Seekers of the Fleece 

by Bobby Bridger

Seekers of the Fleece is Part One of Bobby Bridger's highly-acclaimed trilogy of epic ballads A Ballad of the WestSeekers of the Fleece chronicles the life of Jim Bridger (1804-1881) and the historic Ashley-Henry Expeditions of 1822-23 in which "free, enterprising Americans" ascended the Missouri River to its headwaters for the purpose of trading for fur with indigenous peoples of the region. Seekers of the Fleece presents the adventures of young 18 year-old Jim as he signs on with Major Andrew Henry and General William Ashley's crew and meets others who, like himself, are destined to become legends in the history of the American West -men like the map-making Calvinist preacher, Jedediah Strong Smith, the first non-Indian to cross the continent by land and Jim's mentor, Hugh Glass, who was mauled by a grizzly bear, deserted and left for dead, and who survived a phenomenal trek after the mauling to forgive Jim for being one of his deserters! Seekers of the Fleece also sings the tales of the great trade fairs -the romantic "rendezvous" of the Fur Trade Era- and a time of peaceful relations between Indian and non-Indians preceding the invasion of Euro-Americans that would soon overwhelm the pristine North American continent.

Praise for A Ballad of the West



Bobby Bridger’s A Ballad of the West trilogy -deeply felt and passionately expressed - is a treasure of the American spirit. Bill Wittliff, screenwriter/producer Lonesome Dove, Legends of the Fall, and The Perfect Storm


…A wonderful piece of Americana based on a grand and majestic part of our historical background. It is thoroughly original and exciting in its concept.

Alvin Josephy, Editor-in-chief, American Heritage Magazine.


A Ballad of the West is poetry to be chanted, sung, and acted. It calls to mind the great mavericks Whitman, Sandburg, and Earl Robinson. The form is speech song, written for both eye and ear. It also happens to be electrifying theater.

Dale Wasserman, playwright Man of LaMancha, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (adapted for the stage)


A major work!…a unique historical presentation of monumental dimensions.

The Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Cody, Wyoming


Bridger is a true balladeer with a background of professionalism in music and the history of the period…Bridger’s songs and text are splendid.

Dee Brown, author, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee


Bobby Bridger is a Shakespeare of the American west.

George C. White, Founder The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, 1st Chairman of the Board of Sundance Institute


Bobby Bridger has carved out a unique and captivating place for himself in our culture. A dramatist and a songwriter, an actor and a singer, a historian and a contemporary recording artist; Bridger speaks and sings with the many voices of the west, old and new. A Ballad of the West makes you listen, makes you learn, and makes you dream.

Alan Menken, Playwright/Composer Little Shop of Horrors, and Disney movie/plays Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Hercules


a dynamite piece of work!

Joel Oppenheimer, The Village Voice


…a stunning realization…

Marlon Brando


A Ballad of the West leaves me breathless -scope, imagination, heart, and above all the daring to reach for everything and seize it.

Win Blevins, Author, Stone Song and Give Your Heart to the Hawks, and So Wild A Dream


What came aimed directly at my heart was pure magic. A magic superseding words and tunes, an invocation of deep feeling…The is the magic of Bobby Bridger’s A Ballad of the West…a magic that suggests the richest storied fleece we still have to discover lies in the yet unplumbed psychic resources of America today.

Frank Waters, Author, The Man Who Killed the Deer, The Book of the Hopi


I sincerely doubt that anyone will so completely capture the spirit of time and place as Bobby Bridger has done in A Ballad of the West. It is a triumph of time and space as all spiritual synthesis must be…a tour de force of the western experience.

Vine Deloria, Jr., author, Custer Died For Your Sins, God is Red, and Red Earth, White Lies


It blends history, music, poetry and fundamental values. Most important, it tells us something of who we are and how we got here.

