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

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Photo by Carol M. 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.

* “El pobre,” Spanish, “Poor fellow.”

…by Badger Clark from Sun and Saddle Leather, 1922

For an excellent recitation of this poem, tune into Andy Hedges most recent Cowboy Crossroads podcast, 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,” “Riding’,” “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 fiancée…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.

At the 29th 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, Gail Steiger) took part in a tribute to Badger Clark. In it, Randy Rieman recites “A Married Man.” Watch the show here.

Writer, poet, and teacher Linda Hasselstrom recently sent us links to two videos in which she recites Badger Clark’s poetry: A Tribute to Badger Clark’s poem “The Legend of Boastful Bill” and A Tribute to Badger Clark’s humorous “Last Verse” with brief footage of The Badger Hole and a clip of Badger’s recorded voice.

Find poetry and more in our features about Badger Clark:

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

Find the collection here, where it 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 and on Facebook at Carol M. Highsmith’s America.

Find more about the photograph here.

 

THE RAINS by Charles Badger Clark, Jr. (1883-1957)

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THE RAINS
by Charles Badger Clark, Jr. (1883-1957)

You’ve watched the ground-hog’s shadow and the shiftin’ weather signs
Till the Northern prairie starred itse’f with flowers;
You’ve seen the snow a-meltin’ up among the Northern pines
And the mountain creeks a-roarin’ with the showers.
You’ve blessed the stranger sunlight when the Winter days were done
And the Summer creepin’ down the budded lanes.
Did you ever see a Springtime in the home range of the sun,
When the desert land is waitin’ for the Rains?

The April days are sun and sun; the last thin cloud is fled.
It’s gold about the eastern mountain crest,
Then blaze upon the yellow range all day from overhead
And then a stripe of gold across the west.
The dry wind mourns among the hills, a-huntin’ trees and grass,
Then down the desert flats it rises higher
And sweeps a rollin’ dust-storm up and flings it through the pass
And fills the evenin’ west with smoulderin’ fire.

It’s sun and sun without a change the lazy length o’ May
And all the little sun things own the land.
The horned toad basks and swells himse’f; the bright swifts dart and play;
The rattler hunts or dozes in the sand.
The wind comes off the desert like it brushed a bed of coals;
The sickly range grass withers down and fails;
The bony cattle bawl around the dryin’ water holes,
They stagger off along the stony trails.

The days crawl on to Summer suns that slower blaze and wheel;
The mesas heave and quiver in the noon.
The mountains they are ashes and the sky is shinin’ steel,
Though the mockin’-birds are singin’ that it’s June.
And here and there among the hills, a-standin’ white and tall,
The droopin’ plumes of yucca flowers gleam,
The buzzards circle, circle where the startin’ cattle fall
And the whole hot land seems dyin’ in a dream.

But last across the sky-line comes a thing that’s strange and new,
A little cloud of saddle blanket size.
It blackens ‘long the mountains and bulges up the blue
And shuts the weary sun-glare from our eyes.
Then the lightnin’s gash the heavens and the thunder jars the world
And the gray of fallin’ water wraps the plains,
And ‘cross the burnin’ ranges, down the wind, the word is whirled:
“Here’s another year of livin’, and the Rains!”

You’ve seen your fat fields ripplin’ with the treasure that they hoard;
Have you seen a mountain stretch and rub its eyes?
Or bare hills lift their streamin’ faces up and thank the Lord,
Fairly tremblin’ with their gladness and surprise?
Have you heard the ‘royos singin’ and the new breeze hummin’ gay,
As the greenin’ ranges shed their dusty stains–
Just a whole dead world sprung back to life and laughin’ in a day!
Did you ever see the comin’ of the Rains?

…by Charles Badger Clark, Jr.

“The Rains” was published in 1910 in Pacific Monthly, and you can see it here on Google Books.

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.”

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, titled, “Complex clouds form after many inches of rain over several days near Stockton, California,” is by contemporary photographer, author, and publisher Carol M. Highsmith and included in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive at The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Information at the collection notes, “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 and on Facebook at Carol M. Highsmith’s America.

