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FOREWORD

In collecting, arranging, editing, and preserving the "Songs of the Cattle Trail and Cow Camp," my friend John Lomax has performed a real service to American literature and to America. No verse is closer to the soil than this; none more realistic in the best sense of that much-abused word; none more truly interprets and expresses a part of our national life. To understand and appreciate these lyrics one should hear Mr. Lomax talk about them and sing them; for they were made for the voice to pronounce and for the ears to hear, rather than for the lamplit silence of the library. They are as oral as the chants of Vachel Lindsay; and when one has the pleasure of listening to Mr. Lomax--who loves these verses and the men who first sang them--one reconstructs in imagination the appropriate figures and romantic setting.

For nothing is so romantic as life itself. None of our illusions about life is so romantic as the truth. Hence the purest realism appeals to the mature imagination more powerfully than any impossible prettiness can do. The more we _know_ of individual and universal life, the more we are excited and stimulated.

And the collection of these poems is an addition to American Scholarship as well as to American Literature. It was a wise policy of the Faculty of Harvard University to grant Mr. Lomax a traveling fellowship, that he might have the necessary leisure to discover and to collect these verses; it is really "original research," as interesting and surely as valuable as much that passes under that name; for it helps every one of us to understand our own country.

WM. LYON PHELPS.

Yale University, July 27, 1919. 


 

"Look down, look down, that weary road, 'Tis the road that the sun goes down."

                  *     *     *

    "'Twas way out West where the antelope roam, And the coyote howls 'round the cowboy's home, Where the mountains are covered with chaparral frail, And the valleys are checkered with the cattle trail, Where the miner digs for the golden veins, And the cowboy rides o'er the silent plains,--"

The "Songs of the Cattle Trail and Cow Camp" does not purport to be an anthology of Western verse. As its title indicates, the contents of the book are limited to attempts, more or less poetic, in translating scenes connected with the life of a cowboy. The volume is in reality a by-product of my earlier collection, "Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads." In the former book I put together what seemed to me to be the best of the songs created and sung by the cowboys as they went about their work. In making the collection, the cowboys often sang or sent to me songs which I recognized as having already been in print; although the singer usually said that some other cowboy had sung the song to him and that he did not know where it had originated. For example, one night in New Mexico a cowboy sang to me, in typical cowboy music, Larry Chittenden's entire "Cowboys' Christmas Ball"; since that time the poem has often come to me in manuscript form as an original cowboy song. The changes--usually, it must be confessed, resulting in bettering the verse--which have occurred in oral transmission, are most interesting. Of one example, Charles Badger Clark's "High Chin Bob," I have printed, following Mr. Clark's poem, a cowboy version, which I submit to Mr. Clark and his admirers for their consideration.

In making selections for this volume from a large mass of material that came into my ballad hopper while hunting cowboy songs as a Traveling Fellow from Harvard University, I have included the best of the verse given me directly by the cowboys; other selections have come in through repeated recommendation of these men; others are vagrant verses from Western newspapers; and still others have been lifted from collections of Western verse written by such men as Charles Badger Clark, Jr., and Herbert H. Knibbs. To these two authors, as well as others who have permitted me to make use of their work, the grateful thanks of the collector are extended. As will be seen, almost one-half of the selections have no assignable authorship. I am equally grateful to these unknown authors.

All those who found "Cowboy Songs" diverting, it is believed, will make welcome "The Songs of the Cattle Trail and Cow Camp." Many of these have this claim to be called songs: they have been set to music by the cowboys, who, in their isolation and loneliness, have found solace in narrative or descriptive verse devoted to cattle scenes. Herein, again, through these quondam songs we may come to appreciate something of the spirit of the big West--its largeness, its freedom, its wholehearted hospitality, its genuine friendship. Here again, too, we may see the cowboy at work and at play; hear the jingle of his big bell spurs, the swish of his rope, the creaking of his saddle gear, the thud of thousands of hoofs on the long, long trail winding from Texas to Montana; and know something of the life that attracted from the East some of its best young blood to a work that was necessary in the winning of the West. The trails are becoming dust covered or grass grown or lost underneath the farmers' furrow; but in the selections of this volume, many of them poems by courtesy, men of today and those who are to follow, may sense, at least in some small measure, the service, the glamour, the romance of that knight-errant of the plains--the American cowboy.

                                     J. A. L.

The University of Texas, Austin, July 9, 1919. 


 

_The centipede runs across my head,

    The vinegaroon crawls in my bed,

    Tarantulas jump and scorpions play,

    The broncs are grazing far away,

    The rattlesnake gives his warning cry,

    And the coyotes sing their lullaby,

    While I sleep soundly beneath the sky._

 

 

OUT WHERE THE WEST BEGINS

 

    OUT where the handclasp's a little stronger,

    Out where the smile dwells a little longer,

      That's where the West begins;

    Out where the sun is a little brighter,

    Where the snows that fall are a trifle whiter,

    Where the bonds of home are a wee bit tighter,

      That's where the West begins.

    Out where the skies are a trifle bluer,

    Out where friendship's a little truer,

      That's where the West begins;

    Out where a fresher breeze is blowing,

    Where there's laughter in every streamlet flowing,

    Where there's more of reaping and less of sowing,

      That's where the West begins.

    Out where the world is in the making,

    Where fewer hearts in despair are aching,

      That's where the West begins;

    Where there's more of singing and less of sighing,

    Where there's more of giving and less of buying,

    And a man makes friends without half trying,

      That's where the West begins.

                            _Arthur Chapman._

 


 

 

THE SHALLOWS OF THE FORD

 

    DID you ever wait for daylight when the stars along the river

    Floated thick and white as snowflakes in the water deep and strange,

    Till a whisper through the aspens made the current break and shiver

    As the frosty edge of morning seemed to melt and spread and change?

    Once I waited, almost wishing that the dawn would never find me;

    Saw the sun roll up the ranges like the glory of the Lord;

    Was about to wake my pardner who was sleeping close behind me,

    When I saw the man we wanted spur his pony to the ford.

