang her straight and true,
He lapped it on to the Devil's horns,
An' he taken his dallies too.

Now Buster Jig was a riata man,
With his gut-line coiled up neat,
So he shaken her out an' he built him a loop,
And he lassed the Devil's hind feet.

Oh, they stretched him out an' they tailed him down,
While the iron was a-gettin' hot,
They cropped and swaller-forked his yeres,
Then they branded him up a lot.

They pruned him up with a de-hornin' saw,
And they knotted his tail fer a joke,
They they rid off and left him there,
Necked to a Black-Jack oak.

If you're ever up high in the Sierry Petes,
An' you hear one hell of a wail,
You'll know it's that Devil a-bellerin' around,
About them knots in his tail.

Sierry is pronounced Sigh'-ree. *Line becomes "I'm sick of this cow-pyrography..." in the version in Katie Lee's book, also obtained from Gail Gardner.
Original words by Gail Gardner, written April, 1917, reproduced from Ohrlin, Glen, 1973, The Hell-Bound Train, pp. 69-72. Music shown in the book is the original, by Bill Simon.
According to Gardner, the song was sung by cowboys at the dude ranches and by himself and became widespread. See Katie Lee, Ten Thousand Goddam Cattle, for the history.
The song was stolen by a number of singers, including Powder River Jack, who claimed it as his own in his booklet, "Stampede." It was first properly credited in German, George, 1929, Cowboy Campfire Ballads. In 1939, German , Cowboy Song Book No. 5, claimed the music as his, not mentioning Simon. Perhaps he did redo the music and one of the tunes used belongs to him. He was a radio singer and performer. A corrupt version under another name appears in Larkin, Margaret, 1931, The Singing Cowboy, without attribution.
In the DT, there is a smoothed-up version with the title "Tyin Ten Knots in the Devil's Tail.

Katie Lee lists recordings in "Ten Thousand Goddam Cattle, p. 224-225. Ohrlin not mentioned, but here are some of them.
Harry Jackson, The Cowboy, Folkways FH-5343
Cisco Houston, Cowboy Ballads, Folkways FA-2022
Gail Gardner, Cowboy Songs, The Arizona Friends of Folklore at Northern Arizona Univ. Aff 33-1
Katie Lee, Ten Thousand Goddam Cattle, KD 10076

I had not mentioned that Gail Gardner included Sierry Petes in his book, Orejana Bull: For Cowboys Only, with other songs of his.

Katie Lee lists recordings in "Ten Thousand Goddam Cattle, p. 224-225. Ohrlin not mentioned, but here are some of them.
Harry Jackson, The Cowboy, Folkways FH-5343
Cisco Houston, Cowboy Ballads, Folkways FA-2022
Gail Gardner, Cowboy Songs, The Arizona Friends of Folklore at Northern Arizona Univ. Aff 33-1
Katie Lee, Ten Thousand Goddam Cattle, KD 10076

I had not mentioned that Gail Gardner included Sierry Petes in his book, Orejana Bull: For Cowboys Only, with other songs of his.

THE SIERRY PETES

note = ca. 208 (half = ca. 104)

(Bbm) Way up high in the Sierry Petes
Where the yeller pines grow (Fm) tall
Ole Sandy Bob an' Buster Jig
Had a (F7) rodeer camp last (Bbm) fall.
Chords from Katie Lee, Ten Thousand Goddam Cattle, p. 225.

A-(D) way up high in in the Sierry Petes
Where the yeller pines grows (A7) tall,
Ole Sandy Bob an' Buster Jig
Had a rodeer camp last (D) fall.

From Lingenfelter and Dwyer, Songs of the American West, p. 358.

From abbreviated rewrite in Margaret Larkin (by Jack Lambert or Everett Cheetham?)

Away (Eb) up high in the Sirey Peaks
Where mountain pines grow (Bb7) tall
Sandy Sam and Rusty Jiggs
Had a round-up camp last (Eb) fall.

Singing Cowboy, p. 76


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Subject: RE: Tying a Knot in the Devil's Tail
From: Joe Offer
Date: 19 Feb 04 - 01:09 PM

Posted By: masato sakurai
28-Jan-02 - 04:45 AM
Thread Name: Favourite Cowboy Songs-Second Edition
Subject: RE: Favourite Cowboy Songs-Second Edition

Katie Lee wrote a paper "Gail Gardner and the Sierry Petes" (Journal of Arizona History Vol. 15, No. 3: (Summer 1977): 209-222), which is online (CLICK HERE).
~Masato



Journal of Arizona History Vol. 15, No. 3: (Summer 1977): 209-222.

Gail Gardner and the Sierry Petes

by
Katie Lee

Katie Lee is well known in the Southwest as a writer/photographer/actress/singer/musician who fights for the preservation of wild and remote places. Her first book, Ten Thousand Goddam Cattle, an epic cowboy chronicle told through the songs of cowboy songwriters, will be republished by the University of New Mexico Press in the Spring of 2001. Her award winning documentary film, "The Last Wagon," celebrates two cowboy songwriter legends of the West, Gail Gardner and Billy Simon, with rare footage of them talking and singing. Her record company has released 5 recordings of cowboy songs.

Her latest book, All My Rivers are Gone, is a paean to Glen Canyon, a paradise that was lost to the reservoir waters of Lake Powell. In conjunction with the book, Katie released two recordings, "Colorado River Songs" and "Glen Canyon River Journeys." For more information or a catalogue of books and music, contact Katydid Books and Music, PO Box 375, Jerome, AZ 86331.

Away up high in the Sierry Petes,
Where the yeller pines grows tall,
Ole Sandy Bob an' Buster Jig,
Had a rodeer camp last fall.

Oh, they taken their hosses and runnin' irons
And mabbe a dawg or two,
An' they 'lowed they'd brand all the long-yered
  calves,
That come within their view.

And any old doggie that flapped long yeres,
An' didn't bush up by day,
Got his long yeres whittled an' his old hide
  scorched,
In a most artistic way.

Now one fine day ole Sandy Bob,
He throwed his seago down,
"I'm sick of this cow-pyrography,
And I 'lows I'm a-goin' to town."

So they saddles up an' hits 'em a lope,
Fer it warnt no sight of a ride,
And them was the days when a Buckeroo
Could ile up his inside.

Oh, they starts her in at the Kaintucky Bar,
At the head of Whisky Row,
And they winds up down by the Depot House,
Some forty drinks below.

They then sets up and turns around,
And goes her the other way,
An' to tell you the Gawd-forsaken truth,
Them boys got stewed that day.

