by Arthur Chapman (1873-1935)

Out where the handclasp’s a little stronger,
Out where the smile dwells a little longer,
That’s where the West begins;
Out where the sun is a little brighter,
Where the snows that fall are a trifle whiter,
Where the bonds of home are a wee bit tighter,
That’s where the West begins.

Out where the skies are a trifle bluer,
Out where friendship’s a little truer,
That’s where the West begins;
Out where a fresher breeze is blowing,
Where there’s laughter in every streamlet flowing,
Where there’s more of reaping and less of sowing,
That’s where the West begins;

Out where the world is in the making,
Where fewer hearts in despair are aching,
That’s where the West begins;
Where there’s more of singing and less of sighing,
Where there’s more of giving and less of buying,
And a man makes friends without half trying —
That’s where the West begins.

… by Arthur Chapman, from Out Where the West Begins (1916)

At one time, few western poems were as widely known as Arthur Chapman’s “Out Where the West Begins.” Legend has it that he dashed off the poem for his “Center Shots” column in the Denver Republican when the Western states’ governors were arguing about where the West begins, and that he was amazed at the attention it received.

The poem appeared on postcards and other souvenirs, and was set to music. The poem was “adapted” without attribution for particular states


The dust jacket of his 1921 novel, “Mystery Ranch,” has this to say about the poem:

…Today it is perhaps the best-known bit of verse in America. It hangs framed in the office of the Secretary of the Interior at Washington. It has been quoted in Congress, and printed as campaign material for at least two Governors. It has crossed both the Atlantic and Pacific, while throughout this country it may be found pinned on walls and pasted in scrapbooks innumerable…[his poems] possess a rich Western humor such as has not been heard in American poetry since the passing of Bret Harte.


Find “Out Where the West Begins” and more about it, including a parody, “Down Where the Vest Begins,” at cowboypoetry.com. View the entire book at the Internet Archive.

Broadcaster and rodeo announcer Jim Thompson “Out Where the West Begins” on The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Two.

Chapman wrote many poems and published two collections of them.

The black and white uncredited illustration at the top is from Chapman’s 1921 Cactus Center book. We have searched, but have been unable to identify the artist, Harold ____? There are two signed illustrations in the book, but the (illegible) surnames don’t even look the same. The same artist appears to have illustrated the jacket of Out Where the West Begins. The postcard, from the BAR-D collection, is one of many that were produced with the poem.

Find much more about Arthur Chapman in our feature at CowboyPoetry.com.

This poem is in the public domain.