    Saw the ripples of the shallows and the muddy streaks that followed,

    As the pony stumbled toward me in the narrows of the bend;

    Saw the face I used to welcome, wild and watchful, lined and hollowed;

    And God knows I wished to warn him, for I once had called him friend.

    But an oath had come between us--I was paid by Law and Order;

    He was outlaw, rustler, killer--so the border whisper ran;

    Left his word in Caliente that he'd cross the Rio border--

    Call me coward? But I hailed him--"Riding close to daylight, Dan!"

    Just a hair and he'd have got me, but my voice, and not the warning,

    Caught his hand and held him steady; then he nodded, spoke my name,

    Reined his pony round and fanned it in the bright and silent morning,

    Back across the sunlit Rio up the trail on which he came.

    He had passed his word to cross it--I had passed my word to get him--

    We broke even and we knew it; 'twas a case of give and take

    For old times. I could have killed him from the brush; instead, I let

        him

    Ride his trail--I turned--my pardner flung his arm and stretched

        awake;

    Saw me standing in the open; pulled his gun and came beside me;

    Asked a question with his shoulder as his left hand pointed toward

    Muddy streaks that thinned and vanished--not a word, but hard he

        eyed me

    As the water cleared and sparkled in the shallows of the ford.

                          _Henry Herbert Knibbs._

 


 

 

THE DANCE AT SILVER VALLEY

 

         _DON'T you hear the big spurs jingle?_

         _Don't you feel the red blood tingle?_

         _Be it smile or be it frown,_

         _Be it dance or be it fight,_

         _Broncho Bill has come to town_

         _To dance a dance tonight._

    Chaps, sombrero, handkerchief, silver spurs at heel;

    "Hello, Gil!" and "Hello, Pete!" "How do you think you feel?"

    "Drinks are mine. Come fall in, boys; crowd up on the right.

    Here's happy days and honey joys. I'm going to dance tonight."

    (On his hip in leathern tube, a case of dark blue steel.)

    Bill, the broncho buster, from the ranch at Beaver Bend,

    Ninety steers and but one life in his hands to spend;

    Ready for a fight or spree; ready for a race;

    Going blind with bridle loose every inch of space.

    Down at Johnny Schaeffer's place, see them trooping in,

    Up above the women laugh; down below is gin.

    Belle McClure is dressed in blue, ribbon in her hair;

    Broncho Bill is shaved and slick, all his throat is bare.

    Round and round with Belle McClure he whirls a dizzy spin.

    Jim Kershaw, the gambler, waits,--white his hands and slim.

    Bill whispers, "Belle, you know it well; it is me or him.

    Jim Kershaw, so help me God, if you dance with Belle

    It is either you or me must travel down to hell."

    Jim put his arm around her waist, her graceful waist and slim.

    Don't you hear the banjo laugh? Hear the fiddles scream?

    Broncho Bill leaned at the door, watched the twirling stream.

    Twenty fiends were at his heart snarling, "Kill him sure."

    (Out of hell that woman came.) "I love you, Belle McClure."

    Broncho Bill, he laughed and chewed and careless he did seem.

    The dance is done. Shots crack as one. The crowd shoves for the door.

    Broncho Bill is lying there and blood upon the floor.

    "You've finished me; you've gambler's luck; you've won the trick and

        Belle.

    Mine the soul that here tonight is passing down to hell.

    And I must ride the trail alone. Goodbye to Belle McClure."

    Downstairs on the billiard cloth, something lying white,

    Upstairs still the dance goes on, all the lamps are bright.

    Round and round in merry spin--on the floor a blot;

    Laugh, and chaff and merry spin--such a little spot.

    Broncho Bill has come to town and danced his dance tonight.

         _Don't you hear the fiddle shrieking?_

         _Don't you hear the banjo speaking?_

         _Don't you hear the big spurs jingle?_

         _Don't you feel the red blood tingle?_

         _Faces dyed with desert brown,_

         _(One that's set and white);_

         _Broncho Bill has come to town_

         _And danced his dance tonight._

                           _William Maxwell._

 


 

 

THE LEGEND OF BOASTFUL BILL

 

    AT a round-up on the Gila

    One sweet morning long ago,

    Ten of us was throwed quite freely

    By a hoss from Idaho.

    An' we 'lowed he'd go a-beggin'

    For a man to break his pride

    Till, a-hitchin' up one leggin',

    Boastful Bill cut loose an' cried:

        "I'm a ornery proposition for to hurt,

        I fulfil my earthly mission with a quirt,

        I can ride the highest liver

        'Twixt the Gulf an' Powder River,

        An' I'll break this thing as easy as I'd flirt."

    So Bill climbed the Northern fury

    An' they mangled up the air

    Till a native of Missouri

    Would have owned the brag was fair.

    Though the plunges kept him reelin'

    An' the wind it flapped his shirt,

    Loud above the hoss's squealin'

    We could hear our friend assert:

        "I'm the one to take such rockin's as a joke;

        Someone hand me up the makin's of a smoke.

        If you think my fame needs brightnin',

        Why, I'll rope a streak o' lightnin'

        An' spur it up an' quirt it till it's broke."

    Then one caper of repulsion

    Broke that hoss's back in two,

    Cinches snapped in the convulsion,

    Skyward man and saddle flew,

    Up they mounted, never flaggin',

    And we watched them through our tears,

    While this last, thin bit o' braggin'

    Came a-floatin' to our ears:

        "If you ever watched my habits very close,

        You would know I broke such rabbits by the gross.

        I have kept my talent hidin',

        I'm too good for earthly ridin',

        So I'm off to bust the lightnin'--Adios!"

    Years have passed since that ascension;

    Boastful Bill ain't never lit;

    So we reckon he's a-wrenchin'

    Some celestial outlaw's bit.

    When the night wind flaps our slickers,

    And the rain is cold and stout,

    And the lightnin' flares and flickers,

    We can sometimes hear him shout:

        "I'm a ridin' son o' thunder o' the sky,

        I'm a broncho twistin' wonder on the fly.

