THE BORDER AFFAIR, by Charles Badger Clark

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THE BORDER AFFAIR
by Charles Badger Clark (1883-1957)

Spanish is the lovin’ tongue,
Soft as music, light as spray.
‘Twas a girl I learnt it from,
Livin’ down Sonora way.
I don’t look much like a lover,
Yet I say her love words over
Often when I’m all alone—
“Mi amor, mi corazon.”

Nights when she knew where I’d ride
She would listen for my spurs,
Fling the big door open wide,
Raise them laughin’ eyes of hers
And my heart would nigh stop beatin’
When I heard her tender greetin’,
Whispered soft for me alone
“Mi amor! mi corazon!”

Moonlight in the patio,
Old Señora noddin’ near,
Me and Juana talkin’ low
So the Madre couldn’t hear—
How those hours would go a-flyin;!
And too soon I’d hear her sighin’
In her little sorry tone—
“Adios, mi corazon!”

But one time I had to fly
For a foolish gamlin’ fight,
And we said a swift goodbye
In that black, unlucky night.
When I’d loosed her arms from clingin’
With her words the hoofs kep’ ringin’
As I galloped north alone—
“Adios, mi corazon”

Never seen her since that night,
I kain’t cross the Line, you know.
She was Mex and I was white;
Like as not it’s better so.
Yet I’ve always sort of missed her
Since that last wild night I kissed her,
Left her heart and lost my own—
“Adios, mi corazon!”

…Charles Badger Clark, 1907

Badger Clark’s poem has been sung by many, from Ian Tyson to Bob Dylan, best known as “Spanish is the Loving Tongue.” In Git ALong, Little Dogies (1975) John I. White tells that Prescott, Arizona cowboy singer Bill Simon put it to music in 1925, a few years after he did the same for Gail I. Gardner’s “The Sierry Petes.”

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 others that found their way into song include “The Old Cow Man,” “Ridin’,” and “To Her.”

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

Enjoy Dave Stamey’s great rendition of “Spanish is the Loving Tongue” from a 2013 Western Folklife Center National Cowboy Poetry Gathering performance.

Michael Martin Murphey has a likewise outstanding recording.

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 1936 photograph by noted Depression-era photographer Dorothea Lange seems to fit the mood. It’s from The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

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

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.)

LEGEND OF BOASTFUL BILL, by Charles Badger Clark, Jr.

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LEGEND OF BOASTFUL BILL
by Charles Badger Clark, Jr. (1883-1957)

At a roundup on the Gily,
One sweet mornin’ long ago,
Ten of us was throwed right freely
By a hawse from Idaho.
And we thought he’d go a-beggin’
For a man to break his pride
Till, a-hitchin’ up one leggin’,
Boastful Bill cut loose and cried —

“I’m a on’ry proposition for to hurt;
I fulfill my earthly mission with a quirt;
I kin ride the highest liver
‘Tween the Gulf and Powder River,
And I’ll break this thing as easy as I’d flirt.”

So Bill climbed the Northern Fury
And they mangled up the air
Till a native of Missouri
Would have owned his brag was fair.
Though the plunges kep’ him reelin’
And the wind it flapped his shirt,
Loud above the hawse’s squealin’
We could hear our friend assert

“I’m the one to take such rakin’s as a joke.
Someone hand me up the makin’s of a smoke!
If you think my fame needs bright’nin’
W’y I’ll rope a streak of lightnin’
And I’ll cinch ‘im up and spur ‘im till he’s broke.”

Then one caper of repulsion
Broke that hawse’s back in two.
Cinches snapped in the convulsion;
Skyward man and saddle flew.
Up he mounted, never laggin’,
While we watched him through our tears,
And his last thin bit of braggin’
Came a-droppin’ to our ears.

“If you’d ever watched my habits very close
You would know I’ve broke such rabbits by the gross.
I have kep’ my talent hidin’;
I’m too good for earthly ridin’
And I’m off to bust the lightnin’s, —
Adios!”

Years have gone since that ascension.
Boastful Bill ain’t never lit,
So we reckon that he’s wrenchin’
Some celestial outlaw’s bit.
When the night rain beats our slickers
And the wind is swift and stout
And the lightnin’ flares and flickers,
We kin sometimes hear him shout —

“I’m a bronco-twistin’ wonder on the fly;
I’m the ridin’ son-of-thunder of the sky.
Hi! you earthlin’s, shut your winders
While we’re rippin’ clouds to flinders.
If this blue-eyed darlin’ kicks at you, you die!”

