A wrangler was someone, usually a young boy, who was employed to handle animals professionally, especially the horses used by cowboys on a cattle drive. The wrangler’s primary responsibility entailed looking after the remuda. The remuda was the herd of horses, usually three to a cowboy, which were used herd the cattle.
“Little Joe the Wrangler,” written by Jack Thorp in 1898, was one of the most popular cowboy songs of its era. The poem/song tells the story of Little Joe, a young wrangler who meets a fateful end at the hands of a stampede.
The poem was but to a melody written by Will Hayes in 1871.
Little Joe the Wrangler
by “Jack” Thorp
Little Joe, the wrangler, will never wrangle more;
His days with the remuda- they are done.
‘Twas a year ago last April, he joined the outfit here,
A little Texas stray and all alone.
‘Twas long late in the evening he rode up to the herd
On a little old brown pony he called Chow;
With his brogan shoes and overalls, a harder- lookin’ kid,
You never in our life had seen before.
His saddle “t was a southern kack built many years ago,
An O.K. spur on one foot idly hung,
While the “hot roll” in a cotton sack was loosely tied behind,
And a canteen from the saddle horn h’ed slung.
He said he’d had to leave home, his daddy’d married twice,
And his new ma beat him every day or two,
So he saddled up old Chow one night and “lit a shuck” this way-
Thought he’d try and paddle now his own canoe.
Said he’d try and do the best he could if we’d only give him work
Though he didn’t know straight up about a cow;
So the Boss he cut him out a mount and kinder put him on,
For he sorta liked that little stray somehow.
Taught him how to herd the horses and learn to know them all,
To round ’em up by daylight if he could;
To follow the chuck-wagon and to always hitch the team
And help the “cosinero” rustle wood.
We’d driven to Red River and the weather had been fine,
We were camped down on the south side in a bend,
When a norther commenced blowin’ and we all doubled up our guards,
For it took all hands to hold the cattle then.
Little Joe, the wrangler, was called out with the rest,
And scarcely had the kid got to that herd,
When the cattle they stampeded; like a hailstorm, long they flew,
And all of us were riding for the lead.
‘Tween the streaks of lightnin’ we could see that horse far out ahead-
“T was little Joe, the wrangler, in the lead;
He was ridin’ “Old Blue Rocket” with his slicker ‘bove his head,
Trying to check the leaders in their speed.
At last we got them milling and kinder quieted down,
And the extra guard back to the camp did go;
But one of them was missin’, and we all knew at a glance
‘T was our little Texas stray, poor Wrangler Joe.
Next morning just at sunup we found where Rocket fell,
Down in a washout twenty feet below;
Beneath his horse, mashed to a pulp, his spurs had rung the knell
For our little Texas stray, poor Wrangler Joe.