The Shanty-Boy and the Farmer’s Son

The Shanty-Boy and the Farmer's Son

As I walk’d out one evening just as the sun went down,
I carelessly did ramble till I came to Trenton town.
I heard two maids conversing as slowly I passed by.
One said she loved a farmer’s son, the other a shanty boy.

The one that lived her farmer’s son [these] words I heard her say:
“The reason that I love him, at home with me he’ll stay.
He’ll stay at home all winter; to the shanties he will not go,
And when the spring it doth come in, his land he’ll plow and sow.”

“All for to plow and sow your land,” the other girl did say,
[If the crops should prove a failure, your debts you couldn’t pay,]
If the crops shouls prove a failure and the grain market be low,
The sheriff he would sell you out to pay the debts you owe.

“All for the sheriff selling us out, it doth not me alarm.
You have no need to be in debt when you’re on a good farm.
You raise your bread all on your farm; you don’t work through storms of rain,
While your shanty-boy he must each day his family to maintain.

“Oh, how you praise your shanty-boy, who off to the woods must go.
He’s ordered out before daylight to work through storms and snow,
Whilst happy and contented my farmer’s son doth lie,
And he tells to me sweet tales of love until the storm goes by.

“That’s the reason I praise my shanty-boy. He goes up early in the fall.
He is both stout and hearty, and he’s fit to stand the squall.
It’s with pleasure I’ll receive him in the spring when he comes gown,
And his money quite free he’ll share with me when your farmer’s sons have none.

“I could not stand those silly words your farmer’s son would say.
They are so green the cows ofttimes have taken them for hay.
How easy it is to know them when they come into town.
Small boys will run up to them sayin’, ‘Mossback, are ye down?'”

“What I said about your shanty-boy, I hope you’ll excuse me,
And of my ignorant farmer’s son I hope I do get free.
Then if ever I do get a chance, with a shanty-boy I’ll go,
And I’ll leave poor mossback stay at home his buckwheat for to sow.”

(Click here for a PDF version of the music) * (Click here to hear the song recorded by Brian Miller)

Even today, farmers are born, not raised. Few people who aren’t born to it have the mindset to survive the farmer’s life. And those outsiders have a tendency to look down on the farmers, even though farmers supply the vast majority of the food needed to supply those folks.

This is one of many folk dialogs about different occupations. In some, the occupation varies — e.g. Laura Ingalls Wilder sang a song in which the girl sometimes declares “A Railroader for Me,” sometimes “A Soldier Boy for Me,” sometimes “A Sailor Boy for Me.” This one, however, is pretty consistent: The girls are arguing on behalf of a shanty boy (lumberman) and a farmer. It has been found almost everywhere that loggers worked, and has even been transported to Ireland.

Source: Rickaby collected this from Ed Springstad of Bemidji. The version shown here follows Rickaby’s quite closely, except that at the ends of the lines I have converted quarter-note-and-eight-rest to dotted quarter notes. Also, one line is missing from Springstad’s third verse, which I have supplied from Dean’s version.

This version is unusual for the Heritage Songbook in that I have added an alto part (the idea being that you can alternate singers, though you’ll need a singer with a fairly wide range to sing both parts). You could also use the lower line as an accompaniment on an instrument such as viola. It is to be understood that, if the lower staff is sung rather than played, the singer will have to break all those quarter notes into the words shown on the upper staff.

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