Lyr Add: Bow-Legged Ike to Zebra Dun
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Lyr Add: Bow-Legged Ike to Zebra Dun


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(origins) Origins: Zebra Dunn (12)

Q (Frank Staplin) 13 Apr 04 - 05:38 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 13 Apr 04 - 08:23 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 13 Apr 04 - 09:24 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 13 Apr 04 - 11:15 PM
frogprince 20 Jan 05 - 03:45 PM
Charley Noble 14 Mar 19 - 11:02 AM
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From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 13 Apr 04 - 05:38 PM

Fife and Fife and others who have written on "Educated Feller" (Zebra Dun) suggest that "Bow-Legged Ike," which first appeared in print in 1899 but with an anecdotal origin as early as 1875 was the first known of these songs about a cowboy trickster.


Bow-legged Ike on horseback was sent
From some place, straight down to this broad continent.

His father could ride and his mother coud, too,
They straddled the whole way from Kalamazoo.

Born on the plains, when he first sniffed the air
He cried for to mount on the spavined gray mare.

And when he got big and could hang to the horn
'Twas the happiest day since the time he was born.

He'd stop his horse loping with one good strong yank,
He'd rake him on shoulder and rake him on flank.

He was only sixteen when he broke "Outlaw Nell,"
The horse that had sent nigh a score men to- well!

He climbed to the saddle and there sat still,
While she bucked him all day with no sign of a spill.

Five years later on a cayuse struck the trail
Whose record made even old "punchers" turn pale.

He was really a terror, could dance on his ear,
And sling a man farther than that stump- to here!

A man heard of Ike, grinned and bet his whole pile
His sorrel would shake him before he could smile.

So the crowd they came round and they staked all they had,
While Ike, sorter innocent, said: "Is he bad?"

And durin' their laugh- for the sorrel, you see,
Had eat up two ropes and was tryin' for me-

He patted his neck- "Nice pony," says he,
And was into the saddle as quick as a flea.

That sorrel he jumped and he twisted and bucked,
And the man laughed, expectin' that Ike would be chucked.

But soon the cayuse was fair swimmin' in sweat
While Ike, lookin' bored, rolled a neat cigarette.

And then from range to range he hunted a cayuse
That could even interest him, but it wasn't any use.

So he got quite melancholic, wondering why such an earth,
Where the horses "had no sperrits," should have given him birth.

Songs of the Cowboys by N. Howard (Jack) Thorp, 1966, Austin E. and Alta S. Fife, pp. 143-144, Clarkson N. Potter, Inc. NY. First printed in Doubleday, 1899, "Cattle Ranch to College," pp. 227-228. Reprinted in J. Frank Dobie, 1927, "Ballads and Songs of the Frontier Folk," Publ. Tex. Folk-lore Soc. vol. VI, pp. 163-164.

The story of the "Zebra Dun" began with a song called "Educated Feller" in Thorp, 1908, "Songs of the Cowboys."


We were camped upon the plains near the Cimarron
When along came a stranger and stopped to argue some
He was a well-educated feller his talk just come in herds
And astonished all the punchers with his jaw breaking words.

He had a well worn saddle and we thought it kind'er strange
That he didn't know much about working on the range
He'd been at work he said, up near the Santa Fe
And was cutting across country to strike the 7 D.

Had to quit an outfit up near Santa Fe
Had some trouble with the boss, just what he didn't say
Said his horse was 'bout give out would like to get another
If the punchers wouldn't mind and it wasn't too much bother.

Yes we'll give you a horse, he's just as sound as a bun
They quickly grabbed a lariat and roped the Zebra Dun.
Turner him over to the stranger
Then they waited to see the fun.

Old Dunny stands right still not seeming to know
Until the stranger's ready and a fixing to go
When he goes into the saddle old Dunny leaves the earth
He travels right straight up for all he was worth.

But he sits up in his saddle just pullin his mustach
Just like some summer boarder a waitin for his hash
Old Dunny pitched and bauled and had wall eyed fits
His hindfeet perpendicular his front ones in his bits.

With one foot in the stirupp* he just thought it fun
The other leg around the saddle horn the way he rode old Dun.
He spurred him in the shoulder and hit him as he whirled
Just to show these flunky punchers the best rider in the world.

The boss says to him, you needn't go on
If you can use the rope like you rode old Dun
You've a job with me if you want to come
You're the man I've been looking for since the year one.

I can sling the rope, an' I'm not very slow
I can catch nine times out of ten for any kind of dough
Now there's one thing and a sure thing I've learned since I was born
That all these educated fellows are not green horns.

From N. Howard Thorp, 1908, "Songs of the Cowboys, pp. 27-29, Estancia, New Mexico. No music or comments. Spellings not changed.