Stardust on his chaps and saddle,
Scornful still of jar and jolt,
He’ll come back some day, astraddle
Of a bald-faced thunderbolt.
And the thin-skinned generation
Of that dim and distant day
Sure will stare with admiration
When they hear old Boastful say —

“I was first, as old rawhiders all confessed.
Now I’m last of all rough riders, and the best.
Huh, you soft and dainty floaters,
With your a’roplanes and motors —
Huh! are you the great grandchildren of the West!”

…by Badger Clark

Clark wrote the poem in 1907 and our version is from Clark’s Sun and Saddle Leather, first published in 1915.

The late Buck Ramsey comments on the poem in an essay, “Cowboy Libraries and Lingo,” in Cowboy Poets & Cowboy Poetry, edited by David Stanley and Elaine Thatcher. He writes, “..for imaginative cowboy lingo and outlandish braggadocio, Badger Clark’s “The Legend of Boastful Bill” is hard to beat…Bill goes on one hell of a ride, but as a challenge this raging bronc is for Boastful Bill about like hairpinning Aunt Maude’s milk cow…”

A favorite recitation is by Jerry Brooks, from her Shoulder to Shoulder CD (and on The BAR-D Roundup volumes Five and Ten from CowboyPoetry.com). Other top recordings of the poem are by Randy Rieman, on his Where the Ponies Come to Drink CD and Paul Zarzyski recites it on Cowboy Poetry Classics from Smithsonian Classics. A recording exists of Badger Clark reciting his poem. Find more in our Badger Clark features.

>>>>> 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 1888 photo by John C.H. Grabill is titled,”‘Bucking Bronco.’ Ned Coy, a famous Dakota cowboy, starts out for the cattle round-up with his pet ‘Boy Dick.'” It is from The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Find more about it here.

This poem and photo are in the public domain.

RIDIN’, by Charles Badger Clark, Jr.

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RIDIN’
Charles Badger Clark, Jr. (1883-1957)

There is some that like the city—
Grass that’s curried smooth and green,
Theaytres and stranglin’ collars,
Wagons run by gasoline—
But for me it’s hawse and saddle
Every day without a change,
And a desert sun a-blazin’
On a hundred miles of range.

Just a-ridin’, a-ridin’—
Desert ripplin’ in the sun,
Mountains blue among the skyline—
I don’t envy anyone
When I’m ridin’.

When my feet is in the stirrups
And my hawse is on the bust,
With his hoofs a-flashin’ lightnin’
From a cloud of golden dust,
And the bawlin’ of the cattle
Is a-comin’ down the wind
Then a finer life than ridin’
Would be mighty hard to find.

Just a-ridin’, a-ridin’—
Splittin’ long cracks through the air,
Stirrin’ up a baby cyclone,
Rippin’ up the prickly pear
As I’m ridin’.

I don’t need no art exhibits
When the sunset does her best,
Paintin’ everlastin’ glory
On the mountains to the west
And your opery looks foolish
When the night-bird starts his tune
And the desert’s silver mounted
By the touches of the moon.

Just a-ridin’, a-ridin’—
Who kin envy kings and czars
When the coyotes down the valley
Are a singin’ to the stars,
If he’s ridin’?

When my earthly trail is ended
And my final bacon curled
And the last great roundup’s finished
At the Home Ranch of the world
I don’t want no harps nor haloes
Robes nor other dressed up things—
Let me ride the starry ranges
On a pinto hawse with wings!

Just a-ridin’, a-ridin’—
Nothin’ I’d like half so well
As a-roundin’ up the sinners
That have wandered out of Hell,
And a-ridin’

….by Charles Badger Clark

Charles Badger Clark, Jr. (1883-1957) 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.

“Ridin'” is said to be his first poem. It was was included in his first poetry collection, Sun and Saddle Leather, in 1915. Clark’s own recitation of the poem is included on The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Two, from CowboyPoetry.com.

The great Don Edwards put the poem to music and it is on his Saddle Songs album. Listen and watch a 2012 video where he sings it with Waddie Mitchell reciting his “Commuting.”

Clark wrote many lasting poems, and others also found their way into song (including “Spanish is a Loving Tongue” and “To Her”). Find poetry and more in our features about Badger Clark 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 beautiful May, 2016 photograph is by John Reedy, Montana photographer, songwriter, musician, and poet. Pictured is his daughter Brigid (brigidreedy.com), an outstanding musician, poet, songwriter,  artist, and more. She performs at events across the West, and is a frequently invited performer at the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Brigid, her brother Johnny, and her father John are all included on the recent 3-CD set, MASTERS: VOLUME THREE, the poetry of Bruce Kiskaddon.

