CATTLE, by Berta Harte Nance (1883-1958)

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CATTLE
by Berta Harte Nance (1883-1958)

Other states were carved or born
Texas grew from hide and horn.

Other states are long and wide,
Texas is a shaggy hide.

Dripping blood and crumpled hair;
Some fat giant flung it there,

Laid the head where valleys drain,
Stretched its rump along the plain.

Other soil is full of stones,
Texans plow up cattle-bones.

Herds are buried on the trail,
Underneath the powdered shale;

Herds that stiffened like the snow,
Where the icy northers go.

Other states have built their halls,
Humming tunes along the walls.

Texans watched the mortar stirred,
While they kept the lowing herd.

Stamped on Texan wall and roof
Gleams the sharp and crescent hoof.

High above the hum and stir
Jingle bridle rein and spur.

Other states were made or born,
Texas grew from hide and horn.

…by Berta Hart Nance
Hear Andy Hedges’ outstanding recitation of this poem on the current Cowboy Crossroads episode. The episode is part one of a riveting interview with respected cowboy, horseman, reciter, and poet Joel Nelson, made at the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering earlier this year. Joel Nelson tells great stories about his earliest ranch memories; time spent with his father, who was a cowboy and deputy sheriff; and about his early cowboying work, including his time at the 06 Ranch; and other formative experiences.

The popular Cowboy Crossroads podcast, a growing, lasting archive of engaging interviews with those involved in the working West and beyond, includes episodes with Don Edwards, Gary McMahan, Waddie Mitchell, Randy Rieman, Dom Flemons, Mike Beck, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Hal Cannon, Andy Wilkinson, Jerry Brooks, Wallace McRae, Amy Hale Auker, Ross Knox, and others.

Find Andy Hedges next at the 9th Annual Lost N Lava Cowboy Gathering in Shoshone, Idaho on September 14-15. The lineup also includes Kristyn Harris, Brigid & Johnny “Guitar” Reedy, John Reedy, Lynn Kopelke, Panhandle Cowboys (Dave Fulfs & JB Barber), Tony Argento, Prairie Wind Coyote (Joseph Sartin & Little Joe McCutcheon), Open Range (Linda Hausler & Ric Steinke), Thatch Elmer and David Anderson.

Andy Hedges has many other performances coming up at interesting venues. See andyhedges.com for his schedule.

In his 1941 book, “The Longhorns,” J. Frank Dobie (1888-1964) writes, “The map of Texas looks somewhat like a roughly skinned cowhide spread out on the ground, the tail represented by the tapering peninsula at the mouth of the Rio Grande, the broad head by the Panhandle. But ‘Cattle,’ by Berta Hart Nance, goes deeper than the map.”

Berta Hart Nance (1883-1958) was the daughter of a rancher, who was also a Confederate veteran, Indian fighter, and cousin of Jefferson Davis,” according to the Texas Almanac, which includes more about her life and writings. In 1926, her book-length poem about Texas was published, “The Round-Up.” She had two other books of poetry published, and her work was included in many anthologies.

Find more about her and her poem at CowboyPoetry.com.

This 1938 photograph, “Cattle range on the high plains of the Texas Panhandle,” is by noted Depression-era documentary photographer Dorothea Lange (1895-1965). It’s from The Library of Congress U.S. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black & White Photographs.

Dorothea Lange is best known for her Depression-era photograph of a migrant woman. See that photos and others in a 2013 Picture the West at CowboyPoetry.com.

Find a brief biography of Dorothea Lange, a part of Ken Burns’ The Dust Bowl, at PBS. The Museum of Modern Art has a gallery of photos.

(This poem and photograph are in the public domain.)