I Ride an Old Paint

TITLE: I Ride an Old Paint
AUTHOR: unknown
CATEGORY: Traditional, Public Domain
KEYWORDS: cowboy, horse, rambling, funeral, children
EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: 1927 (Carl Sandburg, American Songbag)

“The song smells of saddle leather, sketches ponies and landscapes, and varies in theme from a realistic presentation of the drab Bill Jones and his violent wife to an ethereal prayer and cry of phantom tone.” —Carl Sandburg on “I Ride an Old Paint,” from The American Songbag 

I Ride an Old PaintTraveling the American Southwest, Sandburg found “Old Paint” by way of Margaret Larkin, a poet and singer from Las Vegas, and Linn Riggs, a poet and playwright from Oklahoma. The story goes, as Sandburg wrote, “The song came to them at Santa Fe from a buckaroo who was last heard of as heading for the Border with friends in both Tucson and El Paso.”

Sandburg described the song as a man lovesick for his country’s roots: “There is rich poetry in the image of the rider so loving a horse he begs when he dies his bones shall be tied to his horse and the two of them sent wandering with their faces turned west.” (Tom McNamara at PBS.org)


  • A-Ridin’ Old Paint
  • Goodby, Old Paint
  • Old Paint
  • Ride Around Little Dogies
  • Ride Old Paint

RECORDINGS: (mp3’s available through Amazon.com)



I Ride An Old Paint

I ride on old Paint, I lead an old Dan.
I’m off the Mantan’ for to throw the hoolihan.
feed in the coulees,they water in the draw;
tails are all matted, their backs are all raw.

Ride a-round, little dogies, ride a-round slow,
For the fiery and snuffy are a-rarin’ to go.

Old Bill Jones had two daughters and a song;
One went to Denver,& the other went wrong.
wife, she died in a poolroom fight,
And he sings this song from morning till night

Ride a-round, little dogies, ride a-round slow,
For the fiery and snuffy are a-rarin’ to go.

Oh, when I die, take my saddle from the wall,
Put it on my pony and lead him from the stall.
Tie my bones to his back,turn our faces to the west, And we’ll ride the prairies we love the best.

Ride a-round, little dogies, ride a-round slow,
For the fiery and snuffy are a-rarin’ to go.


  • Folk Song Index: A Comprehensive Guide to the Florence E. Brunnings Collection, Florence E. Brunnings, Garland Publishing, Inc., New York and London 1981—Amazon Books
  • Country Music Sources: A Biblio-Discography of Commercially Recorded Traditional Music, Guthrie T. Meade, Jr. with Dick Spottswood and Douglas S. Meade, Southern Folklife Collection, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Libraries, NC 2002—Amazon Books


NOTICE: I’m not the best guitar player or vocalist, but no one loves these songs more than I do. The tune and lyrics are in the public domain unless otherwise noted. The recording © copyright 2013 by Stephen Griffith and may be used by permission of the copyright holder. The variation of the song I’m posting is the version I perform and is not exactly replicating the sources cited, but is always in the same song family. If anyone has more details about this song, or believes I’ve stated something in error, please let me know. I’m also open to suggestions to improve the site. Thanks. sgg

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