As they was a-ridin' back to camp,
A-packin' a pretty good load,
Who should they meet but the Devil himself,
A-prancin' down the road.

Sez he, "You ornery cowboy skunks,
You'd better hunt yer holes,
Fer I've come up from Hell's Rim Rock,
To gather in yer souls."

Sez Sandy Bob, "Old Devil be damned,
We boys is kinda tight,
But you ain't a-goin' to gather no cowboy souls,
'Thout you has some kind of a fight."

So Sandy Bob punched a hole in his rope,
And he swang her straight and true,
He lapped it on to the Devil's horns,
An' he taken his dallies too.

Now Buster jig was a riata man,
With his gut-line coiled up neat,
So he shaken her out an' he built him a loop,
An' he lassed the Devil's hind feet.

Oh, they stretched him out an' they tailed him
  down,
While the irons was a-gettin hot,
They cropped and swaller-forked his yeres,
Then they branded him up a lot.

They pruned him up with a de-hornin' saw,
An' they knotted his tail fer a joke,
They then rid off and left him there,
Necked to a Black-Jack oak.

If you're ever up high in the Sierry Petes,
An' you hear one Hell of a wail,
You'll know it's that Devil a-bellerin' around,
About them knots in his tail.1

You AIN'T HEARD that song, you ain't much of a cowboy," I once heard an old bronc rider drawl.

Most of them probably can't sing it, but they recognize it as having come from the horse's mouth and maybe one out of fifty can say who wrote it. Gail Gardner of Prescott wrote it, along with many more songs and poems, but that's not the point -for them. I've watched the frayed end of a burning shuck tilt up in sunburned lips as they smiled, relating to the lingo and to the happy thought that one of their kind finally put old Devil where he belongs . . . and maybe the happier thought that it took some forty-odd drinks to do it.

* * *

It is the summer of 1960 At dusk, when I walk in the front door of the old house on Mount Vernon Street to be welcomed by Gail and his wife Delia, the Old West flies right up and gives me a smack!

"You're Katie," lie says, "come on in here and park yer soogans. Chow's on the stove; what'll you have to drink? This here's Delia."

"Hello, Mrs. Gardner."

"Delia!" he says.

"Hello, Delia." From this moment, they seem like people I've known all my life.

The house is a territorial frame structure (Gail was a grown man when Arizona was yet a territory -this is the house where he was born) with a great front porch complete with gliders chained to the ceiling. Inside, heavy square-rigged oak and walnut furniture, wooden floors and Navajo rugs, sofas, glassed-in hutches, hall trees and cane racks, stuffed deer heads, antlers, libraries, six bedrooms, an upstairs kitchen as well as one down, two living rooms, a fireplace, dining room and screened back porch - all for the two of there now, kids all grown and moved away. When I try to describe the style and period he says, "I calls it Early Fred Harvey,"

"I want to know why the kitchen upstairs."

He smiles. "When I was married to Delia, we moved in here with n my folks. Got along fine everyplace except the kitchen. Seems the fillies had different ways of doing things, so to keep the gals from lockin' horns, m'dad built a kitchen up there. After that things rippled along smooth as bear grass in the breeze."

Gail is not tall, about five-seven, and the first thing that takes you is a black patch over his left eye. He wears boots always, legs so bowed you can drive a freight train between them, a little eyetooth that sticks out and twinkles when he smiles. Sun has burned him full of holes and freckles. His knuckles are knotted from pulling on ropes and reins, his butt pounded to a flat, back straight, shoulders square. Whatever the patch covers shows up on the double in the other eye, alert and full of mischief (He now wears glasses with a black lens over that eye socket. The eye was removed many years ago, the result of radium treatments for sun cancer.)

I had written him from New York half hinting that he'd sent me all expurgated version of Sierry Petes, and gotten a reply which suggested a red-rumped steer bushed up and ready for a fight. When he found I was coming to straighten things out and reestablish authorship, printing his song as written with such stories as he might want to tell me, he came off the prod.

As he talks about living in Skull Valley, running his greasy-sack outfit, of roundup, branding, fogging strays out of the brush and roping wild cattle, the lingo drifts into his speech like the warmth of an old campfire. He tells of building cattle traps to hold strays- was one of the very first to do so - of when lie could get eleven calves out of ten cows, "but not now, cuz there's too many fences," and of the days before the cattle business went to hell, when they sold beef by the head instead of the pound.

"Hey, you guys," calls Delia, "come and get it!"

In candlelight the dining table is set with white linen, crystal, china and silverware - those heirlooms brought to the territories at all costs, to validate the Westerner's cultural heritage, to bear witness lie was not the heathen the Easterner described. "You get the full treatment first few times; then we hunker down in the kitchen like common folk."

During dinner lie proceeds to tell me how lie wrote the Sierry Petes. On a train in 1917, going back Fast to get into the Air Service in World War I, somewhere in Kansas lie saw a bunch of round-rumped cattle in the fields, not all earmark on one of them and farmers all round on foot! He'd just come from a camp gathering wild steers in Copper Basin, and the contrast between the lizard-tailed outlaws he'd been handling and those placid bovines set him to thinking about that camp.

"I was ridin' to camp at the old Dearing ranch near Thumb Butte one evening with the late Bob Heckle. We'd been celebrating in town and were pretty well jugged up, when one of us remarked that the devil got cowboys who did the things we'd been doing, and the other replied that if the devil monkeyed with us, we'd neck him to a black-jack oak just like a steer. Imagination took over from there, so I sat down at the desk in the club car and wrote on Santa Fe Limited stationery the verses of the Sierry Petes. Incidentally, the name comes from the Sierra Prieta Mountains, just west of Prescott. An old miner I knew in these mountains always called them the Sierry Petes, not peaks."

"I learned it as The Frisco Peaks. I've heard Chiricahua Peaks, Dragoon Peaks, Montana Peaks and any number more."

