Sung by: Gus Mahon
Recorded in Heber Springs, AR

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My name, it is Bill Stafford;
I was borned in Buffalo town,
And for nigh nineteen long years,
I’ve roamed this world around.
I’ve bummed this wide world over,
And trouble I have saw,
But I didn’t know what misery was
‘Til I come to Arkansas.

I landed in St. Louis, boys,
Six dollars and no more.
I read the daily paper
Until both me eyes were sore.
At length an advertisement
In the paper there I saw.
Five hundred men were wanted in
The state of Arkansas.

I rubbed me eyes with glad surprise
When I read this joyful news,
And I was going straight down Broadway
To see old Billy Hughes.
Say, "Pay to me five dollars,
And a ticket you will draw,
That’ll land you on the railroad
In the state of Arkansas."

I paid to him five dollars,
Which gave my heart a shock.
Straightaway I landed off the cars
In the town of Little Rock.
Up stepped a living skeleton
With his long and lantering jaws,
And invited me to his hotel
In the state of Arkansas.

Next morning when I rose to go,
He asked me to remain.
“See, sir, you had better stay;
I have some land to drain.
I’ll pay you fifty cents a rod,
Your board and washing all,
And you will be a different man
When you leave Arkansas.”

I worked six months for this galoot,
Jess Hale was his name.
He was six foot seven in his boots,
And slim as any crane.
His hair hung down in rattails
All over his lantering jaws
He’s a photograph of all the gents
That was raised in Arkansas.

He fed me on corn dodger
That was hard as any rock,
Until all my teeth had loosened,
And my knees begin to knock.
I got so thin on sassafras,
I could hide behind a straw.
Indeed, I was a different man
When I left Arkansas.

(??: “That’s the cutest one ever.”
Dr. Wolf: “Where’d you learn that?”
Mr. Mahon: “I learned that down on the Mississippi River when I was a kid. Down here close to Memphis, Tennessee. Lived down there close. Old iceman sang that.”
Dr. Wolf: “Iceman?”
Mr. Mahon: “Irishman. Oh, he made it . . . There’re places in there that sound a little different, but that’s what it was.”)

Also found in Randolph, Vol. III, #347, “The State of Arkansas”; Belden, p. 424, “Bill Stafford.”

All Songs Recorded by John Quincy Wolf, Jr., unless otherwise noted

The John Quincy Wolf Folklore Collection
Lyon College, Batesville, Arkansas
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