JEFF HART, by Charles Badger Clark, Jr.

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JEFF HART
by Charles Badger Clark, Jr. (1883-1957)

Jeff Hart rode out of the gulch to war
When the low sun yellowed the pines.
He waved to his folks in the cabin door
And yelled to the men at the mines.
The gulch kept watch till he dropped from sight—
Neighbors and girl and kin.
Jeff Hart rode out of the gulch one night;
Next morning the world came in.

His dad went back to the clinking drills
And his mother cooked for the men;
The pines branched black on the eastern hills,
Then black to the west again.
But never again, by dusk or dawn,
Were the days in the gulch the same,
For back up the hill Jeff Hart had gone
The trample of millions came.

Then never a clatter of dynamite
But echoed the guns of the Aisne,
And the coyote’s wail in the woods at night
Was bitter with Belgium’s pain.
We hear the snarl of a savage sea
In the pines when the wind went through,
And the strangers Jeff Hart fought to free
Grew folks to the folks he knew.

Jeff Hart has drifted for good and all,
To the ghostly bugles blown,
But the far French valley that saw him fall
Blood kin to the gulch is grown;
And his foreign folks are ours by right—
The friends that he died to win.
Jeff Hart rode out of the gulch one night;
Next morning the world came in.

…Charles Badger Clark, Jr. from Sun and Saddle Leather

As we head toward Memorial Day and Remembrance Day to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice, Badger Clark’s timeless poem, written during WWI, seems fitting. The poem was printed in Collier’s Illustrated Weekly in 1919 and in other newspapers and periodicals of the time. It was added to later editions of Clark’s Sun and Saddle Leather, in a section titled “Grass Grown Trails.”

Clark got his cowboying experience in Arizona. He became the Poet Laureate of South Dakota, where he was born and where he lived for most of his life.

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

Read many more poems and more about Badger Clark at CowboyPoetry.com.

This 1928 photograph of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery by Harris & Ewing is from The Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division,[reproduction number, e.g., LC-USZ62-123456].

Wikipedia tells that, “Harris & Ewing Inc. was a photographic studio in Washington, D.C., owned and run by George W. Harris and Martha Ewing” and “…In the late 1930s Harris & Ewing was the largest photographic studio in the United States.”

Find poetry and more for Memorial Day at CowboyPoetry.com.

We’re considering a future MASTERS CD of Badger Clark’s poetry. Do you have a favorite poem or favorite recitation? Do you recite a lesser known Clark poem? Email us.  

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