Monday, February 11, 2013

Cowboy Lullabies

Anyone who’s read western novels or watched a few cowboy movies knows that cowboys often sang to the cattle they herded, whether on their home range or along the Big Trail to market. Crooning to the cattle helped calm them, especially at night when they might be spooked by a coyote’s yapping, a wolf howling at the moon, lightning, thunder, and countless other causes. I suspect singing also kept the tired night herders awake after a long day in the saddle.

Composed by cowhands riding around the herds, the songs followed the rhythm of a horse's gait and often weren’t very tuneful. Some didn’t even have words. They were called "Texas lullabies." Others had verses that have outlasted their authors..

Today, as a little Valentine gift, I’d like to share two traditional cowboy lullabies. Think of them as love songs to the cattle and the comboy’s best friend, his horse.

Herding cattle in Oklahoma, ca. 1870s - 1880s

Night Herding Song

Author unknown

Slow down little doggies, quit rovin' around
You have wandered and trampled all over the ground
Graze along doggies, feed kinda slow
Don't forever be on the go
Move slow little doggies move slow 

I've circle-herded, trail-herded, night-herded too
To keep you together is what I can't do
My horse is leg weary and I'm awful tired
And if you get away I am sure to get fired
Bunch up little doggies bunch up

Lay still little doggies since you have laid down
Stretch away out on the big open ground
Snore loud little doggies and drown the wild sounds
That will all go away when day roles around
Lay still little doggies lay still

So little doggies quit rovin' around
You have wandered and trampled all over the ground
Graze along doggies, and feed kinda slow
Don't forever be on the go
Move slow little doggies move slow

Doney Gal

Author unknown
“Doney Gal” was a pet name for a cowboy’s favorite horse; it means sweetheart.
A cowboy's life is a weary thing
Rope and brand and ride and sing
Yes, day or night in the sleet and hail
He'll stay with the dogies out on the trail.
Chorus: Rain or shine, sleet or snow Me and my Doney Gal are bound to go
Rain or shine, sleet or snow, Me and my Doney Gal are bound to go.

We're up and gone at the break of day
Driving them dogies on their lonesome way
The cowboy's work is never done
We're up and gone from sun to sun
We yell at the rain, laugh at the hail
Driving them dogies down the lonesome trail
We'll yell at the rain, sleet and snow
When we reach the little town of San Antonio
Rain or shine, sleet or snow,
Me and my Doney Gal are on the go.
We travel down that lonesome trail
Where a man and his horse seldom ever fail.
Chorus repeat
We'll ride the range from sun to sun,
For a cowboy's work is never done.
He's up and gone at the break of day
Drivin' the dogies on their weary way.
Chorus repeat
Travelin' up the lonesome trail
Where a man and his horse seldom ever fail,
Joggin' along through fog and dew,
Wishin' for sunny days, and you.
Chorus repeat
Over the prairies lean and brown,
On through the wastes where there ain't no town.
Swimmin' the rivers across our way,
We fight on forward day-end on day.
Chorus repeat
Trailin' the herd through mountains green,
We pen the cattle in Abilene.
Round the campfire's flickerin' glow
We sing the songs of long ago.
Chorus repeat

Book Excerpt:

Dashing Druid – Texas Druids trilogy, book II

The silhouette of another rider appeared against the cream-colored moon, approaching at a walk from the opposite direction. She knew it was Neil. He was the only man her father trusted out here alone with her at night. Not that she couldn’t take care of herself. She’d learned how to use a knife and a gun when she was a little mite.
“Lily, is that you, colleen?” the man called out low as they neared one another.
“You! What are you doing out here?” she blurted, sawing on her reins, causing her horse to snort. Hearing the nearby cattle stir, she lowered her voice. “Where’s MacClure?”
“In his bedroll by now, I should think.” He grinned, teeth flashing in the moonlight. “I volunteered to take part of his shift so I could have a moment alone with ye.”

