“The Lumber Camp Song”


A song describing life in the lumber camp. The shanty boys are men of all places and occupations. Most of the song is devoted to details of meals, smoking in the evening, and sleep. Details of the song vary widely

Supplemental text

Lumber Camp Song, The
  Complete text(s)

          *** A ***

From Henry W. Shoemaker, _Mountain Minstrelsy of Pennsylvania_,
as reprinted in George W. Korson, _Pennsylvania Songs and Legends_,
University of Pennsylvania Press, 1949, pp. 350-351.

Informant not specified. No tune.

Now, boys, if you will listen, I will sing to you a song
It's all about the shanty boys and how they get along.
They are a jovial lot of boys, so merry and so fine,
And spent the pleasant winter months in cutting down the pine.

Some have left their homes and friends they love so dear,
And to the lonely pine woods their pathway they do steer,
There in the pine woods the winter will remain,
And waiting for the spring days to return again.

But spring will soon be here, and bright will be the day:
Some will go to their dear homes, others far away,
For farmers and for sailors, likewise mechanics too;
For it takes all kinds of tradesmen to form a lumber crew.

The choppers and the sawyers, they lay the timber low;
The skidders and the swampers, they haul it to and fro;
The comes the loaders, just at the break of day,
A-loading up the teams, for the river haste away.

Noontime rolls around; the foreman loudly screams:
"Lay down your saws and axes and haste to pork and beans."
Arriving at the shanty, the splashing does begin --
The rattling of the water pails and banging of the tin.

"Hurry up there, boys, Dick, Tom, Ed, and Joe,
Or you will have to take the pails and for the water go!"
While they are all splashing, "To dinner!" they do cry.
Oh! you should see them jump and run for fear they'll miss their pie.

When dinner it is o'er, to the shanty they do go,
They all load up their pipes and smoke till everything is blue.
"'Tis time for the woods, boys," the foreman he does say.
They gather up their mitts, for the woods they haste away.

They all go out with cheerful hearts and well-contended minds,
For the winter winds do not blow cold among the waving pines,
And loudly make their axes ring until the sun goes down.
"Shout hurrah! the day is done, for the shanty we are bound."

They all reach the shanty, with cold and wet feet,
"All hands off with your boot-packs, for your suppers you must eat."
The cook calls for supper; they all rise and go,
For it's not the style of one of the boys to miss his hash, you know.

The boot-packs and rubbers are all laid aside,
The gloves, mitts, rags, and socks are all hung up and dried.
At nine o'clock or thereabouts into the bunks they climb,
To dream away the lonely hours while working in the pine.

At four in the morning the foreman loudly shouts,
"Hurrah there, you teamsters, it's time that you are out!"
Up jump the teamsters, all in fright and dismay,
"Oh! where are my boot-packs? My socks have gone astray."

The rest of the men get up; their socks they cannot find;
They lay it to the teamsters and curse them till they're blind.
If any of their acquaintance should happen to be there,
They'd kill themselves a-laughing at the boys' wild career.

When Sunday it is come, they all lounge about:
Some reading novels, others writing to their fairs,
For married men and single in the shanty you will find,
Who've left their homes and dear ones to work among the pines.

But spring will soon be here, and bright will be the day,
"Lay down your saws and axes, boys, and haste to break the way."
For when the floating ice is gone and business it will thrive,
Five hundred able-bodied men are working on the drive.

With their cant hooks and jam pikes, the men they nobly go
To risk their lives on the Muskegon River, or West Branch, oh!
Cold, frosty mornings, they shiver with the cold;
So much ice on the jam pikes, they scarcely can them hold.


Fowke states that this is derived from "Jim the Carter Lad." That they have shared verses is undeniable. I'm not quite as sure that this is a direct descendant.

Fowke lists her unique text "Hurry Up, Harry" as a separate song, and Roud surprisingly consents (#4363) -- but it has the same form and many of the same lyrics as this piece; the only substantial difference is the addition of the chorus "So it's hurry up, Harry, and Tom or Dick or Joe.... (and even that shows up in the verses of some versions such as Gardner/Chickering and Cazden et al). I'd still call it the same song, at least until someone finds a version other than LaRena Clark's. - RBW

Peacock: "For a marine variant with the same tune see... The Herring Gibbers, [which could be] the original version. However, considering the fact that the lumbering version has been traced back at least a hundred years I am inclined to give it priority" - BS

Much of logging camp routine was determined by the climate and seasons. It was easier to cut trees when the sap was not running, so the camps were active during the winter; this also let them run the logs downstream in the spring when the water levels were higher. This had the final benefit that it let some of the loggers farm during the summer. But it did mean that life in camp was rather limited in its possibilities. - RBW

Cross references


  • Emery DeNoyer, "Shantyman's Life" (AFS, 1941; on LC55)


  1. Doerflinger, pp. 210-211, "The Lumber Camp Song" (1 text)
  2. Rickaby 14, "Jim Porter's Shanty Song" (2 texts plus a fragment, 2 tunes)
  3. Gardner/Chickering 104, "The Shanty Boys" (1 text)
  4. Flanders/Olney, pp. 141-143, "The Shanty Boys" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. Fowke/Johnston, pp. 72-73, "The Lumber Camp Song" (1 text, 1 tune)
  6. Greenleaf/Mansfield 159, "The Lumber Camp Song" (1 text)
  7. Peacock, pp. 750-751, "Hurling Down the Pine" (1 text, 1 tune)
  8. Fowke-Lumbering #5, "The Lumbercamp Song" (4 short texts, tune referenced); #7, "Hurry Up, Harry" (1 text, 1 tune)
  9. Dibblee/Dibblee, pp. 38-39, "Shanty Boys" (1 text, 1 tune)
  10. FSCatskills 2, "Cutting Down the Pines" (1 text, 1 tune)
  11. Beck 11, "The Shanty Boys in the Pine" (2 texts, 1 tune)
  13. ST Doe210 (Full)
  14. Roud #667
  15. BI, Doe210


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1896 (Delaney's Song Book #13)
Found in: US(MA,MW,NE) Canada(Mar,Newf,Ont)