See additional impressive photography at John Reedy’s site: reedy.photoshelter.com. Find more about him at cowboypoetry.com and visit twistedcowboy.com.

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

A COWBOY’S PRAYER, Charles Badger Clark, Jr.

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A COWBOY’S PRAYER
Charles Badger Clark, Jr. (1883-1957)

Oh Lord, I’ve never lived where churches grow.
I love creation better as it stood
That day You finished it so long ago
And looked upon Your work and called it good.
I know that others find You in the light
That’s sifted down through tinted window panes,
And yet I seem to feel You near tonight
In this dim, quiet starlight on the plains.

I thank You, Lord, that I am placed so well,
That You have made my freedom so complete;
That I’m no slave of whistle, clock or bell,
Nor weak-eyed prisoner of wall and street.
Just let me live my life as I’ve begun
And give me work that’s open to the sky;
Make me a pardner of the wind and sun,
And I won’t ask a life that’s soft or high.

Let me be easy on the man that’s down;
Let me be square and generous with all.
I’m careless sometimes, Lord, when I’m in town,
But never let ’em say I’m mean or small!
Make me as big and open as the plains,
As honest as the hawse between my knees,
Clean as the wind that blows behind the rains,
Free as the hawk that circles down the breeze!

Forgive me, Lord, if sometimes I forget.
You know about the reasons that are hid.
You understand the things that gall and fret;
You know me better than my mother did.
Just keep an eye on all that’s done and said
And right me, sometimes, when I turn aside,
And guide me on the long, dim, trail ahead
That stretches upward toward the Great Divide.

…by Charles Badger Clark Jr., 1906
Badger Clark wrote his best known poem while living on a ranch near Tombstone, Arizona. Katie Lee has written, “Of the hundreds of poems written about cowboys praying to the stars, this is probably the best…The language is true to his free-roving spirit and gives insight to the code he lived by—the things he expected of himself.”

In the late Katie Lee’s classic book, Ten Thousand Goddam Cattle, A History of the American Cowboy in Song, Story, and Verse, she writes about “A Cowboy’s Prayer”: “Of the hundreds of poems written about cowboys praying to the stars, this is probably the best. I’ve heard any number of cowboys recite it, but have never heard one sing it. The language is true to his free-roving spirit and gives insight to the code he lived by—the things he expected of himself.” According to Austin and Alta Fife, Clark wrote it while living on a ranch near Tombstone, Arizona, and it was first published in “The Pacific Monthly,” in December, 1906.

Badger Clark’s collection of poems, Sun and Saddle Leather, was first published in 1915 and is still in print today.

Hal Cannon, founding Director of the Western Folklife Center includes verses from “A Cowboy’s Prayer” in his generous, inspiring keynote address from this year’s 35th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. The recitation was by Owen Johnson, the opening prayer of the first gathering. There is much to absorb in this address, and don’t miss the word picture of “ten years out” by Baxter Black near the end.

Find much more poetry and more about Badger Clark, who became South Dakota’s Poet Laureate, in features at CowboyPoetry.com.

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

This 1906 photo is of Badger Clark at his writing table, used with permission from Cowboy Poetry, Classic Poems & Prose by Badger Clark, by Greg Scott.

(You can share this photo with this post. Please seek permission to use the photo in any other way. This poem is in the public domain.)

THE MARRIED MAN, by Charles Badger Clark

marriedmanx.jpgphoto by Carol Highsmith

THE MARRIED MAN
by Charles Badger Clark (1883-1957)

There’s an old pard of mine that sits by his door
And watches the evenin’ skies.
He’s sat there a thousand evenin’s before
And I reckon he will till he dies.
El pobre!* I reckon he will till he dies,
And hear through the dim, quiet air
Far cattle that call and the crickets that cheep
And his woman a-singin’ a kid to sleep
And the creak of her rockabye chair.

Once we made camp where the last light would fail
And the east wasn’t white till we’d start,
But now he is deaf to the call of the trail
And the song of the restless heart.
El pobre! the song of the restless heart
That you hear in the wind from the dawn!
He’s left it, with all the good, free-footed things,
For a slow little song that a tired woman sings
And a smoke when his dry day is gone.

I’ve rode in and told him of lands that were strange,
Where I’d drifted from glory to dread.
He’d tell me the news of his little old range
And the cute things his kid had said!
El pobre! the cute things his kid had said!
And the way six-year Billy could ride!
And the dark would creep in from the gray chaparral
And the woman would hum, while I pitied my pal
And thought of him like he had died.

