HERE’S LOOKING AT YOU lyrics by Joel Nelson, music by Don Edwards

joelnelsonkent

photo © 1993, Kent Reeves, used with permission

HERE’S LOOKING AT YOU
lyrics by Joel Nelson, music by Don Edwards

You rode the Goodnight-Loving
Went up the Chisholm too
You trailed three thousand to Kansas City
And you wintered with Teddy Blue
Here’s looking at you
Here’s looking at you

You rode with Ranger Goodnight
You helped him tame the land
You learned the Llano Estacado
Just as well as the back of your hand
When you rode for the brand
You rode for the brand

You’ve been three times to Sedalia
With a cook and six-man crew
You came dang near losing the herd and your hair
To a passel of renegade Sioux
But you saw it through
You saw it through

And you courted the dancehall beauties
‘Till they picked your pockets clean
If it happened once you let it happen twice
Up in Dodge and Abilene
And places between
Every place in between

From a heat wave in Palo Pinto
To the frostbite on Raton Pass
You looseherded cattle through a Southwestern drought
In the quest for water and grass
Alack and alas
Huntin’ water and grass

Then you trailed home the fittest survivors
When the word came of late summer rain
And you reveled in respite for weary riders
And three pounds a day in gain
The respite of rain
And three pounds of gain

You drove ‘em up to Montana
Over rivers swollen outta the bank
You started out helping the wrangler’s helper
But you rise right up through the rank
Through the dark and the dank
You rose through the rank

It was a poor way to make a living
And you threatened to quit—but then
When the herd bedded down at the shank of evenin’
You knew you’d do it over ag’in
Through the thick and the thin
You’d do it ag’in

Now a half-dozen generations
Have mourned your passin’ on
But you were just startin’ what still isn’t over
And your spirit saddles up in the dawn
For you are not gone
No you are not gone

We see you in the Steeldust
In the spark flyin’ offfa the show
Maybe we are here livin’ what you never dreamed of
But you lived what we never know
Here’s looking at you
Here’s looking at you

Here’s looking at you—Cowboy
Here’s looking at you.

© Copyright 2001, Joel Nelson, Night Horse Songs, BMI
These lyrics should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

This outstanding cowboy song (listen here) is the result of a collaboration between two of today’s most respected people in the cowboy poetry and music world: Joel Nelson and Don Edwards.

Here’s Looking at You” came from the pen of Joel Nelson, emerging as a song, not a poem. Don Edwards told of his friendly skepticism when Joel Nelson told him he had written a song that he wanted Don to hear. Don admitted he was thinking “A song? Joel’s a poet,” and before he knew it, there was another surprise: Joel pulled out his guitar. Don said at the time, “I’ve known Joel for twenty-five years, and I didn’t know he played the guitar.” His expectations weren’t high. But he went from skeptic to believer quickly.

What followed was what Don describes as a song of “marvelous purity, akin to the works of Don Hedgpeth, JB Allen, Badger Clark, Bruce Kiskaddon,” writers able to make words with “a hundred years wrapped into now.” Don said that he couldn’t get the song out of his mind, and he soon was in touch with Joel to talk about working with the song, saying that he didn’t want to do anything to take away from the near-perfect words. Don’s skillful arrangement makes it impossible to imagine any other tune working with the inspired lyrics.

“Here’s Looking at You” was recorded by Don Edwards on his Saddle Songs II, Last of the Troubadours album. You can listen to it here.  It was also featured last week on Jim and Andy Nelson’s Clear Out West (C.O.W.) radio show and is available in part 4 of the October 15, 2018 archive.

This collaboration was featured in 2008 in a column from CowboyPoetry.com, “Before the Song,” which appeared in the International Western Music Association’s magazine, The Western Way. Find much more about the song and the collaboration in the article here.

Find more about Joel Nelson at CowboyPoetry.com and visit donedwardsmusic.com for more about Don Edwards.

Joel Nelson appears at the Texas Hill Country Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Fredricksburg, Texas, November 8-10, and will be a part of the Western Folklife Center’s 35th Annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering January 28 – February 2, 2019. The lineup includes 3hattrio, Amy Hale Auker, Mike Beck, Geno Delafose & French Rockin Boogie, John Dofflemyer, Joshua Dugat, Maria Lisa Eastman, Mary Flitner, Jamie Fox & Alex Kusturok, Ryan & Hoss Fritz, Dick Gibford, DW Groethe, Andy Hedges, Brenn Hill, Tish Hinojosa, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Ross Knox, Ned LeDoux, Daron Little, Corb Lund, Carolyn Martin’s Swing Band, Sid Marty, Deanna Dickinson McCall, Gary McMahan, Waddie Mitchell, Michael Martin Murphey, Joel Nelson, Rodney Nelson, Diane Peavey, Shadd Piehl, Vess Quinlan. Halladay & Rob Quist, Henry Real Bird, Brigid Reedy, Randy Rieman, Jake Riley, Matt Robertson, Olivia Romo, Trinity Seely, Sean Sexton, Sourdough Slim, Dave Stamey, Gail Steiger, Colter Wall, Swift Current, and Paul Zarzyski. Find more at
http://www.nationalcowboypoetrygathering.org.