"Don't doubt it; it's a fearfully pirated song. She got plumb away from me"

The rest of its history he'd sent me in that salty letter:

After the war I showed that poem and some others I'd written to some cowboy friends, among them Billy Simon. Bill decided to cook up an old tune for it and started singing it around cow camps and rodeos. This was the first time I got the idea that a lot of my poems would do for songs. A Wickenburg dude wrangler by the name of George German was also a radio singer and he wanted my "Sierry Petes" and my "Moonshine Steer" to publish in a collection of old cow songs he was getting out for his radio station in Yankton, South Dakota, in 1929. George wasn't a cowboy so he bitched up the words somewhat to suit the sensitive cars of his radio audience, deleted the damns and hells and changed phrases he didn't understand. I suppose that is where those radio punks first got hold of it. I would hear it sung by some guitar plunker who didn't know which end of the cow gets up first- I would write the station a blast about copyright laws and the singing of a song without the author's permission. I stopped a good many of them but I couldn't stop them all. This will explain the different versions, together with the fact that one cowboy learned it from another without any written copies being passed around. Once I saw it in a college quarterly with the quotation: "A perfect example of early Western folklore, author unknown" - what the hell!

"You got m'tail all curled up with curiosity, now, Papoose. Where'd you learn it?"

"From Shorty Mac McGinnis in Tucson. I've sung it in places as far afield as Mexico City and the Blue Angel in New York, believe it or not."

His boyish grin spreads clear to his ears as he muses, "New York, eh? We sure do get around! I know about that part of the country all right. My folks sent me back there to Dartmouth."

"You went to Dartmouth?"

"Sure. They thought I'd make a fine doctor or lawyer. But after I got a Bachelor of Science degree in math, I decided I'd druther count cows, so I come back, worked in my dad's store for a bit, then bought in with a little greasy-sack outfit in Skull Valley. When I finally quit cowboyin', I worked as postmaster. All ya got t'do to have a first-class postmaster is git yerself an old cowboy and punch his brains out.

* * *

"Gail's breakfast call rattles the latch on my bedroom door. "Come and get it or I'll feed it to the coyotes!"

A steaming cup of coffee waits on the kitchen table. One sip and I tell Gail, "Haven't tasted coffee like that since Shorty Mac's . . . strong enough to raise a blister on a rawhide boot."

"Yup, cowboys is fussy about the stoutness of their brew. When Bob Heckle and me was keepin' a brandin' camp fer strays near Thumb Butte one spring, we come down for supplies 'n found the whole dang town outta Arbuckle's coffee, the only kind we woulduse. Well, I bought another brand, fergit what, and heads on back t'camp by our little stream up in the junipers. Next morning I rolls out, makes the coffee and calls Bob. As I recall, he got a little fire-bellied in town and wasn't too spry come sunup. He takes a good round mouthful of that coffee and lets 'er fly -sprays all over me, the camp, the bacon 'n eggs, everything. I says, 'What the hell's the matter? You latch onto a scorpion?' He says 'Christ, where'd ya git that bellywash?' I told him they didn't have no Arbuckle's. 'Jesus,' he spits, 'I could stick a coffee bean in my hip pocket [language laundered by editor] and wade through the crick and git stronger coffee than that!' "

Gail puts a plate of golden hotcakes in front of me. "Those are extraordinary pancakes - guaranteed not to come apart in your stomach."

Today is a good day for staying inside - a restless spring wind whistles and whines under the eaves, swirling leaves and papers around the wide front porch - we sip coffee and get to the business I've come for, listening to the tapes and records of his much-pirated song. In his own collection he has but two printings and one record. I've brought a flock more. There are at least four Folkways albums,2 none of the singers giving him credit. In Folk Songs of Idaho and Utah is the Arizona song Tying Knots In The Devil's Tail, sung by Rosalie Sorrels. At the end of her version he says, "I can see how Buster jig got changed to Jinks, Gawd-forsaken to Lord-forsaken, and hell of a wail watered down to awful wail, but how in chiggers did she ever find Hell-brim-muck? An' she says, 'lopped off his ears.' Why, that doesn't mean anything! When you brand a cow you earmark him - ours was the swaller-fork."

"She also says, 'They sets her up and turns her around' most all the singers think that refers to drinks," I tell him.

"Well, it don't! The two front feet when training a cow horse are left unshod and are therefore tender. So when he stops, his front feet go up in the air and lie 'sets up.' If he slides on his front feet he'll split yer crotch."

"There are several lines that always get sung wrong, Cowboy; one's the line about dallies."

"My God, you'd think anybody lived west of the Mississippi would know what a dally is."

"Too many dudes living west of the Mississippi. I found a guy from Nevada who thought a dally was the pitchfork the devil carried."

"Hell he did! People should find out what they're singing. Dallie-weltie is the Yavapai cowboy's corruption of the Spanish dar la vuelta, to take a turn or twist around."

"They don't care; they sing it because they happen to like it, and because it's good."

"When they git done with it, it ain't no damn good."

"Gail, you've written on a universal theme-the devil out collecting souls - everybody's with those boozed-up cowboys, one hundred percent." I glance up at an artist's re-creation of the scene that hangs over the fireplace - "there's the essence in George Phippen's painting. You don't really have much to say any more about the way it gets sung; it's a part of folklore now. And in most cases even the cowboys didn't help you keep it pure - one takes a dally, the next a hard-tie, the next an anchor . . . ."

"Yeah, that Harry Jackson album I got, he calls 'em wrappies."

The old patch-faced cowboy listens peaceable to all botched and garbled versions until we come across one Peter LaFarge (now deceased), and at this point I think he's going to throw a wall-eyed fit. Pete claims authorship not only of Sierry Petes but of other well-known classics that were written before the kid was born.

Gail's first encounter with the thieving of his song happened back in 1931 when the old pirate Powder River Jack Lee took it, along with Curley Fletcher's Strawberry Roan, put them in a songbook, and claimed them for his own.3

"That dude come swingin' into Phoenix thirty years ago packin' a steel guitar and a hula skirt fer his wife, Kitty. They found a rather sorry reception for that sorta music on the radio, so he bought hisself a fancy cowboy outfit, loaded him and Kitty down with belt buckles 'n boots and began singin' every cow song he could wrap his tonsils around. Curley and me got pretty damn sore about his liftin' our songs without so much as a by-your-leave, but when we got together to see what we could do about it, we found our only recourse was to sue him. Hell, he didn't own the clothes he stood in, and of course neither of us wanted Kitty."

In the mid-twenties, when dude ranching became a profitable business, song publishers in New York and Chicago moved to corral as many Western songs as they could, lifting them from cowboys, pulp nags, newspapers, and bunkhouse scribblings with little effort to find out whose they were, slapping them into song folios, copyrighting them and changing enough notes to get by the law. If they were caught by the author, often as not lie couldn't prove ownership since he didn't think in the vein of profit for his verse. The songs could be sung on the range for years before a cowhand'd wake up, jingle into town and try to brand his brainchild, only to find that somebody else had rustled it - some radio singin' dude who didn't know a singletree from a whole forest!

