Bold McCluskey believes his steer can out-pull anything on the river, and backs his belief by betting that they can out-pull Gordon's little brown bulls. Despite McClusky's confidence, the bulls are victorious
According to Fred Bainter, who sang Rickaby's "A" text, "the ballad was composed in Mart Douglas's camp in northwestern Wisconsin in 1872 or 1873. It was in this camp and at this date... that the contest between the big spotted steers and the little brown bulls was held" (quotation from Botkin, not Bainter; Laws quotes this information from Rickaby, but without comment on its truth or falsehoodl Fowke notes that Beck had a different story).
Rickaby's second version lacks the Derry Down refrain, but the informant apparently knew it with the Derry Down tune. Fowke describes her tune as a "Villikens" variant. - RBW
Beck notes that some lumberjacks have suggested this song comes from Maine, but it is not included in R. P. Gray's collection _Songs and Ballads of the Maine Lumberjacks_. - PJS