A cowboy sitting on his horse

The Hills of Mexico

introduced by Sara Grey

The tune and text is a variation of “Buffalo Skinners” from Woody Guthrie but Woody’s version is more likely derived from this version. This is one of my favorite songs – so plaintive such a common theme.

I heard this version from Roscoe Holcomb; it’s ironic the way songs can move in opposite directions. We doubt Roscoe ever travelled west – someone probably had migrated back to the Southeast and he heard it there.

Listen to Sara Grey and her son Kieron Means sing "The Hills of Mexico," from their album Better Days a Comin':

"The Hills of Mexico" sheet musicClick here to download a PDF of the sheet music.

Lyrics

When I's in old Fort Worth in eighteen eighty-three
An old Mexican cowboy come steppin’ up to me
Sayin' “How’d you like, young feller, and how’d you like to go
And to spend another season with me in Mexico?”

Lord, I had no employment, back to him did say
“Well, accordin' to your wages, accordin' to your pay.”
“I will pay to you good wages and oft times, too, you know
If you'll spend another season with me in Mexico.”

Now with all this flatterin' talkin' he signed up quite a train
Some ten or twelve in number, some able bodied men
And our trip it was a pleasant one, and we hit the western road
And we crossed the old Peace River to those hills of Mexico.

It was there our pleasures ended and our troubles they began
Well, a lightning storm did hit us and made our cattle run
And we all got full of stickers from the cactus that did grow
And the outlaws they did rob us in those hills of Mexico.

Well I went up to that cowboy, and I gave to him my hand
And he gave me a string of horses, so old they could not stand
And I nearly starved to death there, and I mean to let you know
That I never saved a dollar in those hills of Mexico.

Oh they put me on a steamboat and back to home did go
Well the bells they did ring, and the whistle it did blow
Well the bells they did ring, and the whistle it did blow
Far from the God-forsaken country that they call Old Mexico.

Sara Grey is a fine American singer, banjo player and song collector, who is immersed in the song traditions of both sides of the Atlantic. Her love affair with traditional songs for over 60 years has given her an incomparable knowledge of songs and ballads and how they have moved and evolved. She wants to gather the songs and pass them on to future generations so that they will have the pleasure of hearing and singing them just as she has. After living and singing in Britain for more than 45 years, Sara has returned to her native New England and is living in Maine with her husband Dave. She continues to tour actively, mostly with her son Kieron Means. See more about Sara at her website.

     
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