The Songs He Sang
Zebra Dun: Lyrics
As performed by Cisco Houston
We were camped on the bend at the head of the Cimmarron, When along come a stranger, and he stopped to argue some, Well, he looked so very foolish we began to look around, We thought he was a greenhorn, just escaped from town. He said he'd lost his job upon the Sante Fe, And was going cross the prairie to strike the 7D, He didn't say how come it, some trouble with the boss, And asked if he could borrow a fat, saddle horse. This tickled all the boys to death, they laughed right up their sleeves, Oh, we will lend you a fine horse, as fresh as fat as you please, Then Shorty grabbed the lariat, and he roped the Zebra Dun, And he gave him to the stranger, and waited for the fun. Now old Dunny was an outlaw, he had grown so very wild, Well he could paw the moon down, boys he could jump a mile, Old Dunny stood right still, as if he didn't know, Until he was saddle and a-ready for the go. When the stranger hit the saddle, well old Dunny quit the earth, He traveled right straight upwards for all that he was worth, A bucking and a squealing, and a having wall-eyed fits, His hind feet perpendicular, his front feet in the bits. We could see the tops of the mountains under Dunny's every jump, The stranger he was growed there, like the camel's hump, The stranger sat upon him, and he curled his black mustache, Just like a summer boarder who was waiting for his hash. Well, he thumped him in the shoulders and he spurred him when he whirled, He hollered to the punchers, "I'm the wolf of the world," And when he had dismounted once more upon the ground, We knew he was a thoroughbred and not a gent from town. Now the boss who was a standing around, a watching of the show, He walked up to the stranger, and he said he needn't go, If you can handle a lariat like you rode the Zebra Dun, You're the man that I've been looking for since the year of one. Well, there's one thing, and a sure thing, I've learned since I've been born, That every educated feller ain't a plumb greenhorn.
From The Folk Box Notes:
Another side of cowboy life is revealed here by the late Cisco Houston, longtime traveling companion of Woody Guthrie. This is a delightful ballad about a practical joke at the expense of a newcomer to the cattle country, but, as the story will reveal, the greenhorn is not to be outsmarted. Folklorists have differed about the origins of this song. John Lomax ascribed it to a Negro camp cook on the Pecos River, but Kenneth S. Goldstein believes it is of white cowboy authorship.