In the state of Colorado In the year of seventy-four They crossed the San Juan Mountains Growing hungry to the core. Their guide was Alferd Packer And they trusted him too long: For his character was weak And his appetite was strong. They called him a murderer, a cannibal, a thief; It just doesn't pay to eat anything but Government-inspected beef. Along the Gunnison River An Indian camp they spied. An Indian chief approached them, To stop them he did try. He warned them of the danger In the snow that lay around, But the danger was in Packer, For his hunger knew now bound. They called him a murderer, a cannibal, a thief; It just doesn't pay to eat anything but Government-inspected beef. Two cold months went slowly by; Packer came back alone. "My comrades they all froze to death, I'm starving," he did moan. The Indian chief knew how he lied, He spat upon the ground, For Packer's belly hung out all over his belt: He'd gained some thirty pounds. They called him a murderer, a cannibal, a thief; It just doesn't pay to eat anything but Government-inspected beef. Well for nine long years he ran away But finally he was tried. He claimed he didn't kill them, He only ate their hide. That County had six dem-o-crats Until that man arrived. Well only one lives on today: He ate the other five. They called him a murderer, a cannibal, a thief; It just doesn't pay to eat anything but Government-inspected beef. Eighteen years he stayed in jail, It was a dreadful fate, For he suffered indigestion Every time he ate. Still, it's hard to blame this hungry guy Who went searchin' for the mines, For when he ate his friends He'd never heard of Duncan Hines.
(C) 1964 Appleseed Music; Broadside #48.
This version follows the liner notes, which seem to include a considered set of clarifications to the flow of words. Some Examples:
Liner notes:-- firstname.lastname@example.orgThat County had six dem-o-crats Until that man arrived.Recording: "
.... until he had arrived."
Liner notes:The Indian chief knew how he lied, He spat upon the ground, For Packer's belly hung out all over his belt: He'd gained some thirty pounds.Recording: "
...For his belly hung...."
Chords (according to BBKWTX@aol.com):
Am / C /E7 / Am / G / Am / C / E7 / Am /
Am / G / F / E / Am / C / E7 / Am /
Here are some further notes about this song by Bill Curtis:
Not too long ago I brought up the controversy regarding Alfred/Alferd Packer. There was much response, except one person on this list sent me a message suggesting that Phil was dyslexic. I find this hard to believe as there seems to be no other examples of this sort in his lyrics that I am aware of nor is it mentioned in either of his biographies. Perhaps Sonny can comment on this.
However, the whole "Is it Alfred or Alferd" question intrigued me so I decided to do some research. For those who are unaware of the controversy let me elaborate:
In 1964 Phil wrote "Ballad of Alfred Packer". This was published in issue #48 of Broadside. In that issue there is a cartoon showing what appears to be politicians (Republicans?) celebrating the fact that Alfred Packer had eaten "five Democrats". The song was not released on any of Phil's albums, but was included on the Broadside Tapes 1 album where it is listed under the title of "Ballad of Alferd Packer". I noticed this and realized there must be some mistake because it was published with the name Alfred 25 years before in Broadside. I also remember the 8 months I lived in Boulder, Colorado in 1973 where I used to hear stories of Alfred Packer. So I started to search out other information to settle the dispute. I found an article in a 1977 New York Post describing an incident that occurred in the U.S. Department of Agriculture where a plaque dedicated to Alferd Packer was removed from the cafeteria wall. The plaque offended some, whereas its removal offended others.
I did a search on the internet and came up with the following: There is an annual Alfred Packer 50 mile hike in Denver; there is an Alfred Packer barbecue cookoff held every May in Gunnison, Colorado. However, I also found a trail mix sold in Colorado called "Alferd Packer Gorp". I also found that someone actually wrote a musical play called "Alferd Packer: Story of Gold and Cannibals".
Today I found the following on page 83 of the Encyclopedia of Frontier Biographies: Alferd Packer was born 1842 in Pennsyvania. He was a shoemaker by trade. He served in the Union Army, but was discharged in 1862 for a "disability". He prospected in the west. In November 1873 he left Utah for Colorado with 21 men. When the party became snowbound, Al and five others left the main group to search for aid. Packer reached the Los Pinos Indian Agency on April 16, 1874. Upon questioning he confessed to have eaten his companions. These remains were later found by searchers. Packer was arrested but escaped. He was rearrested nine years later in Wyoming. He was tried and sentenced to death. He was kept in a prison in Gunnison for three years. His conviction was reversed on a technicality. He was tried again and sentenced to 40 years. He was freed in 1901 from the Canon City penitentiary through the efforts of the publishers of the Denver Post who wanted to exhibit Mr. Packer as part of a circus. As an outgrowth of the Packer affair, the publishers were both shot by attorney, William Anderson who was tried three times before being aquitted. The judge told Mr. Anderson "your motive was admirable, but your marksmanship abominable". The same judge is reputed to have said to Mr. Packer "there were just seven good Democrats in this country, and you ate five of them".
Supposedly, there are protest groups called "Packer Clubs" who protest unpopular eating establishments.
Finally, I found that a biography was written on Mr. Packer by Fred Mazzula. I have not been able to locate it, but the title is "Al Packer: A Colorado Cannibal" printed privately in Denver 1968.
So is it Alfred or Alferd??
Another clarification from Matt Miller:
Apparently after joining the Iowa(?) army during the civil war Alfred got a tatoo of his name on his arm. The tatooist mis-spelled his name as Alferd. Alfred liked that name better and so used it mostly from then on. So his real name is Alfred but he called himself Alferd as sortof a nickname.
Also, Packer was discharged from the army because of epilepsy in case you're wondering how his life went from military to scout.
Amanda says: I looked at his grave stone and it says "Alfred Packer".
Trey Parker (of South Park fame) did a movie about Packer: Cannibal! The MusicalLast modified 20 Jul 02 by trent