Buffalo Skinners

Come all you old time cowboys and listen to my song,
Please do not grow weary, I’ll not detain you long.
Concerning some wild cowboys who did agree to go,
Spend the summer pleasant, on the trail of the Buffalo.

I found myself in Griffin, in the spring of ’83,
When a well-known famous drover came walking up to me.
Said, “How do you do, young fellow, well how’d you like to go,
And spend the summer pleasant, on the trail of the Buffalo?”

Well I being out of work right then, to the drover I did say,
“Going out on the Buffalo trail depends on the pay.
If you will pay good wages, transportation to and fro,
I think I might go with you, on the trail of the Buffalo.”

“Of course I’ll pay good wages, and transportation too,
If you will agree to work for me until the season’s through.
But if you do grow homesick, and you try to run away,
You’ll starve to death out on the trail and also lose your pay.”

Well with all his flattering talking, he signed up quite a train,
Some 10 or 12 in number, some able-bodied men.
The trip it was a pleasant one as we hit the westward road,
Until we crossed old Boggy Creek in old New Mexico.

There our pleasures ended and our troubles all began.
A lightning storm hit us and made the cattle run.
They got all full of stickers from the cactus that did grow,
And the outlaws watching to pick us off in the hills of Mexico.

Well our working season ended and the drover would not pay,
If you hadn’t drunk too much, you are all in debt to me.
But the cowboys never had heard such a thing as a bankrupt law,
So we left that drover’s bones to bleach on the trails of the Buffalo.

Words: Adapted from John B Freeman’s ‘The Buffalo Song’, New music: Andy Irvine.

“The Buffalo Skinners” (“The Hills of Mexico”) is a traditional American folk song. It tells the story of an 1873 buffalo hunt on the southern plains. According to Fannie Eckstorm, 1873 is correct, as the year that professional buffalo hunters from Dodge City first entered the northern part of the Texas panhandle. It is thought to be based on the song Canaday-I-O.

According to extensive research carried out by Jürgen Kloss in 2010-2012, this song is one of the many variants of John B Freeman’s “The Buffalo Song”.

As yet unrecorded by Andy Irvine though he has played in live on occasion. Andy is most likely to have sourced this song from Woody Guthrie’s recording.


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