My friend Andy Hedges was kind enough to record the narration of the "older hand" telling stories of the Butterfield Mail and Stage routes to a younger hand as they drive cattle up the Goodnight Loving Trail. Andy is a fine cowboy poet, songwriter and preservationist of western folk music and cowboy poetry. Check out his podcast "Cowboy Crossroads" when you can:


“We used to stop at Horsehead
Now we water at Dagger Bend,”
That’s what Johnny told me
Leanin’ hard into the wind
“Right here’s where the stage cut south for
Stockton and Comanche Springs
Then on to Ft. Davis, with rank six ups on Celerities.
We’ll camp along the older route but Tommy has some tales
Of ol’ Skillman and his Sharps Carbine
On the Butterfield Stage and Mail.”

I am a green horn puncher
In 1871
Never been outside the Concho
Me and my line backed Dun
I’m bringing up the drag today and Johnny’s on the flank
Covered in grit, and sand and shit
And Goodnight is to thank

Herd is moving nice and slow
How did those damn Apaches
figure Skillman was alone?
His shots were true 300 yards
Hell I can’t see the lead steer
Standing on my saddle pard
But I’m shakin out a loop, and we’re shufflin’ on the strays
With those who came before us...
Along the Butterfield Stage

“In the morning we’ll pass a crossing see bones along a hill
That have been rottin’ there since ‘48...
Never made Sutter’s Mill
Emigrants and cattle and foolish dreams that died
From the Mescalero and Comanche
And the Pecos’ alkali
So keep your heads about you and them beeves pointed north
If there be Comancheros we’ll soon see what you’re worth”

New Mexico by noon boys
Ft. Sumner in a few
We’ll swing East around Raton
And greet the Colorado dew
Leavin’ Langston’s Station
The Guadalupe’s on our west
Saddle sore and sunburned
With a pounding in my chest

I’ll ask Tom to tell some more
Stories of the ol’ Butterfield
Back before the War
And tonight when I lie down
I’ll dream I’m on a stagecoach
Slappin’ lines to Tucson town
From the Pinery to Franklin
To Frisco all the way
With those who found their fortune
along the Butterfield Stage

“Well she was on her way to San Diego
when she met him at Barrilla Spring
He told her go back to La Limpia
He’d return soon with a ring
But he was killed in Quitman Canyon
On the way to the Rio Grande
Some say they still hear her singing neath those giant cottonwood stands.
We’ll head for Pueblo in the morning, you and Johnny take night guard
You both best saddle up and get a trottin’ out to greet the dark.”

Tonight it’s cold and quiet, and the frost is settin’ in
Around the herd I’m millin’….and where I’ve been…
Surrounded by the bellows, the nickers and the stars
I wonder about that lady…and how Ft. Davis ain’t that far…

Words and Music by Chris Ryden BMI 2020