Sam Stanley, Center for the Study of Man, The Smithsonian Institution


Illustrated by the paintings of Alfred Jacob Miller

Alfred Jacob Miller was a Baltimore-based painter hired by the Scottish Lord William Drummond Stewart to accompany him and visually chronicle his western adventures in the Rocky Mountains with the mountain men. Most of Miller's work was done as "field" watercolors that he intended to render in oil when he returned to his Baltimore studios. Consequently, in the 1820s and 1830s "pre-camera era" in American history Miller captured the only images of the actual mountain men in their prime. Much of Seekers of the Fleece was written after spending long hours gazing into the paintings of this important painter. Four narratives composed my original concept of the epic ballad: Poetic, Musical, Historical, and Graphic. Of course the recording of Seekers of the Fleece presents the poetic and musical narratives. Here, one can also experience the graphic narrative of Miller's paintings as illustration for the entire text of Seekers of the Fleece.  

Trapping Beaver

Trapping Beaver


The year is 1822

Jim Bridger lives in Old St. Lou.

He’s learning ‘bout the blacksmith trade

An’ filin’ him a dagger blade,

To carry to the western land,

To help him be a mountain man.


Jim Bridger:

A mountain man! A mountain man!

 To kill a grizzly with my hand!

And be the first white man to stand,

On the holy ground of the mountain land!


Now I’ve heard tell there’s a man in town,

And he’s a-carryin’ a paper ‘round

And asking for ambitious men,

To make an X and follow him

Up to the mouth of the Yallerstone

Thar’ to go and live alone,

And trap the beaver for his ha’r,

And live up thar’ forever.


Well forever’s a long, long time.

But I’m young and in my prime,

Besides, I’ve got a whole lifetime,

And not much time to be here.



Free My Spirit, ‘fore My Spirits Dead


I want to open my window. let the sun shine in

I want to kick down my fences, let my freedom begin

I don’t want nothing but blue sky up above my head

I’ve got to free my spirit, ‘fore my spirits dead


I want to do something that I ain’t never done,

And see how far it gets me, maybe to the Sun,

And find that place where Heaven and Earth are wed

I’ve got to free my spirit, ‘fore my spirits dead


I want to see something no man has ever seen!

Go somewhere no man has ever been!

Find myself alive with every breath,

So I will know life when I meet my death!


The Rocky Mountains are as high as you go

And everything is up there that I want to know

Nothing but Heaven up above my head,

I’ve got to free my spirit, ‘fore my spirits dead


The Greeting

The Greeting


Jim Bridger

I put my mark on yesterday,

No quitin’ now, I’m on my way

With Major Henry and his crew

They’re the meanest men I ever knew

They come from riverboats and bars

And all look like ole grizzly b’ars

Jest a-looking for some man to eat

Or something stronger they can beat,

They don’t have much to say at all

These men that answered Henry’s call

Just stare out at the west,

And now I’m a’doing like the rest,

And lookin’ where I’ve never been

Gettin’ used to buckskin,

A-thinkin’ ‘bout the Injun, and a-wonderin’.


Now Henry’s our leader, 

Hugh Glass; he’s the hunter.

Fitzgerald, he’s a liar! 

And Jedediah, he’s a preacher

And sometimes he's a teacher,

But most of all a reacher 

For the Heaven’s up above.


They say he’s just about my age,

But God he looks much older

From a-carryin’ around that parsonage

So heavy on his shoulder. 

Camp Fire, Preparing the Evening Meal

Camp Fire, Preparing the Evening Meal


Jedediah Strong Smith

Jedediah’s what I answer.

But Smith, ‘at’s my name.

And I preaches words on Jesus

While I trap fur-bearing game.

Now you listen to my question,

And you listen very well.

Can you tell me yore ambition?

Is it Heaven? Or is it Hell?

Is it Heaven? Or is it Hell?


Are you ready son to travel

To a land no man has seen?

Cast yore soul out to the forest

To the mountain and the stream?

Let the Winter freeze yore body

‘till it learns never to feel?

Can you tell me yore ambition?

Is it Heaven? Or is it Hell?

Is it Heaven? or is it Hell?


Can you laugh when the ole grizzly

Tries to tear you limb from limb?

Knowing when he eats yore body

‘at yore soul lives on in him?

And yore soul then hunts the mountain

‘till some hungry mountain man

Shoots you as that grizzly devil,

The yore soul lives on in him.

Then yore soul lives on in him.


