CATTLE by Berta Harte Nance (1883-1958)

cattlelange

photo by Dorothea Lange, The Library of Congress

 

CATTLE
by Berta Harte Nance (1883-1958)

Other states were carved or born
Texas grew from hide and horn.

Other states are long and wide,
Texas is a shaggy hide.

Dripping blood and crumpled hair;
Some fat giant flung it there,

Laid the head where valleys drain,
Stretched its rump along the plain.

Other soil is full of stones,
Texans plow up cattle-bones.

Herds are buried on the trail,
Underneath the powdered shale;

Herds that stiffened like the snow,
Where the icy northers go.

Other states have built their halls,
Humming tunes along the walls.

Texans watched the mortar stirred,
While they kept the lowing herd.

Stamped on Texan wall and roof
Gleams the sharp and crescent hoof.

High above the hum and stir
Jingle bridle rein and spur.

Other states were made or born,
Texas grew from hide and horn.

…by Berta Hart Nance

In his 1941 book, The Longhorns, J. Frank Dobie (1888-1964) writes, “The map of Texas looks somewhat like a roughly skinned cowhide spread out on the ground, the tail represented by the tapering peninsula at the mouth of the Rio Grande, the broad head by the Panhandle. But ‘Cattle,’ by Berta Hart Nance, goes deeper than the map.”

Berta Hart Nance (1883-1958) was the daughter of a rancher, who was also a Confederate veteran, Indian fighter, and cousin of Jefferson Davis,” according to the Texas Almanac, which includes more about her life and writings. In 1926, her book-length poem about Texas was published, The Round-Up. She had two other books of poetry published, and her work was included in many anthologies.

Find more about her and her poem at CowboyPoetry.com.

This 1938 photograph, “Cattle range on the high plains of the Texas Panhandle,” is by noted Depression-era documentary photographer Dorothea Lange (1895-1965). It’s from Library of Congress U.S. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black & White Photographs. Find more about it here.

Dorothea Lange is best known for her Depression-era photograph of a migrant woman. See that photos and others in a 2013 Picture the West at CowboyPoetry.com.

Find a brief biography of Dorothea Lange, a part of Ken Burns’ The Dust Bowl, here. The Museum of Modern Art has a gallery of photos.