14.  Flint Hills Billy  ©  Anne B. Wilson 2010

Songnote: This song about the ranch life of a boy around 1925 is based on my
father's memoir of growing up in the Flint Hills west of Madison.  His vivid
descriptions of ranching and neighborhood practice: working in the hay field,
shipping to railheads, home butchering, common foods, and one-room stone
schools help paint this picture of the past.

Little Billy was born in the year 1916 up in the grassland hills
In a house the settlers built along the old Norwegian Trail
His early years were spent out on the rolling Edgewood Ranch
In the timber and high pastures on the Verdigris' south branch

His dad ran steers up in the hills on the road to Matfield Green
And spent all day on horseback on his gelding tall and lean
Little Billy rode old Nellie on the trails around their home
And played with Mack, his dear old dog, in a nook of old scrub oak

We call him Flint Hills Billy
Born out on the ranch   
And in those Flint Hills, Billy
Grew up to love the land    

At hay time Billy brought cool water to the tired men
Runnin sickle bars and hay rakes pulled behind a two-horse team
One man atop the haystack with a pitchfork in his hand
Would build the tallest stack to stand up to the rain and wind

They'd drive the cattle in the fall to the railheads off so far
Cross eighteen miles of open range to Matfield or Bazaar
The men would punch em up the chutes to load em on the cars
And send 'em off to Kansas City's famous big stockyards      CHORUS

He learned to read in an old rock school just around the bend
Grades one through eight in one big room with all of his best friends
They learned together through the year 'til the last day late in May
When all the families came to school for a neighborhood holiday

Their mealtimes were the finest with tastes and smells so keen
Navy beans and ham-hocks served with hoe-cake and spring greens
Fried eggs gathered up that morning from the chicken pen
Hot biscuits soaked in honey, homemade butter and sweet jam

The neighbors helped set up beneath the trees at butcher time
The kindling kept the fire ablaze as they cut the meat so prime
Sugar-cured smoked ham and bacon, sausage, soap and lard,
To help their families in the months when times could get so hard

Billy helped his dad haul cake and salt in their old Ford Runabout
To cowherds bunched against the cold in pastures miles out
At night they'd take their dog out by the light of a winter's moon
And listen to him bark and bay as he chased after a coon     CHORUS
Clean Curve of Hill Against Sky
Volume 1 Songs of the Kansas Flint Hills
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music sample
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