        Hey, you earthlin's, shut your winders,

        We're a-rippin' clouds to flinders.

        If this blue-eyed darlin' kicks at you, you die."

    Star-dust on his chaps and saddle,

    Scornful still of jar and jolt,

    He'll come back sometime a-straddle

    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 raw-hiders all confest,

        I'm the last of all rough riders, and the best.

        Huh! you soft and dainty floaters

        With your aeroplanes and motors,

        Huh! are you the greatgrandchildren of the West?"

            _From recitation, original, by Charles Badger Clark, Jr._

 

 


 

THE TEXAS COWBOY AND THE MEXICAN GREASER

 

    I THINK we can all remember when a Greaser hadn't no show

    In Palo Pinto particular,--it ain't very long ago;

    A powerful feelin' of hatred ag'in the whole Greaser race

    That murdered bold Crockett and Bowie pervaded all in the place.

    Why, the boys would draw on a Greaser as quick as they would on a

        steer;

    They was shot down without warnin' often, in the memory of many here.

    One day the bark of pistols was heard ringin' out in the air,

    And a Greaser, chased by some ranchmen, tore round here into the

        square.

    I don't know what he's committed,--'tain't likely anyone knew,--

    But I wouldn't bet a check on the issue; if you knew the gang, neither

        would you.

    Breathless and bleeding, the Greaser fell down by the side of the

        wall;

    And a man sprang out before him,--a man both strong and tall,--

    By his clothes I should say a cowboy,--a stranger in town, I think,--

    With his pistol he waved back the gang, who was wild with rage and

        drink.

    "I warn ye, get back!" he said, "or I'll blow your heads in two!

    A dozen on one poor creature, and him wounded and bleeding, too!"

    The gang stood back for a minute; then up spoke Poker Bill:

    "Young man, yer a stranger, I reckon. We don't wish yer any ill;

    But come out of the range of the Greaser, or, as sure as I live,

        you'll croak;"

    And he drew a bead on the stranger. I'll tell yer it wa'n't no joke.

    But the stranger moven' no muscle as he looked in the bore of Bill's

        gun;

    He hadn't no thought to stir, sir; he hadn't no thought to run;

    But he spoke out cool and quiet, "I might live for a thousand year

    And not die at last so nobly as defendin' this Greaser here;

    For he's wounded, now, and helpless, and hasn't had no fair show;

    And the first of ye boys that strikes him, I'll lay that first one

        low."

    The gang respected the stranger that for another was willing to die;

    They respected the look of daring they saw in that cold, blue eye.

    They saw before them a hero that was glad in the right to fall;

    And he was a Texas cowboy,--never heard of Rome at all.

    Don't tell me of yer Romans, or yer bridge bein' held by three;

    True manhood's the same in Texas as it was in Rome, d'ye see?

    Did the Greaser escape? Why certain. I saw the hull crowd over thar

    At the ranch of Bill Simmons, the gopher, with their glasses over the

        bar.

                    _From recitation. Anonymous._

 

 


 

BRONCHO VERSUS BICYCLE

 

    THE first that we saw of the high-tone tramp

    War over thar at our Pecos camp;

    He war comin' down the Santa Fe trail

    Astride of a wheel with a crooked tail,

    A-skinnin' along with a merry song

    An' a-ringin' a little warnin' gong.

    He looked so outlandish, strange and queer

    That all of us grinned from ear to ear,

    And every boy on the round-up swore

    He never seed sich a hoss before.

    Wal, up he rode with a sunshine smile

    An' a-smokin' a cigarette, an' I'll

    Be kicked in the neck if I ever seen

    Sich a saddle as that on his queer machine.

    Why, it made us laugh, fer it wasn't half

    Big enough fer the back of a suckin' calf.

    He tuk our fun in a keerless way,

    A-venturin' only once to say

    Thar wasn't a broncho about the place

    Could down that wheel in a ten-mile race.

    I'd a lightnin' broncho out in the herd

    That could split the air like a flyin' bird,

    An' I hinted round in an off-hand way,

    That, providin' the enterprize would pay,

    I thought as I might jes' happen to light

    On a hoss that would leave him out er sight.

    In less'n a second we seen him yank

    A roll o' greenbacks out o' his flank,

    An' he said if we wanted to bet, to name

    The limit, an' he would tackle the game.

    Jes' a week before we had all been down

    On a jamboree to the nearest town,

    An' the whiskey joints and the faro games

    An' a-shakin' our hoofs with the dance hall dames,

    Made a wholesale bust; an', pard, I'll be cussed

    If a man in the outfit had any dust.

    An' so I explained, but the youth replied

    That he'd lay the money matter aside,

    An' to show that his back didn't grow no moss

    He'd bet his machine against my hoss.

    I tuk him up, an' the bet war closed,

    An' me a-chucklin', fer I supposed

    I war playin' in dead-sure, winnin' luck

    In the softest snap I had ever struck.

    An' the boys chipped in with a knowin' grin,

    Fer they thought the fool had no chance to win.

    An' so we agreed fer to run that day

    To the Navajo cross, ten miles away,--

    As handsome a track as you ever seed

    Fer testin' a hosses prettiest speed.

    Apache Johnson and Texas Ned

    Saddled up their hosses an' rode ahead

    To station themselves ten miles away

    An' act as judges an' see fair play;

    While Mexican Bart and big Jim Hart

    Stayed back fer to give us an even start.

    I got aboard of my broncho bird

    An' we came to the scratch an' got the word;

    An' I laughed till my mouth spread from ear to ear

    To see that tenderfoot drop to the rear.

    The first three miles slipped away first-rate;

    Then bronc began fer to lose his gait.

    But I warn't oneasy an' didn't mind

    With tenderfoot more'n a mile behind.

    So I jogged along with a cowboy song

    Till all of a sudden I heard that gong

    A-ringin' a warnin' in my ear--

    _Ting, ting, ting, ting,_--too infernal near;

    An' lookin' backwards I seen that chump

    Of a tenderfoot gainin' every jump.