Curley Fletcher, one of the most popular cowboy song writers and composers of Western verse from Gail's era, had over half of his songs stolen before he got wise to copyrighting. And I happen to know that Gail, as of this writing, hasn't been half compensated by Folkways Records for all the times they've taken "Sierry Petes." They have known all about his copyright and renewal since I told them in 1960 Gail has allowed many persons to use his songs for nothing more than acknowledgment to the author, but fur flies when someone burns another brand on them.

* * *

Things settled back to a walk for Gail and his old Devil that summer of 1960 He didn't shake out any more rustlers and I didn't hear from him until fall, after I'd returned East for the last time. Before Christmas I sent him a copy of Alan Lomax's new book, Folk Songs of North America, which contained a new printing of Sierry Petes with no credit, plus an inference of plagiarism:

Tying a knot in the Devil's Tail . . . is a ballad from the dude ranch period and the sort of haywire song the guide serves up to his Eastern charges around some nice comfortable camp-fire in the mountains. A ranch poet, desperate to find something to match the tourists' idea of the wild and woolly West, remade the Charles Badger Clark poem, which began,

Way high up in the Mokiones....4

Of course the beginning is not from the Badger Clark poem but from the corruption of it called "High Chin Bob." Clark knew how to spell Mogollon.

Knowing Gail, I well knew what was going to happen. Meanwhile I wrote Alan, tried to tell him what was coming, sent him the correct Sierry Petes lyrics and background, and protested that in no way did it resemble Clark's poem - to call it a "remake" was stretching the point even farther. They resemble each other not at all (one's about a lion; the other a devil) outside the first line, which has been used as a beginning for a score of Western poems. The only similarity is the music, another working-over of "Polly Wolly Doodle," and even that is not identical because of a three-line rhyme in the chorus - some cowfolks sing all three, some only two. Clark's poem, printed in 1915, begins:

THE GLORY TRAIL

'Way high up the Mogollons,
Among the mountain tops,
A lion cleaned a yearlin's bones
And licked his thankful chops.

When on the picture who should ride,
A-trippin' down a slope,
But High-Chin Bob, with sinful pride
And a mav'rick-hungry rope.

"Oh, glory be to me," says he,
"And fame's unfadin' flowers!
All meddlin' hands are far away;
I ride my good top-hawse today
And I'm top-rope of the Lazy J --
Hi! Kitty cat, you're ours!"

A week or so later came Alan's answer:

I enjoyed your letter and look forward to hearing from Gail Gardner. It's going to take a long time to convince me that the Sandy Bob poem is not a rewrite from Charles Badger Clark's "High Chin Bob." . . . It's hardly likely that two cowboy poets would have picked this rather unusual theme and treated it in such a similar way completely independently of each other. Literary history contains very few such cases. I'm also not convinced Gail's text is the parent of the one we printed. Anyway, if lie writes me I'll certainly give him co-credit in the next edition of Folk Songs of North America. Thanks for telling me about this.

Sincerely yours,
Alan

"Hot cowpies!" I says to myself, "you gonna find out who is the parent all right, boy!" And I wondered if Alan had read Badger Clark's foreword to the 1952 edition of Sun and Saddle Leather, where lie expresses some surprise at the Lomax family trait:

The Glory Trait is a versatile kid and seems equally easy with cowpuncher and intelligentsia. He even developed a sort of dual personality a few years ago when he turned up among New Mexican cowboys as a song under the name of High Chin Bob, and John Lomax, meeting him under those circumstances, put him into Poetry as an 'indigenous Western folksong, author unknown,' which jolted leis fond father for a moment.5

Alan's statement, "It's hardly likely that two cowboy poets would have picked this rather unusual theme," etc., is quite naive, considering the number of them who've gravitated to this sort of fantasy. It would be more accurate to say that any cowboy who ever rounded up wild brush cattle could convince himself he'd latched onto a bear, a lion, a wildcat, the devil, or the whole city of Hell, to say nothing of the top screw.

To the contrary, literary history is full of such similarities. Loneliness and isolation draw imagery from the same allegorical pipe, simultaneously and independently of one another, in all parts of the world. Emerson reminds us: "There is one mind common to all individual men. Nature is a mutable cloud which is always and never the same. She casts the same thought into troops of forms, as a poet makes twenty fables with one moral."6 In cowboy lingo these fables are called "big windies."

Having sent Gail the letter, I could smell hair burning two thousand miles away from the powder keg. When she blew, it was a dilly!

Dear Sir:

I refer to one of my poems printed in your recent book, inaccurately, without permission, and without credit to the author. Since most of my writing is done for fun rather than profit, I have paid little attention, but now, when you make the libelous insinuation that I have plagiarised from the work of Mr. Badger Clark, I make vigorous protest .... I have ample proof of my authorship and a very little research on your part would have led you eventually to the Library of Congress and the copyright entry Class AA, No. 192120. I won't bore you with how and why I wrote the poem, be it sufficient to say when 1 wrote it in 1917, 1 hall not seen the work of Badger Clark.

Professional singers of cowboy songs and editors have much in common, neither knows which end of a horse the hay goes in or which end of a cow gets up first ....

If and when you reprint your hook, I do not request, I insist that: (1) you leave it out entirely, or (2) you print it correctly as it was written with due credit to the author and without that slanderous and smart-alecky reference to plagiarism. And let's have no loose talk about coauthors; the poem is mine and mine alone.

Yours very truly,
Gail I. Gardner

Gail sent me the following from Alan's answer to him a couple of weeks later:

I will correct the note in the book and properly credit you for the song at the first opportunity. I certainly sympathize with the problems you've had with the whole thing.

Alan

In a sense, Gail's songs don't belong to him any more. As we talk away the morning in the old Mt. Vernon Street house and he sings for me, I can see them as much more than something fun to listen to. His songs are a symbol of personal and territorial freedom - things we creatures enjoy less and less with the passing years. In spirit they belong to everyone who loves the legend, are as rooted in it as if they'd been planted with the cactus and the cedars.

I believe they are far more than regional songs. Akin to the ballads of England, they'll be handed down ad infinitum. We must admit that ranches and cowboys, as we know them, are going fast. With his cracked and ragged voice, Gail Gardner brings back to us the world he lived in - stretching out steers, hunkering over campfires, crashing through brush on fiddle-footed horses, watering at stock tanks, trailing in to the home corral, sore and tired after a day of wrestling muley cows . . . or up to some cowboy devilment with tongue in cheek the vanishing world of the pioneer West. Cowboys, I am convinced, are the antitoxin for our space dizziness, reminding us of past freedoms and a severed partnership with the earth. When we are jam-packed cheek-to-cheek in the not-too-distant future, these songs will rise to recall the empty distance we once knew and leave us with the same feelings that possess us when we stand looking out to sea.

