Backwoods to Border Page: 1
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A BUFFALO HUNTER AND HIS SONG
By J. FRANK DOBIE
One of the outstanding folk songs of America is "The
Buffalo Skinners." John A. Lomax, who had procured it
from a stove-up cowpuncher named J. E. McCauley
farming near Seymour, Texas, published it, in 1910, in
his Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads. The re-
vised and enlarged edition of that book (1938) contains
a note citing what "seem to be forerunners" of the song,
Not a great while after he first published it, Lomax
taught the words and the tune to his friend Carl Sand-
burg, and Sandburg in his haunting voice sang it all
over America. Including it in his collection, The Amer-
ican Songbag (1927), he calls it a "magnificent find, . . .
the framework of a big, sweeping novel of real life con-
densed into a few stanzas, . . . its blunt, direct, odorous,
plain and made-to-hand words having the sound to some
American ears that the Greek language of Homer had
for the Greeks of that time."
It is a buffalo skinner's reminiscent tale of how he
hired out to a man by the name of Crego to spend one
summer "pleasantly" on the range of the buffalo; how,
after getting out on the range, the hunters found the
water as salty as hell-fire, "iron wedge bread" for food,
fleas and graybacks in their beds, Indians lying in wait
to pick them off, the work of skinning the stinking dead
buffalos anything but pleasant; and how then, the hunt
being over and time having come for a settlement, old
Crego declared his hands had been "extravagant" and
were in debt to him.
We coaxed him and we begged him and still it was no go-
We left old Crego's bones to bleach on the range of the
Here’s what’s next.
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Dobie, J. Frank (James Frank), 1888-1964. Backwoods to Border, book, 1943; Dallas, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc38306/m1/15/: accessed July 27, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Press.