This c. 1993 photograph of Joel Nelson is by Kent Reeves, Cowboy Conservationist, from the landmark book Between Earth and Sky: Poets of the Cowboy West, by Anne Heath Widmark, with photographs by Kent Reeves.

Kent Reeves writes in the book’s Acknowledgments, “…I owe my work in this book to all the poets who allowed me to interrupt their lives and who took me in for a few days. I do not feel that I ‘took’ these photographs; I believe that each poet gave them to me.” In addition to Joel Nelson, the book includes chapters with Buck Ramsey, Wallace McRae, Rod McQueary, Linda Hussa, John Dofflemyer, Shadd Piehl, Paul Zarzyski, Sue Wallis, Vess Quinlan, Henry Real Bird, and Drummond Hadley.

See a gallery of photos from the book on Facebook.

Find more about Kent Reeves at CowboyPoetry.com and at cowboyconservation.com.

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

MAKE ME NO GRAVE by Henry Herbert Knibbs (1874-1945)

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MAKE ME NO GRAVE
by Henry Herbert Knibbs (1874-1945)

Make me no grave within that quiet place
Where friends shall sadly view the grassy mound,
Politely solemn for a little space,
As though the spirit slept beneath the ground.

For me no sorrow, nor the hopeless tear;
No chant, no prayer, no tender eulogy:
I may be laughing with the gods—while here
You weep alone. Then make no grave for me

But lay me where the pines, austere and tall,
Sing in the wind that sweeps across the West:
Where night, imperious, sets her coronal
Of silver stars upon the mountain crest.

Where dawn, rejoicing, rises from the deep,
And Life, rejoicing, rises with the dawn:
Mark not the spot upon the sunny steep,
For with the morning light I shall be gone.

Far trails await me; valleys vast and still,
Vistas undreamed of, canyon-guarded streams,
Lowland and range, fair meadow, flower-girt hill,
Forests enchanted, filled with magic dreams.

And I shall find brave comrades on the way:
None shall be lonely in adventuring,
For each a chosen task to round the day,
New glories to amaze, new songs to sing.

Loud swells the wind along the mountain-side,
High burns the sun, unfettered swings the sea,
Clear gleam the trails whereon the vanished ride,
Life calls to life: then make no grave for me!

…Henry Herbert Knibbs

The great troubadour and music historian @Don Edwards has created an outstanding song from this poem. It appears on his “Heaven on Horseback” album and you can listen here on YouTube.

It’s often noted that Henry Herbert Knibbs—known for poems such as “Where the Ponies Come to Drink” and “Boomer Johnson”—was not a cowboy. But Knibbs was not inexperienced with Western life.

Lee Shippey wrote about him in a 1931 article in the Los Angeles Times. He notes that Knibbs was born in the Canadian east, went to Harvard, and had a novel published while he was still a student there. He writes, “…when a man can come out of the East, handicapped by such an un-Western sounding name as Henry Herbert Knibbs, and become a man whose songs and stories are loved by the cow men and prospectors and adventurers of all the Western States, he must have something.”

He continues, “While still a young Canadian he tramped the great Canadian forests and all he asked was a canoe, a pack and a gun and he could supply himself with food and shelter. Later he came down into Maine and had a unwritten contract to supply several lumber camps with fresh meat. He was so successful in that business that a special game warden was assigned the task of catching him in some unlawful act.” He goes on to tell that the warden could never catch Knibbs doing anything wrong, and that Knibbs would sometimes lead him on wild chases. Then one day Knibbs found the warden in medical distress and nursed him back to health. The warden didn’t want to pursue Knibbs after that, and persuaded his superiors to call off the hunt. In fact Knibbs was offered a warden position, but he declined, as he had decided to head for California.

Knibbs headed West, and after some newspaper work, “He built himself a little covered wagon—a spring wagon with a canvas top on it—and set out to see California. For the better part of a year he jogged about, visiting many places where still motor cars cannot go, for good horses and a light wagon could take him to many places where there were no roads.”

It is noted that at the time of the column he had published a number of novels and that five of his stories were made into motion pictures. Shippey writes, “But it is probably that his poems will outlive his prose. For there are many western authors but few poets whose work really appeals to the men of plains and ranges, to cow men and prospectors and those who know life in that vanishing domain which is western in spirit as well as geographically.”

Find more about Knibbs at CowboyPoetry.com.

