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Lyr Req: Whose Old Cow (N. Howard Thorp)

08 Aug 03 - 11:09 AM (#998972)
Subject: 19th century black cowboy rap
From: katlaughing

Came across this in The Adventures of the Negro Cowboys by Philip Durham and Everett L. Jones, 1963. According to the authors, this book is "patterened after" their "more scholarly book The Negro Cowboys. They don't list the name of this song, nor its author, just this snippet. Maybe the first instance of black rap?*bg* Anyway, I wanted to share it with you all:

...a Negro cowboy named Add, was a range boss of the LFD outfit....According to Howard Thorp, himself a cowboy, songwriter, and ballad collector, Add was one of the best cowhands on the Pecos River.

Experience as range boss made Add an expert. He became famous among the cattlemen of the Southwest and eventually became the subject of a cowboy song. According to Howard Thorp, the song "concerns a critter found in one roundup and claimed by no one. Add was a dictionary on earmarks and brands, but this was a puzzler even to him. He read the tally of the brands:

She's got O Block an' Lightnin' Rod,
Nine Forty-Six an' A Bar Eleven,
Rafter Cross an'de double prod,
Terrapin an' Ninety-Seven;
Half Circle A an' Diamond D,
Four-Cross L an' Three PZ;
Bar N Cross an' ALC.

Since none of the punchers claimed the critter, Old Add just added his own brand --`For one more brand or less won't do no harm.'

Another kind of funny story about Add. He was pretty popular and well respected. When he and his bride tied the knot, apparently "prompted by their practical wives" several ranchers wound up sending the same type of gift. Add and his bride rode up to the Roswell freight depot only "to find nineteen cookstoves waiting for them!"

08 Aug 03 - 11:38 AM (#998978)
Subject: RE: 19th century black cowboy rap
From: GUEST,MMario

Roswell? probably got run through someone's duplicator by mistake - or the button stuck!

The song above reminds me of the hunting songs from England where they list all the hounds by name...

08 Aug 03 - 01:37 PM (#999027)
Subject: RE: 19th century black cowboy rap
From: GUEST,Lighter

N. Howard Thorp may have written this poem, which doesn't seem to have had a tune. He included it in his booklet "Songs of the Cowboys" in 1908.

08 Aug 03 - 01:42 PM (#999030)
Subject: RE: 19th century black cowboy rap
From: katlaughing

Thank you, Lighter.

08 Aug 03 - 02:08 PM (#999040)
Subject: RE: 19th century black cowboy rap

Roswell Freight Depot- Railroad Ave, and, I believe, 7th St.

Another interesting book is C. A. Thomson, 1979, Blacks in Deep Snow, J. M. Dent and Sons. Canadian stories.

John Ware, ex-slave, a black cowboy and rancher in Alberta, described one experience in the Macleod Gazette of June 23, 1885, when his horse dumped him, wearing slicker and chaps, in the river:
"Would you believe it, but I'll be dog-garned if those fellers didn't stand on the shore and laugh at me, an' me just drownin' all the time. When I struck bottom an' got out on the bank I looked as if I'd been drowned about two months an' was just resurrected. Them fellers they just stood an' laughed an' one of 'em says: "Git wet, John?" ... Them fellers must have knowed I was wet, slicker an' all, 'cause I looked like a drowned rat." (Not reaction to a black, cowboys would'nt help unless he had been in real trouble- unnecessary help would be resented).
His brand was 9999.

08 Aug 03 - 05:04 PM (#999113)
Subject: RE: 19th century black cowboy rap
From: Bert

Was there any indication of a melody or was it just a chant?

08 Aug 03 - 05:05 PM (#999115)
Subject: RE: 19th century black cowboy rap
From: Rapparee

Addison Jones.

Since about a third of the cowboys were Black, and another third were Hispanic or American Indian, we have Hollywoood to thank for the lily-white image. Check out Wallace McRae's poem "Old Proc."

08 Aug 03 - 06:39 PM (#999154)
Subject: RE: 19th century black cowboy rap

I very much doubt the percentage of cowboys who were black, but they were there. They often had cooking or support tasks, but were not accepted by many ranchers or cowboys. Some were taken on by the immigrant Scots English, Irish, and Europeans who settled the northern ranges- Wyoming north into Canada.

