Ways and Habits of the West

Ways and Habits of the West

The title is a phrase from W.H. Hamilton, author of Dakota: Autobiography of a Cowman, republished in 1998 by the South Dakota State Historical Society. I wrote the introduction for the reprint and wrote this song for a meeting of the society in April 1999. The song incorporates incidents, phrases, and the general themes from Hamilton's memoir. See In Search of Virginia Bill.

Ways and Habits of the West
Copyright 1999 Tom Isern
Sixteen hands high and a half, a bay,
I remember well that branding day,
Jumped our corral like a steeplechase course--
"If he ever can be broke, then that's my horse."
Old Fox had wind and the strength to last,
As a cutting horse he was unsurpassed.
The great regret of my life, no doubt--
He was ten years old when I sold out.

Of all the horses in Dakota,
Old Fox, the one I loved the best.
O how I loved the ways and habits,
The ways and habits of the West.

To improve our herds we fenced the range.
With our Hereford bulls we could see the change.
But the longhorn bulls from the Texas trail--
That's why I shot Old Diamond Tail.
We cussed the wolves that we shot on sight.
We heard them howl of a winter's night.
Our Virginia hounds those wolves did kill--
But I wish today I could hear them still.