Way Down the Ohio
This is a song sung by the men who worked the barges on the Ohio River. Going downstream was rather easy -- just make sure you don't hit the bank. Going back upstream, often the crew would walk along the shore hauling the boat with towropes -- "bushwhacking her back."
I originally wrote this song from memory of having heard Dan Roberts sing it for several years. According to several readers, however, I completely scrambled portions, like the little girl whose favorite hymn is the one about "Gladly the Cross-Eyed Bear." Dan recently published his own CD, "Rowing Mistrel," with lyrics, and these are the words as he has them. If you have any further corrections or additions, please email Dan. You can also ask him about ordering Rowing Minstrel so that you can hear it.
This is a traditional song; Dan got it from the singing of Malcolm Dagleish and Gray Larson, with an additional verse by Rob Folsom.
Some rows up, but we floats down,
Way down the Ohio to Shawnee Town.Now the current's got her,
And it's hard on the beach ore,
She moves too slow,
Way down to Shawnee Town
On the Ohio.
And we'll take up the slack;
We'll float her down to Shawnee Town
And bushwhack her back.Whiskey's in the jug boys,
Wheat is in the sack,
We'll trade 'em down to Shawnee Town
And bring the rock salt back.Got a gal in Louisville,
One in New Orleans,
When I get down to Shawnee Town
Gonna see my Indian queen.Water's mighty warm boys,
The air is cold and dank,
And the cursed fog it gets so thick
You cannot see the bank.Been workin' on this river boys,
So dadburn many years,
Sometimes this water boys,
Seems like this old heart's tears.Some rows up, but we floats down,
Way down the Ohio to Shawnee Town.