Chisholm Trail (I), The
DESCRIPTION: Stories of the troubles of a cowboy watching the herds. Characterized by the chorus, "Come-a ti yi yippy, yippy yea, yippy yea, Come-a ti yi yippy, yippy yea, yippy yea." Dozens of verses, printable and unprintable, cover all parts of the cowboy life
EARLIEST DATE: 1910 (Lomax, Cowboy Songs)
KEYWORDS: cowboy work
FOUND IN: US(SE,So)
REFERENCES (19 citations):
Randolph 179, "The Old Chisholm Trail" (1 text, 1 tune)
BrownIII 217, "The Old Chisholm Trail" (1 text, though one suspects it's composite since it's 29 stanzas long!)
Moore-Southwest 136, "The Old Chisholm Trail" (1 text, 1 tune)
Sandburg, pp. 266-267, "The Lone Star Trail" (1 text, 1 tune)
Morris, #13, "The Old Chisholm Trail" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fowke/Mills/Blume, pp. 136-138, "The Old Chisholm Trail" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fife-Cowboy/West 78, "The Old Chisholm Trail" (2 texts, 1 tune, the "B" text being "Eleven Slash Slash Eleven")
Larkin, pp. 19-25, "The Old Chisholm Trail" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
Lomax-FSUSA 57, "The Old Chisholm Trail" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
Lomax-ABFS pp. 376-379, "The Old Chizzum Trail" (1 long text (compiled from many sources), 1 tune)
Lomax-FSNA 188, "The Old Chisholm Trail" (1 text, 1 tune)
Botkin-AmFolklr, pp. 851-852, "The Old Chisholm Trail" (1 text, 1 tune)
LPound-ABS, 76, pp. 167-170, "The Old Chisholm Trail" (1 text)
Cohen-AFS2, pp. 510-511, "The Old Chisholm Trail" (1 text)
Tinsley, pp. 22-27, "The Old Chisholm Trail" (1 text, 1 tune)
Arnett, p. 125, "The Old Chisholm Trail" (1 text, 1 tune)
Silber-FSWB, p. 108, "The Old Chisholm Trail" (1 long text, probably composite)
Saffel-CowboyP, p. 184-186, "The Old Chisholm Trail" (1 text)
Jules Allen, "Chisolm Trail" (Victor V-40167, 1929; Montgomery Ward M-4463, 1933)
The Cartwright Brothers, "On The Old Chisolm Trail" (Columbia 15346-D, 1929)
Edward L. Crain, "The Old Chisolm Trail" (Crown 3275, 1932)
Girls of the Golden West, "Old Chisolm Trail" (Bluebird B-5718, 1934)
Tex Hardin, "The Old Chisolm Trail" (Champion 16552, 1933; Montgomery Ward M-4954, 1936)
Harry Jackson, "The Dally Roper's Song" (on HJackson1)
Harry "Haywire Mac" McClintock "The Old Chisholm Trail" (Victor 21421, 1928; on AuthCowboys, BackSaddle)
Patt Patterson & his Champion Rep Riders, "The Old Chisholm Trail" (Perfect 164/Banner 32091 [as Patt Patterson & Lois Dexter], 1931)
Sain Family, "The Texas Trail" (Montgomery Ward M-7187, 1937)
Jack Weston, "The Texas Trail" (Van Dyke 84292, n.d.; on MakeMe)
cf. "The Chisholm Trail (II)" (tune & meter)
cf. "Eleven Slash Slash Eleven" (tune & meter)
NOTES: It should be noted that there is no clear distinction between the "clean" and "dirty" versions of this song (the latter being "Chisholm Trail (II)"); a particular singer could make it as raunchy as desired. We split them not because they are distinct songs but because the song is so frequently bowdlerized. It would be slightly false to say the versions listed here are rewritten versions of the song and "Chisholm Trail (II)" are unedited versions -- but only slightly false.
E. A. Brininstool wrote a poem, "The Chisholm Trail." It is unrelated -- a reminiscence of cowboy days.
The Chisholm Trail inspired at least one recent book: Don Worcester, The Chisholm Trail: High Road of the Cattle Kingdom, 1980 (I Use the 1994 Indian Head/Barnes & Noble edition). In his preface on p. xi, he declares:
"Although the Chisholm Trail was open for less than two decades, millions of cattle traveled north over it. More than any of the other trails from Texas, it was the major route of cattle and horses, cowboys and cowmen, to Kansas railheads as well as the new ranches springing up all over the former ranges of the buffalo andthe Plains Indians between 1867 and the Big Die-Up of 1886-1887. In fact, the name Chisholm Trail came to be applied indiscriminately to all the cattle trails north out of Texas."
