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.”