Singing in the Rain: NW Lyrics to an Old Favorite Song

by Oldcrazysteph


It's a beautiful rainy day here in the Pacific Northwest. A perfect day to stay home, make some music, and share the Hometown Love. I bet you woke up this morning wondering, "Who wrote that song Home on the Range?" Was it Jackie Heller, Johnny Cash, Gene Autry, John Denver? If you guessed any of those, sorry to say, but you're wrong. You need to dig a little deeper into obscurity. You need to travel east to the state of Kansas "Where the buffalo roam." You need to travel back in time to 1872 when Dr. Brewster Martin Higley put pen to paper, scratching out the poem that would become engrained in the American soul.





First published in the Smith County Pioneer in 1873 under the title "My Western Home," the song was made popular as a favorite of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Little did anyone know, the song's origin would become a hotly contested topic that led to one of the greatest musical mysteries in American history. In 1949, Kirke Mechem wrote a complete history of "Home on the Range" chronicling the exhaustive attempt to resolve claims by the states of Arizona, Colorado, and Missouri that the song had originated "there." Mechem did a thorough review of the historical documentation of the song, tracing its musical roots far beyond the claimed 1910 origin date to the 1870s and Dr. Higley (pictured here) and Dan Kelley.


In that original version, Higley wrote of buffalo and antelope and cloudless wide open skies, to, "wile away his lonesome hours." When he showed his friend Dan Kelley the poem, Kelley put it to music, and an American classic was born.


In thinking about and researching this song, it came to mind that we folks out here in the "Far West" needed our own version. If people from Arizona, Colorado, and Missouri had wanted it for their own, and Kansas claimed it as their state song in 1947, then we out here in the Northwest needed a tribute version of our own. It had to be a version that reflected our place, our home, our Northwest version of the American Dream.


Think about it. If you live in the beautiful, soggy, seaside Northwest, our open range is the open water. Our deer and antelope are gulls and harbor seals. Instead of roaming buffalo, our cephalopods rule. So, to honor our little piece of Northwest territory, I've reworked the lyrics of this favorite song to keep you entertained during the long rainy days of the COVID-19 shut down. When else would you have the time to learn a new song? When else, would you be able to gather the whole family, pull out the ukulele, and create your own amazing band. Today is that day.


And yes, to honor your efforts, the folks at the Harbor History Museum have created a new t-shirt designed to share the Hometown Love. It features one of our cephalopod friends arranging the first verse of the Northwest version, "Home on the Bay." For each shirt purchased, a few bucks go to help the museum stay afloat in this unprecedented time. The real goal is to inspire our own brand of Hometown Love and get as many people as possible to buy a shirt and create a sense of local unity; to create a local tribute to a centuries-old American tune. Brewster Higley had no idea that those words scratched out with quill and ink would inspire such a musical mystery that, in-turn, would inspire our own rainy day Northwest classic.


Home on the Bay

Pacific Northwest Version of "My Western Home/Home on the Range"

By Dr. Brewster Higley, adapted by Oldcrazysteph, 2020

Oh, give me a home where the Cephalopods roam

Where the Gulls and the Harbor Seals play,

Where often is heard the strange gurgling surge,

Of the rain running down to the bay.


Chorus:

Home, home on the Bay,

Where the Gulls and the Harbor Seals play,

Where often is heard the strange gurgling surge,

Of the rain running down to the bay.

Oh! give me a land where the Douglas firs stand,

On hillsides in mighty wide groves,

Where the red cedars rise

Near every streamside and the blackberries ripen in droves.

Chorus

Oh! Give me a boat built sturdy and strong

To ply the deep waters around

Where glideth along the kings, pinks, and late chum,

From the sea to the spawning grounds.

Chorus

How often at night, when the clouds block all sight,

And the rain falls in thunderous gales

Have I stood here amazed, and asked as I gazed,

How we don’t all grow long mossy tails.

Chorus


I love the great whales, the orcas and grays

I love the bald eagle’s shrill scream;

From the glacier-carved hills, to the goeduck shoals

That only the low tides can bring.

Chorus


The air is so pure and the breezes so fine,

The zephyrs so balmy and light,

That I would not exchange my home on the bay

For a place where the sun shines too bright.

Chorus



Sources:

Kansas Historical Quarterly, Vol. XVII, November 1949. "The Story of Home on the Range," Kirke Mechem.

Brewster Higley, Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brewster_Higley

National Public Radio, "Present at the Creation: Home on the Range"

Home on the Range (My Western Home), original 1874 lyrics. Performed by Tom Rouch.

Image of Dr. Brewster Higley. Kansas State Historical Society Collection.

"Home on the Bay" T-shirt Design by Stephanie Lile for the Harbor History Museum.

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