She's the Ohio / The Roustabout

by Phyllis Dale / Dillon Bustin

Piano, banjo and vocal-Cathy; 12ing guitar and vocal-Dave

Phyllis sang and played piano on the Delta Queen for 10 years, and sometimes we were lucky enough to be able to join her in late hours in the Texas Lounge.

Dillon used a number of traditional lines and themes to make his song. We helped Sandy and Caroline Paton record it in 1987. Marked lead lines were used for measuring river depth and called out to the pilothouse. Coonjining was a shuffle step rousters used when carrying loads on gangplanks, possibly derived from the African dance coonjaille.

She winds between the highways, she winds between the hills.
She carries her peaceful waters by the meadows and the mills.

She's the Ohio, she's the Ohio.
Beautiful river, she's the Ohio.

There are times when waters join her and a torrent flow appears,
But we do not blame her, in her floods we see her tears.

Steamboats float her waters, barges push her banks.
The towns along her shoreline give her glory, give her thanks.

Come, my Rosieanna, the boat lies low
On a sandy bar, out in the Ohio.
Roustabouts are pullin', pullin' mighty slow
To give me time to lay me down.

I'm rollin', flowin', around these hills.
I must take a rest, but this river never will.
Rollin', flowin' to Cairo town;
Just give me time to lay me down.

I work on these steamboats, a dollar bill a day.
Buy a dress for my Rosieanne and drink the rest away.
Captain, he just told me to call lead line today;
And I got no time to lay me down.

All of the rich folks out on the promenade
Twirl their parasols, drink their lemonade.
I got hot steam to drink; I got a smokestack for my shade
And I got no time to lay me down.

I load all this freight by bale and by sack;
I slow coonjine the plank and I quick coonjine it back.
A hundred eighty pounds a bale, a hundred ninety pounds a sack;
Two hundred pounds would break your back.