Old Cow Died in the Forks of the Branch

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OLD COW DIED IN THE FORKS OF THE BRANCH. Old-Time, Song. USA; northern Alabama, North Carolina, Kentucky. G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). The title (and also a verse) has been a "floater" in the old-time tradition, and refers to the death of a cow at the confluence of a stream. In the repertory of Tuscaloosa, Alabama fiddler E.D. "Monkey" Brown (1897-1972). Kentucky fiddler and banjo player Clyde Davenport sang:

The old cow died in the forks of the branch,
Forks of the branch;
The old cow died in the forks of the branch,
Oh, them buzzards, how they danced.

A similar rhyme, mixed in with several other "floating" couplets (such as can be found in "Old Dan Tucker," "Buckeye Jim" and similar songs) appears in White's American Negro Folk Songs:

Away down yonder in the forks of the branch
The jaybird whistled and the buzzard danced.

De old cow died in de head of the branch,
De jay birds whistled and de buzzards danced.

John Harrell [1], recorded in Marshall, Arkansas, in June, 1963, sang his song "Fed My Horse" [2], which contained the lines:

Fed my horse in the poplar trough,
And the old cow died with the whooping cough.
The old cow died in the fork of the branch;
The buzzards had them a public dance.

Source for notated version:

Printed sources:

Recorded sources: County 788, Clyde Davenport (Monticello, Ky.) - "Clydeoscope: Rare and Beautiful Tunes from the Cumberland Plateau" (1986. A banjo tune/song learned from his father.). Field Recorders Collective FRC103 & FRC104, "Clyde Davenport." Joseph Decosimo - "Sequatchie Valley."

See also listing at:
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [3]
Hear Joe Decomiso's version [4]




Back to Old Cow Died in the Forks of the Branch[edit]