Buffalo Skinners

Language: English

List of versions

Related Songs

The Shelter Diggers
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Canzone di autore anonimo conosciuta in innumerevoli versioni (con titoli diversi, come “The Buffalo Song”, “The Hills of Mexico”, “On the Trail of the Buffalo”, “Buffalo Range”, ecc.) tutte riconducibili ad una folk song nata tra i cacciatori che nella seconda metà dell’800, attirati dagli incentivi offerti dal governo, sterminarono le immense mandrie di bisonti nelle pianure centrali del nord America. Il governo pagava profumatamente per le pelli e le carcasse scuoiate venivano lasciate a marcire sotto il sole. Questo per spiegare che lo sterminio del bisonte americano non fu opera di bracconieri (anche perché la caccia cominciò ad essere seriamente regolamentata solo nel 900, come si racconta nell’introduzione a The Ballad of Earl Durand) ma venne pianificato a tavolino dal governo USA. Certamente levare di mezzo i bisonti rese più veloce lo sterminio dei nativi.

Sulla melodia della tradizionale "Canada-I-O"
La versione più nota, e anche tra le prime ad essere incisa, è di Woody Guthrie che la registrò nel 1945 nel disco “Struggle: Asch American Documentary, Vol. 1”

Struggle: Asch American Documentary, Vol. 1

La popolazione di bisonti, che nel 1830 era stimata in 40 milioni di esemplari, in 50 anni di caccia selvaggia fu ridotta a meno di 400.000. All’alba del nuovo secolo erano rimasti solo 300 esemplari, quindi una specie di fatto estinta. Oggi sono tornati grosso modo ai numeri del 1880.
Comunque l’intenzione di Guthrie non era quella di raccontare uno dei peggiori disastri ecologici che l’uomo abbia mai prodotto, ma quella di proporre una storia di “struggle” - così come lascia ben intendere il titolo dell’album – di “lotta di classe”, dove uomini che fanno un lavoro abietto e durissimo, come era quello di uccidere e scuoiare un animale che poteva tranquillamente pesare più di una tonnellata, alla fine della stagione non vengono pagati e così smettono, finalmente, di ammazzare bisonti e rivolgono tutti insieme le armi contro il padrone, lasciando le sue ossa a sbiancare al sole insieme a quelle degli animali.

Il testo che propongo per primo non è proprio quello di Woody Guthrie bensì un altro, abbastanza simile ma risalente al 1908, presente nella raccolta “Songs of the Cowboys” curata da Howard "Jack" Thorp (1867-1940).
Per maggiori dettagli e tutte le versioni consultare On The Trail Of The "Buffalo Skinners"
Come all you buffalo hunters and listen to my song
You needn’t go uneasy, for it isn’t very long
It’s concerning some buffalo hunters who all agreed to go
And spent a summer working, among the buffalo

‘Twas in the spring of seventy three, that I came to Jacksborough
There I met Bailey Griego, who asked how I’d like to go
And spend a summer west of Pease River hunting
On the range of the buffalo

Now being out of employment to Griego I named the day
When I could join this outfit if suited with the pay
I agreed if he’d pay good wages nd transportation to [sic!],
To go and spend the summer among the buffalo.

Of course I’ll pay good wages and transportation to [sic!]
But if you should grow homesick and return to Jacksborough
Before the hunting is over I want you now to know
That I’ll not pay you back wages from the range of the Buffalo.

Through promises and flattery he enlisted quite a train
Some ten or twelve in number all able bodied men
Our journey it was pleasant on the road we had to go
Until we crossed Pease River among the buffalo.

‘Twas here our pleasures ended, our troubles had begun
The very first beast I tried to skin Oh how I cut my thumb
When skinning off those buffalo hides for our lives we’s little show
As the Indians tried to pick us off on the range of the buffalo.

Salt meat and buffalo hump to eat and hard old dour dough bread
Strong coffee and alkali water to drink add a raw-hide for bed
The way the mosquitos chewed on us you bet it wasn’t slow
Lord grant there’s no place on earth like the range of the buffalo.

When the summer at last ended old Griego began to say
My boys you’ve been extravagant, so I’m in debt to day
But among the buffalo hunters bankrupt law didn’t go
So we left old Griegos bones to bleach among the buffalo.

Now we’re back across Peace River and homeward we are bound
In that forsaken country may I never more be found
If you see anyone bound out there pray warn them not to go
To that forsaken country, the land of the buffalo.

Contributed by Bernart Bartleby - 2015/8/14 - 14:19

Language: English

La versione più nota, quella di Woody Guthrie.
Si veda anche The Shelter Diggers, parodia in chiave anti-nucleare fatta nel 1962 da Agnes Friesen.

Come all you jolly skinners, and listen to my song,
There are not many verses, it will not detain you long:
It's concerning some young fellows who did agree to go
and spend one summer pleasantly of the range of the buffalo.

'Twas in the town of Jacksboro in the spring of Sev'nty three,
A man by the name of Crego came stepping up to me,
Saying, "How do you do, young fellow, and how would you like to go
And spend one summer pleasantly on the range of the buffalo?"

"It's me being out of employment, this to Crego I did say:
"This going out on the buffalo range depends upon the pay.
But if you will pay good wages and transportation, too,
I think, sir, I will go with you to the range of the buffalo."

"Yes, I will pay good wages, give transportation, too,
Provided you will go with me and stay the summer through:
But if you should grow homesick, come back to Jackboro,
I won't pay transportation from the range of the buffalo."

It's now our outfit was complete - seven able-bodied men,
With navy six and needle gun - our troubles did begin:
Our way it was a pleasant one, the route we had to go,
Until we crossed Pease River on the range of the buffalo.

It's now we've crossed Pease River, our troubles have begun.
The first dam tail I went to rip, Christ! How I cut my thumb!
While skinning the dam old stinkers our lives they had no show,
For the Indians watched to pick us off while skinning the buffalo.

He fed us on such sorry chuck I wished myself most dead,
It was old jerked beef, croton coffee and sour bread.
Pease River's as salty as hell fire, the water I could never go -
O God! I wished I had never come to the range of the buffalo.

Our meat it was buffalo hump and iron wedge bread,
And all we had to sleep on was a buffalo robe for a bed:
The fleas and graybacks worked on us, O boys, it was not slow,
I'll tell you there's no worse hell on earth than the range of the buffalo.

Our hearts were cased with buffalo hocks, our souls were cased with steel.
And the hardships of that summer would nearly make us reel.
While skinning the damned old stinkers our lives they had no show.
For the Indians waited to pick us off on the Hills of Mexico.

The season being near over, old Grego he did say,
The crowd had been extravagant, was in debt to him that day,
We coaxed him and we begged him and still it was no go -
We left old Crego's bones to bleach on the range of the buffalo.

Oh, it's now we've crossed Pease River and homeward we are bound,
No more in that hell-fired country shall ever be found.
Go home to our wives and sweethearts, tell others not to go,
For God's forsaken the buffalo range and the damned old buffalo.

Contributed by Bernart Bartleby - 2015/8/14 - 14:22

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