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Songs of the West

Four Cords 

Little Joe the Wrangler

     I learned "Little Joe the Wrangler" one summer in the late 1930s while I was staying on the dairy ranch of one of my mother's brothers. I'm not sure but nearby was the home of a farm worker from the dust bowl region who seemed to be singing for himself whenever he had an opportunity. He was called "Happy" and all his behavior I ever saw reflected that name, he always had a smile. Although "Little Joe the Wrangler" is a sad song, I liked it very much. Happy sang it so often that I learned most of it during the summer I first heard it. Later in the mid-40s I heard a version sung by Bob Atcher that enabled me to feel comfortable by straightening out what seemed to be errors in my learning. It is one of my most favorite songs.

It's little Joe the Wrangler, he'll wrangle never more,
His days with the remuda, they are done,
T'was a year ago last April he joined the outfit here,
A little Texas stray and all alone.

    It was long late in the evening, he rode up to the herd,
    On a little, old brown pony he called Chaw,
    With his brogan shoes and overalls, a tougher looking kid,
    You never in your whole life ever saw.

His saddle was a southern kack, built many years ago,
An O.K. spur on one foot idly hung,
And his hot roll in a cotton sack was loosely tied behind,
And a canteen from his saddle horn was slung.

    He said he had to leave his home, his ma had married twice,
    And his new pa beat him every day or two,
    So he saddled up old Chaw one night and lit a shuck this way,
    Thought he'd try to paddle now his own canoe.

He said he'd do the best he could, if we'd only give him work,
But he didn't know straight up about a cow,
So the boss, he cut him out a mount and kindly put him on,
For he sort of liked that little stray somehow.

    He learned to wrangle horses, to call them all by name,
    To round them up by daylight if he could,
    To follow the chuck wagon and to always hitch the team,
    And to help the cosinero rustle wood.

We had driven to Red River and the weather had been fine,
We were camped down on the south side in a bend,
When a norther commenced a-blowin' and we doubled up the guard,
It took all hands to hold the cattle then.

    Little Joe the wrangler was called out with the rest,
    And scarcely had the kid got to the herd,
    When the cattle they stampeded like a hailstorm long they flew,
    And all of us was riding for the lead.

Between the streaks of lightning, we could see a horse ahead,
It was little Joe the wrangler in the lead,
He was riding old Blue Rocket with his slicker above his head,
Tryin' to check the leaders in their speed.

    At last we got them milling and kind of quieted down,
    And the extra guard back to the camp did go,
    But one of us was missing and we all knew at a glance,
    Was our little Texas stray, poor wrangler Joe.

Next morning just at sun up, we found where Rocket fell,
Down in a washout twenty feet below,
Beneath his horse, mashed to a pulp, his spurs had rung the knell,
Was our little Texas stray poor wrangler Joe.

    Little Joe the wrangler, he'll wrangle nevermore,
    His days with the remuda, they are o'er
    'Twas a year ago last April he joined the outfit here,
    A little Texas stray and nothing more.