    I hit old bronc a cut with the quirt

    An' once more got him to scratchin' dirt;

    But his wind got weak, an' I tell you, boss,

    I seen he wasn't no ten-mile hoss.

    Still, the plucky brute took another shoot

    An' pulled away from the wheel galoot.

    But the animal couldn't hold his gait;

    An' the idea somehow entered my pate

    That if tenderfoot's legs didn't lose their grip

    He'd own that hoss at the end of the trip.

    Closer an' closer come tenderfoot,

    An' harder the whip to the hoss I put;

    But the Eastern cuss, with a smile on his face

    Ran up to my side with his easy pace--

    Rode up to my side, an' dern his hide,

    Remarked 'twere a pleasant day fer a ride;

    Then axed, onconcerned, if I had a match,

    An' on his britches give it a scratch,

    Lit a cigarette, said he wished me good-day,

    An' as fresh as a daisy scooted away.

    Ahead he went, that infernal gong

    A-ringin' "good-day" as he flew along,

    An' the smoke from his cigarette came back

    Like a vaporous snicker along his track.

    On an' on he sped, gettin' further ahead,

    His feet keepin' up that onceaseable tread,

    Till he faded away in the distance, an' when

    I seed the condemned Eastern rooster again

    He war thar with the boys at the end of the race,

    That same keerless, onconsarned smile on his face.

    Now, pard, when a cowboy gits licked he don't swar

    Nor kick, if the beatin' are done on the squar;

    So I tuck that Easterner right by the hand

    An' told him that broncho awaited his brand.

    Then I axed him his name, an' where from he came,

    An' how long he'd practiced that wheel-rollin' game.

    Tom Stevens he said war his name, an' he come

    From a town they call Bosting, in old Yankeedom.

    Then he jist paralyzed us by sayin' he'd whirled

    That very identical wheel round the world.

    Wal, pard, that's the story of how that smart chap

    Done me up w'en I thought I had sich a soft snap,

    Done me up on a race with remarkable ease,

    An' lowered my pride a good many degrees.

    Did I give him the hoss? W'y o' course I did, boss,

    An' I tell you it warn't no diminutive loss.

    He writ me a letter from back in the East,

    An' said he presented the neat little beast

    To a feller named Pope, who stands at the head

    O' the ranch where the cussed wheel hosses are bred.

                                      _Anonymous._

 

 


 

RIDERS OF THE STARS

 

    TWENTY abreast down the Golden Street ten thousand riders marched;

    Bow-legged boys in their swinging chaps, all clumsily keeping time;

    And the Angel Host to the lone, last ghost their delicate eyebrows

        arched

    As the swaggering sons of the open range drew up to the throne

        sublime.

    Gaunt and grizzled, a Texas man from out of the concourse strode,

    And doffed his hat with a rude, rough grace, then lifted his eagle

        head;

    The sunlit air on his silvered hair and the bronze of his visage

        glowed;

    "Marster, the boys have a talk to make on the things up here," he

        said.

    A hush ran over the waiting throng as the Cherubim replied:

    "He that readeth the hearts of men He deemeth your challenge strange,

    Though He long hath known that ye crave your own, that ye would not

        walk but ride,

    Oh, restless sons of the ancient earth, ye men of the open range!"

    Then warily spake the Texas man: "A petition and no complaint

    We here present, if the Law allows and the Marster He thinks it fit;

    We-all agree to the things that be, but we're longing for things that

        ain't,

    So we took a vote and we made a plan and here is the plan we writ:--

    "_'Give us a range and our horses and ropes, open the Pearly Gate,

    And turn us loose in the unfenced blue riding the sunset rounds,

    Hunting each stray in the Milky Way and running the Rancho straight;

    Not crowding the dogie stars too much on their way to the

        bedding-grounds._

    "_'Maverick comets that's running wild, we'll rope 'em and brand 'em

        fair,

    So they'll quit stampeding the starry herd and scaring the folks

        below,

    And we'll save 'em prime for the round-up time, and we riders'll all

        be there,

    Ready and willing to do our work as we did in the long ago._

    "_'We've studied the Ancient Landmarks, Sir; Taurus, the Bear, and

        Mars,

    And Venus a-smiling across the west as bright as a burning coal,

    Plain to guide as we punchers ride night-herding the little stars,

    With Saturn's rings for our home corral and the Dipper our water

        hole._

    "_'Here, we have nothing to do but yarn of the days that have long

        gone by,

    And our singing it doesn't fit in up here though we tried it for old

        time's sake;

    Our hands are itching to swing a rope and our legs are stiff; that's

        why

    We ask you, Marster, to turn us loose--just give us an even break!'_"

    Then the Lord He spake to the Cherubim, and this was His kindly word:

    "He that keepeth the threefold keys shall open and let them go;

    Turn these men to their work again to ride with the starry herd;

    My glory sings in the toil they crave; 'tis their right. I would have

        it so."

    Have you heard in the starlit dusk of eve when the lone coyotes roam,

    The _Yip! Yip! Yip!_ of a hunting cry and the echo that shrilled

        afar,

    As you listened still on a desert hill and gazed at the twinkling

        dome,

    And a viewless rider swept the sky on the trail of a shooting star?

                         _Henry Herbert Knibbs._

 

 


 

LASCA

 

    I WANT free life, and I want fresh air;

    And I sigh for the canter after the cattle,

    The crack of the whips like shots in battle,

    The medley of hoofs and horns and heads

    That wars and wrangles and scatters and spreads;

    The green beneath and the blue above,

    And dash and danger, and life and love--

    And Lasca!

                Lasca used to ride

    On a mouse-grey mustang close to my side,

    With blue serape and bright-belled spur;

    I laughed with joy as I looked at her!

    Little knew she of books or creeds;

    An Ave Maria sufficed her needs;

    Little she cared save to be at my side,

    To ride with me, and ever to ride,

    From San Saba's shore to Lavaca's tide.

    She was as bold as the billows that beat,

    She was as wild as the breezes that blow:

    From her little head to her little feet,

    She was swayed in her suppleness to and fro

    By each gust of passion; a sapling pine

    That grows on the edge of a Kansas bluff

    And wars with the wind when the weather is rough,

    Is like this Lasca, this love of mine.

