“The Wagoner's Lad”


Young woman is courted by wagoner's lad. Her parents don't like him because he is poor; he tells her he is self-supporting and not ashamed. He tells her he is leaving; she asks him to linger with him, but he refuses. She laments women's hard fortune

Supplemental text

Wagoner's Lad, The
  Complete text(s)

          *** A ***

As sung by Buell Kazee on Brunswick 213B. Recorded January 18, 1928.

The heart is the fortune of all womankind.
They're always controlled, they're always confined.
Controlled by their parents until they are wives,
Then slaves to their husbands the rest of their lives.

I've been a poor girl, my fortune is sad.
I've always been courted by the wagoner's lad.
He courted me daily, by night and by day,
And now he is loaded and going away.

Your parents don't like me because I am poor.
They say I'm not worthy of entering your door
I work for my living, my money's my own,
And if they don't like me, they can leave me alone.

Your horses are hungry, go feed them some hay.
Come sit down here by me as long as you stay.
My horses ain't hungry, they won't eat your hay,
So fare you darling, I'll feed on the way.

Your wagon needs greasing, your whip is to mend,
Come sit down here by me as long as you can.
My wagon is greasy, my whip's in my hand,
So fare you well, darling, no longer to stand.


This song, which barely qualifies as a ballad even in its full forms, has produced many non-ballad offspring, of which "On Top of Old Smokey" is the best known. Randolph apparently thinks his "Texas Cowboy" piece to be related but separate, but (based on his text) I would have to say they are the same.

It is very hard to tell certain versions of this from "Rye Whiskey"; the two have exchanged many verses. But the "core" versions seem to be distinct.

An even greater problem is posed by the relationship between this song and "On Top of Old Smoky." The two are occasionally listed as one song (e.g. by Leach); indeed, this was done in early versions of the Index. This was done under the influence of the Lomaxes, who classify the songs together.

Further study, however, seems to show that all versions which have common material are derived from the Lomaxes. The plots of the two songs are different, their tunes are distinct, and true cross-fertilization seems very rare. It would appear that the identification of the two is purely the result of the sort of editorial work the Lomaxes so often committed.

Due to this inconsistency, it is suggested that the reader check all versions of both songs, as well as both sets of cross-references, to find all related materials.

Another closely related song is "Farewell, Sweet Mary," as much as three-quarters of which may derive from this song. It has taken a slightly different direction, however, and is at least a distinct subfamily of this piece. Since it doesn't have anything about horses or wagoners, I list it separately. - RBW

Cross references


  • Dock Boggs, "Loving Nancy" (on Boggs3, BoggsCD1)
  • Vernon Dalhart, "My Horse's Ain't Hungry" [sic] (Edison 52077, 1927)
  • [G. B.] Grayson & [Henry] Whitter, "My Mind is to Marry" (unissued; on StuffDreams1)
  • Kelly Harrell, "My Horses Ain't Hungry" (Victor 20103, 1926; on KHarrell01)
  • Buell Kazee, "The Wagoner's Lad" (Brunswick 213B, 1928; Brunswick 437, 1930; on AAFM1) (on Kazee01)
  • Mr. & Mrs. John Sams, "Wagoner's Lad" (on MMOKCD)
  • Pete Seeger, "Fare You Well, Polly" (on PeteSeeger07, PeteSeeger07a);The Wagoner's Lad" (on PeteSeeger17)


  1. Leach, pp.738-740, "The Wagoner's Lad" (2 texts, with the "A" text belonging here and the "B" text a composite of "Wagoner's Lad" and "Old Smokey" verses)
  2. Randolph 740, "Texas Cowboy" (1 text, with much floating material but the plot seems to be here)
  3. BrownIII 250, "The Wagoner's Lad" (3 texts plus 3 fragments; the texts "A"-"C" are "The Wagoner's Lad," and "D" has an associated verse, but "E" and "F" are fragments of a love song, perhaps "Farewell, Charming Nancy" or "Omie Wise," both of which have similar lyrics; "D" also shares this single verse, and "E" adds a "Troubled in Mind" chorus)
  4. Chappell-FSRA 42, "Lamkins" (1 text, apparently a fragment of Child #93 (containing only a threat of cannibalism) plus three "My Horses Ain't Hungry" stanzas)
  5. Scarborough-SongCatcher, pp. 272-282, "The Waggoner's Lad" (9 texts, 6 tunes on pp. 428-431, but the entry combines many songs; A (no title), B ("My Fortune's Been Bad"), and E ("My Horses Ain't Hungry") are extended versions of "The Wagoner's Lad"; C ("The Last Farewell") is a short text probably of "The Wagoner's Lad"; D ("Old Smokie") combined one "Smokey" verse with three "Wagoner's Lad" verses; "F" ("Old Smoky") is a very long "Old Smokey" text which seems to have gained parts of other songs; G ("A False Lying True Love") is "Old Smokey" minus the first verse; H ("I'll Build My Cabin on a Mountain So High" is "Old Smokey" with a first verse from a drunkard song and a final floating verse supplying the title; I (no title) is a fragment probably of "Old Smokey")
  6. SharpAp 117, "The Wagoner's Lad" (6 texts, 6 tunes)
  7. Cambiaire, p. 37, "Loving Nancy" (1 text)
  8. Wyman-Brockway I, p. 62, "Loving Nancy" (1 text, 1 tune)
  9. Sandburg, pp. 284-285, "Rabble Soldier" (1 text, 1 tune -- a strange version, probably composite, in which the wanderer is a "rabble soldier")
  10. Lomax-FSNA 112, "The Wagoner's Lad"; (1 text, 1 tune)
  11. Asch/Dunson/Raim, p. 30 "The Wagoner's Lad" (1 text, 1 tune)
  12. Fife-Cowboy/West 6, "The Wagoner's Lad" (1 text, 1 tune); 83, "Old Paint" (3 texts, 1 tune, of which the "C" text appears actually to be a version of this piece or perhaps "Rye Whisky")
  13. Chase, pp. 181-182, "The Wagoner's Lad" (1 text, 1 tune)
  14. Abrahams/Foss, pp. 38-39, "Wagonner's Lad" (1 text)
  15. PSeeger-AFB, p. 21, "My Horses Ain't Hungry" (1 text, 1 tune)
  16. Silber-FSWB, p. 171 "The Wagoner's Lad"; p. 174 "My Horses Ain't Hungry"; p. 186 "Hard Is The Fortune Of All Womankind" (3 texts)
  17. Saffel-CowboyP, pp. 211-213, "Jack o' Diamonds" (1 text; this particular Lomax offering contains elements of "Jack o Diamonds/Rye Whisky," "The Wagoner's Lad," The Rebel Soldier," and others)
  19. ST R740 (Full)
  20. Roud #414
  21. BI, R740


Alternate titles: “An Inconstant Lover”; “I'm a Rambler, I'm a Gambler”; “The Rambling Gambler”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1908 (collected by Olive Dame Campbell; in SharpAp); +1907 (JAFL20)
Found in: US(Ap,SE,So)