Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Show 57 - Ponies and Heifers



These songs are all from men singing about women, specifically young women. And more specifically songs where those young women show up in metaphors about horses and cows. There’s no better place to start than with Charley Patton who recorded several songs with this type of comparison. Here’s the earliest, from 1929, Pony Blues:

Hitch up my pony, saddle up my black mare
Hitch up my pony, saddle up my black mare
I'm gonna find a rider, baby, in the world somewhere

Hello central, what’s the matter with your line?
Hello central, matter, Lord, with your line?
Come a storm last night and tore the wire down
Got a brand new Shetland, man, already trained
Brand new Shetland, baby, already trained
Just get in the saddle, tighten up on your reins
Ain’t a brownskin woman like something fit to eat?
Brownskin woman like something fit to eat
But a jet black woman, don't put your hands on me
Took my baby to meet the morning train
Took baby to meet that morning train
And the blues come down, baby, like showers of rain
I got something to tell you when I get the chance
Something to tell you when I get a chance
I don't wanna marry, just wanna be your man

Big Joe Williams borrowed some of Patton’s ideas when he recorded My Grey Pony in 1935. Interestingly, his song starts with the same pony already trained, but she gets old and gray by the end of the song.
I got me a pony Lord and she already trained
I got me a pony Lord and she already trained
When I get in my bed mama, baby tighten up on your reins

Well I got something to tell you, mama when I get a chance
Mama, I got something to tell you, mama when I get a chance
Well I don't want to marry, baby just want to be your man
I got a brownskin woman, she don't pay me no mind
I got a brownskin woman, she don't pay me no mind
And I know you going to miss me, baby when I leave this town
And I know my woman, she going to scream and cry
Lord, I know my woman, she going to scream and cry
When she gets that letter, baby Lord I pass my ? by
I got me a gray pony down in my pasture somewhere
I got me a gray pony down in my pasture somewhere
I'm going to find my woman baby in this world somewhere
Fare you well, maybe tomorrow or today
Fare you well, mama, maybe tomorrow or today
I want you to know, babe I didn't come here to stay
I ain't got nobody to talk baby talk to me
Well, I ain't got nobody, mama, to talk baby talk to me
Said my mama's getting old, Lord her hair done got grey
Lord my mama she got older now and her hair done got grey
Well well if I break her heart you know, Lord treat her this way
Fare you well, maybe tomorrow or today

Sonny Boy Nelson recorded Pony Blues in 1936

I’m gonna get my pony, put my hands all in its main
I’m gonna let my pony lead me, I’ll defend my vain(?)

When I had my money, friends for miles around
When I had my money, friends for miles around
Since I spent all of my money, none of them can be found
I was born in Texas, but I was raised out on the sandy(?) field
I was born in Texas, but I was raised out on the sandy field
And you know about that baby, can’t make no fat mouth out of me


There are probably even more songs about young cows or heifers than there are about ponies. Charley Patton recorded one of these too. Jersey Bull Blues:


If you’ve got a good bullcow, you ought to keep your bull at home
If you’ve got a good bullcow, you ought to keep your bullcow at home
There may come along a young heifer and just tow your bull from home
Oh my bull's in the pasture babe, Lord where there's no grass
Oh my bull's in the pasture babe, Lord where there's no grass
I swear every minute it seems like it's going to be my last
And my bull got a horn, long as my arm
And my bull got a horn, baby, long as my arm
And my bull got a horn long as my arm
I've an old five pound ax and I'll cut two different ways
I've an old five pound ax and I'll cut two different ways
And I cut my little women both night and day
I've an old five pound ax and I just dropped in your town
I've got an old five pound ax and I just dropped in your town
I got weight enough behind me just drive that old ax on down
And I remember one morning between midnight and day
And I remember one morning between midnight and day
I was way upstairs throwing myself away
Tommy Griffin  recorded young heifer, 1936 for the Bluebird label, singing about that young cow he wants to raise for himself without any interference from the old cows or the bulls:

I got a real young heifer, I’m gonna raise her for myself
I got a real young heifer, raising her for myself
Gonna teach her to love me, not to love nobody else