Jedediah’s what I answer.

But Smith ‘at’s my name.

And I preaches words on Jesus

While I trap fur-bearing game.

Now you listen to my question.

And you listen very well.

Can you tell me yore ambition?

Is it Heaven? Or is it Hell?

Is it Heaven? Or is it Hell?

Is it Heaven? Or is it Hell?


Indians, trappers, guns, and beavers,

Rocky Mountain streams and rivers,

Lord what a beautiful land!

Young Bridger grew to understand

His need to be a mountain man,

This bawdy, buckskined, sunburned band,

These bearded, bragging trapper men,

All looking for some unknown land,

Soon made young Bridger understand

The need to be a mountain man. 

Indian Hospitality

Indian Hospitality

Jim Bridger

Hugh Glass has spent some time with me.

He calls me ‘Golden-Haired Jamie”.

I call him ‘Greybeard Grizzly B’ar’.

And he just laughs and looks out tha’r

Always turning his eyes to stare.

Westward. He’s a lookin’ for some mountain.

Hugh showed me how to set a trap,

And walk the woods without a map,

And be the first to volunteer,

Hugh's kinda like a father.

He talks about his ‘young man’s dream’.

His ‘vision’…no one’s ever seen it.

Say’s he saw it long ago

When he was a-livin’ with the Crow.

Some Injuns that don’t hate us now.

But Hugh swears that he made a vow

To live just like and Injun, and rise up to the sun

And die when his life’s done to live forevermore.


I Had A Vision

I had a vision.

Not so long ago.

It answered my questions,

As it showed me my soul.

Yes I had a vision.

You might call it a dream.

It was leading me homeward.

On a trail of sunbeams.


Yes I had a vision.

While I slept in my bed.

It came right out of nowhere.

In a dream I was lead.

To the top of the mountain.

To the Earth’s highest shore.

Where I bathed in the sunshine

And I sang for it all.


Yes I had a vision

It appeared in a dream.

And I went to the mountain.

And I came down so clean.


Now I will continue

Remembering that day.

And my dream on the mountain.

And the sunbeam highway.

How it came out of nowhere.

And showed me my goals.

It was leading me homeward.

Pulling me by the soul.


The Grizzly Bear

The Grizzly Bear


Jim Bridger

A good shot would have killed him clean,

Now he’s wounded, damn its mean,

To be the cause of anything, a-dyin’ very slow.

Hugh said that he would track the deer,

Then smiled and slowly disappeared.

A-laughin’ under his gray beard,

He slipped into the willows.


Was that a scream? I know it was!

My God! The grizzly's time for cubs!

Hang on Hugh! I'll hurry!


Is this a dream? No God, its true!

This mangled, bloody mess is Hugh!

Oh Hugh, why you instead of me?


Major Henry asked for two

To stay behind and wait on Hugh.

But he really only asked for one!

‘cause he knew I’d stay until its done!

Lord, if he could only die!

But still he breathes, still he cries.

Oh a man could hardly recognize

This bloody pile of buckskin.


Days come in. And days go out!

Fitzgerald’s face is full of doubt!

And Hugh continues with his bout,

While Injuns they just wait us out, a-spying!


Fitzgerald stop ya whining!

Stop ya blessed pinning!

I know the Injuns want our ha’r!

Let ‘em have it! I don’t care!

I’m waiting, waiting, waiting 

On this albatross, 

This mean, old graybeard…

This grizzly…ghost!

I’ll wait for his resignin’


But for two days he’s been dyin’

While savage’s are eyein’

This ha’r upon my head!

Fitzgerald says he’s dead!

How many times he’s said,

‘Let’s leave him!’ 


Damn my eyes, my courage dies

His spirit cries….Deserter!

Damn my eyes, my courage dies,

His spirit cries…Deserter!

He never died,

We ran and lied,

And now I see his starin’ eyes,

Callin’ me…Deserter!



Fitzgerald and Bridger then withdrew

And started after Henry’s crew

And told them they had buried Hugh

And had his gun to prove it.

But Glass swore he would live instead

And track the cowards that left him for dead.

And then he rose from his deathbed

And made his crawl to lose it.



