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

reedy53116

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)

cowman

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)

badgerclarka1

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.

 

THANKSGIVING, by Charles Badger Clark (1883-1957)

“Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds.”
…from President Theodore Roosevelt’s Thanksgiving Proclamation, 1901.

thanksgrosevelt

This 1903 photo is captioned, “Cowboys following the train and cheering President Roosevelt, Hugo, Colorado.” It’s from The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Find more about it here.

South Dakota native Charles Badger Clark (1883-1957), who spent some time in Arizona working on an Arizona ranch, became South Dakota’s first Poet Laureate. His best known poem, “A Cowboy’s Prayer,” is filled with gratitude. This one is, too:

THANKSGIVING

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, from Skylines and Wood Smoke (1935), used with the permission of the Badger Clark Memorial Society, http://www.badgerclark.org.

Find more about Badger Clark and more of his poety at CowboyPoetry.com.

And find more Thanksgiving poems in a feature at CowboyPoetry.com.

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

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

pros

 

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

There’s a song in the canyon below me
And a song in the pines overhead,
As the sunlight crawls down from the snowline
And rustles the deer from his bed.
With mountains of green all around me
And mountains of white up above
And mountains of blue down the sky-line,
I follow the trail that I love.

My hands they are hard from the shovel,
My leg is rheumatic by streaks
And my face it is wrinkled from squintin’
At the glint of the sun on the peaks.
You pity the prospector sometimes
As if he was out of your grade.
Why, you are all prospectors, bless you!
I’m only a branch of the trade.
You prospect for wealth and for wisdom,
You prospect for love and for fame;
Our work don’t just match as to details,
But the principle’s mostly the same.

While I swing a pick in the mountains
You slave in the dust and the heat
And scratch with your pens for a color
And assay the float of the street.

You wail that your wisdom is salted,
That fame never pays for the mill,
That wealth hasn’t half enough value
To pay you for climbin’ the hill.
You even say love’s El Dorado,
A pipe dream that never endures—
Well, my luck ain’t all that I want it,
But I never envied you yours.
You’re welcome to what the town gives you,
To prizes of laurel and rose,
But leave me the song in the pine tops,
The breath of a wind from the snows.
With mountains of green all around me
And mountains of white up above
And mountains of blue down the sky-line,
I’ll follow the trail that I love.

by Charles Badger Clark, Jr. from Sun and Saddle Leather
Charles Badger Clark Jr.’s book, Sun and Saddle Leather, has been in print for over 100 years.

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 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.

The South Dakota Historical Society Foundation now holds Badger Clark’s papers and offers his books for sale. See more at the SDHSF web site.

Top reciter Jerry Brooks recorded “The Old Prospector” for her recent Shoulder to Shoulder CD, and that recording is also included on The BAR-R Roundup: Volume Six.

You can listen to her perform the poem ten years ago at the Western Folklife Center’s 2006 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, where it is introduced, “A master reciter of classic verse, Jerry Brooks worked underground in the coal mines of Utah for 26 years before taking to the cowboy poetry stage.” She returns to the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in 2017. Find more about Jerry Brooks at CowboyPoetry.com.

This c. 1903 photograph is by C.D. Nichols, from The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Find more about it here.

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