    She would hunger that I might eat,

    Would take the bitter and leave me the sweet;

    But once, when I made her jealous for fun

    At something I whispered or looked or done,

    One Sunday, in San Antonio,

    To a glorious girl in the Alamo,

    She drew from her garter a little dagger,

    And--sting of a wasp--it made me stagger!

    An inch to the left, or an inch to the right,

    And I shouldn't be maundering here tonight;

    But she sobbed, and sobbing, so quickly bound

    Her torn rebosa about the wound

    That I swiftly forgave her. Scratches don't count

        In Texas, down by the Rio Grande.

    Her eye was brown--a deep, deep brown;

    Her hair was darker than her eye;

    And something in her smile and frown,

    Curled crimson lip and instep high,

    Showed that there ran in each blue vein,

    Mixed with the milder Aztec strain,

    The vigorous vintage of Old Spain.

    She was alive in every limb

    With feeling, to the finger tips;

    And when the sun is like a fire,

    And sky one shining, soft sapphire

    One does not drink in little sips.

        ·     ·     ·     ·     ·     ·     ·

    The air was heavy, the night was hot,

    I sat by her side and forgot, forgot;

    Forgot the herd that were taking their rest,

    Forgot that the air was close oppressed,

    That the Texas norther comes sudden and soon,

    In the dead of the night or the blaze of the noon;

    That, once let the herd at its breath take fright,

    Nothing on earth can stop their flight;

    And woe to the rider, and woe to the steed,

    That falls in front of their mad stampede!

        ·     ·     ·     ·     ·     ·     ·

    Was that thunder? I grasped the cord

    Of my swift mustang without a word.

    I sprang to the saddle, and she clung behind.

    Away! on a hot chase down the wind!

    But never was fox-hunt half so hard,

    And never was steed so little spared.

    For we rode for our lives. You shall hear how we fared

        In Texas, down by the Rio Grande.

    The mustang flew, and we urged him on;

    There was one chance left, and you have but one--

    Halt, jump to the ground, and shoot your horse;

    Crouch under his carcass, and take your chance;

    And if the steers in their frantic course

    Don't batter you both to pieces at once,

    You may thank your star; if not, goodbye

    To the quickening kiss and the long-drawn sigh,

    And the open air and the open sky,

        In Texas, down by the Rio Grande.

    The cattle gained on us, and, just as I felt

    For my old six-shooter behind in my belt,

    Down came the mustang, and down came we,

    Clinging together--and, what was the rest?

    A body that spread itself on my breast,

    Two arms that shielded my dizzy head,

    Two lips that hard to my lips were prest;

    Then came thunder in my ears,

    As over us surged the sea of steers,

    Blows that beat blood into my eyes,

    And when I could rise--

    Lasca was dead!

        ·     ·     ·     ·     ·     ·     ·

    I gouged out a grave a few feet deep,

    And there in the Earth's arms I laid her to sleep;

    And there she is lying, and no one knows;

    And the summer shines, and the winter snows;

    For many a day the flowers have spread

    A pall of petals over her head;

    And the little grey hawk hangs aloft in the air,

    And the sly coyote trots here and there,

    And the black snake glides and glitters and slides

    Into the rift of a cottonwood tree;

    And the buzzard sails on,

    And comes and is gone,

    Stately and still, like a ship at sea.

    And I wonder why I do not care

    For the things that are, like the things that were.

    Does half my heart lie buried there

        In Texas, down by the Rio Grande?

                               _Frank Desprez._

 

 


 

THE TRANSFORMATION OF A TEXAS GIRL

 

    SHE was a Texas maiden, she came of low degree,

    Her clothes were worn and faded, her feet from shoes were free;

    Her face was tanned and freckled, her hair was sun-burned, too,

    Her whole darned _tout ensemble_ was painful for to view!

    She drove a lop-eared mule team attached unto a plow,

    The trickling perspiration exuding from her brow;

    And often she lamented her cruel, cruel fate,

    As but a po' white's daughter down in the Lone Star State.

    No courtiers came to woo her, she never had a beau,

    Her misfit face precluded such things as that, you know,--

    She was nobody's darling, no feller's solid girl,

    And poets never called her an uncut Texas pearl.

    Her only two companions was those two flea-bit mules,

    And these she but regarded as animated tools

    To plod along the furrows in patience up and down

    And pull the ancient wagon when pap'd go to town.

    No fires of wild ambition were flaming in her soul,

    Her eyes with tender passion she'd never upward roll;

    The wondrous world she'd heard of, to her was but a dream

    As walked she in the furrows behind that lop-eared team.

    Born on that small plantation, 'twas there she thought she'd die;

    She never longed for pinions that she might rise and fly

    To other lands far distant, where breezes fresh and cool

    Would never shake and tremble from brayings of a mule.

        ·     ·     ·     ·     ·     ·     ·

    But yesterday we saw her dressed up in gorgeous style!

    A half a dozen fellows were basking in her smile!

    She'd jewels on her fingers, and jewels in her ears--

    Great sparkling, flashing brilliants that hung as frozen tears!

    The feet once nude and soil-stained were clad in Frenchy boots,

    The once tanned face bore tintings of miscellaneous fruits;

    The voice that once admonished the mules to move along

    Was tuned to new-born music, as sweet as Siren's song!

    Her tall and lanky father, one knows as "Sleepy Jim,"

    Is now addressed as Colonel by men who honor him;

    And youths in finest raiment now take him by the paw,

    Each in the hope that some day he'll call him dad-in-law.

    Their days of toil are over, their sun has risen at last,

    A gold-embroidered curtain now hides their rocky past;

    For was it not discovered their little patch of soil

    Had rested there for ages above a flow of oil?

                           _James Barton Adams._

 

 


 

THE GLORY TRAIL

 

    'WAY high up the Mogollons,[1]

    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 the 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 sung 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 kaint 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!

