“The Arkansas Traveler” was the state song of Arkansas from 1949 to 1963, and has been
the state historical song since 1987. The music was composed in the 1800s by Colonel
Sanford C. ‘Sandy‘ Faulkner. The current official lyrics were written by a committee in
1947 in preparation for its naming as state song.
However, the song has had several sets of lyrics which are far older. “The Arkansas
Traveler” was frequently featured in many cartoons in the 1930s and 1940s, most
prolifically by Carl Stalling in music he composed for the Merry Melodies and Looney
Toons series. It usually was played, sloppily, when a yokel, hillbilly, or “country
bumpkin” character would appear on screen.
Oh, once upon a time in Arkansas,
An old man sat in his little cabin door
And fiddled at a tune that he liked to hear,
A jolly old tune that he played by ear.
It was raining hard, but the fiddler didn’t care,
He sawed away at the popular air,
Tho’ his rooftree leaked like a waterfall,
That didn’t seem to bother the man at all.
A traveler was riding by that day,
And stopped to hear him a-practicing away;
The cabin was a-float and his feet were wet,
But still the old man didn’t seem to fret.
So the stranger said “Now the way it seems to me,”
You’d better mend your roof,” said he.
But the old man said as he played away,
“I couldn’t mend it now, it’s a rainy day.”
The traveler replied, “That’s all quite true,
But this, I think, is the thing to do;
Get busy on a day that is fair and bright,
Then patch the old roof till it’s good and tight.”
But the old man kept on a-playing at his reel,
And tapped the ground with his leathery heel.
“Get along,” said he, “for you give me a pain;
My cabin never leaks when it doesn’t rain.”