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Songs of the West

Four Cords 

Strawberry Roan

     I recall hearing "The Strawberry Roan" in the late 1930s when I was visiting and beginning to work on the dairy farm of one of my uncles. I was somewhat confused when I first heard the song, at times sung by a neighbor and at times on early morning radio, always with the same story but often with somewhat different melodies and different words including a chorus that had different words after each stanza, but always, as I recall, with the opening line being "Oh, that Strawberry Roan, Oh, that Strawberry Roan." Although I remembered pieces of what I heard in the 1930s, it wasn't until the mid-40s that I learned the melody and words that I still sing, but with a standard "Oh, that Strawberry Roan" refrain integrated as a final stanza. Eventually I discovered that many songs occur in multiple versions, with one version often becoming the most well known standard. For example, the Roy Acuff version of the "Wabash Cannonball" became the standard version rather than the Carter Family version.

Let me tell you a tale, it's a good one, I own,
Of a buckin' old bronco, a strawberry roan,
I was hangin' 'round town without even a dime,
Bein' out of a job, just spending my time.

    When a stranger steps up and he says, 'I suppose
    You're a bronc bustin' man by the looks of your clothes.'
    So I says, 'Guess you're right, there's none I cain't tame,
    If it's ridin' tough ponies, that's my middle name.'

So he offers me ten and I says, 'I'm your man,
For the broncs never lived yet that I couldn't fan,
The broncs never lived yet, nor never drawed breath,
That I couldn't ride till he starves plumb to death.'

    So he says, 'Come on, bud, I'll give you a chance.'
    In his buckboard we hops, we rides to his ranch.
    Till morning we stay, then right after chuck,
    We go out to see if that outlaw can buck.

In a corral I looks, there all alone,
Is a sleepy old nag, a strawberry roan,
Spavined old legs and small pigeon toes,
A pair of pig eyes and a long Roman nose,

    He's got little thin ears, they're split at the tips,
    In the middle he's lean but he's wide at the hips,
    I puts on my spurs, I coils up my twine,
    I says to the stranger, 'That ten spot is mine.'

I puts on the blinds, it sure was a fight,
The saddle comes next and I screws it down tight,
I jumps on his back and well I knows then,
If I ride this pony, I'll sure earn my ten.

    For he bows his old neck, he leaps from the ground,
    Twenty circles he makes before he comes down,
    He's the worst buckin' bronco I've seen on the range,
    He can turn on a nickel and give you some change.

There's no foolin' I'll say, but this outlaw can step,
But I'm still sittin' tight and I'm earning a rep,
Till my stirrups I lose and also my hat,
I starts pullin' leather as blind as a bat.

    Oh, he makes one more jump, he's headed up high,
    Leaves me settin' on air, way up in the sky,
    Guess I turns over twice 'fore I comes back to earth,
    'N I starts in to cussin' the day of his birth.

And it's, oh, that strawberry roan, oh, that strawberry roan,
They say he's an outlaw that's never been rode,
The guy that gets on him is sure to be throwed,
Throwed off that strawberry roan.