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Out where the handclasp’s a little stronger,
Out where the smile dwells a little longer,
    That’s where the West begins . . .

Perhaps few western poems are more widely known than Arthur Chapman's "Out Where the West Begins." 

Legend has it that Chapman (1873-1935) dashed off the poem for his "Center Shots" column in the Denver Republican when the Western states' governors were arguing about where the West begins, and that he was amazed at the attention it received.

The dust jacket of his 1921 novel, Mystery Ranch, has this to say about the poem:

"...Today it is perhaps the best-known bit of verse in America. It hangs framed in the office of the Secretary of the Interior at Washington.  It has been quoted in Congress, and printed as campaign material for at least two Governors.  It has crossed both the Atlantic and Pacific, while throughout this country it may be found pinned on walls and pasted in scrapbooks innumerable...[his poems] possess a rich Western humor such as has not been heard in American poetry since the passing of Bret Harte."

(See a parody below)

Chapman, born in Rockford, Illinois, became a reporter for the Chicago Daily News in 1895. He left in 1898 for Colorado, where he became the literary editor and columnist for The Denver Republican until 1913, when he became managing editor for The Denver Times. He went to New York in 1919, where he lived until his death. He wrote for the New York Tribune and the New York Herald Tribune. Chapman's obituary in the New York Times (published December 5, 1935) tells:

....A trained and excellent newspaper man, an editor of talent and the author of fiction and many articles, Mr. Chapman is best remembered as the author of a poem that gripped the imagination of millions. The poem, which he considered in 1912, when he wrote it, too unimportant to copyright, is "Out Where the West Begins."

Chapman knew his West. He knew the mining country, the plains, he knew how Westerners felt and acted and knew the spirit of the old West. It's history, too, he knew and some of it he wrote....

We chose some poems from a 1917 edition of Out where the West Begins and from a 1921 edition of Cactus CenterThe poems included in each book are listed below, along with information about Chapman's other books.

Featured in "The Big Roundup," an anthology of the best of CowboyPoetry.com.

Below:

"Out Where the West Begins" parody and other adaptations

Arthur Chapman's books

Additional Links
 

Poems

Arroyo Al on Worry
They'd make a rattlin' roundup, sure, the troubles known to man...

The Bunkhouse
The bunkhouse on the cattle ranch . . .

Christmas Shopping in Cactus Center
Women's scarce in Cactus corner...

Classic Dancing in Cactus Center
Down here in Cactus Center we have lived a life apart...

The Cow-Puncher's Elegy
I've ridden nigh a thousand leagues upon two bands of steel...

The Cowboy's Homing
Bill’s home ag’in from Europe, where he . . .

Daylight Saving in Cactus Center
Down here in Cactus Center we believe in savin' time...

The Debate in Cactus Center
Down in Poker Bill's old 'dobe, we was talkin', gent to gent...

The Diamond Hitch
When camp is moved, at break of day, then comes old Packer Bill--a king...

Discipline in Cactus Center
We welcome folks in Cactus Center if they've got an honest lay ...

The Dude Ranch
We used to run a cow-ranch . . .

Easter at Cactus Center
You kin talk about your racin' with your horses neck and neck...

The Herder's Reverie
The sheep are down at the water, a-drinkin' their bloomin' fill ...

The High-Heeled Boots
He stands upon the city street, keen-eyed... 

Journalism in Cactus Center
Down here in Cactus Center we ain't much on splittin' hairs ...

The Magic Mulligan
A rider from the Two-Bar come with news from off the range...

The Meeting
When walkin’ down a city street ...

Men in the Rough
Men in the rough--on the trails all new-broken...

Moving Pictures in Cactus Center
The culture game in Cactus has been boosted quite a spell...

October on the Sheep Range
There ain't no leaves to turn to gold...

The Old Dutch Oven
Some sigh for cooks of boyhood days . . .

The Old Sheep Wagon
I have heard men long for a palace, but I want no such abode...

The Old-Timer
He showed up in the springtime . . .

The Old Yaller Slicker
The old yaller slicker's the cowpuncher's friend...

The Ostrich-Punching of Arroyo Al
I was broke in Arizony, and was gloomy as a tomb...

Out Among the Big Things
Out among the big things
the mountains . . .

Out Where the West Begins
Out where the handclasp’s a little stronger . . .

Pete’s Error
There’s a new grace up on Boot Hill . . .

