The singer admits, "I'm looking rather seedy while holding down my claim." His little sod shanty is made of poor materials and is infested by mice. He recalls the easier life out east, and wishes a girl would join him
This piece is probably based on Will S. Hays's "The Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane," with which it shares a melody.
The song clearly dates back to the latter part of the nineteenth century, the period of Homestead Claims. The Homestead Act of 1862 had opened large areas of the western U.S. to settlement, allowing settlers to lay claim to 160 acre sections in return for nominal payments. However, the settlers were required to live on their claims for five years before they could "prove up" and gain title to the property. Many settlers, like the one here, wound up living in impossible conditions because it was the only way to stake the claim.
Fife in Thorp/Fife treats "Little Adobe Casa," and some related parodies, as separate from "Little Old Sod Shanty." (Interestingly, the Fifes lump the songs in "Cowboy and Western Songs"). To me these look to be simply localizations of the same song, and there are intermediate versions, so I do not separate them.
Several people seem to have claimed the authorship (e.g. Pound lists a report that one Emery Miller claims to have made it up while living on a claim in the 1880s). The claim by Baker seems to be the strongest, but proof is probably impossible. - RBW