Find more about the photograph here.

 

 

 

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 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…”

“Rodeo poet”Paul Zarzyski breaks into the poem in part one of Andy Hedges’ recent COWBOY CROSSROADS interview. The iconoclastic poet is eloquent when speaking about his family, poetry, rodeo, and the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Listen to the interview (a second part was released today) here.

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 Badger Clark Memorial Society. Find more 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.

 

THE GLORY TRAIL (or HIGH-CHIN BOB) by Charles Badger Clark, Jr. (1883-1957)

THE GLORY TRAIL (or HIGH-CHIN BOB)
by Charles Badger Clark, Jr. (1883-1957)

‘Way high up the Mogollons,
Among the mountain tops,
A lion cleaned a yearlin’s bones
And licked his thankful chops,
When on the picture who should ride,
A-trippin’ down a slope,
But High-Chin Bob, with sinful pride
And mav’rick hungry rope.

“Oh, glory be to me,” says he,
“And fame’s unfadin’ flowers!
All meddlin’ hands are far away;
I ride my good top-hawse today
And I’m top-rope of the Lazy J—
Hi! kitty-cat, you’re ours!”

That lion licked his paw so brown
And dreamed soft dreams of veal—
And then the circlin’ loop swung down
And roped him ’round his meal.
He yowled quick fury to the world
Till all the hills yelled back;
The top-hawse gave a snort and whirled
And Bob caught up the slack.

“Oh, glory be to me,” laughs he.
“We hit the glory trail.
No human man as I have read
Darst loop a ragin’ lion’s head,
Nor ever hawse could drag one dead
Until we told the tale.”

‘Way high up the Mogollons
That top-hawse done his best,
Through whippin’ brush and rattlin’ stones,
From canyon-floor to crest.
But ever when Bob turned and hoped
A limp remains to find,
A red-eyed lion, belly roped
But healthy, loped behind.

“Oh, glory be to me,” grunts he.
“This glory trail is rough,
Yet even till the Judgment Morn
I’ll keep this dally ’round the horn,
For never any hero born
Could stoop to holler: ”Nuff!'”

Three suns had rode their circle home
Beyond the desert’s rim,
And turned their star-herds loose to roam
The ranges high and dim;
Yet up and down and ’round and ‘cross
Bob pounded, weak and wan,
For pride still glued him to his hawse
And glory drove him on.

“Oh, glory be to me,” sighs he.
“He kain’t be drug to death,
But now I know beyond a doubt
Them heroes I have read about
Was only fools that stuck it out
To end of mortal breath.”

‘Way high up the Mogollons
A prospect man did swear
That moon dreams melted down his bones
And hoisted up his hair:
A ribby cow-hawse thundered by,
A lion trailed along,
A rider, ga’nt but chin on high,
Yelled out a crazy song.

“Oh, glory be to me!” cries he,
“And to my noble noose!
Oh, stranger, tell my pards below
I took a rampin’ dream in tow,
And if I never lay him low,
I’ll never turn him loose!”

…by Charles Badger Clark, Jr.

Badger Clark’s poems were often printed, put to music, and otherwise adopted and adapted without acknowledgement of his authorship, passing into the oral tradition.

In the preface to Sun and Saddle Leather, Clark’s 1915 book where “The Glory Trail” was first published, he writes that the “folk version” perhaps was better than the original, and that the changes reflected “such rubbings down and chippings off as might happen to it in passing from mouth to mouth.” He writes:

“One night when I was washing my pots and kettles I heard the boys around the fire discussing a cow-puncher over in the mountains, who, the week before, had roped a bobcat and ‘drug’ it to death. The boys spent some time swapping expert opinions on the incident, so it stuck in my mind, incubated, and eventually hatched out The Glory Trail.