The Pony Express
The eddies swirl in the treacherous ford...

The Sheep-Herder's Lament
The cowboy has his bunkie...

Valentine Day in Cactus Center
Things is quiet, here in Cactus, and our bullyvards now lack...

 


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.

From Out where the West Begins, 1917

The poem appeared on postcards, and other souvenirs, and was set to music. The poem was "adapted" without attribution for particular states (see some postcards here) and a parody here, below.

   

 

(See a parody, other "adaptations" of the poem, and more, below)

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The Cowboy's Homing

Bill’s home ag’in from Europe, where he featured with a show,
But he don’t talk none about it — his words jest seem to flow
On the subject of home-comin’, and this glorious Southwest land,
Which talk, to all us people, is some hard to onderstand.

The stage-driver was tellin’ when he hit the sagebrush flat
That’s south of Cactus Center, Bill jest wept behind his hat,
And he nearly went plum dotty, his joy was so intense,
At the prairie dogs a-scoldin’ behind each wire fence.

When the driver stopped at Arid, fer a meal and fer a rest,
Bill pinned a sprig of cactus like a flower on his vest;
He couldn’t eat fer lookin’ at that endless, dreary plain—
I guess it makes men homesick fer to cross the ragin’ main.

So we let Bill kinder babble ’bout these things we know so well,
And we’re all a-waitin’, patient, for the glories he will tell;
In a week or two he’ll see things like he hadn’t been away—
But the homin’ joy has got him on the locoed list to-day.

From Out where the West Begins, 1917

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The Dude Ranch

We used to run a cow-ranch,
   In all that old term meant,
But all our ancient glories
   In recent years have went;
We’re takin’ summer boarders,
   And, puttin’ it quite rude,
It’s now the cowboy’s province
   To herd the festive dude.

We used to run an outfit,
   The greatest in the West;
Our cowboys were the wonders —
   Our roundups were the best;
The punchers still are with us,
   But now they merely guide
The tenderfoot from Boston
   Who’s learnin’ how to ride.

We used to brand our cattle
   And ship ‘em wide and far;
But now we import humans
   From off the Pullman car;
The dudes have got us captured
   And tied and branded, too;
And the cowboy’s readin’ Ibsen
   When his daily toil is through.

From Out where the West Begins, 1917

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 The Old Dutch Oven

Some sigh for cooks of boyhood days, but none of them for me;
One roundup cook was best of all — ’t was with the X-Bar-T.
And when we heard the grub-pile call at morning, noon, and night,
The old Dutch oven never failed to cook the things just right.

‘T was covered o’er with red-hot coals, and when we fetched her out,
The biscuits there were of the sort no epicure would flout.
I ain’t so strong for boyhood grub, ’cause, summer, spring, or fall,
The old Dutch oven baked the stuff that tasted best of all.

Perhaps ’t was ’cause our appetites were always mighty sharp —
The men who ride the cattle range ain’t apt to kick or carp;
But, anyway, I find myself a-dreaming of that bread
The old Dutch oven baked for us beneath those coals so red.

From Out where the West Begins, 1917

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The Old-Timer

He showed up in the springtime, when the geese began to honk;
He signed up with the outfit, and we fattened up his bronk;
His chaps were old and tattered, but he never seemed to mind,
‘Cause for worryin’ and frettin’ he had never been designed;
He’s the type of cattle-puncher that has vanished now, of course,
With his hundred-dollar saddle on his twenty-dollar horse.

He never seemed to bother over fortune’s ups and downs,
And he never quit his singin’ when the gang was full of frowns;
He would lose his roundup money in an hour of swift play,
But he never seemed discouraged when he ambled on his way.
He would hit the trail a-singin’, and his smile was out full force,
Though he’d lost his fancy saddle and he didn’t have a horse.

I have wondered where he wanders in these late, degenerate years,
When there are no boundless ranges, and there are no long-horn steers;

But I’ll warrant he is cheerful, though unfriendly is the trail,
And his cigarette is flowing, though his grub supply may fail,
For he had life’s happy secret — he had traced it to the source
In his hundred-dollar saddle on his twenty-dollar horse.

From Out where the West Begins, 1917

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Out Among the Big Things

Out among the big things —
   The mountains and the plains —
An hour ain’t important,
   Nor are the hour’s gains;
The feller in the city
   Is hurried night and day,
But out among the big things
   He learns the calmer way.