Find more about Don Edwards at westernjubilee.com and visit his site, donedwardsmusic.com.

Thanks to Kathy Edwards and Don Edwards for this photo of Don Edwards.

 

MINSTREL OF THE RANGE by Don Edwards

azCowboyPoets

 

 

MINSTREL OF THE RANGE
by Don Edwards

See him out there a-rangin’ alone
A solitary rider from out of the past
Hidin’ and singin’ all by himself
Of the old singin’ cowboys, he may be the last.

With a war bag of songs and a wore-out guitar
He chases the sundown and sings to the stars
Listen to him singin’ his melancholy strain
This wanderin’ minstrel of the range.

No wanderer I’ve known could ever sing
A more welcome song to a trail weary herd
As he sang to the cattle on those dark lonely nights
His voice softly ringin’ like his jingle-bob spurs.

He’d rather be singin’ to the cattle at night
Feel the warmth of a campfire than cold city lights
And he don’t give a damn about fortune and fame
This ramblin’ minstrel of the range.

No troubles no worries just travelin’ on
Don’t care where he’s goin’ don’t care where he’s been
The rhythm of his song is the gait of his horse
And he tunes his guitar to the wind.

Soft falls the tune of the troubadour’s song
“I’m a poor lonesome cowboy, I know I’ve done wrong”
Singin’ ’bout cowboys, horses and trains
This wanderin’ minstrel of the range.

Now the range is a-changin’ into neon and noise
And folks have lost touch with the land
They may tap their feet to an old cowboy song
But mostly they won’t understand.

That sad, lonesome feelin’ when the last coyote cries
For the soul of the drifter with nowhere to ride
Soon only the night wind will sing his refrain
This vanishing minstrel of the range.

© 1987 Don Edwards, Night Horse Songs/BMI,used with permission

Great troubadour and music historian Don Edwards is an ambassador of cowboy music to the wide world. Known for his generosity as well as his humility, he has nurtured the talents of other deserving artists who carry on the traditions.

In Don Edwards’ Classic Cowboy Songs, he writes about his inspiration for “Minstrel of the Range”: “I wanted to write a song that paid tribute to Curley Fletcher and other cowboy minstrels of the early days. I didn’t have the foggiest idea how or what I was going to write with the title I had dreamed up, until one day I was reading some of William Wordsworth’s poetry and came across a poem called ‘The Solitary Reaper.’ As I read and reread this poem, words began coming to me as the ‘Solitary Reaper’ became a ‘Solitary Cowboy.’ Where the tune came from, I don’t know…”

Listen to Don Edwards sing “Minstrel of the Range” on YouTube.

The Classic Cowboy Songs book includes the melody line and guitar chords. You can also find Wordsworth’s poem in our feature about Don Edwards.

A film about Don Edwards’ work and life, The Last Coyote, was recently released. Find more about it on Facebook and at coyotedon.com/home.

Find more about Don Edwards on Facebook; on his web site; donedwardsmusic.com; and also see more at Western Jubilee Recording.

Don Edwards joins Dave Stamey and Trinity Seely as headliners at the 30th annual Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering, taking place in Prescott, August 10-12, 2017. The favorite event of many, other performers include Gary Allegretto, Charlotte Allgood-McCoy, Sally Bates, Floyd Beard, Valerie Beard, Curt Brummet, Dale Burson, Dani Sue Carter, Dean Cook, Mikki Daniel, Kevin Davis, Marina Davis, Daisy Dillard, Jody Drake, Jim Dunham, Mike Dunn, Avery Ervien, Slim Farnsworth, Don Fernwalt, Ray Fitzgerald, Rolf Flake, Oscar Gray, Amy Hale Auker, Audrey Hankins (Balow), Larry Harmer, Paul Hatch, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Randy Huston, Chris Isaacs, Sue Jones, Suzi Killman, Gary Kirkman, Ross Knox, Steve Lindsey, Mary Matli, Monk Maxwell, Wanda Macwell, Dave McCall, Deanna Dickinson McCall, Slim McWilliams, Janet Moore, Nika Nordbrock, Donn Pease, Vess Quinlan, Gary Robertson, Frank Rodrigues, Buck Ryberg, Tom Sharpe, Jay Snider, Gail Starr, Gail Steiger, Duane Steinbrink, Rocky Sullivan, Duke Vance, Tom Weathers, Ashley Westcott, Bob Wood, Byrd Woodward, Rusty Pistols Cowboy Band, Arizona Old Time Fiddlers, and Broken Chair Band.

This year’s poster features a painting by George Molnar, “Long Way Home.” George Molnar’s art was featured on the 20th anniversary poster as well. Find more about him and his work at georgemolnar.com.

Find more about the 30th annual Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering on Facebook and at azcowboypoets.org.