Additional verses from Thorp, 1921, "Songs of the Cowboys," Boston, pp. 171-174. Reproduced from Fife and Fife. The music shown is from Ray Reed, New Mexico, 1951, from MS of John Donald Reed, Univ. New Mexico, FAC I 217. Thorp says he first heard the song in 1890, and that the song was significantly enriched and expanded during and after the Spanish American War.

2. He looked so very foolish that we began to look around,
We thought he was a greenhorn that had just 'scaped from town.

3. We asked if he had been to breakfast; he hadn't had a smear;
So we opened up the chuck-box and bade him have his share.

4. He took a cup of coffee and some biscuits and some beans,
And then began to talk and tell about foreign kings and queens,-

5. About the Spanish War and fighting on the seas
With guns as big as steers and ramrods as big as trees,-

6. And about old Paul Jones, a mean-fighting son of a gun,
Who was the grittiest cuss that ever pulled a gun.

10. He just kept on talking till he made the boys all sick,
And they began to look around just how to play a trick.

11.1 This tickled all the boys to death; they laughed 'way down in their sleeves,-
"We will lend you a horse just as fresh and fast as you please."   

13. Old Dunny was a rocky outlaw that had grown so awful wild
That he could paw the white out of the moon wvery jump for a mile.

17. We could see the tops of the mountains under Dunny every jump,
But the stranger he was growed there just like the camel's hump;

20. When the stranger had dismounted once more upon the ground,
We knew he was a thoroughbred and not a gent from town;

21. The boss, who was standing round watching of the show,
Walked right up to the stranger and told him he needn't go,-

22. "If you can use the lasso like you rode old Zebra Dun,
You are the man I've been looking for ever since the year one."

The song next appeared in John A. Lomax, 1910, "Cowboy Songs," p. 154-157, without comment and without music, with the title "Zebra Dun." Other names for "The Educated Feller" are "The Z-Bar Dun," "The Tenderfoot," "The Cowboy Victimized," The Stranger and the Dun Horse."

Authorship? Dobie, in his personal copy of "Lomax' "Cowboy Songs," wrote: John Custer, trail driver, told me that while he was on the Z-Bar-L Ranch north of Big Spring in '80's a 'slim fellow wearing a little hat' and not looking anything like a cowboy came into camp, asked for a job, and was given an outlaw to ride- one of the Z-L horses. 'Rode him to a fare-you-well.' Then the song started."
Dane Cooledge, 1912, "Cowboy Songs" in Sunset Magazine, XXIX (Nov. 1912) p. 503-510 ascribes it to Sam Roberts.

Lomax listed it in a letter to the Carnegie Corporation in 1908. Elsewhere in his papers he says: "Said to be composed by Negro Jake working for Evans and Means, Valentine, Texas." In 1938, in the enlarged "Cowboy Songs and Frontier Ballads," they say that Jake was the camp cook for the ranch. Two versions of the melody are given, pp. 78-81.

Most of the comments here by Fife and Fife, 1966.

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Subject: Lyr Add: THE ZEBRA DUN
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 13 Apr 04 - 08:23 PM

(Sam Roberts version)

The wagon was camped on the head of the Cimarron,
When a stranger dropped in and stopped to auger* some.
Such an educated fellow, his talk just came in herds,
He astonished all the punchers with his jawbreaking words.

We asked him if he'd had his breakfast and he hadn't had a sniff,
So we opened up the chuck-box and bid him help himself.
He helped himself to beefsteak, a biscuit and some beans,
And then began to talk about the foreign kings and queens.

He talked about the Spanish War and fighting on the seas,
With guns as big as beef-steers and ramrods as big as trees.
He spoke about old Dewey, that fighting son-of-a-gun,
And said he was the bravest cuss that ever pulled a gun.

He kept on talking till he made the boys all sick;
And they tried to figure up some way to play a trick.
He said he'd lost his job up close to Santa Fe,
And was cutting across the country to strike the 7Ds.

Didn't say what was the matter, but some trouble with the boss,
And wanted to know if he could borrow a fresh, fat saddle horse.
That tickled all the boys, they laughed down in their sleeves,
We told him he could have one as fresh and fat as he pleased.

Shorty grabbed the lasso and roped old Zebra Dun,
Turned him over to the stranger and stepped back to see the fun.
Old Dun he was a rocky outlaw that had grown so awful wild,
He could paw the white out of the moon for a quarter of a mile.

Old Dunny stood quite gentle as if he didn't know
That the stranger had him saddled and was fixing for to go.
When the stranger hit the saddle, old Dunny quit the earth,
Traveled up towards the moon for everything he was worth.

We could see the tops of all the trees under old Dunny's belly every jump,
But the stranger he was growed there just like a camel's hump.
He spurred him in the shoulders and whipped him as he whirled,
Just to show us flunky punchers he was the wolf of the world.