The Crawl


Oh…darkness all around me.

Oh…hurt and fear surround me.

Oh…sundown you have found me 


Oh…I can’t believe I’m breathing…

Oh…life please don’t be leaving…

Oh…one last chance I’m asking…



Oh sweet breath, giving life,

I’m not dead, I am alive,

And I’ll crawl, ‘till I run,

And I’ll end this thing undone.

And I’ll find that hated thing

That left me along and dying.

And he’ll look me in the eye

And he’ll pray to God to die!


Rocky Mountain waters flow.

To the valleys down below,

Healing waters…melting snow,

Life comes here, only to go.

And the mountains always stand

Giving not one thought to man,

And the Earth will turn again,

Making love to the Heavens.


And the boy,

He must grow

To a man, so he can know

Of the spirit in this land.

Now I’ll make a mountain man!

He remembers lessons well.

So he’ll live to tell my tale.

I’m the mountain man who fell,

And then crawled right out of Hell.



For your youth, I forgive you!

Rang in Bridger’s ears.

For your youth, I forgive you!

Would follow him for years.

Hugh Glass had made his mountain man

For crawling on the rocky land

Taught Hugh what few understand…

Compassion for his fellow-man.


Jim Bridger took his lesson too.

He always learned a lot from Hugh.

The mean, ole graybeard grizzly bear

Would always seem to reappear.

And when other men were full of fear

Jim Bridger always volunteered,

Because Hugh’s words rang in his ear.

For your youth, I forgive you.


I ain’t a-feared of anything

Became the song Jim Bridger sang

And then he stepped on virgin land

Not walked upon by many men,

And witnessed what no man had seen,

Silent, standing… still…serene,

A silent, singing soul, stood weaving out a scheme.


The eagle screamed and started flight,

Then cried to man, ‘you’ve won the fight!’

The wilderness was now awake;

The silence sounded one last ache;

And white men flowed to the Great Salt Lake!


Lake Scene

Lake Scene


Life Is A River


I once was frightened, feeling insecure,

Worried ‘bout problems, of myself I was not sure.

I was so young then, my friend I didn’t know,

Life is a river, with it you must flow,

Life is a river, with it you must go.


We’re born like a raindrop,

Gently we all fall

Into life’s rapid mainstream,

Just to answer nature’s call.

We’re all meant for something

As through our life we go,

Life is a river, with it you must flow,

Life is a river, with it you must go! 


Life is a river and with it you must go.

Wherever it wants you, its there that you must go.

We all try to fight it, but deep inside we know

Life is a river, with it you must go.

Life is a river, with it you must flow.


Where is the wind, when its playing in the trees?

Catch it in your hand, there’s nothing there to see.

For it to live you have to let it be free to blow,

Life is a river, with it you must flow,

Life is a river, with it you must go,

LIfe is a river, with it you must flow

Life is a river, with it you must go.




The silent sleeping mountain land

Was awakened with the steps of man.

And never would the peace return,

For man it seems can never learn,

And still he sought more virgin land,

Shouting all the time ‘Expand!

America’s growing man!’ 

And every place he put his brand

He marked a headstone for the land,

With his boundaries, falling trees, dying game,

And the urge to tame,

He couldn’t hear the eagle cry,

Soaring upward to the sky,

A last. long, piercing, futile scream,

The victim of a dying dream.


Large Encampment NR The Cut Rocks

Large Encampment NR The Cut Rocks


Jim Bridger

Rendezvous at Green River men!

Bring yer pelts and beaver skins!

There’s lots of whiskey coming in,

And a Cheyenne trading off women,

To make your winter’s warmer.


Its the biggest one ‘at’s ever been,

A RENDEZVOUS of mountain men!

Lots of tales about yer friends,

What they’ve done! And where they’ve been!

And where they’ll be a trappin’.




At the rendezvous,

White men and the Sioux,

Smoked the pipe, traded hair,

For the maidens fair.


To the rendezvous,

Men came from St. Lou.,

Wanting beaver and mink,

Bringing whiskey to drink.


Oh the rendezvous,


On the Green River side

Where I took, my first bride

A black-eyed Shoshone,

The daughter of Eagle Man.