The percentage of Hispanics is hard to estimate, but they were numerous in Hawai'i as well as the southwest.

Indians were not accepted until late (the Navajos had an est. 12000 head in the 1830s-1840s and perhaps 50,000 sheep, but these did not enter the market, and were lost when Carleton-Carson et al. rounded the Navajos up in the 1860s), but it must be remembered that the majority of Hispanics from Mexico were mestizos, i. e., mixed white and Indian, and that cattle from Mexico were driven to the northern ranges to feed the rounded-up Indians and fast-growing northern ranches.
Most Texas ranchers used "Anglo" cowboys on drives to the railheads; some of the New Mexico cattlemen were Spanish and of course used local people. People forget that part of Louisiana was suitable for cattle- how many Cajuns?

I dunno how percentage figures can be determined. The figures would also vary through time. I agree, however, that the All white, mostly blond Hollywood image is unbalanced. Also too few Irish, Yorkshire, German, etc. etc. accents in the films- many young immigrants tried their hand in the west.

08 Aug 03 - 07:22 PM (#999178)
Subject: RE: 19th century black cowboy rap
From: katlaughing

Q, this book doesn't give percentages, but they also say that there were a number throughout the Southwest and on up into Colorado and Wyoming. They also talk about how much acceptance there was for them among cowboys, in particular Texas.

At one point in the book, to my surprise judging by today's discrimination in Wyoming, they point out that the finest hotel in Cheyenne was "owned and oeprated by a B.M. Ford, a Negro." And that it was the center of social life in the early days there. "There seems to have been comparitively little anti-Negro prejudice in Wyoming. Cheyenne's first school, for instance, was built at the same time as the Ford House and dedicated on January 5, 1868. The best citizens gathered there for the dedication, crowding together while the thermometer dropped to twenty-three degrees below zero. They were proud of having established a school that would be open to all rich or poor, black or white. Ten years later Cheyenne continued to show the same disregard for most racial and religious differences: The Catholics held fairs and festivals to raise money for church work. The Ladies Sewing Society of the Congregational Church sewed for the needy. Jewish residents celebrated Yom Kippur with much ceremony. Colored voters organized a political club and nominated one of their members, W. J. Hardin, a popular barber, to the territorial legislature. Hardin was elected and served with credit."

They say a lot more, esp. about the Texas area. And they do point out that a lot of the black cowboys who rode trail were relegated to the harder, dirtier tasks. They also point out that most were former slaves.

Great postings, ya'll. Thanks!

08 Aug 03 - 08:19 PM (#999205)
Subject: RE: 19th century black cowboy rap
From: Rapparee

The figure of one-third is, in some books, inclusive of Blacks and Mexicans, in others Blacks alone. It would be possible, I suspect, to work out some percentages by going over the census records. In the meantime, I am glad that ALL of the cowboys are finally getting the recognition due them.

08 Aug 03 - 08:53 PM (#999216)
Subject: Lyr Add: WHOSE OLD COW (N. Howard Thorp)

(Whose Old Cow?)

Twas the end of roundup, the last day of June
Or maybe July I dont just remember
Or it might have been August 'twas some time ago
Or perhaps was the first of September.

Anyhow 'twas the roundup we had at Mayou
On the lightning rod's range near Cayo
There was some twenty wagons "more or less" camped about
On the temporal in the Cañon.

First night we'd no cattle so we only stood guard
On the horses somewhere 'bout two hundred head
So we side-lined and hoppled we belled and we staked
Loose'd our hot rolls and fell into bed.

Next morning 'bout daybreak we started our work
Our horses like possums felt fine
Each "one 'tendin' knitten!" none trying to shirk
So the roundup got on in good time.

Well we worked for a week 'till the country was clear
An' the boss said "now boys we'll stay here
We'll carve and we'll trim 'em an' start out a herd
Up the east trail from old Abilene.

Next morning' all on herd an' but two with the cut
An' the boss on Piute carving fine
'Till he rode down his horse and had to pull out
An' a new man went in to clean up.

Well after each outfit had worked on the band
There was only three head of them left
When Nig Add from L F D outfit road in
A dictionary on earmarks an' brands.

