The Lone Prairie

When I was girl, in rural Iowa, I would stay with my Grandma Ross, on the river-bottom, on occasion.

There was no television, video games, tape decks, etc, however, she did possess a Victrola and many, many records. Among those, were several recordings by the Sons of the Pioneers, Roy Rodgers, Gene Autry and other country stars of the day.

I remember one song in particular, “Bury Me not on the Lone Prairie.” It was such a haunting, but beautiful song. I would imagine a handsomely, rugged cowboy singing this tune as he rode across the prairie on his trusty mount. I’ve always been a romantic.

Anyway, I have lived on the prairie for decades now, and I understand the lyrics to this ballad much better.

The wide open spaces and endless horizon can give-way to a feeling of loneliness and lament. I imagine a cowboy far away from home might worry about his fate, separated from loved ones, and home. A miss-step of his horse, stampede, or snake bite might end his young life.

The West, and its storied past is uniquely ours. Part of America’s early history, is played out on television, in movies, fashion, novels, and song.

We are so obsessed with the mystic of the old west that we name our children with the words that reflect it’s grace, strength, and beauty. Chance, Colt, Chase, Dillion, River, Sierra, Trapper, Sky, I could go on and on.

Here are a few pictures my husband took of our, lone prairie! Close your eyes and drift away on the prairie winds of your imagination.



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Lyrics to “Bury Me not on the Lone Prairie”

This version of the lyrics date back to the early 19th century.

“O bury me not on the lone prairie.”
These words came low and mournfully
From the pallid lips of the youth who lay
On his dying bed at the close of day.

He had wasted and pined ’til o’er his brow
Death’s shades were slowly gathering now
He thought of home and loved ones nigh,
As the cowboys gathered to see him die.

“O bury me not on the lone prairie
Where coyotes howl and the wind blows free
In a narrow grave just six by three—
O bury me not on the lone prairie”

“It matters not, I’ve been told,
Where the body lies when the heart grows cold
Yet grant, o grant, this wish to me
O bury me not on the lone prairie.”

“I’ve always wished to be laid when I died
In a little churchyard on the green hillside
By my father’s grave, there let me be,
O bury me not on the lone prairie.”

“I wish to lie where a mother’s prayer
And a sister’s tear will mingle there.
Where friends can come and weep o’er me.
O bury me not on the lone prairie.”

“For there’s another whose tears will shed.
For the one who lies in a prairie bed.
It breaks me heart to think of her now,
She has curled these locks, she has kissed this brow.”

“O bury me not…” And his voice failed there.
But they took no heed to his dying prayer.
In a narrow grave, just six by three
They buried him there on the lone prairie.

And the cowboys now as they roam the plain,
For they marked the spot where his bones were lain,
Fling a handful o’ roses o’er his grave
With a prayer to God his soul to save


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Bury Me not on the Lone Prairie” is a cowboy folk song. Also known as “The Cowboy’s Lament”, “The Dying Cowboy” and “Bury Me Out on the Lone Prairie”, the song is described as the most famous cowboy ballad.[1][2] Members of the Western Writers of America chose it as one of the Top 100 Western songs of all time.[3]Based on a sailor’s song, the song has been recorded by many artists, including Moe BandyJohnny CashBurl IvesThe ResidentsTex RitterRoy Rogers andWilliam Elliott Whitmore.

The ballad is an adaptation of a sea song called “The Sailor’s Grave” or “The Ocean-Burial“, which began “O bury me not in the deep, deep sea.”,[4][5][6] The Ocean Burial was written by Edwin Hubbell Chapin, published in 1839, and put to music by George N. Allen.[7][8]



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