recordings and subsequent transcriptions of a large number of folk
songs which illustrate the different types found within New Mexico.
Aurelio Espinosa's great contribution to research in this field has been
With co-operation from some Latin-American organizations and
through the public schools both children and adults are now given an
opportunity to learn these songs and sing them under musical direction.
Frequently a small amount of folk dancing accompanies the singing.
Also, to those who want it, instruction is given in playing stringed
instruments which comprise the native tipica orchestra.
"All lonely people sing," says Margaret Larkin in Singing Cowboy,
"and much of the cowboy's work is done in solitude. Singing relieves
the monotony of the night watch, or the day's ride on the range." To
the new frontier of the West, after the Civil War, came men and
boys from Kentucky, Illinois, Louisiana, and Ohio; with them they
brought their folk-tunes—English and Scottish ballads, Irish reels,
Negro spirituals, and sentimental songs of the day—and to these they
added words that told of their experiences in cow camp and cattle
Miss Larkin says,
There always were one or two fellows in an outfit who were said to have a
voice, and they sang the solo stanzas while the rest of the group joined in with
Whoopee ti yi yo, or the yell that took the place of the chorus. If there was any
accompaniment, it was the guitar, supplemented by fiddle and an accordion at
dances. Fiddling and singing were highly regarded accomplishments, and the
cowboy who could do either was in demand in frontier celebrations.
Some of the most popular cowboy songs sung on the New Mexican
ranges were "The Strawberry Roan," "Little Joe the Wrangler,"
"When the Work's All Done This Fall," "Jack O' Diamonds," "The
Santa Fe Trail," "By the Silvery Rio Grande," and "Ridin' Down
That Old Texas Trail." The songs are usually sentimental, dealing
with loneliness and death. Typical is the last stanza of "When the
Work's All Done This Fall":
Poor Charlie was buried at sunrise, no tombstone at his head,
Just a little slab-board, and this is what it read,
Charlie died at daybreak, he died from a fall,
And the boy won't see his mother when the work's all done this fall.
To the tune of "The Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane," Jack Thorpe,
one of the venerable old-timers on New Mexico ranges, wrote "Little
Joe, the Wrangler."