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Rex Origins: The Gol-Darned Wheel (6) Lyr Add: The Gol-Darned Wheel 26 Aug 14


Q has been adding some good classic cowboy songs here. He just raised the bar with a scholarly review of The Grand Round-up and at the same time has been inviting me to throw my two cents in. Very well. I have been hunting down any scrap I could about the Gol-Darned Wheel for years. I ended up with some good versions from John Lomax - Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads (1910) (as is found in Mudcat), Jack Thorp - Songs of the Cowboys (1921), Dane Coolidge - Texas Cowboys (1937) and Charlie Siringo - The Song Companion of a Lone Star Cowboy (1919).

It is said that the song or poem was inspired by Thomas Stevens who rode his high-wheel penny farthing around the world starting in 1884. He published his adventure as Around the World on a Bicycle (1888).

This is how the song appears in Thorp's Songs of the Cowboys, 2nd edition (1921):

THE GOL-DARNED WHEEL

Mailed me by a friend from Marfa, Texas, who heard it sung by a cow-puncher named Hudspeth.

I can take the wildest bronco in the tough old woolly West;
I can ride him, I can break him, let him do his level best;
I can handle any cattle who ever wore a coat of hair,
And I've had a lively russle with a tarnal grizzly bear;
I can rope and throw the longhorn of the wildest Texas brand,
And in Indian disagreements I can play a leading hand;
But at last I got my master, and he surely made me squeal
When the boys got me a-straddle of that gol-darned wheel.

It was at the Eagle Ranch, on the Brazos,
When I first found that darned contrivance that upset me in the dust.
A tenderfoot had brought it; he was wheeling all the way
From the sunrise end of freedom out to San Francisco Bay.
He tied up at the ranch for to get outside a meal,
Never thinkin' we would monkey with his gol-darned wheel

Arizona Jim begun it when he said to Jack McGill,
There was fellows forced to limit braggin' on their ridin' skill;
And he'd venture the admission the same fellow that he meant
Was a very handy critter far as ridin' broncos went;
But he would find that he was buckin' 'gainst a different kind of deal
If he threw his leather leggins 'gainst a gol-darned wheel.

Such a slam against my talent made me hotter than a mink,
And I swore that I would ride him for amusement or for chink.
And it was nothin' but a plaything for the kids and such about,
And they'd have their ideas shattered if they'd lead the critter out.
They held it while I mounted and gave the word to go;
The shove they gave to start me warn't unreasonably slow.
But I never spilled a cuss-word and I never spilled a squeal--
I was buildin' reputation on that gol-darned wheel.

Holy Moses and the Prophets, how we split the Texas air,
And the wind it made whip-crackers of my same old canthy hair,
And sorta comprehended as down the hill we went
There was bound to be a smash-up that I could n't well prevent.
Oh, how them punchers bawled, "Stay with her, Uncle Bill!
Stick your spurs in her, you sucker! Turn her muzzle up the hill!"
But I never made an answer; I just let the cusses squeal,
I was buildin' reputation on that gol-darned wheel.

The grade was mighty slopin' from the ranch down to the creek,
And I went a-galliflutin' like a crazy lightnin' streak--
Went whizzin' and a-dartin' first this way and then that,
The darned contrivance sort o' wobbling like the flyin' of a bat.
I pulled upon the handles, but I could n't check it up,
And I yanked and sawed and hollowed but the darned thing would n't stop.
Then a sort of a thinker in my brain began to steal,
That the devil held a mortgage on that gol-darned wheel.

I've sort o' dim and hazy remembrance of the stop,
With the world a-goin' 'round and the stars all tangled up;
Then there came an intermission that lasted till I found
I was lyin' at the ranch with the boys all gathered round,
And a doctor was sewin' on the skin where it was ripped,
And old Arizona whispered, "Well, old boy, I guess you're whipped."
And I told him I was busted from sombrero down to heel,
And he grinned and said, "You ought to see that gol-darned wheel."


Here is Dane Coolidge's version from Texas Cowboys (1937)

THAT GOL DARN WHEEL
(written by Jess Fears)

I can take the wildest bronco of the wild and woolly West
I can back him, I can ride him, let him do his level best.
I can handle any creature ever wore a coat of hair
And I had a lively tussle with a tarnal grizzley bear.

I can rope and tie a longhorn of the wildest Texas brand
And in any disagreement I can play a leading hand.
But at last I met my master and I shortly had to squeal
When the boys got me astraddle of that gol darn wheel.

It was at the Eagle Rancho on the Brazos where I first ran across
The dang contrivance that upset me in the dust.
I naturally up and throwed me, it stood me on my cussed head,
And it tramped my face in lightning order, so the foreman said.

It was a tenderfoot that brought it, he was wheeling away
From the home of freedom out to San Francisco Bay.
He tied it up at the Rancho to get outside of a meal
Never thinking that us cowboys would monkey with the wheel.

There was old Arizona Jim McGinty, all the same as Jack McGill,
Who said there was a man who broke the limit a bragging on his riding skill
A puncher not a million miles away who thought himself a rider,
Well, he is tolerable gay.

And there came an intermission, this same fellow as he meant
Is a mighty handy critter a far horses went,
But he would find he was bucking agin a different sort of deal
When he pops his leather leggings across the gol darn wheel.