NOTES

1 Gail I. Gardner, "The Sierry Petes (or, Tying Knots in the Devil's Tail)." First printing was in Orejana Bull-for Cowboys Only (Prescott: Gail Gardner, December 14, 1935). It was copyrighted, number AA 192120, in that year. Second printing 1950; third printing, 1960. The copyright was renewed in April, 1963, number 313825. Fourth printing, 1965.

2 Rosalie Sorrels, Songs of Utah and Idaho (recording). Folkways, FH-5343 (1961). Harry Jackson, The Cowboy (recording). Folkways, FN-2533 (1957). Peter LaFarge, Songs of the Cowboys (recording). Folkways, FN-2533 (1963). Cisco Houston, Cowboy Ballads (recording). Folkways, FA-2022 (1952).

3 Jack Lee, Powder River Jack Lee and Kitty's Song Book (New York: Melrose Music, December 18, 1936).

4 Alan Lomax, Folk Songs of North America (New York: Doubleday, 1958).

5 Charles Badger Clark, Sun and Saddle Leather (Boston: Chapman & Grimes, 1952).

6 Ralph Waldo Emerson, "History," in The Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson (New York: Random House, Modern Library, 1950), p. 123.


Permission to present this electronic version of Gail Gardner and the Sierry Petes was granted by the author and the Arizona Historical Society to the Arizona Board of Regents.

Copyright © 2000 Arizona Board of Regents
Copied to the Mudcat Cafe for study purposes.


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Subject: RE: Tying a Knot in the Devil's Tail / Sierry Pete
From: katlaughing
Date: 19 Feb 04 - 02:56 PM

Wow! OUtstanding! My dad will love reading this.


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Subject: RE: Tying a Knot in the Devil's Tail / Sierry Petes
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 19 Feb 04 - 03:35 PM

Joe, I posted the original "Sierry Petes" by Gail Gardner (1917) in thread 13471 two years ago. (see above)

In "Orejana Bull," Gail Gardner, in 1935, wrote the following (much the same ground as quoted from Katie Lee in "Ten Thousand Goddam Cattle"):

"One time I was camped with the late Bob Heckle at the old Bill Dearling Ranch in the Sierra Prieta (Sierry Petes) Mountains west of Prescott. One day we came into town for a little "whizzer," and on the way back to camp, one of us remarked that the devil got cowboys for doing what we had been doing. That was the germ of an idea that came to life on a Santa Fe train in 1917 when I was headed back to Washington, D. C., to get into military service. The gentle, broad-beamed cattle in the fields of Kansas were so different from the stock Bob and I had been working that I was inspired to write some verses about some drunken cowboys handling the devil the same way they handled wild cattle. These were the verses that Bill Simon decided would do for a song, and a song it has been ever since, pirated by a lot of drugstore cowboy singers, a couple of whom have even tried to claim authorship."

He became a pilot, but never saw overseas service, and was home again in Dec. 1918. Jimmy Minnotto, owner of the Z Triangle, held a neighborhood rodeo when the cow works were done. "At the first one I sang about "Tyin' the Knots in the Devil's Tail and a second one about the Moonshine Steer ... they expected me to have a new one for each of Jimmie's rodeos thereafter."

Gardner sold out the last of his ranch interests in 1960, but he was postmaster of Prescott, AZ, from 1936-1957.

Extracted from "Orejana Bull," Gail I. Gardner, 1935, 1963; with new material added by Sharlot Hall Museum in 1987 and printed at the Sharlot Hall Museum Press, Prescott, Arizona.

The Sierra Prieta Mts. are just west of Prescott. An old miner friend of Gardner's called them the "Sierry Petes."


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Subject: Lyr Add: TYING A KNOT IN THE DEVIL'S TAIL (Lee)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 19 Feb 04 - 04:10 PM

Here is the version pirated by the cowboy singer, Powder River Jack Lee, taken from his 1938 book called "Cowboy Songs."


TYING A KNOT IN THE DEVIL'S TAIL

"Words and Music by Powder River Jack Lee
on Victor Record 23527."

Says Buster Gigs to Sagebrush Sam,
As he throwed his long legs down,
"I'm gettin' tired of cowography*,
And I reckon I'll jog to town."
They started out on a right smart lope,
For it warn't no sight of a ride,
And "them" wuz the days when a good cowpunch
Could "ile up" his inside.

At the old "Kaintucky" bar they stopped,
Near the end of Whiskey Row,
And they wound up tight some time that night
Some forty drinks below.
The house turned 'round and "set them up,"
Startin' in the other way;
Honest to goodness, tell the truth,
The boys got stewed that day.

They both lit out for the Siree Peaks
A "packin'" up a darn good load,
And who should they meet but the Devil himself
Jest a "prancin'" down the road.
"Confound yuh ornery cowboy skunks,
Yuh better had hunt yer holes,
For I am the Devil from the hell's rim-rocks
Come to gather up yore souls."

"The Devil be dammed," says Buster Gigs,
"We boys both know we're tight,
But before yuh corral any cowboys souls
Yuh'll shore hev a bee-utiful fight."
So he throwed his rope and he throwed 'er straight
Till she spun down good and true,
And he looped the Devil by his "pinted" horns
And tuk his dallies, too.

Old Sagebrush sam was a lariat-man,
With his gut-line coiled up neat
He throwed 'er out and layed him down
While the sizzlin' iron grew hot;
They trimmed his horns with a dehorn saw
And branded him a lot.

They tied ten knots in the old boy's tail
And they left him there for a joke,
With a bellerin' cough, as they loped right off
Necked up to a black-jack oak.
If you ever go a-ridin' in the Siree Peaks
And yuh hear one awful wail,
Yuh'll know it's the Devil as he yowls and prowls,
With the knots in his tail.

With sheet music, ("not to fast, tune uke A D F# B"),
with the words (in caps), meant for an introductory verse.

A-WAY UP HIGH IN THE SIREE PEAKS
WHERE THE YELLOW JACK PINES GROW TALL
OLD BUSTER GIGS AND SAGEBRUSH SAM
HAD A ROUNDUP WAT LAST FALL

ANY OLD CALF WHO FLOPPED LONG EARS
AND DIDN'T BUSH UP BY DAY
GOT HIS LONG EARS CHISELED AND HIS OLD HIDE SISSLED
IN A MOST ARTISTIC WAY.

