THE OLD COW MEN’S PARADE by Sharlot Mabridth Hall (1870-1943)

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Image by Seita, licensed from Shutterstock.com.

THE OLD COW MEN’S PARADE
by Sharlot Mabridth Hall (1870-1943)

The flags are flying, the bands are playing,
And there, down Gurley street
The big parade is coming —
Hark to the trampling feet!
Two hundred cow men riding,
Dressed out for holiday;
Ten-gallon hats and fancy shirts
And ‘kerchiefs bright and gay.

Two hundred horses prancing
As the riders whoop and yell;
And jingle of spurs and bridle chains
The noise and music swell.
There’s Ruffner on the sorrel,
His silver bridle shines;
And Doc Pardee comes riding
Down from the Munds Park pines.

And there’s the Beloat of Buckeye
Who twirls a winning rope;
Loge Morris and his juniors,
All on a swinging lope.
The Champies and Ed Bowman,
And all the medalled train
Come back to lift more honors
At Prescott once again.

They pass with jokes and laughter,
And shouting clear and loud,
Out to the big arena
To face the cheering crowd.
And some will rope for glory
And some will ride for gold;
And some will grappled bull-dogged steers
And win on a strangle-hold.

Down sweep the big sombreros
As the bow to the grandstand’s cheer;
But, look, as they ride to their places—
God! Look what’s coming here!
A long, long train of horsemen,
Yet never a hoof-beat sounds;
And never a dust-spurt rises
From the trampled sporting grounds.

A-breast, in martial order
They wheel and swing to place;
But their forms are thin and misty
And a shadow dims each face;
A pale and still battalion
In Stetsons, chaps, and spurs;
And they, too, bow to the grandstand—
But the picture swims and blurs.

Here are the men of Texas
Who made the Chisholm Trail,
Pointing their herds of long-horns
To the track of a steel-shod rail,
Heading their leaders northward
By a puff of engine smoke;
Betting their all on a market chance—
Thousands–or down, and broke.

Men who trailed the Long Trail
With steers for Idaho;
Men who drove their beef herds
To feed Geronimo.
Men who could buck a Norther,
Men who could fight a drouth;
Sitting their lean trail-horses,
Keen-eyed, and grim of mouth.

There’s Jim O’Neal from Date Creek
With his riders, dark and trim;
And close at this knee Juan Leyvas,
A stripling lithe and slim.
And Stuart Knight comes riding
With his smile and careless grace—
But a whirlwind whips down the beaten track
And a dust-cloud blurs each face.

Gone are the silent riders,
And only the sun beats down
On the trampled, barren arena
And the chute gates weathered brown:
They’ve ridden back to the Days That Were;
But before a play is made—
Three cheers for the unseen men who passed
In the old cow men’s parade.

…by Sharlot Hall, from her 1953 book, Poems of a Ranch Woman.

Sharlot Mabridth Hall (1870-1943) wrote about a Fourth of July event that still continues today, the Frontier Days Parade that takes place in conjunction with Arizona’s World’s Oldest Prescott Rodeo. The rodeo celebrates its 129th anniversary this year and is happening now.

Families of many of those mentioned in the poem still live in the Prescott area today.

Sharlot Hall arrived in the Arizona Territory as a young girl. She wrote about those early days and continued to document her life and the stories and histories of Arizona in wrote essays, short stories, articles, and poetry.

Fiercely independent, she was the first Arizona woman to hold public office, serving as Territorial Historian of Arizona. In 1924, shortly after women won the right to vote, she was selected to take the state’s vote to Washington, D. C. Find more about her and more poetry in our feature at CowboyPoetry.com.

With luck, you can hear Tom Weathers recite this poem at the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering. This year’s event is its 30th anniversary, August 10-12, in Prescott.

Find poems and more for Independence Day at CowboyPoetry.com.