She’s a mule-headed heifer, I mean she ain’t got no home
She’s a mule-headed heifer, mean she ain’t got no home
Don’t want to catch no milkcow trying t o lead my heifer wrong
Going to build me a pasture, keep her from running around
Going to build me a pasture, keep her from running around
If she gets with a bull, he got to tear my pasture down
When I build my pasture, going to build it well
When I build my pasture, going to build it well
If a bull tears it down, people he’s going to catch some hell
Going to keep her in the pasture, keep her all alone
Going to keep her in the pasture, keep her all alone
So I won’t have so much trouble teaching my heifer right from wrong
Gonna tell all you bulls something, everyone that’s around
Gonna tell all you bulls something, everyone that’s around
If I catch you with my heifer, I’m gonna tear your playhouse down
Mose Andrews also recorded a Young Heifer Blues. He emphasized the importance of feeding her:
If you gotta young heifer, you better feed her good at home
If you gotta young heifer, you better feed her good at home
If you don’t, some bull will pull her away from home

My heifer is strong, I feed her three times a day
My heifer is strong, I feed her three times a day
I believe to my soul, some bull is going my way
If you got a young heifer, you better keep her under your command
If you got a young heifer, you better keep her under your command
If you don’t, some bull will make her understand
I swear before god, you oughta be ashamed of yourself
I swear before god, you oughta be ashamed of yourself
God, I swear, you better hold her by yourself
My heifer young, she won’t let a mule come down
My heifer young, she won’t let a mule come down
If she bares a leg, she will overflow the town

Kokomo Arnold recorded a series of blues about milk cows. Milk Cow Blues No. 4 describes some trouble with a young heifer:

I can't get my milk in the morning, I can't get my cream no more
I can't get my milk in the morning, I can't get my cream no more
And I want somebody to come here, help me get this bull from my door

Says I went out to my barn this morning, he didn't have one word to say
Says I went out to my barn this morning, he didn't have one word to say
He was laying down by my heifer's side, please on a pile of hay
Then I walked away and I hung my head and cried
Said I walked away and I hung my head and cried
Says I feel so lonesome, I ain't got my heifer by my side
Now there's nothing that I could do for that old bull has troubled me
Now there's nothing that I could do for that old bull has troubled me
When I get myself another heifer, I'm going to move back to Tennessee
Says I'm still in love with my milkcow, I just can't stand the way she do
Says I'm still in love with my milkcow, I just can't stand the way she do
I don't mind her drinking her whiskey, but please don't ballyhoo

Black Ace from Dallas, Texas sang about the sweet sounds he heard from his Lowing Heifer:

I’ve been a mighty good bullcow, oh lord, but I’ve gotta go
I’ve been a mighty good bullcow, oh lord, but I’ve gotta go
I found me a pigmeat heifer, I can tell by the way she lows

She lows all night long, you can hear it for a solid mile
She lows all night long, you can hear it for a solid mile
I can’t stand it here alone, I cry just like a child
Oh babe, your bullcow got to go
Oh babe, your bullcow got to go
I can’t stay here no longer, she calls me when she lows
Mama, I’m gone with a horn long as your right arm
Mama, I’m gone with a horn long as your right arm
And when I get to hooking, I’ll have me a brand new happy home
Goodbye, goodbye if I don’t see you no more
Goodbye, mama, if I don’t see you no more
Just remember me at night when you hear that mamlish heifer low
There are countless songs comparing men and women to animals. Most of these singers had backgrounds in the rural South. They would have grown up around ponies, heifers, and admiring at least some aspects of the life of the bull with the long horn, knowing when to keep other bulls away and seeing that the young heifer learn from the old cows. It’s only natural to sing about it. And of course, it’s funny.

Songs:
Pony Blues - Charley Patton
My Grey Pony - Big Joe Williams
Pony Blues - Sonny Boy Nelson
Jersey Bull Blues - Charley Patton
Young Heifer - Tommy Griffin
Young Heifer Blues - Mose Andrews
Milk Cow Blues No. 4 - Kokomo Arnold
Lowing Heifer - Black Ace

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