At the rendezvous,

White men and the Sioux

Raced their ponies for fun

Traded fur for their guns,

And with rendezvous done,

Mountain men were one.


The Trapper's Bride

The Trapper's Bride



The virgin lost her maidenhood

And readied now for motherhood,

The ragged, jagged rocky land,

Gave herself to the mountain man,

The Red man tried to understand

And held and empty, uplifted hand,

To show he still was friendly.

U-ment-tucken-Tuk-utsey, the Mountain Lamb,

Daughter of the mighty Ram,

U-ment-tucken-Tuk-utsey, was her name,

The Mountain Lamb, a fragile frame,

But to Bridger's life the maiden came

And set the mountain man a-flame with love

For his young princess.

The chief emptied his strong right hand

And showed it to the mountain man.

Then he passed his pipe of peace around

And said, ‘I share my trapping ground.

I share my metal hunting knife.

I share my lodge. I share my life.

I am the Eagle! And the Ram!

And now you have my mountain lamb.

So now you fill her with your life.

Jim Bridger…take your Shoshone wife’.



People Carry On

Loving you is very gentle,

Easily I’m drawn,

Problems always work out simple

Just turn around, they’re gone.

Now I know that love’s the reason

The people carry on.


Coming to me when I need you.

Singing loving songs.

You take me on a distant journey,

When you’re bringing me back home.

Showing me that love’s the reason

The people carry on.


I was lost and I was lonely

And I didn’t understand.

Now your special love is all around me

You took me by the hand.

Led me through my darkest hours

Showed me clear, blue sky.

Showed me how to climb the mountain

Spread my wings and fly!


Love is found in gentle people

And strength from love is drawn

And loving you is very simple

Its knowing I belong.

When you’re showing me that love’s the reason

The people carry on.


Laramie's Fort

Laramie's Fort



The land began to fill with whites

And talk of ownership and rights

And talk of hope, and dreams, and schools.

These red men are just savage fools

To question this progressive land.

We have the will of God! Expand!

Jim Bridger

Back in 1822…

I signed up with Ole Henry’s Crew…

We were the first to find the Sioux’s mysterious Yallerstone.

This land was just a baby then,

Most all the Red Men were my friends

Before this land was filled with men

And broken bison bones.


Folks ask me why I build this fort

And why the trappers are all a-leaving,

Why I rent myself and scout

You know my heart's a-grieving.

I'm grieving for the proud Red Man

Its the white savages that don't understand

We took his sacred holy land

Fenced up all the promised land

He had to fill his empty hand

With weapons of destruction.


I didn’t come to steal no home…

I just come to hunt and roam

And set my damned old spirit free

And answer to no one but me!

But now they come to rob and steal,

And leave ruts from their wagon wheels,

And hunt for gold, and preach to heal,

The Red man’s hell-bound soul.

“Save the savage soul! Bring ‘em to the fold!

His soul was safe before they came

With their talk of hell and flames,

The got him drunk, then made their claims

Of taking all he owned!




Great grandfather was a brave,

Hunting bear and buffalo.

And he told me of the day

Blackfeet saw mountains made of snow.

From the wide and rolling plains

Where the winds sings oh so clear

Blackfeet wandered to the west

Before any man was here!


Great grandfather sang me songs

of the mountains and the trees.

Climbing upward to the sun

Farther than the eagle sees,

Standing mighty they were God

As they silently appeared.

Blackfeet wandered to the west

Before any man was here!


Now a blue-eyed crazy man

One I’ll never understand

Walks upon my holy land,

Calls himself American…


I am just a Blackfeet man

But my people must not fall,

So I’ll take his yellow hair

And I’ll hang it on my wall!

Or I’ll die upon this land,

But I’ll never disappear!

Blackfeet wandered to the west

Before any man was here!


Jim Bridger

You know my eyesight’s nearly gone.

But they let me ride each day alone.

Except for that ole flea-bit hound

That leads my buckskin mare around

And tours us around the tailored ground

A-scoutin’ in the yard.


When I get lost he runs and tells; 

‘at four-legged, flea-bit infidel. 

