Monday, June 1, 2009

Don't fence me in ...

Back in the 1930s the Montana State Highway Commission employed an engineer named Robert Fletcher, a man who also dabbled in western writing and poetry. He wrote history books, historic markers for the Montana roadsides ... and the poem reproduced below, which he sold to Cole Porter in 1934 for $250. Porter changed a few words around, added it to a movie soundtrack, and the rest is history.

Don't fence me in.
Give me land, lots of land,
Stretching miles across the West,
Don't fence me in.
Let me ride where it's wide,
For somehow I like it best.
I want to see the stars,
I want to feel the breeze,
I want to smell the sage,
And hear the cottonwood trees.
Just turn me loose,
Let me straddle my old saddle
Where the shining mountains rise.
On my cayuse
I'll go siftin': I'll go driftin'
Underneath those Western skies.
I've got to get where
The West commences,
I can't stand hobbles,
I can't stand fences,
Don't fence me in.


  1. Thanks!

    After I posted that, I realized that very few people probably even remember the Cole Porter version of that song anymore ... glad a few of us still do! :)

  2. Hi Mark, I bet you'd be amazed at how many ole Montanians remember that song. I'm 55 years young and I'm sure there are a few of my generation still living and starving here in Montana. I couldn't of given a good guess at who sang that song but remember either my folks singing it or hearing it on the radio. Great song. Great site. $250.00 was a chunk of change for a poem in the year 1934.

  3. Heh ... well, you've got a few years on me, but I feel like I'm catching up real fast! I remember my Mom liking that song quite a bit, and humming it around the house when I was a kid -- but I didn't know until recently that it had a Montana connection.

    It's interesting reading the history of the song. Apparently there was some controversy after it was released ... some people thought Cole Porter wasn't giving Bob Fletcher enough of the credit, and others thinking that Fletcher was just a golddigger. But I guess it all worked itself out, and as you can see from the above the version Fletcher wrote was pretty close to the one that got released.

    And as always, thanks for stopping by!

  4. How fun to learn lil' tidbits about old songs, etc. Cole Porter was a big fave of my Mom, who was a pianist...of course we sang this song when we travelled.

  5. Yep, same with my Mom. My parents both loved to listen to cowboy music when I was a kid ... I probably knew most of the entire "Sons of the Pioneers" repertoire by heart by the time I was 10 or so. :)