Sing about cowboys and western life at California's dude ranch

Western Life and Cowboy Heritage preserved in song

The iconic American cowboy is a famous figure. Who hasn’t heard of a cowboy or at least seen someone dressed like (or trying to dress like!) one of the good old boys? There are plenty of things that make cowboys great. But in my mind, the most famous and talented cowboys to boot are the ones who can sing! Trends suggest that in the last decade, country music hasn’t been so popular with the millennial crowd. (That’s just because they don’t know what’s good for em!)  But if you give country music a listen every now and then, I think there are a few things to be learned about the lifestyle of farmers and ranchers.

I have realized after 25 years of listening to country music that there are actually three basic categories that a country song usually falls under. They are; songs about the south, songs about farms, and songs about ranches! These categories are not mutually exclusive, and there are some subcategories that I think are worth mentioning, like romance, trucks, guns, horses, and of course, beer. I have decided to take a few songs that I think fit under each of the three main categories and share them here so that you can see the difference.

Songs about the farm:

  1. I’m Farming and I Grow It, by the Peterson Brothers

This song is a parody of the popular, “Im Sexy and I Know it”. The lyrics were rewritten by the Peterson brothers, who are bunch of rascal farm brothers who own their farm boy identity with pride! The lyrics describe clearly the details of farm life, and it is sung with all the swag of a home grown farm boy/cowboy. Look it up and give it a listen!

  1. International Harvester, by Craig Morgan

This is an amusing song about a stubborn farmer who is driving his harvester down the road and causing road rage in other drivers because of his slow driving. Anyone who has had to drive a big rig knows that it is frustrating and common for other drivers to lose patience and not respect safe distances. But Craig Morgan has taken that rivalry one step further. Take a look at his lyrics:

I’m a God fearin’ hard workin’ combine driver
Hoggin’ up the road on my p-p-p-p-plower
Chug a lug a luggin’ 5 miles an hour
On my International Harvester

Three miles of cars layin’ on their horns
Fallin’ on deaf ears of corn
Lined up behind me like a big parade
Of late to work road raged jerks
Shoutin’ obscene words flippin’ me the bird

Well you may be on a state paved road
But that blacktop runs through my payload
Excuse me for tryin’ to do my job
But this year ain’t been no bumper crop
If you don’t like the way I’m a drivin’
Get back on the interstate

Otherwise sit tight and be nice
And quit yer honkin’ at me that way

Songs about southern living:

  1. Where I Come From, by Alan Jackson

The chorus of this song immortalizes the soul of the south. It goes,

“where I come from
It’s cornbread and chicken
Where I come from a lotta front porch sittin’
Where I come from, tryin’ to make a livin’
And workin’ hard to get to heaven
Where I come from”

The part that mentions working hard to make a living is the only part of this song that could be related to farm or ranch life. But the rest of it is too ˜relax and eat deep friend food while we talk about Jesus’ to be anything but straight outta the south!

  2. Southern Comfort Zone, by Brad Paisley

Who hasn’t heard of the Tennessee cowboy rock star Brad Paisley? In this song he describes how his southern roots are his reference zone for everything familiar. Even a cowboy who travels the world ends up yearning for the simple things he knew when he was home in the south!

“I miss your biscuits and your gravy

Fireflies dancing in the night

You have fed me, you have saved me

Billy Graham and Martha White”

  1. Southern State of Mind, by Darius Rucker

This song describes the classic culture shock that homegrown cowboys experience when they experience the foreign ways of urbanity! His lyrics paint the picture perfectly:

I could be anywhere

In my heart I’m always there

Where they drink sweet tea and they raise you to be polite

No changin who I am

That’s the way I’ve always been

No matter what state I’m in

I’m in a southern state of mind

You can see it in the clothes I wear, you can hear it when I talk

Ball cap, boots and jeans and a little southern drawl

I could be up I Ohio or back home in Caroline

No matter what state I’m in

I’m in a southern state of mind

Don’t matter what state I’m in

Songs about ranches/ ranch style life:

This category is a bit tricky, because farms and ranches typically possess common factors such as manual labor and dependency on the land for livelihood. I chose songs that are written for farms, but in my mind they do a great job of summing up what ranch life is like, too.

  1. Hard Way To Make An Easy Living, by Toby Keith

Some people say he’s a wealthy man

But he built his house with his own two hands

On a piece of land that’s as far as they eye can see

They call him lucky, but they don’t know

He’s up and running when the rooster crows

And he’s still in the fields with his supper cold

But if you ask me,

It’s a hard hard way to make your way

In a world that don’t care what you pay,

What you earn or what you take,

Or how much you’re not giving

Life’s a tough old road to hoe,

Trust in God with the seeds you sow,

And always know it’s a hard hard way of making easy living

I think this song could be applied to a ranch or a farm, because both are very misunderstood. Ranchers and farmers are not rich because they own land. But they are blessed because they have land and the opportunity to work it, whether by planting or raising livestock, or running a dude ranch!

  1. Here’s To The Farmer, by Jason Aldean

The hard truth that is often overlooked in nostalgic songs about growing up on a farm is that there is nothing glamorous about that lifestyle. You get up early, work hard all day, and go to bed late only to start the struggle again the next day. Ranches and farms are living and breathing entities, pieces of the earth that need constant tending and maintaining. As Jason Aldean said,

Talk about an uphill battle
2000 acres of beans and cattle
But he don’t ever get rattled
He just goes ’til the sun goes down
Hydraulic fluid on his jeans
Red dye diesel and ten rows between
A cold one on the porch and a good nights of sleep
Y’all hold ’em up with me now

Maybe someday someone will write a chart topping country song about the thrills of living and working on a dude ranch. (Could this be my next blog topic? Spoiler Alert!!) But until then, we can settle with the next best thing; songs about working hard, depending on the land, and dealing with the uphill battles of being your own boss. I realize a lot of the songs are almost melancholy; reminiscing over the never ending battles that ranchers and farmers must overcome. But make no mistake, there are indelible perks to that lifestyle. And if you want to learn more about them, then visit a dude ranch and find out for yourself. That way you can discover for yourself what those country singers are always crooning about! Besides, we all know that cowboys and farmers like simple things, and not one of them would have taken the time to write a song about something that they weren’t going to love forever.

Cierra Sorensen