This traditional folk song tells the story of one old settler, who, exhausting himself trying to get rich by various means, comes to the end of his quest in the Puget Sound area near Seattle, Washington. The time period would be the latter half of the 19th century, when the Pacific Northwest was beginning to be settled. Acres of Clams has been covered by the folk group the Limeliters, among others.
The melody, a gentle lilt in waltz time, suggests the repose that comes of accepting one's condition in life, and of appreciating what the world offers. Each verse is followed by a chorus of sorts, comprised of repeating the final line twice, the third line once, then the final line a third time.
Acres of Clams or Old Settler's Song
I've traveled all over this country
Prospecting and digging for gold
I've tunneled, hydraulicked and cradled
And I have been frequently sold.
For each man who got rich by mining
Perceiving that hundreds grew poor
I made up my mind to try farming
The only pursuit that was sure.
So, rolling my grub in my blanket
I left all my tools on the ground
I started one morning to shank it
For the country they call Puget Sound.
Arriving flat broke in midwinter
I found it enveloped in fog
And covered all over with timber
Thick as hair on the back of a dog.
When I looked on the prospects so gloomy
The tears trickled over my face
And I thought that my travels had brought me
To the end of the jumping-off place.
I staked me a claim in the forest
And sat myself down to hard toil
For two years I chopped and I struggled
But I never got down to the soil.
I tried to get out of the country
But poverty forced me to stay
Until I became an old settler
Then nothing could drive me away.
And now that I'm used to the climate
I think that if a man ever found
A place to live easy and happy
That Eden is on Puget Sound.
No longer the slave of ambition
I laugh at the world and its shams
As I think of my pleasant condition
Surrounded by acres of clams.