Penny Wise, Pound Foolish: Why Our Legislature Is As “Brilliant” As It Is, Part 2

September 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

In the midst of the worst wildfire season in modern history, the Texas Legislature voted this year to cut the state’s assistance to volunteer fire departments across the state. This is nothing new; they did it to the Texas Rangers defending the western frontier in the 1870s and 1880s, as illustrated in these two contemporary songs, collected by John Lomax, 20-odd years later.


Come listen to a ranger, you kind-hearted stranger,
This song, though a sad one, you’re welcome to hear;
We’ve kept the Comanches away from your ranches,
And followed them far o’er the Texas frontier.

We’re weary of scouting, of traveling, and routing
The blood-thirsty villains o’er prairie and wood;
No rest for the sinner, no breakfast or dinner,
But he lies in a supperless bed in the mud.

No corn nor potatoes, no bread nor tomatoes,
But jerked beef as dry as the sole of your shoe;
All day without drinking, all night without winking,
I’ll tell you, kind stranger, this never will do.

Those great alligators, the State legislators,
Are puffing and blowing two-thirds of their time,
But windy orations about rangers and rations
Never put in our pockets one-tenth of a dime.

They do not regard us, they will not reward us,
Though hungry and haggard with holes in our coats;
But the election is coming and they will be drumming
And praising our valor to purchase our votes.

For glory and payment, for vittles and raiment,
No longer we’ll fight on the Texas frontier.
So guard your own ranches, and mind the Comanches
Or surely they’ll scalp you in less than a year.

Though sore it may grieve you, the rangers must leave you
Exposed to the arrows and knife of the foe;
So herd your own cattle and fight your own battle,
For home to the States I’m determined to go,–

Where churches have steeples and laws are more equal,
Where houses have people and ladies are kind;
Where work is regarded and worth is rewarded;
Where pumpkins are plenty and pockets are lined.

Your wives and your daughters we have guarded from slaughter,
Through conflicts and struggles I shudder to tell;
No more well defend them, to God we’ll commend them.
To the frontier of Texas we bid a farewell.


Yes, muster them out, the valiant band
That guards our western home.
What matter to you in your eastern land
If the raiders here should come?
No danger that you shall awake at night
To the howls of a savage band;
So muster them out, though the morning light
Find havoc on every hand.

Some dear one is sick and the horses all gone,
So we can’t for a doctor send;
The outlaws were in in the light of the morn
And no Rangers here to defend.
For they’ve mustered them out, the brave true band,
Untiring by night and day.
The fearless scouts of this border land
Made the taxes high, they say.

Have fewer men in the capitol walls,
Fewer tongues in the war of words,
But add to the Rangers, the living wall
That keeps back the bandit hordes.
Have fewer dinners, less turtle soup,
If the taxes are too high.
There are many other and better ways
To lower them if they try.

Don’t waste so much of your money
Printing speeches people don’t read.
If you’d only take off what’s used for that
‘Twould lower the tax indeed.
Don’t use so much sugar and lemons;
Cold water is just as good
For a constant drink in the summer time
And better for the blood.

But leave us the Rangers to guard us still,
Nor think that they cost too dear;
For their faithful watch over vale and hill
Gives our loved ones naught to fear.


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You are currently reading Penny Wise, Pound Foolish: Why Our Legislature Is As “Brilliant” As It Is, Part 2 at The Blunderbuss.


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