He sat up on old Dunny and curled his long mustache,
Just like a summer boarder a-waiting for his hash.
When his hind feet were perpendicular and fore ones on the bits,
He spurred him in the shoulders till old Dunny had wall-eyed fits.

When old Dunny was all through pitching and the stranger was on the ground
The rest of us punchers were gathered close around.
The boss said, "If you can throw the lasso like you can ride old Dun
You are the man I've been looking for ever since the year of one."

Well, I can throw the lasso, neither do I do it slow,
I can catch their fore pins nine times out of ten for any kind of dough.
But there's one thing sure and certain I've learned since I've been born,
The educated fellows ain't all greenhorns.

Dane Coolidge, 1912, "Cowboy Songs," Sunset, the Pacific Monthly, 20, Nov. 1912, pp. 509-10. Sung by John I. White, "The Lonesome Cowboy" in Death Valley Days (Pacific Coast Borax Co., 1934).
William Croft Barnes, veteran rancher, described a "zebra dun" as "an animal generally of a claybank or buckskin shade, with dark zebra stripes across his withers and around both forelegs." He also said that many cowboys believed that the mother of a zebra dun had mule blood in her system.
Margaret Larkin, in her "Singing Cowboy" collection, made the mistake of saying that the ballad did not involve a zebra dun horse- "The bronco of the song was a dun-colored horse bearing the Z bar brand." Her book, however, was useful because it had piano arrangements for every song included.
Gail Gardner, of "Sierry Petes" fame, said "One of the best horses I ever owned was a zebra dun marked asbarnes says and with a black stripe down his back also."
Prescott's Bill Simon (who wrote the music for "Sierry Petes" aka tying a knot) said, "there ...are zebra browns and zebra bays also."

The song, with sheet music, is reproduced in John I. White, 1975, "Git Along, Little Dogies," pp. 148-152, University of Illinois Press. Most of the comments here are from that book.

It seems obvious that, following the version given by Thorp in 1908, most other versions, including Thorp's 1921 extended text, are based on the lyrics in the Coolidge article of 1912.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Bow-Legged Ike to Zebra Dun
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 13 Apr 04 - 09:24 PM

Who was the stranger who rode the Zebra Dun?
Powder River Jack Lee says: "Con Price, a Montana cowboy who of late years has lived in California, was the broncho buster referred to in the song, "Zebra Dunn" (Lee's spelling). He had been back east with a shipment of cattle and had some of his clothes stolen and on his return arrived at a cowcamp with a hard-boiled hat and was lookin' for a job, so fooled all of the boys with the Circle S outfit, of New Mexico. Con was a great friend of Charlie Russell and was an all around bronc twister and had worked for some of the Bear Paw Pool outfits in Montana, as well as many others on the old cow trails."

"Cowboy Songs," 1938, Powder River Jack H. Lee, pp. 32-33, "The Zebra Dunn, with music, McKee Printing Co., Butte Montana.

Glenn Ohrlin, author of "The Hell-Bound Train, A Cowboy Songbook," can be heard singing "Zebra Dun" in the Max Hunter Collection, Zebra Dun
Verse 12 of Ohrlin's song is a little different:

Well he could throw the lasso
And he didn't do it slow
Catch them hind feet, nine out'a ten
Fer any kind o' dough
And when the herd stampeded
He was always on the spot
N' set them all to mill'n
Like the boil'n of a pot.

Well there's one thing and a sure thing
I learned since I been Born
Every educated feller
Ain't a plumb green-horn.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Bow-Legged Ike to Zebra Dun
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 13 Apr 04 - 11:15 PM

Sheet music with chords from the MS of the song and music collected by John Donald Robb, Univ. New Mexico was again reproduced in Fife and Fife, 1969, "Cowboy and Western Songs," A Comprehensive Anthology," No. 71, "The Educated Feller (Zebra Dun)," pp. 194-196.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Bow-Legged Ike to Zebra Dun
From: frogprince
Date: 20 Jan 05 - 03:45 PM

Don't look like we will really settle the authorship for sure, does it? Thanks, tho, guys, for the perspective and extra variations. If you punch "Zebra Dun" in a search, you'll find a number of breeders still offering them.
This is the chorus of a little somethin' which is set to pretty much the melody for "Roving Gambler"

O, Sing to me of Cowboys; I wish that I'd been one;
I'd ride the old strawberry roan,
And then the Zebra Dun...
And then the Zebra Dun.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Bow-Legged Ike to Zebra Dun
From: Charley Noble
Date: 14 Mar 19 - 11:02 AM

My mother did a water color illustration of this song.

Nice to have its history.

Charlie Ipcar

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