He cut the two head out told where they belonged
But when the last cow stood there alone
Add's eyes bulged so he did'nt 'no just what to say
'Ceptin' boss der's sumpin' here monstrous wrong.

White folks smarter'n Add an' maybe I'se wrong
But here's six months wages dat I'll give
If anyone'll tell me when I reads de mark
To who dis long horned cow belongs.

Overslope in right ear an' de underbill
Left ear swallerfork an de undercrop
Hole punched in centre an' de jinglebob
Under half crop an' de slash an' split.

She's got O block an' lightnin' rod
Nine forty-six an' A bar eleven
T terrapin an' ninety-seven
Rafter cross an' de double prod.
Half circle A an' diamond D
Four cross L an' three P Z
B W I bar X V V
Bar N cross an' A L C

So if no 'o you punchers claims dis cow
Mr Stock 'Sociation needn't get alarmed
For one brand more or less wont do no harm
So old Nigger Add'l just brand her now.

From "Songs of the Cowboys," N. Howard Thorp, 1908, pp. 42-44, News Print Shop, Estancia, New Mexico, facsimile copy.
No comment or author cited, possibly by Thorp. Not check-marked as "his" in the copy used by the Fifes. Punctuation left as in the original, "improved" by the Fifes and in Lomax 1938.
Couldn't find in DT or Forum, but may be there.

09 Aug 03 - 12:48 AM (#999272)
Subject: RE: 19th century black cowboy rap
From: katlaughing

Wow!! Thanks, Q!!!

12 Aug 03 - 02:29 PM (#1000979)
Subject: RE: 19th century black cowboy rap
From: GUEST,Lighter

None of the lyrics in Thorp's "Songs of the Cowboys" comes with a tune.

12 Aug 03 - 02:35 PM (#1000985)
Subject: RE: 19th century black cowboy rap
From: GUEST,MMario

do any have tune direction even if no tune published with them?

12 Aug 03 - 02:46 PM (#1000990)
Subject: RE: 19th century black cowboy rap
From: GUEST,Lighter

M. Mario: Nope. Thorp hadn't much interest in tunes. I believe he expressed his opinion in the 1921 edition that cowboys generally couldn't carry a recognizable tune anyway.

12 Aug 03 - 05:03 PM (#1001037)
Subject: RE: 19th century black cowboy rap

Guy Logsdon, in "The Whorehouse Bells Were Ringing," credited Thorp with "Whose Old Cow." These notes from that book expand on the comments by Guest, Lighter.
Thorp moved to New Mexico in 1886 from his brother's ranch in Nebraska and bought horses to be sent to the east and trained as polo ponies, learning cowboying at the same time. He became a singing cowboy who carried his banjo-mandolin with him as he rode from cow camp to cow camp.
His collecting story and others were published posthumously in "Pardner of the Wind." His story, "Banjo in the Cow Camps," was previously published in the August 1940 Atlantic Monthly. He recalled: "In the nineties, with the exception of about a dozen, cowboy songs were not generally known. The only ones I could find I gathered, a verse here and a verse there, on horseback trips that lasted months and took me hundreds of miles through half a dozen cow-country states..." He started collecting in 1889 as the trail driving years were coming to a close. He jotted the words in a notebook. One of the first he collected was "Sam Bass" (supposedly written by John Denton, Gainesville, Texas, in 1879).

Thorpe also mentioned that he dry-cleaned the songs to remove unprintable words; the range version of the "Top Hand" (Waddie Cow boys," "The Top Screw") was a "scorcher." Unfortunately, these early versions have been lost.

Thorp emphasized that cowboys seldom knew what tune they were using for a song, and that the songs were sung solo, never by a group. He says songs were not sung during night herding, "I have stood my share of night watches in fifty years and I never heard any singing of that kind."

12 Aug 03 - 06:03 PM (#1001060)
Subject: RE: 19th century black cowboy rap
From: Mark Clark

I have a copy of Durham and Jones' The Negro Cowboys—the “more scholarly” work Kat refers to in her first post. Odly, it's copyright date is 1965. It contains the same section on Add who is consistantly referred to as “Nigger Add” throughout the section. All of the content on this story and character seems to be quoted verbatim from Nathan Howard Thorp, Pardner of the Wind (Caldwell, Idaho, 1945). This is consistent with GUEST,Q's addition of Who's Old Cow.