“Nobody said anything about the poem, good or bad, as I remember, and I reckoned it had fallen rather flat until, some years later, about three years ago, I think, a distant friend sent me a copy of Poetry which featured High Chin Bob. I found a real native folksong which the cowboys were accustomed to carol in their long riders over the romantic wildernesses of the Southwest, a song like Melchizedek, without father or mother, which probably had naturally “just growed” in the rocky soil where it now flourished. What was my amazement, in examining this literary curiosity, to find that it was my ‘Glory Trail’…”

Read more along with the poem and more about Badger Clark at CowboyPoetry.com. The South Dakota Historical Society Foundation holds Badger Clark’s papers and offers his books for sale.

Listen to Don Edwards’ rendition of the poem put to music.

This image of a 1921 pen and ink drawing of a mountain lions by Western artist and writer Will James (1892-1942) is from the “Cabinet of American Illustration” at The Library of Congress. Find more about it here.

Born in Canada, James’ given name was Joseph Ernest Nephtali Dufault. He worked as a cowboy and served prison time for cattle theft. He’s said to have perfected his art during his incarceration and emerged reformed.

The University of Nevada, Reno – Knowledge Center has an interesting online exhibit, “Will James and the West.” It tells that Will James “… came West in 1907 at the age of fifteen, becoming a cowhand and changing his name to William Roderick James. James showed artistic talent from an early age, and gained a reputation for his sketches of life on the range long before publishing his first work.”

 

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.

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, 16, on Splash. Brigid is a poet, songwriter, musician, artist, and more. She has been an invited performer several times at the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

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

This is a scheduled post. We’re on a break until May 25.

THE OLD COW MAN by Charles Badger Clark, Jr. (1883-1957)

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THE OLD COW MAN
by Charles Badger Clark, Jr. (1883-1957)

I rode across a valley range
I hadn’t seen for years.
The trail was all so spoilt and strange
It nearly fetched the tears.
I had to let ten fences down
(The fussy lanes ran wrong)
And each new line would make me frown
And hum a mournin’ song.

Oh, it’s squeak! squeak! squeak!
Hear ’em stretchin’ of the wire!
The nester brand is on the land;
I reckon I’ll retire,
While progress toots her brassy horn
And makes her motor buzz,
I thank the Lord I wasn’t born
No later than I was.

‘Twas good to live when all the sod,
Without no fence or fuss,
Belonged in partnership to God,
The Gover’ment and us.
With skyline bounds from east to west
And room to go and come,
I loved my fellow man the best
When he was scattered some.

Oh, it’s squeak! squeak! squeak!
Close and closer cramps the wire.
There’s hardly any place to back away
And call a man a liar.
Their house has locks on every door;
Their land is in a crate.
These ain’t the plains of God no more,
They’re only real estate.

There’s land where yet no ditchers dig
Nor cranks experiment;
It’s only lovely, free and big
And isn’t worth a cent.
I pray that them who come to spoil
May wait till I am dead
Before they foul that blessed soil
With fence and cabbage head.

Yet it’s squeak! squeak! squeak!
Far and farther crawls the wire.
To crowd and pinch another inch
Is all their heart’s desire.
The word is overstocked with men
And some will see the day
When each must keep his little pen,
But I’ll be far away.

When my old soul hunts range and rest
Beyond the last divide,
Just plant me in some stretch of West
That’s sunny, lone and wide.
Let cattle rub my tombstone down
And coyotes mourn their kin,
Let hawses paw and tromp the moun’
But don’t you fence it in!

Oh it’s squeak! squeak! squeak!
And they pen the land with wire.
They figure fence and copper cents
Where we laughed ’round the fire.
Job cussed his birthday, night and morn,
In his old land of Uz,
But I’m just glad I wasn’t born
no later than I was!

…by Charles Badger Clark, Jr.

South Dakota native Charles Badger Clark worked as a cowboy on an Arizona ranch and became South Dakota’s first poet laureate. He wrote many lasting poems, and others also found their way into song (including “Spanish is a Loving Tongue” and “To Her”).

Top cowboy balladeer Don Edwards has a wonderful rendition of “The Old Cowman.” You can watch a performance in a video here.

Find poetry and more in our features about Badger Clark.