    O 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!"_

                       _Charles Badger Clark._

[1] Pronounced by the natives "muggy-yones."

 

 


 

HIGH CHIN BOB

 

    'WAY high up in the Mokiones, among the mountain tops,

    A lion cleaned a yearling's bones and licks his thankful chops;

    And who upon the scene should ride, a-trippin' down the slope,

    But High Chin Bob of sinful pride and maverick-hungry rope.

        "Oh, glory be to me!" says he, "an' fame's unfadin' flowers;

        I ride my good top hoss today and I'm top hand of Lazy-J,

        So, kitty-cat, you're ours!"

    The lion licked his paws so brown, and dreamed soft dreams of veal,

    As High Chin's rope came circlin' down and roped him round his meal;

    She yowled quick fury to the world and all the hills yelled back;

    That top horse gave a snort and whirled and Bob took up the slack.

        "Oh, glory be to me!" says he, "we'll hit the glory trail.

        No man has looped a lion's head and lived to drag the critter dead

        Till I shall tell the tale."

    'Way high up in the Mokiones that top hoss done his best,

    'Mid whippin' brush and rattlin' stones from canon-floor to crest;

    Up and down and round and cross Bob pounded weak and wan,

    But pride still glued him to his hoss and glory spurred him on.

        "Oh, glory be to me!" says he, "this glory trail is rough!

        But I'll keep this dally round the horn until the toot of judgment

        morn

        Before I'll holler 'nough!"

    Three suns had rode their circle home, beyond the desert rim,

    And turned their star herds loose to roam the ranges high and dim;

    And whenever Bob turned and hoped the limp remains to find,

    A red-eyed lion, belly roped, but healthy, loped behind!

        "Oh, glory be to me," says Bob, "he caint be drug to death!

        These heroes that I've read about were only fools that stuck it

        out

        To the end of mortal breath."

    'Way high up in the Mokiones, if you ever camp there at night,

    You'll hear a rukus among the stones that'll lift your hair with

        fright;

    You'll see a cow-hoss thunder by--a lion trail along,

    And the rider bold, with his chin on high, sings forth his glory song:

        "Oh, glory be to me!" says he, "and to my mighty noose.

        Oh, pardner, tell my friends below I took a ragin' dream in tow,

        And if I didn't lay him low, I never turned him loose!"

                             _From oral rendition._

 

 


 

TO HEAR HIM TELL IT

 

    I WAS just about to take a drink--

    I was mighty dry--

    So I hailed an old time cowman

    Who was passing by,

    "Come in, Ole Timer! have a drink!

    Kinda warm today!"

    As we leaned across the bar-rail--

    "How's things up your way?"

    "Stock is doin' fairly good,

    Range is gettin' fine;

    I jes dropped down to meetin' here

    To spend a little time.

    Con'sidable stuff a-movin' now--

    Cows an' hosses, too,

    Prices high an' a big demand--

    Now I'm tellin' you!

    "I've loaded out my feeders,

    Got a good price all aroun';

    Sold 'em in Kansas City

    To a commission man named Brown.

    A thousand told o' mixed stuff,

    In pretty fair shape, too,"

    Said the old Texas cowman,

    "Now I'm tellin' you!

    "I've been in this yere country

    Since late in fifty-nine,

    I know every foot o' sage brush

    Clear to the southern line.

    Got my first bunch started up

    Long in seventy-two,

    Had to ride range with a long rope--

    Now I'm tellin' you!

    "Lordy, I kin remember

    Them good ole early days

    When we ust t' trail the herds north

    'N forty different ways.

    Jes'n point 'em from the beddin' groun'

    An' let 'em drift right through,"

    Said the reminiscent cowman,

    "Now I'm tellin' you!

    "Yessir, trailed 'em up to Wichita,

    Cross the Kansas line,

    Made deliveries at Benton

    As early as fifty-nine.

    Turned 'em most to soldiers,

    Some went to Injuns, too,

    Beef wasn't nigh so high then--

    Now I'm tellin' you!

    "Son, I've fit nigh every Injun

    That ever roamed the plains,

    'N I was one o' the best hands

    That ever pulled bridle reins.

    Why, you boys don't know range life--

    You don't seem to git the ways,

    Like we did down in Texas

    In them good ol' early days!

    "Yes, thing's a heap sight diff'rent now!

    'Tain't like in them ol' days

    When cowmen trailed their herds north

    'N forty diff'rent ways.

    We ship 'em on the railroad now,

    Load out on the big S. P.,"

    Says the relic of Texas cowman

    As he takes a drink with me.

    "I figger on buyin' more feeders,

    From down across the line--

    Chihuahua an' Sonora stuff,

    An' hold 'em till they're prime.

    So here's to the steers an' yearlin's!"

    As we clink our glasses two,

    "Things ain't the same as they used to be,

    Now I'm tellin' you!

    "I got t' git out an' hustle,

    I ain't got time t' stay;

    Jes' want t' see some uh the boys

    'N then I'm on my way.

    There's many a hand here right now

    That I know'd long, long ago,

    When ranch land was free an' open

    An' the plowman had a show.

    "'Tain't often we git together

    To swap yarns an' tell our lies,"

    Said the old time Texas cowman

    As a mist comes to his eyes.

    "So let's drink up; here's how!"

    As we drain our glasses two,

    "Them was good ol' days an' good ol' ways--

    Now I'm tellin' you!"

    He talked and talked and yarned away,

    He harped on days of yore--

    My head it ached and I grew faint;

    My legs got tired and sore.

    Then a woman yelled, "You come here, John!"

    And Lordy! how he flew!

    And the last I heard as he broke and ran

    Was, "Now I'm tellin' you!"

    I won't never hail old timers

    To have a drink with me,

    To learn the history of the range

    As far back as seventy-three.

    And the next time that I'm thirsty

    And feeling kind of blue,

    I'll step right up and drink alone--

    Now I'm tellin' you!

                           _From the Wild Bunch._

 

 


 

THE CLOWN'S BABY

 

    IT was on the western frontier,--

    The miners, rugged and brown,

    Were gathered round the posters,

    The circus had come to town!

