Western Song: I Ride an Old Paint
In 1927, Carl Sandburg collected and published the traditional American cowboy song I Ride an Old Paint in his American Songbag. Members of the Western Writers of America chose and included it in their list of the Top 100 Western songs of all time.
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History of the Song
Sandburg discovered the song by western poets Margaret Larkin and Linn Riggs while traveling to the American Southwest. He wrote that the song reached to them in Santa Fe from a cowboy who was last heard of as going for the Mexican border. He described the song as one of a man by the values of the American West.
I Ride an Old Paint is included in Aaron Copland’s ballet Rodeo, Miniatures of William Grant Still, and film score for The Plow that Broke the Plains of Virgil Thomson.
There is conflict among experts about the meanings of some terms in the song, like “snuffy”, “fiery”, “Dan”, and “hoolihan”. In Linda Ronstadt’s version, if the word is a dam as it is a mother horse. A Hoolihan is a backhand loop thrown with a lariat, usually thrown to catch horses.
Many artists have covered the song. Some of the most popular versions were recorded by:
- The Weavers
- Linda Ronstadt
- Loudon Wainwright III
- Johnny Cash
- Tex Ritter
- Burl Ives
- Roy Rogers and Dale Evans
- Rex Allen
Other Titles for I Ride an Old Paint
Variations of the same song have also been written as:
- A-Riding Old Paint
- Ridin’ Old Paint
- Ridin’ Old Paint (And Leadin’ Old Dan)
- Old Paint
Listen (Linda Ronstadt)
I Ride an Old Paint Lyrics
I ride an old paint I lead an old dam I'm going to Montana To throw a houlihan They feed in the coolies They water in the draw Their tails are all matted Their backs are all raw Ride around Ride around real slow The fiery and the snuffy are raring to go Old Bill Brown Had a daughter and a son One went to Denver And the other went wrong His wife she died in a poolroom fight And still he keeps singing from morning til night Ride around Ride around real slow Well the fiery and the snuffy are raring to go Well when I die Take my saddle from the wall Put it on my pony And lead him from his stall Tie my bones to his back Turn our faces to the west And we'll ride the prairie That we like the best Ride around Ride around real slow Well the fiery and the snuffy are raring to go Ride around Ride around real slow Well the fiery and the snuffy are raring to go