Utah Carroll

Lenore feels safer now.

'Utah Carroll' joins 'Little Joe the Wrangler' and 'When the Works all Done this Fall' in the long tradition of cowboy tear-jerkers. So get your hankies out pardners.

Though it is obviously a Texas song, Utah Carroll, seems to have roots in Arkansas where it was sung by Almeda Riddle and collected by Max Hunter. I learned this version from the singing of Frank Hamilton. It is so sentimental I suspected that it might really be a commercial song. However my research turned up so many wildly different variants that I became convinced that 'Utah Carroll' or 'Utah Carl' is a genuine cowboy ballad, and also that cowboys are the last great romantics.

If ballads are short-stories then this is a novella. So stoke up the campfire and settle in for the story.


You ask me my kind friends, why I am sad and still,
My brow is always dark as a cloud upon the hill.
Rein in your pony closer, I'll tell you all the tale,
Of Utah Carroll, partners, and his last ride on the trail.

Among the cactus and thistles, in Mexico's fair land,
Where the cattle roams in thousands, with many a different brand;
There's a grave without a headstone, without a date or name
In silence sleeps my partner, in the land from whence I came.

We were rounding up one morning; our work was almost done
When all those cattle started on a wild and maddened run,
And the boss' little daughter, who was holding on her side,
Rushed in to turn those cattle, 'twas there my partner died.

In the saddle of the pony where the boss' daughter sat,
Utah that very morning had placed a red blanket,
That the saddle might be easier for Lenore, our little friend,
The blanket that he placed there brought my partner's life to end.

Lenore rushed in her pony to the cattle on the right,
The blanket slipped beneath her, caught her stirrup and held there tight.
Now there's nothing on the cow range will make the cattle fight
As quick as some red object when waving in their sight.

When the cattle saw the blanket, almost dragging on the ground,
They were maddened in a moment and started with a bound.
When the cowboys saw the blanket, we each one held our breath:
Now should her pony fail her, none could save Lenore from death.

When she saw those threatening cattle, she turned her pony's face.
And leaned from out the saddle to fix the blanket in its place.
In leaning she lost her balance, fell before that welling tide--
''Lie still, Lenore, I'm coming!" were the words my partner cried.

As he approached the maiden with a sure and steady bound,
He leaned from out the saddle to pluck her from the ground.
Low he swung past us, as he caught her in his arms
I thought my pard successful: Lenore was safe from harm.

Such weight upon the cinches was never felt before.
The front cinch burst asunder--he fell beside Lenore.
When Lenore fell from the pony, she dragged the blanket down,
And now it lays beside her, as she lay upon the ground.

Utah picked up the blanket. Again, "Lie still," he said.
As he ran across the prairie, he waved it over his head.
As he ran across the prairie, the cowboys gave a cry:
He had saved the boss' daughter, but we knew that he must die.

He had turned those threatening cattle from Lenore, our little friend.
As down they rushed upon him, he turned to meet the end;
As down they rushed upon him, Utah his pistol (he) drew;
He was bound to fight while dying as a cowboy ought to do.

His pistol flashed like lightning, The report rang loud and clear, a
As down they rushed upon him, he dropped the leading steer.
As down they rushed upon him, my partner had to fall
No more he'll cinch a bronco or give the cattle call.

He died upon the ranch, boys, it seemed so awful hard
That I couldn't make the distance in time to save my pard.
When we broke within the circle upon the ground he lay
'Mid dust and wounds and bruises; his young life slipped away.

As I knelt down beside him, I knew his life was o'er.
I heard him whisper plainly, "Goodbye, my sweet Lenore!"
Those were his last words spoken; he's crossed the end of the trail.
He closed his eyes in silence; his face grew deathly pale.

As we close the final roundup at the Master's stern command,
Our tears flow down in silence as we clasped each others' hand,
We had rode that range over, we had ridden side by side
I loved him as a brother; I'll look for him at night.

It was on Sunday morning I heard the preacher say,
"I don't think your young partner will be lost on that Great Day.
He was only a roving cowboy, and ready there to die;
I think that Utah Carroll has a home beyond the sky."