* cow pyrography is meant.
From "Cowboy Songs," copyrighted 1938 by Powder River Jack Lee. Printed by The McKee Printing Company, Butte, Montana, pp. 12-13


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Subject: RE: Tying a Knot in the Devil's Tail / Sierry Petes
From: Lighter
Date: 19 Feb 04 - 04:18 PM

Powder River Jack's recording of the song was reissued in the mid to late '60s as one of an LP called (something like) "Authentic Cowboys and their Genuine Western Songs." Well, the *songs* were mostly genuine, and *some* of the singers had been cowboys, kind of.


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Subject: RE: Tying a Knot in the Devil's Tail / Sierry Petes
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 19 Feb 04 - 04:25 PM

Cow pyrography-

"Gail originally wrote this line: "I'm sick of this cow pyrography" but later changed it to the current wording ["I'm sick of the smell of burning hair."] because no one seemed able to get it right. Pyrography was a popular parlor craft around the turn of the century. It involved burning designs into leather with a hot stylus." Note by Warren E. Miller, Sharlot Hall Museum.
Gail Gardner was literate, which is more than can be said for some of those who pirated his poems.


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Subject: RE: Tying a Knot in the Devil's Tail / Sierry Petes
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 19 Feb 04 - 04:32 PM

Another song pirated by Jack Lee was "Santa Fe Trail," by James Grafton Rodgers. See thread 17944: Santa Fe Trail


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Subject: RE: Tying a Knot in the Devil's Tail / Sierry Petes
From: Lighter
Date: 19 Feb 04 - 04:48 PM

Q: Does Lee's book give his version of "The Old Chisholm Trail" (another of my pet interests)? He sang it to collector Duncan Emrich in Denver about 1940, Emrich printed it in "It's an Old Wild West Custom" a number of years later, and then Lomax reprinted it in "Folk Songs of N. Amer." Finally Emrich printed it in another book.

And - can you imagine? - each of these versions is somewhat different.


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Subject: RE: Tying a Knot in the Devil's Tail / Sierry Petes
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 19 Feb 04 - 05:35 PM

Yup, his version (one of them?) of "Old Chisholm Trail" is in the 1938 book. I will check threads for the song, and post it in one of them. It is quite long; perhaps it was 'shortened to fit' in some books. The Fifes say that they have nearly 200 texts.


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Subject: Lyr Add: SIERRA PEAKS (G Gardner, I Tyson)
From: GUEST
Date: 19 Feb 04 - 10:30 PM

The following version is from Ian Tyson's album "Ian Tyson" (Columbia FC 39362, 1984). Tyson credits Gardner and although he has a few word differences, he follows the original pretty close. The liner notes by Jay Dusard, photographer/author of "The North American Cowboy: A Portrait" and a resident of Prescott, AZ at the time, refers to the mountains as the Sierry Petes. Tyson pronounces the first word "si-ree" even though his text has "Sierra".


SIERRA PEAKS
Lyrics by Gail I. Gardner
Music Arrangement by Ian Tyson

Way up high in the Sierra Peaks
Where the yellow jack pines grow tall
Buster Jiggs and Sagebrush Sam
Had a rodeer camp last fall

They'd taken their horses and runnin'irons
And maybe a dog or two
An' lowed they'd brand every long eared calf
That came within their view

And any ole dogie that flapped long ears
An' didn't brush up by day
Got his long ears whittled an' his old hide sizzled
In a most artistic way

Now one fine day ole Buster Jiggs
Just throwed his reata down
Says "I'm sick of cowboyography
And lows I'm goin' to town."

So they saddled up an' hits 'em a lope
For it weren't no sight of a ride
For them was the days when a good Buckaroo
Could oil up his insides

They started up at the Kentucky Bar
At the head of Whiskey Row
And wound her up at the Depot House
Some forty drinks below

They then sets up and turns around
And goes her the other way
To tell you the God-forsaken truth
Them boys got drunk that day

And they was a-ridin' back to camp
A-packin' a pretty good load
Who should they meet but the devil himself
Come a-prancin' down the road

Says he, "You ornery cowboy skunks
You better be huntin' your holes
For I'm the devil from Hell's Rim Rock
Come to gather in your souls"

Says Buster Jiggs "The devil be damned
We boys is kinda tight
But you ain't a-goin to gather no cowboy souls
Without some kind of a fight."

So he punched a hole in his old sego
And he throws her straight and true
He lapped it on to the devil's horns
An' he's taken his dallies too

Now Buster Jiggs was a reata man
With his gut-line coiled up neat
He'd shaken her out an' he built him a loop
Caught the devil by both hind feet

Well they stretched him out an' they tailed him down
While the irons was a gettin' hot
They cropped and swaller-forked his ears
Then they branded him up a lot

They pruned him up with a dehornin' saw
An' they knotted his tail for a joke
And rode away and left him there
Tied up to a blackjack oak

So if you're ever up in the Sierra Peaks
An' you hear one hell of a wail
You'll know it's the devil a-bellerin' around
About them knots tied in his tail

First printing copyright by Gail I. Gardner Library Of Congress Certificate of Registration Copyright entry: Class AA No. 192120, Dee. 14, 1935. Certificate of Claim to Renewal of Copyright No. 313825, Apr. 15, 1963.
All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.

IAN TYSON - Vocals, Acoustic Guitar GEORGE KOLLER - Electric Bass THOM MOON - Drums
DAVID WILKIE - Mandolin MELVIN WILSON - Acoustic Guitar GARY KOLIGER - Electric Guitar TOM McKILLIP - Acoustic Guitar JEFF BRADSHAW - Steel Guitar


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Subject: RE: Tying a Knot in the Devil's Tail / Sierry Pete
From: katlaughing
Date: 19 Feb 04 - 10:35 PM

I'll have to get out my dad's Cow Songs tape and listen closely to the words to see which version he learned. He really is going to enjoy reading all of this history. Thanks, guys.


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Subject: RE: Tying a Knot in the Devil's Tail / Sierry Pete
From: Rapparee
Date: 19 Feb 04 - 10:44 PM

The reference to "Whiskey Row" is accurate, as far as I've been able to determine. It was (and is) a feature of Prescott, Arizona. I'm trying to find out what watering holes lined the street, as the practice was to drink down one side and up the other.