“Have you been eating locoweed again? If my father finds out –”
 “I’ll risk it, since this seems to be the only way."
“You dang fool!” she hissed, struggling not to yell. “Pa meant what he said. Unless you want to end up dead, you’d best stay away from me.” She kneed her horse ahead, paying no attention when Tye called softly after her.
They circled the herd and met again, but Lil refused to speak to him. Riding on, she heard a muttered curse behind her.
The third time they met, Tye prodded his horse close before she could get past him and gripped her arm. Lil squeaked in alarm as he leaned toward her without saying a word. His other hand reached out to cup the underside of her jaw. Her hat fell back to dangle by its chin strings as his mouth claimed hers.
Any resistance she might have offered gave way beneath his insistent kiss. She wanted this as much as he did. Laying a hand on his chest, she opened her mouth to his exploring tongue. A rush of heat swept through her, drawing a smothered moan from her throat. His answering groan told her he was just as affected as she was.
Her horse suddenly squealed in protest and shied away from Tye’s mount. Torn apart from him, Lil gasped and fought for balance. She quickly settled her ornery steed, but the ruckus brought several cattle to their feet.
Breathing hard, she faced Tye, sharing the frustration on his moonlit face.
His gaze went to the restless herd. “I shouldn’t have done that,” he said, husky-voiced. “I only meant to speak to ye, but –”
“Don’t talk,” she whispered urgently. “Just start riding and sing. And don’t try that again, or we’ll have a stampede on our hands.”


Sharla Rae said...

Oh, I love these, Lyn. I didn't know they wrote the to match the horse's gait. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

Lyn Horner said...

Glad you enjoyed them, Sharla. I had fun sifting through loads of cowboy music. Some of it's modern, and I wanted songs that truly date back to the heyday of the cowboy era. From what I read, the two above are the genuine article.

Devon Matthews said...

Lyn, here you are. Been wondering where you got off to since you haven't been seen at any of the usual places lately. Hope everything is okay.

Love the excerpt and the songs!

Anonymous said...

I remember all the Westerns on TV when I was young and the song on them. Very nice post. I tweeted.

Lyn Horner said...

Hi Devon, I've been keeping a low profile because I'm pushing to finish book three in my Texas Druids series. Hope to finish it by the end of March and publish sometime in April. Good to hear from you! Thanks for stopping by.

Meg said...

LOVE IT!! great lyrics. It's nice to read them, even if we can't hear them. Thanks, Lyn!

Caroline Clemmons said...

Lyn, great post. The only cowboy lullaby I know is "Whoop-ee Ti Yi Yay, get along little dogie. We're bound for Wyoming for to make a new home..." Important information for us western writers, though. Great excerpt too. Hope your cough is better.

Unknown said...

Super post, Lyn! Wish I could hear the deep voice singing the first one especially!
Keira from

Carra Copelin said...

Loved the post, Lyn. You always have something interesting that I didn't know. Keep up the good work!

p.s. I'm looking forward to the end of March and your next installment of the Druid Series. Keep those fingers a flyin' over the keyboard. ;)

Lyn Horner said...

I'm so bad for not checking back sooner. Sorry, sorry, sorry! Life really gets in the way sometimes.

Ella, those old westerns were the beginning of dreams for a lot of us WR writers, I've discovered. Thanks for visiting!

Meg, you can hear a lot of them on youtube, although by modern voices. Still, they sound pretty good.

Oh, Caroline, I remember that one. It's so beautiful! You're right, these songs are true Americana, important for us to know. Wish I had included one in Dashing Druid. The cough is better, thanks for asking.

Hi Keira, nice to meet you. Glad you like the post. Thanks for stopping by. I'll see you over on the Hearts Through History loop.

Carra, my fingertips are sore. Kidding! I'm up early today, hoping to finish another scene. Can't wait for THE END!

Susan said...

Thank you for sharing these lyrics! I found a recording of the first one on the LOC website here: