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.

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

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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.)

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

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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,” “Riding’,” 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.

Michael Martin Murphey is featured on the current episode of Andy Hedges’ Cowboy Crossroads podcast. He talks about his influences and his influence on cowboy poets through his WestFest event and much about Buffalo Bill Cody. Find it here.

Michael Martin Murphey brings back his popular American WestFest, July 4-8, 2018 in Red River, New Mexico. Performers include R.W. Hampton, Kristyn Harris, Andy Hedges, Michael Hearne, Mikki Daniel, Gary Roller, Carin Mari, Kelly Willis, Bruce Robison, Robert Mirabal, Max Gomez, Gareth, Shake Russell, Clint Chartier, Brennan Murphey, and Ryan Murphey. Find more, including artist bios here.

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

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

 

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.)

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

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photo © 2016, John Michael Reedy

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. 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.

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

Clark’s own recitation of the poem was included on The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Two, from CowboyPoetry.com.  It came from a recording now available from the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation, which also has books and other items, biographical material, and more.

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.

This beautiful May, 2016 photograph is by John Michael Reedy, Montana photographer, songwriter, musician, and poet. Pictured is his daughter Brigid, now 18, on Splash. Brigid is a poet, songwriter, musician, artist, and more. A recent CD with her brother, Johnny and John Reedy, Handmade, showcases their impressive talents with poetry, original musical compositions, and traditional tunes. Find more about the CD at brigidreedy.com.

Brigid and Johnny Reedy also appear on the just-released MASTERS: VOLUME TWO, the poems of S. Omar Barker from CowboyPoetry.com.

See additional impressive photography at John Reedy’s site. Find more about him at CowboyPoetry.com and visit twistedcowboy.com.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this photograph with this post, but request permission for other uses.)

>>>This is a scheduled post. We’re on a (rare) break, through May 23. There will be scheduled posts, but we won’t be able to fill orders or to respond quickly to email.<<<

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

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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 Charles Badger Clark, Jt.
Badger Clark wrote this 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). 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. There is a recording of Badger Clark reciting his poem, on a CD available from the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation, which also has books and other items, biographical material, and more.

Find more about Badger Clark at CowboyPoetry.com.

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.

>>>We’ll be on a (rare) break through May 23. There will be scheduled posts, but we won’t be able to fill orders or to respond quickly to email.<<<

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

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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.

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.

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.

 

THANKSGIVING, by Charles Badger Clark (1883-1957)

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THANKSGIVING
by Charles Badger Clark (1883-1957)

Accept my thanks today, O Lord?
But not so much for bed and board?
Those stodgy items of good cheer
I share with chipmunks and with deer?
But rather gifts more fine and fair
That come upon me unaware.

Those priceless incidental things?
Flower fragrance and bird flutterings,
The sudden laughter often caught
From some fantastic kink of tught
A pine’s black fretwork lifted high
Against the tranquil sunset sky,
Kindness from strangers all unnamed
That makes me wholesomely ashamed,
A friend’s warm, understanding eyes,
A book’s communion with the wise,
The dreamful magic of a tune
And slim white birches in the moon?

I thank you, Lord, for daily bread
But I am so much more than fed,
For you, with nought deserved or won,
Indulge me like a favored son,
Flinging profuse along my ways
These jeweled things that deck the day
And make my living far more sweet
Than just to breathe or just to eat.

…by Charles Badger Clark

South Dakota native Charles Badger Clark worked as a cowboy on an Arizona ranch and became a South Dakota Poet Laureate. His father was a minister; his poems often express gratitude. “A Cowboy’s Prayer” is the best known. This one is likewise full of grace. Find more about Badger Clark and more of his poety at CowboyPoetry.com.

This photo is of Badger Clark and his friend and fellow poet, Bob Axtel (1887-1976). The photo, by Charles Axtel, is from Arizona historian Greg Scott’s “Cowboy Poetry, Classic Poems & Prose by Badger Clark.” The book includes all of Badger Clark’s short stories; poetry, including more than two dozen previously unpublished or long out-of-print poems; essays; letters; and photos. See our feature about the book,  and another about Axtel.

Find more Thanksgiving poems in a feature at CowboyPoetry.com.

Happy Thanksgiving, all!