DAYLIGHT SAVING IN CACTUS CENTER
by Arthur Chapman (1873-1935)
Down here in Cactus Center
we believe in savin’ time;
Unlike the waste of powder,
wastin’ daylight is a crime;
So we held a solemn meetin’,
down in Poker Johnson’s place,
And agreed that here in Cactus
every clock must change its face;
“For,” Bear Hawkins said, reflective,
“it will give one hour more
For the studyin’ by sunlight
of this here draw poker lore.
We are proud of all the sunshine
that suffuses yonder range;
If we was n’t boosters for it,
it’d be almighty strange.”
But a shadder fell upon us
when old Pegleg brought the mail
And he stumped in, from his stage seat,
with his customary hail,
For he said, when we had told him
of our daylight savin’ plan:
“This is rough on pore old Pegleg—
you have got me on the pan,
For they’ve just sent word from Lone Wolf
that the old-time schedule stays,
And they say I’ll run this bus line
just as on all previous days,
So I’d like to have you tell me
how I’ll land among you here
At the time I’m leavin’ Lone Wolf.
Do I make my meanin’ clear?
We are peaceful here in Cactus—
it takes lots to stir our ire—
But this impudence from Lone Wolf
set our fightin’ blood afire;
So we ‘phoned the Two-Bar foreman,
and the Star, and Lazy Y,
And we got word to the round-ups
and they let the brand-irons lie,
And the top hands come a-peltin’
from the wide and dusty plain,
And we even took a sheepman,
though it went against the grain.
Whereupon, when all assembled,
we sent word: “Hunt trees to climb,
For we’re comin’ over, Lone Wolf,
and we’ll make you change your time!”
There’s been battles over poker,
there’s been bloodshed over booze,
There’s been men who’ve gone to Boot Hill
’cause of words that they would use;
Men have been turned into lead mines
for remarks misunderstood;
Men who would n’t drink have perished—
men have died because they would’
But the fight of fights was started
when we entered Lone Wolf’s streets
And we carried daylight savin’
to the uttermost retreats.
Though we lost some ten good gunmen,
we was pleased, on takin’ stock,
When we found that we had shot holes
in each laggin’ Lone Wolf clock.
… by Arthur Chapman, from Cactus Center: poems of an Arizona Town (1921)
Daylight Savings Time starts in (most of) the U.S. this Sunday, March 11, 2018.
At one time, few western poems were as widely known as Arthur Chapman’s “Out Where the West Begins.” Legend has it that Chapman dashed off the poem for his “Center Shots” column in the Denver Republican when the Western states’ governors were arguing about where the West begins, and that he was amazed at the attention it received.
The dust jacket of his 1921 novel, Mystery Ranch, has this to say about the poem:
…Today it is perhaps the best-known bit of verse in America. It hangs framed in the office of the Secretary of the Interior at Washington. It has been quoted in Congress, and printed as campaign material for at least two Governors. It has crossed both the Atlantic and Pacific, while throughout this country it may be found pinned on walls and pasted in scrapbooks innumerable…[his poems] possess a rich Western humor such as has not been heard in American poetry since the passing of Bret Harte.
This postcard, from the BAR-D collection, is one of many that were produced with the poem.
Find “Out Where the West Begins” and more about it, including a parody, “Down Where the Vest Begins,” at CowboyPoetry.com.
Chapman wrote many poems and published two collections of them.
In 1921, the Literary Review commented on the poetry in Cactus Center, “In vigor of style, [it] irresistibly suggests a transplanted Kipling.” View the entire book at the Internet Archive.
Find much more about Arthur Chapman in our feature at CowboyPoetry.com.