The trail, according to Worcester, p. xviii, is named for Jesse Chisholm, descended from Scots and Cherokee, who was a trader, not an explorer. He hauled cargo over a trail in Kansas starting in 1865, and his name came to be associated with the entire trail.
In the period after the Civil War, there was much demand for beef in the eastern U. S., and many cattle in Texas, and the trick was to get it from one place to the other. According to Worcester, p. 11, it was one Joseph G. McCoy who set up the system of herding the cattle to railheads and then shipping them by train. The trick was to move the cattle around various points where they had been quarantined due to disease outbreaks. Kansas, which was at the limits of the rail network, was free of such regulations (Worcester, p. 12).
There were, according to Worcester, four basic cattle trails coming out of Texas (see the map on p. xix): The Goodnight-Loving Trail, running from near Fort Worth to the west, and then north through Las Vegas and Pueblo to Denver; the Western Trail, starting in San Antonio and running through Fort Griffin and then (with some changes over time) to Fort Laramie, Wyoming and then into Montana and Dakota Territories; the Shawnee Trail, from San Antonio to Waco to Dallas through Indian Territory and into Missouri; and the Chisholm Trail, from San Antonio to Waco to Forth Worth and then almost due north to Red River Stateion, across Indian Territory, to Caldwell, Kansas, and then with branches to railheads in Ellsworth and Abilene, Kansas.
The Chisholm Trail ran where it did because McCoy took a survey along the rail lines in Kansas. In Abilene, Kansas, he found a lot of land for sail at low prices -- something he needed to build cattle pens and such (Worcester, pp. 12-13).
A Colonel A. A. Wheeler and his partners are credited with being the first to bring their herds from Texas to Abilene. They started by following the existing Shawnee Trail, but split from it at a point south of Dallas and instead headed toward Fort Worth. Part of their route wan along Jesse Chisholm's wagon route through Indian Territory. But the cattle drive was not a financial success. (Worcester, pp. 13-14). McCoy therefore had the cattle trail surveyed and improved in 1867 (Worcester, p. 14), and also worked on his marketing (Worcester, p. 15). In 1870, some 300,000 cattle were sent from Texas to Kansas, and in 1871, the number was well in excess of half a million (Worcester, pp. 15-16). And cattlemen were learning to control the herds with fewer workers, so expenses went down (although the large number of cattle being driven made it harder to keep them healthy and well-fed).
Worcester, p. xviii, says that the name "Chisholm Trail" is first recorded in Kansas in 1870, and in Texas in 1874. This was fairly early in the history of the cattle drives. Worcester, p. 9, says that Oliver Goodnight and Charles Loving first used the trail named for them in 1866, and other herds went over the more eastern trails. In all, some 200,000 cattle were driven in that year.
The great cattle drives continued for fifteen years. But as this was going on, Europeans were gradually moving into Montana and Wyoming and the Dakota -- and discovering, apparently to their surprise, that cattle could live happily on the land from which the bison had been extirpated (Worcester, pp. 153-157). And, with the bison gone, the Indians could no longer live there to drive off settlers. Texas cowboys found jobs all over the west; the ranch owners in the northern states offered similar work and pay to those in the south but promised better conditions (Worcester, p. 164).
The locals in these areas did not like cattle passing through their territory, and were increasingly worried about the diseases carried by Texas cattle (Worcester, p, 167). WIth so many alternative sources now available, demand for Texas cattle fell and the prices made the cattle drives uneconomic. By the 1880s, most of the trails were closed, and in 1885, Kansas barred Texas cattle from crossing the state. The Chisholm Trail no longer had a terminus. Adding to the economic problems, there were several years of abominable weather in the 1880s, severely harming most herds (Worcester, pp. 168-171). This was known as the "Big Die-Up" (Worcester, p. 172).
In the aftermath of the "Die-Up," the cattle kingdom (perhaps better called the cattle bubble) collapsed. Of course, the demand for beef in the east continued, but the model changed. Barbed wire fences sprang up, the operators were fewer, and drives up the cattle trails ended; instead, cattle cars went to railheads all over the west (Worcester, pp. 174-175). - RBW
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