Colorado Trail


The story goes that [American poet Carl] Sandburg “collected” (as they say in the folk music biz) the song in 1927 (about the same time as “John B”) from Dr. T.L. Chapman, an old surgeon in Duluth, Minnesota who maintained that some decades earlier he had treated an anonymous cowboy for “bones of both upper and lower legs broken, fractures of the collar bone on both sides, numerous fractures of both arms and wrists, and many scars from lacerations.” According to Chapman (from Sandburg), the cowboy spent several weeks convalescing, singing “The Colorado Trail” several times daily to other patients who just couldn’t get enough of it.

And no wonder. The song is pure (if a bit schmaltzy) genius and includes one especially fine technical point – the rise in the melody of the chorus where the meaning of the words rises – “wail, winds, wail” – with the subsequent gradual stepping down of the melody as the words return to earth – “all along, along, along – The Colorado trail.” (source)


1. Eyes like a morning star, cheeks like a rose,
Laura was a pretty girl everybody knows

Weep, all you little rains, wail, winds, wail.
All along along along the Colorado trail.

2. Laura was a happy girl, smilin’ as the day,
Laura was a pleasant girl, now she’s gone away. Refrain

3. Sixteen years she graced the earth, and all life was good,
Now all life is buried beneath a cross of wood. Refrain

4. Ride all the lonely night, ride all the day,
Keep the herd a-rollin’ on, rollin’ on its way. Refrain

5. Black is the stormy night, dark is the sky,
Wish I’d stayed in Abilene, nice and warm and dry. Refrain

See also


Extras for Plus Members

  • Song with chords (PDF)
  • MIDI file
  • Listen

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2 thoughts on “Colorado Trail”

  1. Barbara Kostelnik

    Lovely song I listened to often as a child, on the album “Songs of the Old West” by the Norman Luboff Choir. One point: I don’t know which came first, but they and many others use the lyrics “God Almighty knows” instead of “everybody knows”, and I feel those lyrics are more poignant and keeping with the overall poetry of the song — the one who lost the child is almost cursing in their grief, plus it captures the loneliness along the trail.
    Thanks for sharing your insights into this song — terrific!

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