Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Song of Tivens Roundelby

Cattle stampedes were a big problem in the squinty-eyed American Old West. Think how frequent and annoying traffic jams are, even the minor ones, in your day-to-day life. Now imagine that statistically, every fifth traffic jam you find yourself in results in your gruesome death.

Cowboys tried singing to the herd at night to keep them calm. Being exceptionally lonely young men, the cowboys would tend to sing achingly sad songs about love lost and faraway women who had surely married by now. But it didn't make a difference, the cattle stampeded anyway--mostly because the cattle weren't afraid of loneliness--the cattle were afraid that mountain lions were going to come in the night and eat their faces off.

(Which of course, if you want to get transcendent about it, is at its core, nearly identical to the fear of loneliness. But cows are relatively shallow thinkers.)

The stampedes were gettin' pretty bad and our young nation was on the verge of scrapping the whole beef thing and switching to soy-based products as our primary protein source, when one day a young man by the name of Tivens Roundelby crossed the Mississippi and rode west into the annals of cowboy lore.

Tivens Roundelby was an assistant schoolteacher and amateur stamp collector from Saint Louis. He should have been utterly unfit for life on the brutal range were it not for two seemingly disparate attributes:
One, he possessed a singing voice so lovely that angels gnashed their teeth in envy, and two, ever since the circus accident he'd witnessed as a young boy, he had always known how frightened cows were of mountain lions.

Tivens Roundelby went on to become the greatest sonic preventer of cattle stampedes the world has ever known. It is common knowledge that every spring, Trail Bosses would routinely square off in the barns and corrals outside Abilene and shoot at each other for the right of his employ.

Today you can't find a museum within a hundred miles of the historic Chisholm Trail that doesn't display a bronze placard inscribed with the lyrics to Tivens Roundelby's most famous cattle calming song:

Don't fret my gentle cows. Put aside your snorty scares.
No mountain lion prowls, and these plains are free of bears.
And even if they were about, I'd surely shoot them down,
for I'd sooner swallow scorpions than let a lion hurt my cows.
So don't fret my gentle cows. Put aside your snorty scares.
No mountain lion prowls, and these plains are free of bears.


One night in late September 1884, just two day's ride from the trail's end at the stockyards in Kansas, Tivens Roundelby came down with laryngitis and was unable to sing to the herd. His replacement forgot the words, and Tivens was trampled to death in his sleep by the subsequent stampede.

Rugged cowboys the world over wept like children when they heard the news.


At 2:40 AM, Blogger james henry said...


At 8:36 AM, Blogger SugarHigh said...

*applauds* too.

At 9:15 AM, Blogger Monkeypotpie said...

Another little known fact:

Tivens' understudy that night was none other than James "Scratchy" Luden, who went on to make a fortune as a cough-drop baron.

At 12:20 PM, Blogger Berlinbound said...

You may find this difficult, nay impossible to believe, but that same song was sung to me each night as I was covered gently by my sainted mother with a simple brown burlap sack and tucked in for the night under the stars where I slept while dear mother earned our daily bread in the cramped cabs of 18-wheelers idling nearby...

At 3:25 PM, Blogger Cad Grublygold said...

Hello Mr. Flint. I have returned.

The loss of Poor Tivens was indeed a sad day for singing.....and cows.

At 5:06 PM, Blogger OldHorsetailSnake said...

Mr. Flint: You have, once again, left me speechless, also known, in French, as sans vocal chord.

At 8:42 PM, Blogger Amandarama said...

This "Mr. Roundelby" character - does he have any decendents than can corral children in their seats until 2:11 by use of sonic force? Because it has recently come to my attention that my use of a cattle prod to do so is somehow in violation of their "civil rights".

At 11:31 PM, Blogger greta said...

That cow song is so darn fine I have a morbid fear Madonna will sample it and make a video in which she will writhe about wearing nought but a bad hairdo and her undercrackers. Vow you won't let this happen.

At 12:13 AM, Blogger Lightning Bug's Butt said...

You know what would hurt? A cattle stepping on your sack when you're sleeping.

Better sleep bellyside-down.

At 4:04 AM, Blogger hen said...

I am very pleased you are using up your phone calls to tell us these things, Latigo. But isn't there someone you should call?

At 6:18 AM, Blogger slarrow said...

Tivens' replacement "forgot" the words? Yeah. We all know the words to that song.

Wretched conniving ambitious understudies.

I bet at least one branch of that family went on to dwell in the deep pits of Hollywood and Broadway. (Although that may be rectified by Monkeypotpie's revelation that another family branch may have brought us the delightful candy that poses as medicine, Luden's Wild Cherry Cough Drops.)

At 7:07 AM, Blogger Peter said...

Not only rugged cowboys weeping Latigo, but also the readers of this sad, sad tale, to be taken in his prime like that is truly a tragic thing.

At 10:20 PM, Blogger Marcus said...

One less cowboy singing in the world is a mighty fine thing if you ask me.

At 12:46 AM, Blogger Latigo Flint said...

(And so this is the post to which the mighty Cad Grublygold, former banking executive currently residing beneath a smelly bridge, returns after an eight-month absence?

Who are you?
No one of consequence.
I must know.
Get used to disappointment.


Thanks James Henry. That means a lot from you.

I'm very glad you liked it Sugarhigh.

Very nicely done Monkeypotpie--it's such a joy to meet another history buff.

Dern it Berlinbound, that was so moving that now I'm close to tears... and I'm Latigo Flint for christsake!!!

Hello Cad Grublygold.

I do what I can with what I've got Old Hoss. (And other wise-sounding clich├ęs.)

Tivens Roundelby died a virgin Amandarama... I intentionally neglected to add that part--it was probably too sad even without.

Madonna does what she pleases Greta, you must know this by now. I would try to fight it, sure, but in the end I'm just a man.

A cow stepping on your sack builds character LBB. A herd of cattle stepping on your sack kills you. (There's such a fine line between character and death, isn't there?)

Thanks for your concern Hen, but I'm out of jail now... um, I... busted out if you really must know. It was really very dangerous and manly!

I think you're probably really on to something there Slarrow. History is so very, very rife with treachery, ain't it just?

I'm with you Peter. At times I had difficulty typing the words to this true account through all the tears.

Okay Marcus, you are so not allowed to read my weblog as long as that sort of attitude holds.

At 12:02 PM, Blogger Helga von porno said...

for I'd sooner swallow scorpions than let a lion hurt my cows.
This is a beautiful line and makes me cry, I wish I could find a cowboy who would love this cow as much


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