    The great tent shone in the darkness

    Like a wonderful palace of light,

    And rough men crowded the entrance,--

    Shows didn't come every night!

    Not a woman's face among them;

    Many a face that was bad,

    And some that were only vacant,

    And some that were very sad.

    And behind a canvas curtain,

    In a corner of the place,

    The clown, with chalk and vermillion,

    Was "making up" his face.

    A weary looking woman

    With a smile that still was sweet,

    Sewed on a little garment,

    With a cradle at her feet.

    Pantaloon stood ready and waiting,

    It was time for the going on;

    But the clown in vain searched wildly,--

    The "property baby" was gone!

    He murmured, impatiently hunting,

    "It's strange that I cannot find--

    There, I've looked in every corner;

    It must have been left behind!"

    The miners were stamping and shouting,

    They were not patient men;

    The clown bent over the cradle,--

    "I must take you, little Ben."

    The mother started and shivered,

    But trouble and want were near;

    She lifted the baby gently,

    "You'll be very careful, dear?"

    "Careful? You foolish darling!"

    How tenderly it was said!

    What a smile shone through the chalk and paint!

    "I love each hair of his head!"

    The noise rose into an uproar,

    Misrule for the time was king;

    The clown with a foolish chuckle

    Bolted into the ring.

    But as, with a squeak and flourish,

    The fiddles closed their tune

    "You'll hold him as if he were made of glass?"

    Said the clown to the pantaloon.

    The jovial fellow nodded,

    "I've a couple myself," he said.

    "I know how to handle 'em, bless you!

    Old fellow, go ahead!"

    The fun grew fast and furious,

    And not one of all the crowd

    Had guessed that the baby was alive,

    When he suddenly laughed aloud.

    Oh, that baby laugh! It was echoed

    From the benches with a ring,

    And the roughest customer there sprang up

    With, "Boys, it's the real thing."

    The ring was jammed in a minute,

    Not a man that did not strive

    For a "shot at holding the baby,"--

    The baby that was alive!

    He was thronged with kneeling suitors

    In the midst of the dusty ring,

    And he held his court right royally,--

    The fair little baby king,--

    Till one of the shouting courtiers,--

    A man with a bold, hard face,

    The talk, for miles, of the country,

    And the terror of the place,

    Raised the little king to his shoulder

    And chuckled, "Look at that!"

    As the chubby fingers clutched his hair;

    Then, "Boys, hand round the hat!"

    There never was such a hatful

    Of silver and gold and notes;

    People are not always penniless

    Because they don't wear coats.

    And then, "Three cheers for the baby!"

    I tell you those cheers were meant,

    And the way that they were given

    Was enough to raise the tent.

    And then there was sudden silence

    And a gruff old miner said,

    "Come boys, enough of this rumpus;

    It's time it was put to bed."

    So, looking a little sheepish,

    But with faces strangely bright,

    The audience, somewhat lingering,

    Flocked out into the night.

    And the bold-faced leader chuckled,

    "He wasn't a bit afraid!

    He's as game as he's good-looking!

    Boys, that was a show that _paid_!"

                              _Margaret Vandergrift._

 

 


 

THE DRUNKEN DESPERADO

 

    I'M wild and woolly and full of fleas,

    I'm hard to curry below the knees,

    I'm a she-wolf from Shamon Creek,

    For I was dropped from a lightning streak

    And it's my night to hollow--Whoo-pee!

    I stayed in Texas till they runned me out,

    Then in Bull Frog they chased me about,

    I walked a little and rode some more,

    For I've shot up a town before

    And it's my night to hollow--Whoo-pee!

    Give me room and turn me loose

    I'm peaceable without excuse.

    I never killed for profit or fun,

    But riled, I'm a regular son of a gun

    And it's my night to hollow--Whoo-pee!

    Good-eye Jim will serve the crowd;

    The rule goes here no sweetnin' 'lowed.

    And we'll drink now the Nixon kid,

    For I rode to town and lifted the lid

    And it's my night to hollow--Whoo-pee!

    You can guess how quick a man must be,

    For I killed eleven and wounded three;

    And brothers and daddies aren't makin' a sound

    Though they know where the kid is found

    And it's my night to hollow--Whoo-pee!

    When I get old and my aim aint true

    And it's three to one and wounded, too,

    I won't beg and claw the ground;

    For I'll be dead before I'm found

    When it's my night to hollow--Whoo-pee!

                                _Baird Boyd._

 

 


 

MARTA OF MILRONE

 

    I SHOT him where the Rio flows;

    I shot him when the moon arose;

    And where he lies the vulture knows

    Along the Tinto River.

    In schools of eastern culture pale

    My cloistered flesh began to fail;

    They bore me where the deserts quail

    To winds from out the sun.

    I looked upon the land and sky,

    Nor hoped to live nor feared to die;

    And from my hollow breast a sigh

    Fell o'er the burning waste.

    But strong I grew and tall I grew;

    I drank the region's balm and dew,--

    It made me lithe in limb and thew,--

    How swift I rode and ran!

    And oft it was my joy to ride

    Over the sand-blown ocean wide

    While, ever smiling at my side,

    Rode Marta of Milrone.

    A flood of horned heads before,

    The trampled thunder, smoke and roar,

    Of full four thousand hoofs, or more--

    A cloud, a sea, a storm!

    Oh, wonderful the desert gleamed,

    As, man and maid, we spoke and dreamed

    Of love in life, till white wastes seemed

    Like plains of paradise.

    Her eyes with Love's great magic shone.

    "Be mine, O Marta of Milrone,--

    Your hand, your heart be all my own!"

    Her lips made sweet response.

    "I love you, yes; for you are he

    Who from the East should come to me--

    And I have waited long!" Oh, we

    Were happy as the sun.

    There came upon a hopeless quest,

    With hell and hatred in his breast,

    A stranger, who his love confessed

    To Marta long in vain.

    To me she spoke: "Chosen mate,

    His eyes are terrible with fate,--

    I fear his love, I fear his hate,--

    I fear some looming ill!"