This photograph is from the Library of Congress Prints and Photograph Division. By C.A. Kendrick, it is captioned, “F.D.W. Ranch, about 1903. Some of the cowboys pose on a tree trunk somewhere on the plains country, possibly Texas or Oklahoma.” Find more about it here.

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

The Western Folklife Center has a collection of Badger Clark poems and songs recited and sung by National Cowboy Poetry Gathering participants over the gathering’s three-decade history.

From their description, “The CD features 22 tracks (over 74 minutes) of Clark’s best loved works. A 24-page booklet with the CD contains an essay about Badger Clark written by folklorist Elaine Thatcher, as well as words to all the poems as published by Badger Clark between 1915-1922. The CD is being released in conjunction with the 2016 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering’s celebration of life in the Northern Plains.”

Included are the voices of Owen Johnson, Jerry Brooks, Don Edwards & Waddie Mitchell, Cain Eaton, Rod McQueary, Connie Dover & Skip Gorman, Denise Withnell-Cowboy Celtic, Joe Hertz & David Wilkie, Gail Steiger, Joel Nelson, Lorraine Rawls & Crystal Reeves, Tom Pearlman, Gary McMahan & DW Groethe, Randy Rieman, Jill Jones & Lone Star Chorale, Linda M. Hasselstrom, Carl Sharp, and Jim Ross.

Find more at the Western Foklife Center gift shop.

THE CHRISTMAS TRAIL by Charles Badger Clark (1883-1957)

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THE CHRISTMAS TRAIL
by Charles Badger Clark (1883-1957)

The wind is blowin’ cold down the mountain tips of snow
And ‘cross the ranges layin’ brown and dead;
It’s cryin’ through the valley trees that wear the mistletoe
And mournin’ with the gray clouds overhead.
Yet it’s sweet with the beat of my little hawse’s feet
And I whistle like the air was warm and blue
For I’m ridin’ up the Christmas trail to you,
Old folks,
I’m a-ridin’ up the Christmas trail to you.

Oh, mebbe it was good when the whinny of the Spring
Had weedled me to hoppin’ of the bars.
And livin’ in the shadow of a sailin’ buzzard’s wing
And sleepin’ underneath a roof of stars.
But the bright campfire light only dances for a night,
While the home-fire burns forever clear and true,
So ’round the year I circle back to you,
Old folks,
Round the rovin’ year I circle back to you.

Oh, mebbe it was good when the reckless Summer sun
Had shot a charge of fire through my veins,
And I milled around the whiskey and the fightin’ and fun
‘Mong the mav’ricks drifted from the plains.
Ay, the pot bubbled hot, while you reckoned I’d forgot,
And the devil smacked the young blood in his stew,
Yet I’m lovin’ every mile that’s nearer you,
Good folks,
Lovin’ every blessed mile that’s nearer you.

Oh, mebbe it was good at the roundup in the Fall,
When the clouds of bawlin’ dust before us ran,
And the pride of rope and saddle was a-drivin’ of us all
To stretch of nerve and muscle, man and man.
But the pride sort of died when the man got weary eyed;
‘Twas a sleepy boy that rode the nightguard through,
And he dreamed himself along a trail to you,
Old folks,
Dreamed himself along a happy trail to you.

The coyote’s Winter howl cuts the dusk behind the hill,
But the ranch’s shinin’ window I kin see,
And though I don’t deserve it and, I reckon, never will,
There’ll be room beside the fire kep’ for me.
Skimp my plate ’cause I’m late. Let me hit the old kid gait,
For tonight I’m stumblin’ tired of the new
And I’m ridin’ up the Christmas trail to you,
Old folks,
I’m a-ridin’ up the Christmas trail to you.

… by Charles Badger Clark, Jr., from “Sun and Saddle Leather,” 1915
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.”

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.

Cowboy troubadour—and national treasure—Don Edwards made a special recitation of this poem for the double-CD Christmas edition of The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Eight.

Hear Don Edwards sing “White Christmas” here  and “Christmas in the West” here.

Find more about Don Edwards at CowboyPoetry.com, at his site, donedwardsmusic.com, and on Facebook.

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.