He rides in old circles and looks at old sights
And his life is as flat as a pond.
He loves the old skyline he watches of nights
And he don’t seem to care for beyond.
El pobre! he don’t seem to dream of beyond,
Nor the room he could find, there, for joy.
“Ain’t you ever oneasy?” says I one day.
But he only just smiled in a pityin’ way
While he braided a quirt for his boy.

He preaches that I orter fold up my wings
And that even wild geese find a nest
That “woman” and “wimmen” are different things
And a saddle nap isn’t a rest.
El pobre! he’s more for the shade and the rest
And he’s less for the wind and the fight,
Yet out in strange hills, when the blue shadows rise
And I’m tired from the wind and the sun in my eyes,
I wonder, sometimes, if he’s right.

I’ve courted the wind and I’ve followed her free
From the snows that the low stars have kissed
To the heave and the dip of the wavy old sea,
Yet I reckon there’s somethin’ I’ve missed.
El pobre! Yes, mebbe there’s somethin’ I’ve missed,
And it mebbe is more than I’ve won—
Just a door that’s my own, while the cool shadows creep,
And a woman a-singin’ my kid to sleep
When I’m tired from the wind and the sun.

…by Badger Clark from “Sun and Saddle Leather,” 1922
* “El pobre,” Spanish, “Poor fellow.”

At the 20013 Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, top reciters and singers (Jerry Brooks, Elizabeth Ebert, Don Edwards, Dick Gibford, DW Groethe, Wylie Gustafson, Gary McMahan, Waddie Mitchell, Joel Nelson, Kay Kelley Nowell, Randy Rieman, Dave Stamey, and Gail Steiger) took part in a tribute to Badger Clark. In it, Randy Rieman recites “A Married Man.” Watch at youtube.com.

For another excellent recitation of this poem, tune into Andy Hedges Cowboy Crossroads podcast, episode 14, part two of an interview with Randy Rieman. Andy recites this poem as an introduction. The poem is also included on Andy Hedges’ recent Cowboy Recitations CD.

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,” “Ridin’,” “Spanish is a Loving Tongue” and “To Her.”

He never married. He was engaged to Helen Fowler of Deadwood before he contracted tuberculosis and went to Arizona for its cure. Greg Scott tells in his book, Classic Poems & Prose by Badger Clark, that while Clark was in Arizona, “He wrote lengthy letters to his family and friends and Helen, his fiancee…He wrote poems about his longing for the Black Hills and home. These were poems that were never published. At some point, he must have known that his relationship with Helen would never end in marriage. Each day he became more accustomed to living alone. He enjoyed courting the eligible women in the area when opportunity presented itself. He kept his father apprised of his activities, including his periodic infatuations. Eventually, the formality of his engagement to Helen was ended by mutual consent.”

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.

This photograph is by contemporary photographer, author, and publisher Carol M. Highsmith, titled, “Coats and a cowboy hat at the ‘Hole-in-the-Wall’ Cabin at Old Trail Town, a historic museum complex in Cody, Wyoming.” Find more about it here. It is included in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive at The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The collection description notes that, “Highsmith, a distinguished and richly-published American photographer, has donated her work to the Library of Congress since 1992. Starting in 2002, Highsmith provided scans or photographs she shot digitally with new donations to allow rapid online access throughout the world. Her generosity in dedicating the rights to the American people for copyright free access also makes this Archive a very special visual resource.”

Find more about Carol Highsmith and her work at carolhighsmith.com.

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

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

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photo ©2015, Ken Rodgers, bravotheproject.com

 

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”

On this Veterans Day/Remembrance Day and the the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, marking the end of World War I, we recognize those who have served with Badger Clark’s timeless poem, written during WWI. It 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 photograph is by writer, poet, teacher, filmmaker, photographer, and Marine veteran Ken Rodgers. He told us, “I took that photo on a summer day in Roseberry, Idaho, a small town north of Boise in Valley County. Roseberry is semi-ghost town whose heyday is long past. The town was settled by Finnish folk in the late 19th Century. The flag was fluttering in a mild summer breeze out in front of the old Roseberry General Store. I liked how the wind whipped the flag in juxtaposition to the old gas pump…”

Ken and Betty Rodgers’ outstanding and important documentary, Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor explores the experiences of the men of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Marines during the 1968 siege at Khe Sanh, Vietnam, where Ken Rodgers served. The award-winning film is available on DVD and streams on Amazon.

bravop.jpg

The Rodgers’ latest project is I Married the War, a documentary about the wives of  combat veterans.

imarried

Find poetry and more for Veterans Day at CowboyPoetry.com,
(Please respect copyright. You can share this photograph with this post, but for other uses, request permission. This poem is in the public domain.)