    Then to the church we twain did ride,

    I kissed her as she rode beside.

    How fair--how passing fair my bride

    With gold combs in her hair!

    Before the Spanish priest we stood

    Of San Gregorio's brotherhood--

    A shot rang out!--and in her blood

    My dark-eyed darling lay.

    O God! I carried her beside

    The Virgin's altar where she cried,--

    Smiling upon me ere she died,--

    "Adieu, my love, adieu!"

    I knelt before St. Mary's shrine

    And held my dead one's hand in mine,

    "Vengeance," I cried, "O Lord, be thine,

    But I thy minister!"

    I kissed her thrice and sealed my vow,--

    Her eyes, her sea-cold lips and brow,--

    "Farewell, my heart is dying now,

    O Marta of Milrone!"

    Then swift upon my steed I lept;

    My streaming eyes the desert swept;

    I saw the accursed where he crept

    Against the blood-red sun.

    I galloped straight upon his track,

    And never more my eyes looked back;

    The world was barred with red and black;

    My heart was flaming coal.

    Through the delirious twilight dim

    And the black night I followed him;

    Hills did we cross and rivers swim,--

    My fleet foot horse and I.

    The morn burst red, a gory wound,

    O'er iron hills and savage ground;

    And there was never another sound

    Save beat of horses' hoofs.

    Unto the murderer's ear they said,

    "_Thou'rt of the dead! Thou'rt of the dead!_"

    Still on his stallion black he sped

    While death spurred on behind.

    Fiery dust from the blasted plain

    Burnt like lava in every vein;

    But I rode on with steady rein

    Though the fierce sand-devils spun.

    Then to a sullen land we came,

    Whose earth was brass, whose sky was flame;

    I made it balm with her blessed name

    In the land of Mexico.

    With gasp and groan my poor horse fell,--

    Last of all things that loved me well!

    I turned my head--a smoking shell

    Veiled me his dying throes.

    But fast on vengeful foot was I;

    His steed fell, too, and was left to die;

    He fled where a river's channel dry

    Made way to the rolling stream.

    Red as my rage the huge sun sank.

    My foe bent low on the river's bank

    And deep of the kindly flood he drank

    While the giant stars broke forth.

    Then face to face and man to man

    I fought him where the river ran,

    While the trembling palm held up its fan

    And the emerald serpents lay.

    The mad, remorseless bullets broke

    From tongues of flame in the sulphur smoke;

    The air was rent till the desert spoke

    To the echoing hills afar.

    Hot from his lips the curses burst;

    He fell! The sands were slaked of thirst;

    A stream in the stream ran dark at first,

    And the stones grew red as hearts.

    I shot him where the Rio flows;

    I shot him when the moon arose;

    And where he lies the vulture knows

    Along the Tinto River.

    But where she lies to none is known

    Save to my poor heart and a lonely stone

    On which I sit and weep alone

    Where the cactus stars are white.

    Where I shall lie, no man can say;

    The flowers all are fallen away;

    The desert is so drear and grey,

    O Marta of Milrone!

                               _Herman Scheffauer._

 

 


 

JACK DEMPSEY'S GRAVE

 

    FAR out in the wilds of Oregon,

    On a lonely mountain side,

    Where Columbia's mighty waters

    Roll down to the Ocean's tide;

    Where the giant fir and cedar

    Are imaged in the wave,

    O'ergrown with ferns and lichens,

    I found poor Dempsey's grave.

    I found no marble monolith,

    No broken shaft nor stone,

    Recording sixty victories

    This vanquished victor won;

    No rose, no shamrock could I find,

    No mortal here to tell

    Where sleeps in this forsaken spot

    The immortal Nonpareil.

    A winding, wooded canyon road

    That mortals seldom tread

    Leads up this lonely mountain

    To this desert of the dead.

    And the western sun was sinking

    In Pacific's golden wave;

    And these solemn pines kept watching

    Over poor Jack Dempsey's grave.

    That man of honor and of iron,

    That man of heart and steel,

    That man who far out-classed his class

    And made mankind to feel

    That Dempsey's name and Dempsey's fame

    Should live in serried stone,

    Is now at rest far in the West

    In the wilds of Oregon.

    Forgotten by ten thousand throats

    That thundered his acclaim--

    Forgotten by his friends and foes

    That cheered his very name;

    Oblivion wraps his faded form,

    But ages hence shall save

    The memory of that Irish lad

    That fills poor Dempsey's grave.

    O Fame, why sleeps thy favored son

    In wilds, in woods, in weeds?

    And shall he ever thus sleep on--

    Interred his valiant deeds?

    'Tis strange New York should thus forget

    Its "bravest of the brave,"

    And in the wilds of Oregon

    Unmarked, leave Dempsey's grave.

                      _MacMahon._

 


 

 

THE CATTLE ROUND-UP

 

    ONCE more are we met for a season of pleasure,

    That shall smooth from our brows every furrow of care,

    For the sake of old times shall we each tread a measure

    And drink to the lees in the eyes of the fair.

    Once more let the hand-clasp of years past be given;

    Let us once more be boys and forget we are men;

    Let friendships the chances of fortune have riven

    Be renewed and the smiling past come back again.

    The past, when the prairie was big and the cattle

    Were as "scary" as ever the antelope grew--

    When to carry a gun, to make our spurs rattle,

    And to ride a blue streak was the most that we knew;

    The past when we headed each year for Dodge City

    And punched up the drags on the old Chisholm Trail;

    When the world was all bright and the girls were all pretty,

    And a feller could "mav'rick" and stay out of jail.

    Then here's to the eyes that like diamonds are gleaming,

    And make the lamps blush that their duties are o'er;

    And here's to the lips where young love lies a-dreaming;

    And here's to the feet light as air on the floor;

    And here's to the memories--fun's sweetest sequel;

    And here's to the night we shall ever recall;

    And here's to the time--time shall know not its equal

    When we danced the day in at the Cattlemen's Ball.

                       _H. D. C. McLaclachlan._