THE DUDE WRANGLER
by Gail I. Gardner (1892-1988)
I’ll tell you of a sad, sad story,
Of how a cowboy fell from grace,
Now really this is something awful,
There never was so sad a case.
One time I had myself a pardner,
I never knowed one half so good;
We throwed our outfits in together,
And lived the way that cowboys should.
He savvied all about wild cattle,
And he was handy with a rope,
For a gentle, well-reined pony,
Just give me one that he had broke.
He never owned no clothes but Levis,
He wore them until they was slick,
And he never wore no great big Stetson,
‘Cause where we rode the brush was thick.
He never had no time for women,
So bashful and so shy was he,
Besides he knowed that they was poison,
And so he always let them be.
Well he went to work on distant ranges;
I did not see him for a year.
But then I had no cause to worry,
For I knowed that some day he’d appear.
One day I rode in from the mountains,
A-feelin’ good and steppin’ light,
For I had just sold all my yearlin’s,
And the price was out of sight.
But soon I seen a sight so awful,
It caused my joy to fade away,
It filled my very soul with sorrow,
I never will forgit that day.
For down the street there come a-walkin’
My oldtime pardner as of yore,
Although I know you will not believe me,
Let me tell you what he wore.
He had his boots outside his britches;
They was made of leather green and red.
His shirt was of a dozen colors,
Loud enough to wake the dead.
Around his neck he had a ‘kerchief,
Knotted through a silver ring;
I swear to Gawd he had a wrist-watch,
Who ever heard of such a thing.
Sez I, “Old scout now what’s the trouble?
You must have et some loco weed.
If you will tell me how to help you,
I’ll git you anything you need.”
Well he looked at me for half a minute,
And then he begin to bawl;
He sez, “Bear with me while I tell you
What made me take this awful fall.
“It was a woman from Chicago
Who put the Injun sign on me;
She told me that I was romantic,
And just as handsome as could be.”
Sez he, “I’m ‘fraid that there ain’t nothin’
That you can do to save my hide,
I’m wranglin’ dudes instead of cattle,
I’m what they call a first-class guide.
“Oh I saddles up their pump-tailed ponies,
I fix their stirrups for them too,
I boost them up into their saddles,
They give me tips when I am through.
“It’s just like horses eatin’ loco,
You can not quit it if you try,
I’ll go on wranglin’ dudes forever,
Until the day that I shall die.”
So I drawed my gun and throwed it on him,
I had to turn my face away.
I shot him squarely through the middle,
And where he fell I left him lay.
I shorely hated for to do it,
For things that’s done you cain’t recall,
But when a cowboy turns dude wrangler,
He ain’t no good no more at all.
…Gail I. Gardner, from Orejana Bull; reprinted with permission of the Gardner/Steiger family; this poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission.
Gail I. Gardner, born in Prescott, Arizona, was educated at Philip Exeter Academy and Dartmouth University. But he wanted to work as a cowboy, which he did for much of his life. He later became the postmaster of Prescott. His works are a solid part of cowboy poetry history.
Gardner is probably best known as the author of “The Sierry Petes (or Tying Knots in the Devil’s Tail).”He wrote that now-famous piece in 1917. He continually battled the notion that the poem was “anonymous” or claimed by other authors. It became an immediate favorite, recited and put to music by others, quickly entering the realm of “classic.”
Find more poetry, photos, and more about Gail I. Gardner in our feature here.
For another great take on dude wranglers, read top singer and songwriter Dave Stamey’s piece, “The Dude Wrangler,” on Facebook.
This 1941 photograph,”Dudes and cowboy from Quarter Circle U Ranch at Crow Indian fair. Crow Agency, Montana” is by noted photographer Marion Post Wolcott (1910-1990). A collection of her photographs at The Library of Congress tells that she produced more than 9,000 photographs for the Farm Security Administration (FSA) from 1938 to 1942. Find more at a web site created by her daughter. Find more about the above photo here.