Durham and Jones, in their epilogue titled The West as Fiction, offer the following.
The trails end where fiction begins. As the records show, Negroes helped to open and hold the West. They explored the plains and mountains, fought Indians, dug gold and silver, and trapped wild horses and wolves. Some were outlaws and some were law officers. Thousands rode in the cavalry, and thousands more were cowboys. And for a while, at least, some performed in rodeos and others rode on many of the country's major race tracks.

Yet Negroes rarely appear in Western fiction. They are not, for example, in the dime novels. Approximately two thirds of the 3,158 dime novels published by Beadle and Adams between 1860 and 1898 are laid in the trans-Mississippi West, where they deal with frontiersmen, desperadoes, miners and assorted Texas heroes and badmen.1 Negroes appear only insignificantly in their plots—action-packed stories far more concerned with bloodthirsty Indians, virtuous maidens, ferocious robbers and leering Boucicault villians than with cowhands and six guns. The dime novels were the predecessors, but not the progenitors, of the true Western story.

Today's Western story began in 1902 with the publication of Owen Wister's The Virginian, long after the great trail drives, years after barbed wire, railroads and improved cattle breeding methods had changed the West.
I don't think Durham and Jones offered any estimate of the percentage of cowboys and western characters who were black though other more scholarly historians may have done so.

      - Mark

12 Aug 03 - 06:46 PM (#1001073)
Subject: RE: 19th century black cowboy rap
From: katlaughing

Outstanding, thanks, fellahs!

12 Aug 03 - 08:34 PM (#1001125)
Subject: RE: 19th century black cowboy rap

Robert Coburn started ranching in Montana in the 1870s. He started the Circle C Ranch in the 1880s, and a grandson, Walt Coburn, tells the story of the Ranch in "Pioneer Cattlemen in Montana, the Story of the Circle C Ranch." Some idea of the nationalities of the cowhands can be surmised from the lists and comments in the book. This may be the only (certainly one of the few) book by a rancher that discusses the cowhands.
The names are predominantly Irish, English and Scots. There were a couple of Swedes. Over 70 cowhands are listed by name. Notable are a few Indian names, and mention of the use of the half-breed sons of the squaw men and their wives, employed in all phases of ranch work. A few were valued long-term cowhands. Roy and Abe Long Knife, Assiniboian, are especially mentioned, also Jesse Iron Hand from the Fort Belknap reservation. No Blacks are mentioned.
Unusual for many cattle ranching operations was a large pool of sheep, with a Mexican, Frank Nuñez, in charge (using "Scotch collie" dogs as well as horses)- (border collies?). Several Indians and half-breeds assisted with the sheep.

(Difficult to get data. It proved easier when I was looking into the Hawai'ians employed by the Hudsons Bay Company in Canada, and acting as voyageurs on the long boat treks. Some employment records were kept by the Hawai'ian Government and the Bay).

12 Aug 03 - 08:50 PM (#1001134)
Subject: RE: 19th century black cowboy rap
From: Art Thieme

Thorp's PARDNER OF THE WIND is where I got the base story for my extrapolated tall tale I called The Great Tutle Drive. Amazingly, I found the book WITHDRAWN from a public library.

Art Thieme

12 Aug 03 - 09:13 PM (#1001135)
Subject: RE: 19th century black cowboy rap
From: Barry Finn

Hi Kat, you might want to check out a Lomax recording. It's part of his Deep River of Song collection called Black Texan on Rounder. The percentages that I recall but can't think of was around 25%, it wouldn't surprise me if it was higher. It sems to be the same as the
black sailors.


12 Aug 03 - 11:11 PM (#1001164)
Subject: RE: 19th century black cowboy rap
From: katlaughing

Thanks, Barry, I will do that.

I would think the names of the cowboys wouldn't be much of an indication of whether they were black or not since most slaves went by their masters' names, right? Unless of course there is an obvious as in Add's name.

Art, I was going to tell you that I read that version of the Great Turtle Drive in the Negro Cowboys book I mentioned in my first posting!


