This is a song whose roots are clouded by history, though two schools of thought prevail. The first is that it originated in upstate New York as “The Bright Mohawk Valley”, and moved West with the pioneers. The second is that it originated in the Red River Valley of Canada and moved south from there. In either case, by the 1880s, it was well known to cowboys (who would have assumed it referred to the Red River in Texas), and the most commonly-heard verses follow.
Red River Valley
From this valley they say you are going,
I shall miss your sweet face and bright smile,
For they say you are taking the sunshine
That has brightened my pathway awhile.
I’ve been thinking a long time my darling,
Of those sweet words you never would say.
Now all of my fond hopes have vanished,
For they say you are going away.
Then come sit by my side if you live me.
Do not hasten to bid us adieu,
And remember the Red River Valley
And the cowboy who loves you so true.
I have promised you, darling, that never
Would words from my lips cause you pain;
My life will be yours forever,
If only you’ll love me again.
There never could be such a longing
In the heart of a poor cowboys breast,
As dwells in this heart you are breaking
While I wait in my home in the west.
Do you think of this valley you are leaving,
Oh, how lonely and dreary it will be?
Do you think of the kind hearts you are breaking,
And the pain you are causing to me?
They will bury me where you have wandered,
Near the hills where the daffodils grow,
When you’re gone from the Red River Valley,
For I can’t live without you, I know.
Perhaps the most popular recorded version of this song is by Gene Autry. You can listen to it here.
Or, if you prefer the Smothers Brothers, their version is here.