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Subject: RE: Tying a Knot in the Devil's Tail / Sierry Petes
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 19 Feb 04 - 11:14 PM

Whiskey Row was a couple of blocks on what is now Montezuma St. (aka State 89) at the Courthouse Square between Gurley and Goodwin Streets. No idea if anything here now. A fire in 1900 burned out the old downtown wooden structures but some older buildings have been preserved;, but being on a major road, I don't know about Whiskey Row. I haven't been there for many years and really took no note of it at the time.


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Subject: RE: Tying a Knot in the Devil's Tail / Sierry Petes
From: LadyJean
Date: 20 Feb 04 - 12:54 AM

I first heard this on a children's record of cowboy songs, when I was a girl. I always liked the song, but I hadn't thought of it in years. I'm delighted to learn it's provenance.


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Subject: RE: Tying a Knot in the Devil's Tail / Sierry Pete
From: katlaughing
Date: 20 Feb 04 - 12:55 AM

Well, now they have a Whiskey Row Marathon and various other activities to draw in the touristas. I did find some interesting info at this site, including the following:

"The 100 block of South Montezuma Street in Prescott, Arizona has long been known as Whiskey Row, for the numerous saloons that once lined the street. As Prescott poet Gail Gardner once wrote of "Whiskey Row":

"Oh they starts her in at the Kaintucky bar,
at the head of Whiskey Row,
and they winds up down by the Depot House,
some forty drinks below."


"On July 14, 1900, this block was totally destroyed by fire. Within a few days of the fire, new construction was underway in brick and masonry. Most of the buildings on this block were constructed between the fall of 1900 and 1905, and include Sam'l Hill Hardware Company, the Highland Hotel, the Palace, the Levy Building, and the Hotel St. Michael. All of these buildings are constructed with permanence and appearance in mind in styles typical of early 20th century buildings.

"Some buildings were architecturally progressive, such as Sam'l Hill Hardware Company, or architecturally outstanding, such as the Palace and the Hotel St. Michael. All present a united front to the Courthouse Plaza, resulting in a unique turn-of-the-century facade which is essentially intact today."

There was also an AZ tourism board site which had quite a write up about old saloons still being open, etc. Sorry, I didn't get the URL.


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Subject: RE: Tying a Knot in the Devil's Tail / Sierry Pete
From: GUEST,Wyllow
Date: 20 Feb 04 - 12:50 PM

Howdy from Arizona!
I have the pleasure of being acquainted with Gail Gardner's granddaughter, a lovely lady.
There is a street in Prescott, Arizona named after Gail Gardner.

Prescott has a great folk festival on the grounds of the Sharlott Hall Museum every fall. When you get tired of listening (!) to the variety of folk, cowboy, bluegrass, old time, Celtic, singer/songwriter, etc. music you can wander on down to Whiskey Row and check out the turn of the century saloons and hotels -- touristy, yes, but they still have that oldtime flavor to them.


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Subject: RE: Tying a Knot in the Devil's Tail / Sierry Pete
From: katlaughing
Date: 20 Feb 04 - 12:58 PM

Anyone have a copy handy of Sun and Saddle Leather by Badger Clark?

I listened to my dad's tape this morning and he says Clark wrote the poem and it was in one of his books, probably the above. Said, when it came out in a newspaper, with a tune for it, four years later, Clark's friends got after him to protect his copyright. He said it didn't matter to him, that having his poem turned into a folk song was the biggest form of flattery.

Well, right or wrong, that's the way my dad learned it. I haven't had time to transcribe the lyrics from his tape, but they are close, if not the same.

FWIW, kat


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Subject: Origin - Glory Trail (High Chin Bob) Badger Clark
From: katlaughing
Date: 27 Feb 04 - 11:17 AM

In visiting with Walking Eagle, today, she mentioned that Margaret MacArthur does a grand job of "Glory Trail" aka "High Chin Bob." I found the following about it, which explains my dad's confusion about "Tying the Knot. etc." and a Badger Clark poem being listed as "anon" when it came out as a trad. song:

T

THE STORY BEHIND THE SONG (Glory Trail/High Chin Bob)

John Lomax, a reknown folklorist and collector of Western songs, was at a ranch in New Mexico when he heard a cowboy sing, "High Chin Bob". The cowboy didn't know where the words had come from, but Lomax quickly wrote them down in his journal. Later, Lomax published the song with the notation that the author was "Unknown" and that it was indigenous verse from the open range.

When Badger Clark found out that his poem had been published, not only without his permission but also with "Unknown Author" on it, he wryly said: "Very, very true."

The introduction to the most recent edition of Sun and Saddle Leather relates Badger Clark's own version of how the song came into being: "It began when I was with an outfit of ten men driving seven hundred cattle to the shipping point after the roundup. I was acting as cook because the regular incumbent had gone to town and stayed there. One night while washing my pots and kettles, I heard the boys around the fire discussing a cow-puncher over in the mountains who, the week before, had roped a bobcat and 'drug' it to death. The boys spent some time swapping expert opinions on the incident, so it stuck in my mind, incubated and eventually hatched out as The Glory Trail.

"Nobody said anything about the poem, good or bad, as I remember, and I reckoned it had fallen rather flat.

"Several years later a friend sent me a copy of Poetry Magazine which featured High Chin Bob. I found a real native folksong which the cowboys were accustomed to carol in their long rides over the romantic wildernesses of the Southwest. What was my amazement, in examining this literary curiosity, to find that it was my Glory Trail, with slight alterations. I own that the 'folksong' version is in some points more striking and easy than my more labored original, and I believe it is better known."


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Subject: RE: Way Up In the Mogollons -- High Chin Bob
From: Amos
Date: 27 Feb 04 - 11:54 AM

This is a fine ballad, and Margaret does a fine job on it. Truth be told, though, I think it deserves the basso twang of a Johnny Cash or a Frank Warner to lend it that precious testosterone dimension. I've taken to singing it around town and folks find it kind of hard to understand, probably because they don't know what a dally is (as mentioned above) or why someone should ever want to rope a lion anyway. Or even where the Mogollons are! (east half of Arizona into northern New Mexico, roughly).

A


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Subject: RE: Tying a Knot in the Devil's Tail / Sierry Petes
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 27 Feb 04 - 05:37 PM

The Mogollon Mountains are in west central New Mexico. A good part of the area is preserved as wilderness and primitive area (as long at the bush doesn't mess it up). Mogollon and Whitewater Baldy Mts. both rise above 10,000 feet. To the northwest in New Mexico are the San Francisco Mountains, and west of those in Arizona are the Gila Mountains.
The mountain lion, wildcat and many other animals roam there.


