From the recording Frontier
The words to this beautiful song are by the beloved cowboy poet, S. Omar Barker. The melody is an old fiddle tune called Tramps and Hawkers. I loved bringing my daughter, Millie, into the studio to sing this song with me. We both usually sing this with no instruments, but for the album we brought on the thoughtful guitarist, Rich Dixon, and Seth Weil on fiddle. There are many wonderful memories wrapped up in the hundreds of performances of this song all over the West from concert halls to smokey bars.
Tall Men Riding
by S. Omar Barker
This is the song that the night birds sing
As the phantom herds trail by,
Horn by horn where the long plains fling
Flat miles to the Texas sky:
Oh, the high hawk knows where the rabbit goes,
And the buzzard marks the kill,
But few there be with eyes to see
The Tall Men riding still.
They hark in vain on the speeding train
For an echo of hoofbeat thunder,
And the yellow wheat is a winding sheet
For cattle trails plowed under.
Hoofdust flies at the low moon's rise,
And the bullbat's lonesome whir
Is an echoed note from a longhorn throat
Of a steer, in the days that were.
Inch by inch time draws the cinch,
Till the saddle will creak no more,
And they who were lords of the cattle hordes
Have tallied their final score.
This is the song that the night birds wail,
Where the Texas plains lie wide,
Watching the dust of a ghostly trail,
Where the phantom Tall Men ride!