SWEET BETSY FROM PIKE
“Sweet Betsy from Pike” is an American ballad about the trials of a pioneer named Betsy
and her lover Ike who migrate from Pike County (probably Missouri) to California. This
gold-rush-era song, written by John A. Stone before 1858, was recorded by Burl Ives on
February 11, 1941 for his debut album “Okeh Presents the Wayfaring Stranger”. Since
then, it has been recorded by many others, including Pete Seeger, Johnny Cash, Tom
Paxton, Rosemary Clooney, Cisco Houston, David Allan Coe, Riders in the Sky, and Bob
Oh don’t you remember sweet Betsy from Pike,
Who crossed the wide prairie with her lover Ike,
With two yoke of oxen, a big yellow dog,
A tall Shangai rooster, and one spotted hog?
Singing dang fol dee dido,
Singing dang fol dee day.
One evening quite early they camped on the Platte.
‘Twas near by the road on a green shady flat.
Where Betsy, sore-footed, lay down to repose —
With wonder Ike gazed on that Pike County rose.
The Shanghai ran off, and their cattle all died;
That morning the last piece of bacon was fried;
Poor Ike was discouraged and Betsy got mad,
The dog drooped his tail and looked wondrously sad.
They stopped at Salt Lake to inquire of the way,
Where Brigham declared that sweet Betsy should stay;
But Betsy got frightened and ran like a deer
While Brigham stood pawing the ground like a steer.
They soon reached the desert where Betsy gave out,
And down in the sand she lay rolling about;
While Ike, half distracted, looked on with surprise,
Saying, “Betsy, get up, you’ll get sand in your eyes.”
Sweet Betsy got up in a great deal of pain,
Declared she’d go back to Pike County again;
But Ike gave a sigh and they fondly embraced,
And they traveled along with his arm round her waist.
The Injuns came down in a wild yelling horde,
And Betsy was scared they would scalp her adored;