Posted by: Oklahoma Sun | February 13, 2010

The Plaint of the Tenderfoot.

The Plaint of the Tenderfoot.


Freeman Miller. Songs from the Southwest Country, 1895.

 

Down along the Cimarron where the currents twine,
There I met an immigrant in eighteen eighty-nine;
He was all alone and his heart was stone,—he had gathered bitter fruit,
And his hoarse voice rang as he sadly sang the Plaint of the Tenderfoot:

FROM Indiana it was I came, some seventeen days ago,
To find me a farm in the “Beautiful Land” that the boomers have tried to blow;
And in those few days I have lived more ways than the brutes of the jungles do;
I have seen more things than a bird with wings could flutter or fly up through;
And if ever I do get home again, though bacon and bread be slack,
I’ll be content with a bit of both, and a clean shirt to my back.

I have learned some things that are valuable; it is now quite plain to me
This opening up new lands to the world isn’t what it is said to be;
With the “sooner” before and the “sooner” behind, the honest man has no chance;
They’ll gobble his claim and blacken his name and take every cent in his pants:
And if ever I do get home again, no matter how much I lack,
I’ll be content with an empty purse, and a clean shirt to my back.

I stopped at Arkansas City, and bought me a horse and cart;
I crossed the Strip in elegant style, with a high and hopeful heart;
And “overland fish” was all my grub, and my drink was the water white
Which rose in the tracks that the cattle made, through the dews of the chilly night;
And if ever I do get home again, they may call me white or black,
But I’ll be content with an oat-straw bed, and a clean shirt to my back.

I travelled a hundred miles, I think, and I slept on the ground, I know;
I never have washed or shaved my face since fifteen days ago;
For the wild wolves howled and ran them round in the most alarming curves,
And I am not used to that sort of thing—it is wearing on my nerves!
And if ever I do get home again, I may fall into wrong and rack,
But I’ll be content with a quiet place, and a clean shirt to my back.

I ran a race for a dozen miles,—a wild and a reckless race,—
That far surpassed Dick Turpin’s ride or a London steeple-chase;
And when I stopped, not a single soul,—not a thing was there in sight,—
But a vast amount of the meanest land that ever lay out at night;
And if ever I do get home again, I’ll stay in the beaten track,
And be content with a good clean face, and a clean shirt to my back.

But in half an hour on that very claim there were six men holding it,
(I never hold out for a swine myself and I know when it’s time to quit:)
So I sold my right for a paltry five, and had given the buyer ten
To take the quarter and let me go and live in the world again;
And if ever I do get home again, no matter how small my pack,
I’ll be content with a good whole skin, and a clean shirt to my back.

I never was used to rifles much and pistols take my sand,
And the boomers that love this soil so much have one or the other at hand;
And grub’s too dear for a man out here, and if I should the State receive,
I never would stay but would up and away, as soon as I ever could leave;
And if ever I do get home again, I’ll sail on a safer tack,
And be content with the breath of life, and a clean shirt to my back.

I’ve driven that horse on water and grass some thousands of miles, I know;
I’ve shivered with cold and thirsted for drink and famished for eatables so!
But you never can see what a fool you can be till you turn yourself over and try,
And you cannot be sure what a broncho’ll endure from the pauper-born look of his eye;
And if ever I do get home again, then death to the boomer’s clack!
For I’ll be content with my hair slicked up, and a clean shirt to my back.

Here’s the horse and cart and the love of my heart to whoever will ship me home;
Should I live as long as Methuselah did, I never again will roam;
I’ll return elate to the Hoosier State,—it is far too good for me!
This opening up new lands to the world is n’t what it is said to be;
And if ever I do get home again, I’ll stay till the earth shall crack,
And be content with a six-foot-two, and a clean shirt to my back!

Down along the Cimarron, where the currents twine,
There I met an immigrant in eighteen eighty-nine;
He was all alone and his heart was stone,—he had gathered bitter fruit,
And his hoarse voice rang as he sadly sang this Plaint of the Tenderfoot!

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