by Charles Badger Clark, Jr. (1883-1957)
You’ve watched the ground-hog’s shadow and the shiftin’ weather signs
Till the Northern prairie starred itse’f with flowers;
You’ve seen the snow a-meltin’ up among the Northern pines
And the mountain creeks a-roarin’ with the showers.
You’ve blessed the stranger sunlight when the Winter days were done
And the Summer creepin’ down the budded lanes.
Did you ever see a Springtime in the home range of the sun,
When the desert land is waitin’ for the Rains?
The April days are sun and sun; the last thin cloud is fled.
It’s gold about the eastern mountain crest,
Then blaze upon the yellow range all day from overhead
And then a stripe of gold across the west.
The dry wind mourns among the hills, a-huntin’ trees and grass,
Then down the desert flats it rises higher
And sweeps a rollin’ dust-storm up and flings it through the pass
And fills the evenin’ west with smoulderin’ fire.
It’s sun and sun without a change the lazy length o’ May
And all the little sun things own the land.
The horned toad basks and swells himse’f; the bright swifts dart and play;
The rattler hunts or dozes in the sand.
The wind comes off the desert like it brushed a bed of coals;
The sickly range grass withers down and fails;
The bony cattle bawl around the dryin’ water holes,
They stagger off along the stony trails.
The days crawl on to Summer suns that slower blaze and wheel;
The mesas heave and quiver in the noon.
The mountains they are ashes and the sky is shinin’ steel,
Though the mockin’-birds are singin’ that it’s June.
And here and there among the hills, a-standin’ white and tall,
The droopin’ plumes of yucca flowers gleam,
The buzzards circle, circle where the startin’ cattle fall
And the whole hot land seems dyin’ in a dream.
But last across the sky-line comes a thing that’s strange and new,
A little cloud of saddle blanket size.
It blackens ‘long the mountains and bulges up the blue
And shuts the weary sun-glare from our eyes.
Then the lightnin’s gash the heavens and the thunder jars the world
And the gray of fallin’ water wraps the plains,
And ‘cross the burnin’ ranges, down the wind, the word is whirled:
“Here’s another year of livin’, and the Rains!”
You’ve seen your fat fields ripplin’ with the treasure that they hoard;
Have you seen a mountain stretch and rub its eyes?
Or bare hills lift their streamin’ faces up and thank the Lord,
Fairly tremblin’ with their gladness and surprise?
Have you heard the ‘royos singin’ and the new breeze hummin’ gay,
As the greenin’ ranges shed their dusty stains–
Just a whole dead world sprung back to life and laughin’ in a day!
Did you ever see the comin’ of the Rains?
…by Charles Badger Clark, Jr.
“The Rains” was published in 1910 in Pacific Monthly, and you can see it here on Google Books.
Badger Clark got his cowboying experience in Arizona. He became the Poet Laureate of South Dakota, where he was born and lived for most of his life. He wrote many lasting poems, and some found their way into song, including “The Old Cow Man,” “Riding’,” “Spanish is a Loving Tongue” and “To Her.”
The South Dakota Historical Society Foundation holds Badger Clark’s papers and offers his books for sale.
Find poetry and more in our features about Badger Clark: .
This photograph, titled, “Complex clouds form after many inches of rain over several days near Stockton, California,” is by contemporary photographer, author, and publisher Carol M. Highsmith and included in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive at The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
Information at the collection notes, “Highsmith, a distinguished and richly-published American photographer, has donated her work to the Library of Congress since 1992. Starting in 2002, Highsmith provided scans or photographs she shot digitally with new donations to allow rapid online access throughout the world. Her generosity in dedicating the rights to the American people for copyright free access also makes this Archive a very special visual resource.”
Find more about the photograph here.