When the Work's All Done This Fall
Western Music
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Western Song: When The Work’s All Done This Fall

When the Work’s All Done this Fall is a classic American cowboy song. The members of the Western Writers of America included the song in the top 100 Western songs of all time.

Like many others, the poem was intended to be sung as lyrics to the tunes of other famous songs.

About The Song

The song was originally published in the Miles City Stock-Growers Journal in 1893 as a poem called After the Roundup written by an American composer of cowboy songs and cowboy poetry D. J. O’Malley. The lyrics and a melody were first obtained from tradition and published by John Lomax, an American teacher, a pioneering musicologist, and a folklorist in 1910 in Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads.

An American country musician Carl T. Sprague recorded the song in 1925. At a time when 5,000 was typical for a successful recording, Sprague’s recorded version sold over 900,000 copies. More recently, it has been recorded by different artists and many variations of the words appear in the various songs.

The song is about a cowboy who tells about his plans to finally go home and see his mom when work is all done this fall. Soon after, the cattle stampedes. Even though the cowboy controlled the herd, he was seriously injured in the process. He couldn’t see his mother; he sends tokens home.

Popular Recordings of When The Work’s All Done This Fall

Some of the notable cover versions of the song were recorded by the following artists:

  • Carl T. Sprague
  • George Reneau
  • Ernest V. Stoneman
  • Jules Allen, The Singing Cowboy
  • Bradley Kincaid
  • Yodeling Slim Clark
  • Elton Britt
  • Peter La Farge
  • Michael Martin Murphey
  • Marty Robbins
  • Kyle Evans
  • Cowboy Celtic
  • Stampede
  • Harry Jackson
  • Ed McCurdy
  • The Sons of the Pioneers
  • Red Steagall
  • Don Edwards
  • The Deseret String Band
  • Wayne Erbsen
  • Bill Clifton
  • Syd Masters
  • Tom Roush

Listen (Michael Martin Murphey Version)

When the Work’s All Done This Fall Lyrics

A group of jolly cowboys, discussing plans at ease
Says one, I'll tell you something, boys, if you will listen, please
I am an old cow-puncher, you see me dressed in rags
I used to be a good one boys, and went on great big jags

I have got a home boys, a good one you all know
Although I haven't seen it since very long ago
I'm headed back to Dixie once more to see them all
I'm going to see my mother when the work's all done this fall

When I left my home, boys, my mother for me cried
She begged me not to go, boys, for me she would have died
My mother's heart is aching, breaking for me, that's all
With God's help I'll see her when the work's all done this fall"

That very night this cowboy went out to stand his guard
The night was dark and cloudy and storming very hard
The cattle, they got frightened and rushed in wild stampede
The cowboy tried to head them while riding at full speed

Riding in the darkness, so loudly he did shout
Trying hard to head them and turn the herd about
His saddle horse did stumble and on him it did fall
He'll not see his mother when the work's all done this fall

"Send my mother my wages, boys, the wages I have earned
I am so afraid, boys, the last steer I have turned
I'm headed for a new range, I hear my Master call
I'll not see my mother when the work's all done this fall

Fred, you take my saddle, George, you take my bed
Bill, you take my pistol after I am dead
Then think of me kindly when you look upon them all
I'll not see my mother when the work's all done this fall"

Charlie was buried at sunrise, no tombstone for his head
Nothing but a little board, and this is what it said
"Charlie died at daybreak, he died from a fall
He'll not see his mother when the work's all done this fall"

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