13 Aug 03 - 12:44 AM (#1001188)
Subject: RE: 19th century black cowboy rap

Alberta and Saskatchewan are the two provinces that were the last to grow in population in Canada; the growth came after 1900 with the settlement of the West. Blacks in the Canadian prairies in the 19th century were few and far between; John Ware, the cowboy turned rancher an exception, along with a whiskey trader, some railroad employees, and the rare freight handler.
In the period 1907-1911, groups of Blacks from Oklahoma, in part sponsored by a White-owned colonization company that suggested Alberta as a home for the colored race. During that period, some 1100 Blacks came to the region from Oklahoma. Most entered farming, clearing land for that purpose. The best known colony established at Amber Valley, Alberta. A few cattle were raised, but ranching was not attempted on any real scale. In order to hold their farms, the Blacks took a variety of jobs- logging, railroading, unskilled labor and undoubtedly working on the ranches.
In 1911, the Canadian border was effectively closed to Blacks by a variety of means, and it was some time before it was possible for Blacks to come to Canada from the States. By that time, emmigration changed to the cities, and the prairie towns rarely received Blacks. In the 1920s, times were hard. Even the Ku Klux Klan reared its head, and large meetings were held in major centers (8000 attended the organizational meeting in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, and I have a photo of a similar large meeting in Calgary, Alberta. Of course the Klan, by that time, was anti-Jew-Catholic-Oriental-Slavic-etc.

In the period that the Blacks came from Oklahoma, 1901-1912, 609,000 immigrants came to Alberta-Saskatchewan. Except for the 1100 Blacks, all were white, thus fewer than one in 600 were Black.

Amber Valley is one of the few areas that still has Black descendants living there; they are completely accepted by their White neighbors. Many of the third generation of the Black farmers from Oklahoma moved into the cities and the identity of the little colonies was lost.
The remaining homestead areas in Alberta were taken up in large part by Ukrainian and Polish immigrants (first came in the 1890s but the largest group after WW1).

Blacks never really found a home as cowboys in the Canadian prairies; the ranching roundups of the last eighty years are composed of white ranchers and their white hands. Ware died in 1905; there were no replacements.

13 Aug 03 - 11:24 AM (#1001276)
Subject: RE: 19th century black cowboy rap
From: katlaughing

Maybe some of you could shed some light on this other thread which I started as a result of reading that book, too: Shores family - early musicians in Nebraska According to the author, they were a black family who became well known as musicians.


18 Aug 03 - 03:27 PM (#1004176)
Subject: RE: 19th century black cowboy rap

More wandering from the subject, but an interesting article on the King Ranch in the NY Times.
Hispanics working on the Ranch and in its other businesses are called "Kineños" ("King's men"). King had recruited vaqueros and their families from Mexico 150 years ago, and some remain as 5th generation workers.
An extract:
"The patrón system that allowed Richard King and the Klebergs to rule the ranch in an almost cradle-to-grave fashion is slowly being replaced by contemporary mamagement practices. Gone, for instance, are the days when ranch employees were each given 60 pounds of beef and 10 gallons of milk per month as part of their salary.
"Salaries remain relatively low, with cowboys earning as little as $20000 a year, but nearly all the ranch's employees have health insurance and are enrolled in retirement plans. About 300 families continue to live on the ranch and receive free housing, though some employees prefer to live in Kingsville.
"A few college-educated kineños have also risen to management positions, overseeing areas like human resources and financial audits. "That is different from the days a century ago when Hispanics were not allowed to become foremen in charge of cowboys and other employees" (this held true of most Texas ranches- foremen were always white; white cowboys in Texas would not take direction from Hispanics).

The 825,000 acre ranch is just a part of current holdings. Holdings in Florida include Consolidated Citrus, making the KIng Ranch the nation's top citrus producer. Sugar cane and cotton are grown commercially on the ranch. Race horse breeding and petroleum production also contribute. The privately held company is run currently by a Harvard M. B. A., not a member of the Kleberg clan.

18 Aug 03 - 06:08 PM (#1004238)
Subject: RE: 19th century black cowboy rap
From: open mike

which reminds me of the NPR story from saturday:
Remembering Rodeo Star Alonzo Pettie


Date: 08-16-03

NPR's Linda Wertheimer talks with Lu Vason of the Bill Pickett Rodeo about black rodeo star Alonzo Pettie, who died earlier this month. (more)
on weekend edition: here: