THE DUDE WRANGLER by Gail I. Gardner (1892-1988)

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THE DUDE WRANGLER
by Gail I. Gardner (1892-1988)

I’ll tell you of a sad, sad story,
Of how a cowboy fell from grace,
Now really this is something awful,
There never was so sad a case.

One time I had myself a pardner,
I never knowed one half so good;
We throwed our outfits in together,
And lived the way that cowboys should.

He savvied all about wild cattle,
And he was handy with a rope,
For a gentle, well-reined pony,
Just give me one that he had broke.

He never owned no clothes but Levis,
He wore them until they was slick,
And he never wore no great big Stetson,
‘Cause where we rode the brush was thick.

He never had no time for women,
So bashful and so shy was he,
Besides he knowed that they was poison,
And so he always let them be.

Well he went to work on distant ranges;
I did not see him for a year.
But then I had no cause to worry,
For I knowed that some day he’d appear.

One day I rode in from the mountains,
A-feelin’ good and steppin’ light,
For I had just sold all my yearlin’s,
And the price was out of sight.

But soon I seen a sight so awful,
It caused my joy to fade away,
It filled my very soul with sorrow,
I never will forgit that day.

For down the street there come a-walkin’
My oldtime pardner as of yore,
Although I know you will not believe me,
Let me tell you what he wore.

He had his boots outside his britches;
They was made of leather green and red.
His shirt was of a dozen colors,
Loud enough to wake the dead.

Around his neck he had a ‘kerchief,
Knotted through a silver ring;
I swear to Gawd he had a wrist-watch,
Who ever heard of such a thing.

Sez I, “Old scout now what’s the trouble?
You must have et some loco weed.
If you will tell me how to help you,
I’ll git you anything you need.”

Well he looked at me for half a minute,
And then he begin to bawl;
He sez, “Bear with me while I tell you
What made me take this awful fall.

“It was a woman from Chicago
Who put the Injun sign on me;
She told me that I was romantic,
And just as handsome as could be.”

Sez he, “I’m ‘fraid that there ain’t nothin’
That you can do to save my hide,
I’m wranglin’ dudes instead of cattle,
I’m what they call a first-class guide.

“Oh I saddles up their pump-tailed ponies,
I fix their stirrups for them too,
I boost them up into their saddles,
They give me tips when I am through.

“It’s just like horses eatin’ loco,
You can not quit it if you try,
I’ll go on wranglin’ dudes forever,
Until the day that I shall die.”

So I drawed my gun and throwed it on him,
I had to turn my face away.
I shot him squarely through the middle,
And where he fell I left him lay.

I shorely hated for to do it,
For things that’s done you cain’t recall,
But when a cowboy turns dude wrangler,
He ain’t no good no more at all.

…Gail I. Gardner, from Orejana Bull; reprinted with permission of the Gardner/Steiger family; this poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission.

Gail I. Gardner, born in Prescott, Arizona, was educated at Philip Exeter Academy and Dartmouth University. But he wanted to work as a cowboy, which he did for much of his life. He later became the postmaster of Prescott. His works are a solid part of cowboy poetry history.

Gardner is probably best known as the author of “The Sierry Petes (or Tying Knots in the Devil’s Tail).”He wrote that now-famous piece in 1917. He continually battled the notion that the poem was “anonymous” or claimed by other authors. It became an immediate favorite, recited and put to music by others, quickly entering the realm of “classic.”

Find more poetry, photos, and more about Gail I. Gardner in our feature here.

For another great take on dude wranglers, read top singer and songwriter Dave Stamey’s recent piece, “The Dude Wrangler,” on Facebook.

This 1941 photograph,”Dudes and cowboy from Quarter Circle U Ranch at Crow Indian fair. Crow Agency, Montana” is by noted photographer Marion Post Wolcott (1910-1990). A collection of her photographs at The Library of Congress  tells that she produced
more than 9,000 photographs for the Farm Security Administration (FSA) from 1938 to 1942. Find more at a web site created by her daughter. Find more about the above photo here.
>>>>> This is a scheduled post. We’re on a break until May 25.

REAL COWBOY LIFE by Gail I. Gardner (1892-1988)

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REAL COWBOY LIFE
by Gail I. Gardner (1892-1988)

You have read these cowboy stories,
About their life so wild and free;
I expect that you could tell me
What a cowboy’s life should be.
Oh, he rescues lovely maidens
And he shoots the rustlers down;
He wears a fancy outfit,
And he paints up every town.

You can see him in the movies,
He’s a high-falutin’ swell;
A-ridin’ wring-tailed pintos,
And always raisin’ Hell.
But now let me tell you somethin’
‘Bout this cowboy life so free;
It ain’t no bed of roses,
You can take a tip from me.

Now there ain’t no handsome cowboys,
Nowhere I’ve ever been,
For a real top-notch Buckero
Is just homlier than sin.
And all cowboys have their troubles,
A few of which I’ll name,
To show you that cowpunching
Is a mighty sorry game.

When the roundup starts in April,
The first job you undertake
Is to shoe up all your horses
Till you think your back will break.
Now then you can be a center,
Or a rimmy if you will;
It don’t make any difference,
You will have your troubles still.

When you take your dally-welties
You can lose a lot of hide,
But if you fail to get ’em,
You have shorely got to ride.
Or you tie her hard and solid,
And then throw away the slack;
If your steer should hub a saplin’,
You are shore to lose the pack.

When you get a wild bunch driftin’,
Straight down for the home corral,
There will somethin’ spook the leaders,
And your whole bunch go to Hell.
You build to an orejana,
For to tie him in a rush,
But your pony turns a knocker
And he throws you in the brush.

Then you long-ear’s in the thicket,
And your dogs have plumb give out,
So the only thing that you can do
Is to cuss and cry and shout.
As you ride away and leave him,
You can hear the critter bawl,
And you know some feller’ll git him
Before the rodeer comes next fall.

When you have a real hard winter,
And your cows all try to die,
You ride out every morning,
And to lift ’em up you try.
You can git one by the handle,
And you heave and lift and strain,
With a mighty awful struggle
You can tail her up again.

Oh, you try to leave her standin’,
But she charges you in high,
Then she breaks down in the middle
So you leave her there to die.
On the range there’s not a yearlin’
That is fat enough for meat,
And you are all burnt out on bacon,
And the beans ain’t fit to eat.

When you’ve cowboyed for a lifetime,
Here is all ’twill do for you:
Some busted ribs and shoulders
And a hip knocked down or two.
You have butted into cedars
Till your hair is hard to find,
And the malapais and granites
Have you all stove up behind.

If you ever have a youngster,
And he wants to foller stock,
The best thing you can do for him
Is to brain him with a rock.
Or if rocks ain’t very handy,
You kin shove him down the well;
Do not let him be a cowboy,
For he’s better off in Hell.

You may swear you’ll never ride again,
And know you will not fail,
Till you hear a cavviada
Come a-jinglin’ down the trail.
Then you pack up all your soogans,
And prepare to pull your freight,
For you know you’re just a cowboy,
And your head ain’t screwed on straight

© Gail I. Gardner, from Orejana Bull, used with permission

Gail Gardner was born in Prescott, Arizona. Though he was educated at Philip Exeter Academy and Dartmouth University, his true desire was to work as a cowboy, which he did. He also wrote memorable poems, many of which have been set to music, including his best-known work, “The Sierry Petes (or Tying Knots in the Devil’s Tail).” He published some of his poems in his 1935 book, “Orejana Bull for Cowboys Only,” which was reprinted most recently in 1987.

In checking a fact (his middle name) we found his WWI draft registration. On it, he describes his profession as “ranching & cattle growing.” His middle name was Irwin.

Gail Steiger, Gardner’s grandson, recites “Real Cowboy Life” on his recent, well-received CD, A Matter of Believin’. Find that at his web site.

You can hear Gail Gardner’s own performance of “The Sierry Petes” on this week’s Clear Out West (C.O.W.) radio show.

The recording is from The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Ten, a double CD of top classic and modern poetry from CowboyPoetry.com.

This photo, ” Gail I. Gardner at the Devil’s Gate Rodeo Grounds, Skull Valley, “Round-up Time” in the 1920s,” is courtesy of the Gardner/Steiger family.

Find more about Gail Gardner and see many photos and more of his poetry at CowboyPoetry.com.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem and photograph with this post but please request permission for any other uses.)