California Joe ~ Lyrics

Well, mates, I don't like stories;
Or am I going to act
A part around the campfire
That ain't a truthful fact?
So fill your pipes and listen,
I'll tell you--let me see--
I think it was in fifty,
From that till sixty-three.

You've all heard tell of Bridger;
I used to run with Jim,
And many a hard day's scouting
I've done longside of him.
Well, once near old Fort Reno,
A trapper used to dwell;
We called him old Pap Reynolds,
The scouts all knew him well.

One night in the spring of fifty
We camped on Powder River,
And killed a calf of buffalo
And cooked a slice of liver.
While eating, quite contented,
I heard three shots or four;
Put out the fire and listened,--
We heard a dozen more.

We knew that old man Reynolds
Had moved his traps up here;
So picking up our rifles
And fixing on our gear
We moved as quick as lightning,
To save was our desire.
Too late, the painted heathens
Had set the house on fire.

We hitched our horses quickly
And waded up the stream;
While down close beside the waters
I heard a muffled scream.
And there among the bushes
A little girl did lie.
I picked her up and whispered,
"I'll save you or I'll die."

Lord, what a ride! Old Bridger
Had covered my retreat;
Sometimes that child would whisper
In voice low and sweet,
"Poor Papa, God will take him
To Mama up above;
There is no one left to love me,
There is no one left to love."

The little one was thirteen
And I was twenty-two;
I says, "I'll be your father
And love you just as true."
She nestled to my bosom,
Her hazel eyes so bright,
Looked up and made me happy,--
The close pursuit that night.

One month had passed and Maggie,
We called her Hazel Eye,
In truth was going to leave me,
Was going to say good-bye.
Her uncle, Mad Jack Reynolds,
Reported long since dead,
Had come to claim my angel,
His brother's child, he said.

What could I say? We parted,
Mad Jack was growing old;
I handed him a bank note
And all I had in gold.
They rode away at sunrise,
I went a mile or two,
And parting says, "We will meet again;
May God watch over you."

By a laughing, dancing brook
A little cabin stood,
And weary with a long day's scout,
I spied it in the wood.
The pretty valley stretched beyond,
The mountains towered above,
And near its willow banks I heard
The cooing of a dove.

'Twas one grand pleasure;
The brook was plainly seen,
Like a long thread of silver
In a cloth of lovely green;
The laughter of the water,
The cooing of the dove,
Was like some painted picture,
Some well-told tale of love.

While drinking in the country
And resting in the saddle,
I heard a gentle rippling
Like the dipping of a paddle,
And turning to the water,
A strange sight met my view,--
A lady with her rifle
In a little bark canoe.

She stood up in the center,
With her rifle to her eye;
I thought just for a second
My time had come to die.
I doffed my hat and told her,
If it was just the same,
To drop her little shooter,
For I was not her game.

She dropped the deadly weapon
And leaped from the canoe.
Says she, "I beg your pardon;
I thought you was a Sioux.
Your long hair and your buckskin
Looked warrior-like and rough;
My bead was spoiled by sunshine,
Or I'd have killed you sure enough."

"Perhaps it would've been better
If you'd dropped me then," says I;
"For surely such an angel
Would bear me to the sky."
She blushingly dropped her eyelids,
Her cheeks were crimson red;
One half-shy glance she gave me
And then hung down her head.

I took her little hand in mine;
She wondered what it meant,
And yet she drew it not away,
But rather seemed content.
We sat upon the mossy bank,
Her eyes began to fill;
The brook was rippling at our feet,
The dove was cooing still.

'Tis strong arms were thrown around her.
"I'll save you or I'll die."
I clasped her to my bosom,
My long lost Hazel Eye.
The rapture of that moment
Was almost heaven to me;
I kissed her 'mid the tear-drops,
Her merriment and glee.

Her heart near mine was beating
When sobbingly she said,
"My dear, my brave preserver,
They told me you were dead.
But oh, those parting words, Joe,
Have never left my mind,
You said, 'We'll meet again, Mag,'
Then rode off like the wind.

"And oh, how I have prayed, Joe,
For you who saved my life,
That God would send an angel
To guide you through all strife.
The one who claimed me from you,
My Uncle, good and true,
Is sick in yonder cabin;
Has talked so much of you.

"'If Joe were living darling,'
He said to me last night,
'He would care for you, Maggie,
When God puts out my light.'"
We found the old man sleeping.
"Hush, Maggie, let him rest."
The sun was slowly setting
In the far-off, glowing West.

And though we talked in whispers
He opened wide his eyes:
"A dream, a dream," he murmured;
"Alas, a dream of lies."
She drifted like a shadow
To where the old man lay.
"You had a dream, dear Uncle,
Another dream to-day?"

"Oh yes, I saw an angel
As pure as mountain snow,
And near her at my bedside
Stood California Joe."
"I'm sure I'm not an angel,
Dear Uncle, that you know;
These hands that hold your hand, too,
My face is not like snow.

"Now listen while I tell you,
For I have news to cheer;
Hazel Eye is happy,
For Joe is truly here."
It was but a few days after
The old man said to me,
"Joe, boy, she is an angel,
And good as angels be.

"For three long months she hunted,
And trapped and nursed me too;
God bless you, boy, I believe it,
She's safe along with you."
The sun was slowly sinking,
When Maggie, my wife, and I
Went riding through the valley,
The tear-drops in her eye.

"One year ago to-day, Joe,
I saw the mossy grave;
We laid him neath the daisies,
My Uncle, good and brave."
And comrade, every springtime
Is sure to find me there;
There is something in the valley
That is always fresh and fair.

Our love is always kindled
While sitting by the stream,
Where two hearts were united
In love's sweet happy dream.



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