MORNING ON THE DESERT
by Katherine Fall Pettey (1874-1951)
Morning on the desert,
and the wind is blowin’ free,
And it’s ours jest for the breathin’,
so let’s fill up, you an’ me.
No more stuffy cities
where you have to pay to breathe—
Where the helpless, human creatures,
throng, and move, and strive and seethe.
Morning on the desert,
an’ the air is like a wine;
And it seems like all creation
has been made for me an’ mine.
No house to stop my vision
save a neighbor’s miles away,
An’ the little ‘dobe casa
that belongs to me an’ May.
Lonesome? Not a minute:
Why I’ve got these mountains here;
That was put there jest to please me
with their blush an’ frown an’ cheer.
They’re waitin’ when the summer sun
gets too sizzlin’ hot—
An’ we jest go campin’ in ’em
with a pan an’ coffee pot.
Morning on the desert!
I can smell the sagebrush smoke;
An’ I hate to see it burnin’,
but the land must sure be broke.
Ain’t it jest a pity
that wherever man may live,
He tears up much that’s beautiful,
that the good God has to give?
“Sagebrush ain’t so pretty?”
Well, all eyes don’t see the same;
Have you ever saw the moonlight
turn it to a silv’ry flame?
An’ that greasewood thicket yonder—
well, it smells jest awful sweet
When the night wind has been shakin’ it;
for smells it’s hard to beat.
Lonesome? well, I guess not!
I’ve been lonesome in a town.
But I sure do love the desert
with its stretches wide and brown;
All day through the sagebrush here,
the wind is blowin’ free.
An’ it’s ours jest for the breathin’,
so let’s fill up, you and me.
…by Katherine Fall Pettey, from “Songs from the Sage Brush,” 1910
For many years, this poem was printed on postcards and reproduced with the comment, “Found written on the door of an old cabin in the desert.” With some detective work and some luck, we found the author was Katherine Fall Pettey. Through her brother, she had ties to the Teapot Dome scandal, Billy the Kid, and Pat Garrett.. She lived the last decades of her life in a mental institution. Find more in our feature at CowboyPoetry.com.
Jerry Brooks, through her outstanding recitation, is responsible for bringing “Morning on the Desert” to audiences.
Jerry Brooks is featured in the latest don’t-miss COWBOY CROSSROADS podcast from Andy Hedges. She tells about her life as a coal miner, talks about poetry, and more. Find listening options here.
This photo by Carol M. Highsmith is titled, “Old west deserted cabin in Utah” and is from the “Photographs in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive,” The Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. Find more about the photo here.
The Highsmith Archive notes that, “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.”
(This poem and photo are in the public domain.)