Sung by: Almeda Riddle
Recorded in Miller, AR, 6/25/53

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The sun was sinking in the west,
And it shed its lingering rays
Through the branches of the forest
Where a wounded ranger lay.
Far away from his New England,
'Neath the southern sultry skies,
On the banks of a little river
They lay him down to die.

A group had gathered 'round him-
His comrades in the fight-
A tear rolled down each manly cheek
As they all said good night.
One, a friend and companion,
Was kneeling at his side,
Trying to stop that lifeblood flowing,
But in vain he tried.

Then spoke the dying ranger:
"Oh, Harry, don't weep for me.
I am crossing death's dark river,
But beyond it, I'll be free.
I've a story I must tell you;
Oh, listen closely, do.
I've a story that I wish to tell to all of you.

"Far away in old New England,
In that dear old state,
There's a girl who for my coming
With a saddened heart now waits.
She's a fair young thing, my sister,
My blessing and my pride,
My only love since boyhood;
I've loved no one beside.

"We've no father, for he's sleeping
Beneath the dark blue sea.
We've no mother and no kindred;
There is just Nell and me.
My country was in danger
And called for volunteers;
She put her arms around me,
And her blue eyes runned o'er with tears.

"Saying, 'Go, my precious brother,
Drive the traitors from our shore.
My heart's going to need your presence,
But your country needs you more.'
And now I know I'm dying;
I never will see her more.
Day by day she'll await my coming
At the little cabin door.

"For I have loved her as a brother,
But with a father's care.
I have tried each grief and sorrow
Nell's gentle heart to spare.
Listen, Harry, oh, bend closer;
Oh, listen to my dying prayer.
Who will be to Nell a brother?
Who'll give her a father's care?"

The rangers spoke their vow together;
Like one voice it seemed to fall.
Said, "We'll be to Nell a brother
And a father one and all."
Then one sigh of deepest anguish,
One shadow over him spread.
One deep compulsive shudder,
And the soldier boy was dead.

On the banks of the little river
They laid him down to rest,
With his knapsack for his pillow
And his gun across his breast.
The rangers spoke the vow together;
Like one voice it seemed to fall,
Saying, "Let's be to Nell a brother
And a father one and all."

Also found in Randolph, Vol. II, #188, "The Dying Cowboy"; Belden, p. 397, "The Dying Cowboy."

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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