‘at tame coyote; yapping mongrel!

He knows I’m heading westward.


When I was young I left my home

And I headed westward all alone.

And I was blinder then than I am now.

But still…I made it work somehow.


I wonder what Ol’ Hugh Glass would do

Or any of that buckskinned crew,

If they’d a-lived to see old age

To witness this internal rage

Of a-dyin’ in a bed. 

Medicine Circles

Medicine Circles


Free Me Like an Eagle Once Again

My thoughts begin to wander

Way out yonder, 

I can see


The sky is wide and open

And I know that its calling me

To be 


And lift my body from its resting place

And go floating on the breezes with the wind

And follow currents falling up through space

And go free me like an eagle once again.


The Rocky Mountains and the cliff’s steep ledge

Hang to dare me to adventure on the sky

Stretched out before me I can see the edge

Of the Earth and then I know I have to try,

To throw my soul out on the blue sky plains

Reaching out to touch the sun with my hand

Feeling the healing in its dancing flames

Helps to free me like and eagle once again.


They say a man is tied down

That I should lie down on the ground

Tightly bound.

They say that flyin’s dreamin’

And what goes up always comes down

Dreams unwound.


But I know people learn to spread their dreams

By believing that they will ascend.

Finding my freedom in the song I sing

Helps to free me like an eagle once again.


Jim Bridger was a mountain man

H walked out into unknown land

Discovered the Great Salt Lake

And lived just long enough to ache

While watching freedom lose the fight

When man pretended he was right

To hate the love of freedom.


The mountains were the battleground

Their beauty heard the crying sound

Of red men trampled in the ground

Of Buffalo falling down

Of boundaries, meant to surround

All free things everywhere.


The eagle flew away that day.

And waited in his hopeful way.

Praying man would change his mind

And tear down all the border lines

And learn that wisdom is to care

For free things living everywhere.



Free My Spirit, ‘fore My Spirits Dead (Reprise)


I want to open my window. let the sun shine in

I want to kick down my fences, let my freedom begin

I don’t want nothing but blue sky up above my head

I’ve got to free my spirit, ‘fore my spirits dead


I want to do something that I ain’t never done,

And see how far it gets me, maybe to the Sun,

And find that place where Heaven and Earth are wed

I’ve got to free my spirit, ‘fore my spirits dead


I want to see something no man has ever seen!

Go somewhere no man has ever been!

Find myself alive with every breath,

So I will know life when I meet my death!


The Rocky Mountains are as high as you go

And everything is up there that I want to know

Nothing but Heaven up above my head,

I’ve got to free my spirit, ‘fore my spirits dead.


Copyright by Bobby Bridger, White Coyote Music/ASCAP, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Paintings by Alfred Jacob Miller courtesy of Creative Commons License via: 



Since 1972 Bobby Bridger has been telling the story of Hugh Glass and his relative Jim Bridger with his epic ballad Seekers of The Fleece. The ballad features an hour-long composition comprised of 9 songs intertwined with 11 poetic narratives. The centerpiece of which depicts the mauling of Glass by a mother grizzly and his crawl to survival and forgiveness over the plains of South Dakota known as 'The Crawl'.


In 1974 Bobby debuted a one man show of Seekers of the Fleece and a companion ballad, Lakota, chronicling the Indian Wars (1860-1890) as recalled through holy man Black Elk, at Austin’s Creek Theater under the banner of A Ballad of the West. Bridger completed his vision of an epic trilogy chronicling the American west in verse and song from 1822-1950 with Pahaska -the “Buffalo Bill ballad” in 1996. After performing Seekers of the Fleece for audiences around the world for 40 years, Bridger retired live performances of the piece in 2011 and donated the buckskin costume and coyote headdress he wore portraying Jim Bridger to Fort Bridger Historical Site, in Fort Bridger, Wyoming, where they are on permanent display in the museum there.

Get to know more about all of the collaborators of 'The Crawl' including Slim Pickens, The Lost Gonzo band, Timberjack and more in the BLOG section.


A look back at the making of 'Hugh Glass: The Musical' and Bridger's single 'The Crawl' featuring Slim Pickens