“Soldier Boy for Me (A Railroader for Me)”

Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1907 (published by C. B. Ball)
Keywords: soldier marriage courting railroading technology humorous rejection
Found in: US(Ap,SE,So,SW)

Description

"I would not marry a doctor; He's always killing the sick." "I would not marry a blacksmith...." The girl praises the soldier/railroader: "O soldier boy, o soldier boy, O soldier boy for me; If ever I get married, A soldier's wife I'll be"

Supplemental text

Soldier Boy for Me (A Railroader for Me)
  Complete text(s)

          *** A ***

The Railroader

From Vance Randolph, Ozark Folksongs, Volume III, #493, pp. 259-260.
From Mrs. May Kennedy McCord of Springfield, Missouri. Collected
April 19, 1934. The third stanza appears to be intrusive.

I would not marry a farmer,
He's always in the dirt,
But I would marry an engineer
Who wears a striped shirt,

  A railroader, mother, a railroader,
  A railroader for me,
  If ever I marry in all my life,
  A railroader's bride I'll be.

I would not marry a blacksmith,
He's always in the black,
But I would marry an engineer
Who pulls the throttle back!

I've roamed this wide world over
Some pleasure for to see,
I fell in love with a railroad man
An' he fell in love with me.

I would not marry a sheriff,
For he is sure to die,
But I would marry a railroader
Who has them pretty blue eyes.

I would not marry a preacher,
He preaches too much hell,
But I would marry an engineer
Who rings the engine bell.

I would not marry a gambler,
He's always drinkin' wine,
But I would marry a railroader
Who runs the forty-nine.

          *** B ***

From Laura Ingalls Wilder, By the Shores of Silver Lake,
(copyright 1939) Chapter 6, The Black Ponies. The verse is
repeated in Chapter 10. Said to have been sung by Laura's
cousin Lena, probably in late 1879.

I wouldn't marry a farmer
He's always in the dirt,
I'd rather marry a railroad man
Who wears a striped shirt!

Oh, a railroad man, a railroad man,
A railroad man for me
I'm going to marry a railroad man,
A railroader's bride I'll be.

          *** C ***

From the Sharp/Karpeles collection. #68 in Cecil Sharp & Maud
Karpeles, Eighty English Folk Songs. Collected from Jake Sowder,
Calloway, Virginia. The first/last verse appears intrusive.

We go walking on the green grass,
Thus, thus, thus.
Come all you pretty fair maids,
Come walk along with us.
So pretty and so fair
As you take yourself to be,
I'll choose you for a partner.
Come walk along with me.

I would not marry a blacksmith;
He smuts his nose and chin.
I'd rather marry a soldier boy
That marches through the wind.
O soldier boy, O soldier boy,
O soldier boy for me.
If ever I get married,
A soldier's wife I'll be.

I would not marry a doctor;
He's always killing the sick
I'd rather marry a soldier boy
That marches double quick.
O soldier boy, O soldier boy,
O soldier boy for me.
If ever I get married,
A soldier's wife I'll be.

I would not marry a farmer;
He's always selling grain.
I'd rather marry a soldier boy
That marches through the rain.
O soldier boy, O soldier boy,
O soldier boy for me.
If ever I get married,
A soldier's wife I'll be.

We go walking on the green grass,
Thus, thus, thus.
Come all you pretty fair maids,
Come walk along with us.
So pretty and so fair
As you take yourself to be,
I'll choose you for a partner.
Come walk along with me.

Notes

It will be observed that the preferred occupation in this song can be almost anything -- and the rejected occupations can truly be anything at all. Cohen, p. 464, compares eight texts. All of them list famer as one of the occupations, anmd six list blacksmith, but there are 11 other occupations mentioned in one or another text. - RBW

C. B. Ball published this piece in 1907, but it's hard to believe he actually wrote it (at least in that year); the diverse collections by Belden (collected 1910!) , Randolph and Sharp clearly imply that it is older. - (PJS), RBW

Cohen notes that the Ball text is the first to mention railroads; it may be that Ball adapted an older song to the railroads. There is, however, one interesting side note: Laura Ingalls Wilder, _By the Shores of Silver Lake_, chapter 6, quotes a "railroad man" version. If Laura actually heard the song then, we could date the "railroad" versions to 1879. But, of course, Laura was writing not-quite-autobiography, and writing it more than fifty years later. So that's not a very good indication of date. - RBW

Cross references

Recordings

References

  1. Cohen-LSRail, pp. 461-465, "A Railroader for Me" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Belden, pp. 374-377, "The Guerrilla Boy" (4 texts, 1 tune; the second of two texts filed as "C" is this song)
  3. Randolph 493, "The Railroader" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. Randolph/Cohen, pp. 373-375, "The Railroader" (1 text, 1 tune -- Randolph's 493)
  5. BrownIII 5, "Miss, Will You Have a Farmer's Son" (1 text, probably edited so the girl wants a California Boy and then again so she wants a Southerner, but too similar in style to file separately); 17, "I Wouldn't Marry" (7 text (some short) plus 6 excerpts, 1 fragment, and mention of 5 more, of which ""F" and the fragments "G" and "I" belong here)
  6. SharpAp 272, "Soldier Boy for Me" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
  7. Sharp/Karpeles-80E 68, "Soldier Boy for Me" (1 text, 1 tune)
  8. Lomax-FSNA 215, "A Railroader for Me" (1 text, 1 tune)
  9. Botkin-RailFolklr, p. 465, "A Railroader for Me" (1 text, 1 tune)
  10. Logsdon 21, pp. 136-139, "The Buckskin Shirt" (1 text, 1 tune, a strange composite starting with "The Roving Gambler (The Gambling Man) [Laws H4]), breaks into a cowboy version of "Soldier Boy for Me (A Railroader for Me)," and concludes with a stanza describing the happy marriage between the two)
  11. Montgomerie-ScottishNR 170, "(I wouldna have a baker, ava, va, va)" (1 short text, of this type but perhaps not this song)
  12. Silber-FSWB, p. 343, "Daughters Will You Marry" (1 text)
  13. cf. Kinloch-BBook IV, pp. 14-15 (no title) (1 text, beginning, "Awa wi' your slavery hireman," probably not this song but based on the same idea; Roud #8152)
  14. ST R493 (Full)
  15. Roud #1302
  16. BI, R493