THE COWBOY’S RETURN (MAKE ME A COWBOY AGAIN FOR A DAY) authorship uncertain

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THE COWBOY’S RETURN (MAKE ME A COWBOY AGAIN FOR A DAY)
authorship uncertain

Backward, turn backward, oh, Time with your wheels,
Aeroplanes, wagons and automobiles
Dress me once more in sombrero that flaps,
Spurs, and a flannel shirt, slicker and chaps
Put a six-shooter or two in my hand.
Show me a yearling to rope and to brand
Out where the sage brush is dusty and gray,
Make me a cowboy again for a day.

Give me a broncho that knows how to dance,
Buckskin of color and wicked of glance,
New to the feeling of bridles and bits
Give me a quirt that will sting where it hits,
Strap on the poncho behind in a roll,
Pass me the lariat, dear to my soul,
Over the trail let me gallop away.
Make me a cowboy again for a day.

Thunder of hoofs on the range as you ride
Hissing of iron and the smoking of hide,
Bellow of cattle, and snort of cayuse
Shorthorns from Texas as wild as the deuce;
Midnight stampede, and the milling of herds
Yells of the cowmen too angry for words
Right in the thick of it all I would stay.
Make me a cowboy again for a day.

Under the star-studded canopy vast
Campfire and coffee and comfort at last.
(Bacon that sizzles and crisps in the pan
After the roundup smells good to a man.)
Stories of ranchers and rustlers retold
Over the pipes as the embers grow cold—
These are the tunes that old memories play,
Make me a cowboy again for a day.

…as in Leslie’s Weekly, 1910

Our great American troubadour Don Edwards includes “Make Me a Cowboy Again for a Day” in his Saddle Songs—A Cowboy Songbag, an invaluable reference book. See his version at CowboyPoetry.com.

The poem is not recited much and the song is not heard or recorded frequently these days. In Saddle Songs, Don Edwards writes, “I always used to love to hear my friend Dick Farnsworth sing this old song…Dick sang it to the tune of ‘One Morning in May.’ It is also interchangeable with ‘Wild Rippling Water.’ Dick was a real good and cherished friend and I miss him a lot. Kind of like these old songs if folks quit singin’ ’em…they’ll be gone someday and won’t be comin’ back.” The same page in the book includes a quote from Richard Farnsworth, “I sing a little better than a crow but not as good as a canary.”

Don Edwards sings “Make Me a Cowboy Again for a Day” on his Wrangler Award-winning album, Saddle Songs II Last of the Troubadours.” You can hear it on YouTube.

“Make Me a Cowboy Again for a Day” is included in Songs Texas Sings (1936), a small songbook created for the Texas centennial for schools, which has an introduction by John Lomax. No author is given.

In a search for the earliest printing of the poem or song, we found the above version in Leslie’s Weekly, the October 6, 1910 edition. The author was given as “Rorodore Theovelt,” which looks like an awkward re-arrangement of Theodore Roosevelt. Earlier in 1910, Roosevelt’s secretary, William Loeb, Jr. became a member of Leslie’s board. Perhaps it was meant as a spoof.

Glenn Ohrlin notes that George B. German, in the 1932 Cowboy Campfire Ballads credits the song to an 1890s creation by Joe and Zack Miller of the 101 Ranch Wild West Show. Other references mention that it is similar to the popular-at-its-time “Rock Me to Sleep Mother” (written by Elizabeth Chase Akers Allen in 1866; sometimes attributed to Florence Percy, which was the pen name of Elizabeth Chase Akers Allen, and Ernest Leslie, composer) that begins “Backward, turn backward, Oh Time, in your flight, make me a child again just for tonight.”

Find more about the song and poem, including some alternate lines, at CowboyPoetry.com.

This 1939 photo by Arthur Rothstein (1915-1985) is from The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Farm Services Administration (FSA). It is titled, “Custer Forest, Montana.”

Rothstein was a student of Roy Styker, who conceived the documentary photography project for the FSA. Find more about Arthur Rothstein at Wikipedia.

Find more about the photo here.