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Spirit & Heritage In Song – ‘Big Iron’ – 1959

 

Spirit & Heritage In Song is a series highlighting Traditional American Music.

In the last half century many of these traditional songs have been forgotten in a flood of contemporary music and international cultural influences. Yet these songs, ballads, melodies and hymns reflect the events, cultural backgrounds, aspirations, land and faith that make up the soul of the American People far more than the strains of moderne music that have washed upon the nation’s shores. This series is offered as a reminder of the Spirit of America as given voice in song.


 

” Now the stranger started talking made it plain to folks around
Was an Arizona Ranger wouldn’t be too long in town
He came here to take an outlaw back alive or maybe dead
And he said it didn’t matter he was after Texas Red ”

 


Big Iron

The adventure and danger of life in the frontier west has captured Americans fascination for over two hundred years. From the early stories of untamed lands and peoples unheard of shared by the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804-1806 on through Western expansion by settlers, ranchers and cowboys, made vivid by tales of Indians, mountain men, outlaws and dangerous wild animals.

The song Big Iron released by American singer and songwriter Marty Robbins halfway through the last century captures the lore and peril of outlaws held up in small Western towns, and of the justice that generally met them in one form or another. The villan of this song found justice and his Maker dealt by the sure aim of an Arizona Ranger’s revolver. Apparently Marty had the Arizona Rangers in mind when he wrote the song, a branch of law enforcement that existed for a brief period in the Arizona Territory from 1901 through 1909.

 

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“Big Iron” is a country ballad by Marty Robbins, originally released as an album track on Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs in September 1959, then as a single in February 1960.

It tells the story of an unnamed Arizona Ranger’s duel with an outlaw named Texas Red in the town of Agua Fria, Arizona. The town predicts the death of the Ranger (Texas Red had already killed 20 men), but the Ranger kills Texas Red with the “swiftness” of the “big iron on his hip.” Breaking the tradition of Western showdowns taking place at high noon, the duel begins at 11:20 AM.

Robbins’ version of the song reached #26 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in April 1960.

Source Wikipedia

 

Arizona Rangers, 1903

 

Who are the Arizona Rangers?

The Arizona Rangers were organized in 1901 to protect the Arizona Territory from outlaws and rustlers so that the Territory could apply for Statehood. They were picked from law officers, military men, ranchers and cowboys. With maximum company strength of 26 men, they covered the entire territory.

By 1909, the Arizona Rangers had largely accomplished their goals and were disbanded by the Territorial Governor. In total there were only 107 original Territorial Rangers.

Patch Arizona Rangers

Re-established in 1957 by a few surviving original Territorial Arizona Rangers, the present day Arizona Rangers are an unpaid, all volunteer, law enforcement support and assistance civilian auxiliary in this State who work co-operatively at the request of and under the direction, control, and supervision of established law enforcement officials and officers. They also provide youth support and community service and work to preserve the tradition, honor, and history of the 1901-1909 Arizona Rangers.

Arizona Rangers official website

 

Read more about the Arizona Rangers:

  • Legends of the West
  • Wikipedia
  •  

    Lyrics below


    Marty Robbins


     


    Johnny Cash


     


    26 Men – The Recruit

    True stories taken from the files of the Arizona Rangers.


     


    See other songs of the American Spirit in History and at Music

     

    Lyrics

    To the town of Agua Fria rode a stranger one fine day
    Hardly spoke to folks around him didn’t have too much to say
    No one dared to ask his business no one dared to make a slip
    for the stranger there among them had a big iron on his hip
    Big iron on his hip

    It was early in the morning when he rode into the town
    He came riding from the south side slowly lookin’ all around
    He’s an outlaw loose and running came the whisper from each lip
    And he’s here to do some business with the big iron on his hip
    big iron on his hip

    Looking for rustlers

    In this town there lived an outlaw by the name of Texas Red
    Many men had tried to take him and that many men were dead
    He was vicious and a killer though a youth of twenty four
    And the notches on his pistol numbered one an nineteen more
    One and nineteen more

    Now the stranger started talking made it plain to folks around
    Was an Arizona Ranger wouldn’t be too long in town
    He came here to take an outlaw back alive or maybe dead
    And he said it didn’t matter he was after Texas Red
    After Texas Red

    Gunfight

    Wasn’t long before the story was relayed to Texas Red
    But the outlaw didn’t worry men that tried before were dead
    Twenty men had tried to take him twenty men had made a slip
    Twenty one would be the ranger with the big iron on his hip
    Big iron on his hip

    The morning passed so quickly it was time for them to meet
    It was twenty past eleven when they walked out in the street
    Folks were watching from the windows every-body held their breath
    They knew this handsome ranger was about to meet his death
    About to meet his death

    Arizona Rangers

    There was forty feet between them when they stopped to make their play
    And the swiftness of the ranger is still talked about today
    Texas Red had not cleared leather fore a bullet fairly ripped
    And the ranger’s aim was deadly with the big iron on his hip
    Big iron on his hip

    It was over in a moment and the folks had gathered round
    There before them lay the body of the outlaw on the ground
    Oh he might have went on living but he made one fatal slip
    When he tried to match the ranger with the big iron on his hip
    Big iron on his hip

     


    America remember and honor your history – it will give direction,
    purpose and security to your future.

     

    Plow & Hearth

     

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