Such a slur upon my talent made me hotter than a mink
I told them I could ride it, for amusement or for chink.
As it was only a plaything for the boys to have in their mount
I would have their idol shattered when they trot the critter out.

The grade was kinda sloping from the Rancho to the creek
We went a galapalocking like a crazy lightnin' streak.
A whizzing and a buzzing first to this side and then to that
The contrivance kinda wobbled like the flying of a bat.

You could hear those punchers yelling: "Stay with her, Uncle Bill!
Hit her with your spurs, you sucker. Turn her muzzle up the hill!"
NO, I never paid no attention; no, I never looked around
For my eyes were kept quite busy looking for the smoothest ground.

And a kind of sneaking idea through my head began to steal
That the devil held a mortgage on the gol darn wheel.
I began to comprehend as down the hill I went
There is going to be a smash-up that I can't circumvent.

I have a dim and hazy recollection of the stop
Of the world all spinning around and the stars all tangled up.
When at last I found I was at the rancho with those cowboys gathered around
And the medico was sewing on the hide where it had ripped.

And old Arizona says, "Well, old boy, I guess you're whipped."
I told him I was busted from my sombre to my heel.
He sorta grinned and said: "that's nothing.
You oughter see the gol darn wheel."



The research doesn't end. Just this year my friend Margo Metagrano, my pard, Mark Lee Gardner and others found enough leads and posted an image of the poem with a well established author in an 1897 Denver Evening Post no less. After hunting down anything I could find on this verse then to have it spoon fed complete and by the author was exhilarating and a letdown at the same time. The search is over. Here are the original words from the horse's mouth so to speak. Enjoy, the original title is The Cowboy and the Wheel [Recreation]:

The Cowboy and the Wheel [Recreation]
(by James Barton Adams)
The Denver Evening Post: Thursday, April 29, 1897.

I kin take the toughest broncho in the wild an' wooly West,
An' kin back him an' kin ride him, let him do his level best;
I kin handle any critter ever wore a coat o' hair,
An' I've had a lively tussle with a 'tarnal grizzly bear.
I kin rope an' throw a long-horn o' the wildest Texas brand,
An' in Injun disagreements I kin play a leadin' hand;
But at last I met my master, an' I shorely had to squeal,
When the boys got me a-straddle if a Gol darned wheel.

It was at the Eagle Rancho on the Brazos whar' I fust
Run across the durn contrivance 'at upset me in the dust-
Natrally up an' throwed me, stood me on my cussed head,
"Trumped my ace in lightin' order," so old Ike, the foreman, said.
'Twas a tenderfoot 'at brought it; he was wheelin' all the way
From the sunrise end o' freedom out to San Francisco Bay.
An' he tied up at the rancho fur to git outside a meal,
Never thinkin' we would monkey with his Gol darned wheel.

Arizony Jim begun it, when he said to Jack McGill
There was fellers fo'ced the limit braggin' o' their ridin' skill,
An' he reckoned there's a puncher not a million miles away
As imagined as a rider he was tolerable gay.
Then he ventured the admission that same fellow as he meant
Was a purty handy critter, fur as ridin' bronchos went,
But he'd find he was a buckin' 'ginst a dif'rent sort o' deal
Ef he'd throw his leather leggin's 'crost that Gol darned wheel.

Sich a slur upon my talent made me hotter 'n a mink,
An' I told him I could back it fur amusement or fur chink;
That 'twas nothin' but a plaything fur the kids an' that he mout
Have his idees sort o' shattered if he'd trot the critter out.
Then they helt it till I mounted, an' I give the word to go,
An' the shove they give to start me wa'n't unreasonably slow.
But I never split a cuss-word, never made a bit o' squeal-
I was buildin' repatation on that Gol darned wheel.

The grade was mighty slopin' from the rancho to the creek,
An' we went a galleyflutin', like a crazy lightnin streak,
Went a whizzin' an' a dartin', fust to this side, then to that,
The contrivance sort o' wobblin' like the flyin' of a bat.
I kep pullin' on the handles, but I couldn't check it up,
Yanked an' sawed an' jerked an' hollered, but the durn thing wouldn't stop.
An' a sort o' sneakin' idee through my brain begun to steal
That the devil helt a mortgage on that Gol darned wheel.

Holy Moses and the prophets, how we split the Texas air!
The breezes made whip crackers o' my somewhat lengthy hair.
An' I sort o' comprehended as, adown the hill we went,
There was bound to be a smash-up 'at I couldn't circumvent.
Them cow-punchers kep' a-yellin', "Stay right with her, Uncle Bill!"
"Hit 'er with the spurs, you sucker!" "Turn her muzzle up the hill!"
But I never made an answer; I jest let the cusses squeal-
My attention was all focussed on that Gol darned wheel.

I've a sort o' dim and hazy recollection o' the stop-
O' the airth a spinnin' round me, an' the stars all tangled up,
Then there come a intermission, which extended till I found
I was lyin' at the rancho, with the boys all gethered 'round.
An' a medico was sewin' on my skin whar' it was ripped,
An' ol' Arizony whispered, "Wal, ol' boy, I guess yer whipped,"
An' I told him I war' busted from sombrero cl'ar to heel-
Then he grinned an' said, "You'd orter 'see the Gol darned wheel."


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