Submitted by Bob Bovee

I learned this humorous ditty from my uncle, Herman Lienemann, in Nebraska more than forty years ago. Herman couldn’t remember where he learned it, but thought it was back in the 1920s. I have never found a Yuba Dam anywhere or any other reference to this song.

Bob adds: I found a link to the 1893 sheet music for “Yuba Dam” at the New York Public Library. It has the same words (with three additional verses), but a completely different tune. I think it’s a great example of how songs move into the oral tradition and are passed along from there.

Listen to Bob singing “Yuba Dam:”

'Yuba Dam' sheet music
Download the sheet music for “Yuba Dam”


Out west they have some funny towns and funny names as well
There is a town called Yuba Dam ten miles from where I dwell
I rode with a conductor once who was a substitute
He didn’t know the stations and this led to a dispute
“Where do you want to go?” said he, “Yuba Dam,” said I
“I’ll not,” said he, and grabbing me, to choke me he did try
Jabs in the jaw and punches galore, he really made things hum
And when I got to Yuba Dam, I was both deaf and dumb    

That evening when I reached my home, my wife began to scold
For the supper that she had prepared had stood till it was cold
I offered explanations but they didn’t pacify
And when she looked upon me, I could see blood in her eye
“Where did you get that load?” said she, “Yuba Dam,” said I
And with a grab she let me have a chair that stood nearby
I left the room at the end of a broom and jumped the backyard fence 
She misconstrued the meaning and I took the consequence

Next morning with me darling wife, myself I tried to square
Not knowing that upon my coat there was a long blonde hair
She took it in her fingers and compared it with her own
And, as it was much lighter, I decided to leave home

Divorce proceedings followed, I was taken into court
And forced to pay so much each week towards my wife’s support
She gave her testimony, which was everything but true
Which caused the judge upon the bench to look me through and through
“What brought this all about?” said he, “Yuba Dam,” said I
“Profanity in court,” said he, “will land you high and dry”
I stood no show, I went below, it was a sad mishap
And I think the town of Yuba Dam has no right on the map

Bob Bovee is a Nebraska native whose family sang and played the old-time songs. Many of the western and railroad songs he does were learned from his grandmother and uncle. Since 1971, he has been a full-time touring musician, plays banjo, guitar, harmonica, and autoharp, sings and yodels. He now resides in rural Minnesota.