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Subject: RE: Tying a Knot in the Devil's Tail / Sierry Petes
From: Hollowfox
Date: 28 Feb 04 - 04:30 PM

I'm at work right now so I can't look it up, but I seem to remember a cover story in Sing Out! magazine from somewhere in the 1960's. I can look it up when I get home, and send a copy to whoever might want it.


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Subject: RE: Tying a Knot in the Devil's Tail / Sierry Pete
From: open mike
Date: 13 Aug 06 - 02:10 AM

I played Amos's recording of High Chin Bob today on my radio show.
Along with some recordings from a disc that was included in a book
of cowboy ballads from the Cowboy hall of Fame...Sadde Serenaders
which includes some actaul cattle calls, not just the song by that
name...yee haw!~


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Subject: RE: Tying a Knot in the Devil's Tail / Sierry Petes
From: GUEST,Mike Miller
Date: 13 Aug 06 - 03:54 PM

This is exactly the kind of thread that makes Mudcat so valuable. I have been singing "Tying a Knot" since I heard Cisco Houston back in the late 50's. One audience member was so taken with the song that he did the research and came up with many of the facts that have appeared on this thread, except he said that the Sierra Petes were, actually, the Sierra Pedro Mountains, Pedro being Spanish for Peter.
Nevertheless, I am grateful for the interest and scholarship that I have seen in these postings. Those of us, who are interested in traditional forms and rituals, are awash in a sea of anti-trads who seem to believe that folkmusic was invented by Dylan, Paxton and Ochs. (One would think that they might, at least, include LaFarge).
I don't include this song among traditional lore but I honor songs that honor their tradition and the writers who compose them with respect and care. Gardner's work is as worthy as Cyril Tawney's, Ewen MacColl's, Jimmy Driftwood's and whoever it was who wrote the Robin Hood ballads. Hooray for him and hooray for you all.

                   Mike Miller


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Subject: RE: Tying a Knot in the Devil's Tail / Sierry Petes
From: katlaughing
Date: 22 Nov 08 - 08:24 PM

I'm refreshing for this for some nice folks met today at a cowboy poetry gathering one of whom knew Gail or knew someone who was there when he was alive to tell the tale of how he got this song. I didn't get everyones' names, but I did mention Mudcat to the emcee and hope he'll come take a look.


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Subject: RE: Tying a Knot in the Devil's Tail / Sierry Petes
From: GUEST,George Snively
Date: 25 Dec 11 - 03:42 PM

The Beefeaters Restaurant in Phoenix had a 4'x3' oil painting of it.   Does anyone know what happened to it?
It restaurant had a fire and it may have been lost in it.


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Subject: RE: Tying a Knot in the Devil's Tail / Sierry Petes
From: pdq
Date: 25 Dec 11 - 05:21 PM

"Powder River Jack" Lee was born in 1874, died in 1948.

His wife "Kitty" Lee was born in 1868 and died in 1955.

Clearly the nice lady in Jerome, Arizona, who is about 91 years old, is not the one who recorded in the 1930s.


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Subject: RE: Tying a Knot in the Devil's Tail / Sierry Petes
From: open mike
Date: 26 Dec 11 - 12:29 PM

here is chris ledoux doing it..http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GvQeaR4c6Yk


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Subject: RE: Tying a Knot in the Devil's Tail / Sierry Petes
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 26 Dec 11 - 02:50 PM

Katie Lee's award winning documentary, on DVD, The Last Wagon, with the song sung by Gail Gardner, is still available from her for US $30.
http://www.katydoodit.com/pages/Katies_Store_NEW.shtml#TheLastWagon



I don't know what pdq's post ('Nice Lady') is in aid of, surely no one interested in western song would confuse Kitty Lee with Katie Lee.


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Subject: RE: Tying a Knot in the Devil's Tail / Sierry Petes
From: Rex
Date: 27 Dec 11 - 01:12 PM

Thank'ee Q for reminding folks Katie's film is again available from her web site. That film alone saved Gail Gardner and Billy Simon for us. And the songs Sierry Petes and Border Affair. We get them from the horse's mouth as it were and I think, settles any discussions about origins, melodies or words.

Rex


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Subject: RE: Tying a Knot in the Devil's Tail / Sierry Petes
From: GUEST,Songbob
Date: 27 Dec 11 - 02:16 PM

I learned the song from Tom Paxton's recording of it, where the names are "Sandy Sam" and "Rusty Jiggs," but most of the rest the same. When we formed "Sidekicks" to do "frontier and western" songs ("frontier" because we include Aussie material), I thought about the song and decided it needed a chorus (since the original tune -- and I never thought about it, bit it is a bit "Polly-Wolly-Doodle-ish" -- is boring once you stretch it over the multitude of verses involved).

Here's what I came up with:

[IV] Devil be damned, said [I] Sandy Sam,
[IV] Devil be damned, i [i] say!
[IV] Devil be damned, said [I] Sandy Sam,
Them [V] boys got drunk that [I] Day.

The chord changes are indicated in [brackets]
I = tonic
IV = sub-dominant
V = dominant

It almost sings itself. I have heard someone from somewhere west of here (which is most of the US) sing it complete with my chorus, but I don't know how they got it. We never issued it on a recording, I think. Bruch Phillips, who used to do the poem as a poem, because he didn't much like the song as written, said of my addition, "It makes the song!" Which is high praise for something I came up with on a long drive with Pete Kraemer, back in the early '90s.

I also sing "Border Affair" with its original words, despite their Political Incorrectitude.

Bob


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Subject: RE: Tying a Knot in the Devil's Tail / Sierry Petes
From: Amos
Date: 24 Nov 15 - 05:46 PM

Steve Cormier recorded Tying Knots in the Devil's Tale (and other beauts) on his LP "Zebra Dun" (Makesense Records, 1985) and cleaves mostly to the genuine lyrics. Thanks, Mudcat, for including the full text of that beautiful discussion with Gail Gardner and his wife. What a gem. Having nicked High Chin Bob from the beautiful singing of the lamented Margaret MacArthur, I intend to nick the Sierry Petes from Steve. The man is a wrangling genius.

A


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Subject: RE: Tying a Knot in the Devil's Tail / Sierry Petes
From: Amos
Date: 11 Jan 16 - 02:21 PM

Here's an interesting discussion on the subject of alteration in cowboy poetry touching on the fate of Ile Gardner's original lines.

I have added this umber to my happy repertory of cowboyana. :D


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