FROM TOWN by Charles Badger Clark, Jr. (1883-1957)

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photo: Wallace McRae and Andy Hedges in Elko, Nevada, 2018;
photo courtesy of Andy Hedges

 

FROM TOWN
by Charles Badger Clark, Jr. (1883-1957)

We’re the children of the open and we hate the haunts o’ men,
But we had to come to town to get the mail.
And we’re ridin’ home at daybreak—’cause the air is cooler then—
All ‘cept one of us that stopped behind in jail.
Shorty’s nose won’t bear paradin’, Bill’s off eye is darkly fadin’,
All our toilets show a touch of disarray,
For we found that city life is a constant round of strife
And we ain’t the breed for shyin’ from a fray.

Chant your warwhoop, pardners dear, while the east turns pale with fear
And the chaparral is tremblin’ all aroun’
For we’re wicked to the marrer; we’re a mid-night dream of terror
When we’re ridin’ up the rocky trail from town!

We acquired our hasty temper from our friend, the centipede,
From the rattlesnake we learnt to guard our rights.
We have gathered fightin’ pointers from the famous bronco steed
And the bobcat teached us reppertee that bites.
So when some high-collared herrin’ jeered the garb that I was wearin’
‘Twasn’t long till we had got where talkin’ ends,
And he et his illbred chat, with a sauce of derby hat,
While my merry pardners entertained his friends.

Sing ‘er out, my buckeroos! Let the desert hear the news.
Tell the stars the way we rubbed the haughty down.
We’re the fiercest wolves a-prowlin’ and it’s just our night for howlin’
When we’re ridin’ up the rocky trail from town.

Since the days that Lot and Abram split the Jordan range in halves
Just to fix it so their punchers wouldn’t fight,
Since old Jacob skinned his dad-in-law for six years’ crop of calves
And then hit the trail for Canaan in the night,
There has been a taste for battle ‘mong the men that followed cattle
And a love of doin’ things that’s wild and strange,
And the warmth of Laban’s words when he missed his speckled herds
Still is useful in the language of the range.

Singer ‘er out, my bold coyotes! leather fists and leather throats,
For we wear the brand of Ishm’el like a crown.
We’re the sons of desolation, we’re the outlaws of creation—
Ee—yow! a-ridin’ up the rocky trail from town!

…by Charles Badger Clark, Jr.

Andy Hedges, fine reciter and songster, recites this poem with brio on his most recent COWBOY CROSSROADS podcast. Equally important, he interviews octogenarian Montanan Wallace McRae, respected rancher, poet, deep thinker, and maverick.

“My father was a cowman…” are the first words from Wally McRae. He talks about his father and grandfather, their settling and ranching history, his own ranching struggles and early life, the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, and his friendship with another rebel, poet Paul Zarzyski.

Wally McRae has written some of the most recognized cowboy poems, including “Reincarnation” and the exceptional “Things of Intrinsic Worth.” He is a National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellow, and has been a part of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering from its beginning, in 1985.

Andy Hedges is owed great thanks for capturing his story and that of others. COWBOY CROSSROADS has a wealth of such oral histories, all of which are also full of entertainment. Other episodes feature Don Edwards, Gary McMahan, Waddie Mitchell, Randy Rieman, Mike Beck, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Hal Cannon, Andy Wilkinson, Jerry Brooks, and others. Find more about COWBOY CROSSROADS and all episodes at
andyhedges.com. Help support his efforts if you are able.

Badger Clark got his cowboying experience in Arizona. He became the Poet Laureate of South Dakota, where he was born and lived for most of his life. He wrote many lasting poems, and some found their way into song, including “The Old Cow Man,” “Riding’,” “Spanish is a Loving Tongue” and “To Her.”

In a foreword to a 1942 edition of his Sun and Saddle Leather, a book that has been in print continuously since its 1915 publication, he refers to his poems as his children. He comments, “…I sit here alone my mountain cabin–an old batch, and yet, without the slightest scandal, a happy father–every now and then hearing tidings of how my children have visited interesting places where I shall never go and met fine people whom I shall never see. How delightful it is to have good children!”

The South Dakota Historical Society Foundation holds Badger Clark’s papers and offers his books for sale.

Find poetry and more in our features about Badger Clark at CowboyPoetry.com.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this photo with this post, but for other uses, request permission. This poem is in the public domain.)