Cowboys and pioneers spent a lot of slow moving time on the range and on the many trails westward. To pass the time, numerous songs and ballads were made up and sung along the way. Read the following:

For this Enrichment Activity, you will write an original cowboy ballad (lyrics only-unless you want to spice things up with some music or your voice) based on your favorite food. Yes, I said FOOD. Minimum Length: 2 verses and a chorus. Attached are examples of some Cowboy Ballads.


Sung by Sloan Matthews of Alpine, Texas, at Pecos, Texas, 1942. Recorded by John A. Lomax. During or immediately after the Civil War.

The Ballad of “The Texas Rangers” first made its appearance, presumably written by a fifteen year-old soldier of the Arizona Brigade. It was published in F. D. Allan’s Lone Star Ballads (Galveston, 1874, p. 38). The following stanza from that Ballad is clearly related to the second stanza as sung by Mr. Matthews:

In 1874 the Texas Rangers turned their attention to hostile Indians, and the present variant of the song first appeared at that time. Mr. Matthews’s version is a brief three stanzas, but, nevertheless, succinctly gives the basic story.

Come all you Texas Rangers, wherever you may be,

I’ll tell you of some trouble that happened unto me;

At the age of seventeen, I joined the jolly band,

We marched from San Antonio unto the Rio Grande.

Our captain he informed us, perhaps he thought it right,

Before you reach your station, my boys, you’ll have to fight;

I saw those Indians coming, I heard the savage yell,

I thought to my sorrow, this is my time to die.

We fought them bravely all day long,

and when the battle was o’er,

Such a like of dead and wounded I’d never seen before ;

[I thought] of my oId mother, in Texas she did say,

“You know that they are strangers, you’d better keep away.”

I thought she was old and childish, the best she did not know,

My mind was bent on ranging, and I was bound to go.

L: “How o ld are you, Mr. Matthews?”

M: “Sixty-two.” L : “Sixty-two. How long’ve you been in the West?”

M: “Sixty-two years. Bad luck to be born anywhere only in Texas. Not bad luck, but misfortune. Some have to be born somewhere


Oh, I am a Texas cowboy,

Far away from home,

If ever I get back to Texas

I never more will roam.

Montana is too cold for me

And the winters are too long;

Before the round-ups do begin

Our money is all gone.

Take this old hen-skin bedding,

Too thin to keep me warm,—

I nearly freeze to death, my boys.

Whenever there’s a storm.

And take this old “tarpoleon,”

Too thin to shield my frame,—

I got it down in Nebraska

A-dealin’ a Monte game.

Now to win these fancy leggins

I’ll have enough to do;

They cost me twenty dollars

The day that they were new.

I have an outfit on the Mussel Shell,

But that I’ll never see,

Unless I get sent to represent

The Circle or D.T.

I’ve worked down in Nebraska

Where the grass grows ten feet high,

And the cattle are such rustlers

That they seldom ever die;

I’ve worked up in the sand hills

And down upon the Platte,

Where the cowboys are good fellows

And the cattle always fat;

I’ve traveled lots of country,—

Nebraska’s hills of sand,

Down through the Indian Nation,

And up the Rio Grande;—

But the Bad Lands of Montana

Are the worst I ever seen,

The cowboys are all tenderfeet

And the dogies are too lean.

If you want to see some bad lands,

Go over on the Dry;

You will bog down in the coulees

Where the mountains reach the sky.

A tenderfoot to lead you

Who never knows the way,

You are playing in the best of luck

If you eat more than once a day.

Your grub is bread and bacon

And coffee black as ink;

The water is so full of alkali

It is hardly fit to drink.

They will wake you in the morning

Before the break of day,

And send you on a circle

A hundred miles away.

All along the Yellowstone

‘Tis cold the year around;

You will surely get consumption

By sleeping on the ground.

Work in Montana

Is six months in the year;

When all your bills are settled

There is nothing left for beer.

Work down in Texas

Is all the year around;

You will never get consumption

By sleeping on the ground.

Come all you Texas cowboys

And warning take from me,

And do not go to Montana

To spend your money free.

But stay at home in Texas

Where work lasts the year around,

And you will never catch consumption

By sleeping on the ground.

[music and


Enrichment Activity-Cowboy Ballads

Enrichment Activity-Cowboy Ballads
This criterion is linked to a Learning OutcomeOriginality30.0 pts Ballad is original, creative, and thoughtful. Food choice is highlighted in a meaningful way. 22.0 pts Ballad is original, creative, and thoughtful. Food may not be highlighted in a meaningful way or another object may have been chosen. 14.0 pts Ballad is lacking creative thought, but may be original. Food is highlighted, but not in a meaningful way. 6.0 pts Ballad is unoriginal. Food may or may not be highlighted, but not in a meaningful way. 0.0 pts Wait..we had to write a ballad about food?30.0 pts
This criterion is linked to a Learning OutcomeLength Requirement10.0 pts Ballad was a minimum of two verses and a chorus. 5.0 pts Ballad had a minimum of 1 verse and a chorus. 3.0 pts This is the shortest Ballad in History-but I love food! 0.0 pts Wait…we had to write a ballad about food?10.0 pts
This criterion is linked to a Learning OutcomeGrammar/Punctuation10.0 pts Ballad is free of grammar and punctuation errors. 5.0 pts Ballad may have a few to moderate amount of grammar and punctuation errors. 0.0 pts Ballad has many grammar and punctuation errors.10.0 pts
Total Points: 50.0


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