Out among the big things —
   The skies that never end —
To lose a day ain’t nothin’,
   The days are here to spend;
So why not give ‘em freely,
   Enjoyin’ as we go?
I somehow can’t help thinkin’
   The good Lord means life so.

Out among the big things —
   The heights that gleam afar —
A feller gets to wonder
   What means each distant star;
He may not get an answer,
   But somehow, every night
He feels, among the big things,
   That everything’s all right.

From Out where the West Begins, 1917

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Pete’s Error

There’s a new grave up on Boot Hill, where we’ve planted Rowdy Pete;
He died one evenin’, sudden, with his leather on his feet;
He was Cactus Center’s terror with that work of art, the Colt,
But, somehow, without warnin’, he up and missed his holt.

His fav’rite trick in shootin’ was to grab his victim’s right,
Then draw his own revolver — and the rest was jest "Good-night";
He worked it in succession on nine stout and well-armed men,
But a sickly-lookin’ stranger made Pete’s feet slip up at ten.

Pete had follered out his programme and had passed the fightin’ word;
He grabbed the stranger’s right hand, when a funny thing occurred;
The stranger was left-handed, which Pete hadn’t figgered out,
And, afore he fixed his error, Peter was dead beyond all doubt.

It was jest another instance of a flaw in work of man;
A lefty never figgered in the gunman’s battle plan;
There ain’t no scheme man thinks of that Dame Nature cannot beat —
So his pupils are unlearnin’ that cute trick they got from Pete.

From Out where the West Begins, 1917

 

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 The Bunkhouse

The bunkhouse on the cattle ranch
   Was lowly, but at night
When its small window was aglow
   We hurried in that light,
And merrily we trooped within
   And flung our saddles down,
And there were tales for all to hear
   Told by the plainsmen brown.

The bunkhouse walls were papered o’er
   With scraps from everywhere —
With pictures of great battleships
   And ladies who were fair;
And all could read strange bits of news,
   While many comrades’ scrawls
Were written there, illegibly,
   Upon the bunkhouse walls.

I’ve traveled many miles since then
   But oft, when sets the sun,
I think about the bunkhouse, low,
   Where cowboys, one by one,
Came strolling in to chat and smoke
   And play a game of cards;
I’d even stand for their long snores —
   Where are you, good old pards!

From Out where the West Begins, 1917

 

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 The Meeting

When walkin’ down a city street,
   Two thousand miles from home,
The pavestones hurtin’ of the feet
   That never ought to roam,
A pony jest reached to one side
   And grabbed me by the clothes;
He smelled the sagebrush, durn his hide —
   You bet a pony knows!

I stopped and petted him, and seen
   A brand upon his side;
I’ll bet across the prairie green
   He useter hit his stride;
Some puncher of the gentle cow
   Had owned him — that I knows;
Which same is why he jest says: "How!
   There’s sagebrush in your clothes."

He knowed the smell — no doubt it waked
   Him out of some bright dream;
In some far stream his thirst is slaked—
   He sees the mountains gleam;
He bears his rider far and fast,
   And real the hull thing grows
When I come sorter driftin’ past
   With sagebrush in my clothes.

Poor little hoss! It’s tough to be
   Away from that fair land —
Away from that wide prairie sea
   With all its vistas grand;
I feel for you, old hoss, I do —
   It’s hard the way life goes;
I’d like to travel back with you —
   Back where that sagebrush grows!

From Out where the West Begins, 1917

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Christmas Shopping in Cactus Center

Women's scarce in Cactus Center, and there ain't no bargain stores
Fer to start them Monday rushes that break down the stoutest doors;
But we had some Christmas shoppin' that the town ain't over yet,
Jest because of one small woman and a drug store toilet set.

She was Cactus Center's teacher, and she had n't left the stage
'Fore she had the boys plum locoed  -- and I don't bar youth nor age;
She was cute and smart and pretty, and she might 'a' been here yet
If it had n't been fer Dawson and his drug store toilet set.

It was old and scratched and speckled, for 't was in his case for years,
But ol' Dawson, sharp and clever, put a whisper in our ears--
'Lowed he'd sell that set at auction, and he says:  "Now, boys, you bet
This 'ill make a hit with Teacher - this here swell new toilet set."

Well the biddin' stated lively, and it got to gettin' hot,
For every mind in Cactus on that single thing was sot;
Purty soon I'd staked my saddle, worth two hundred dollars net,
Jest to own fer one short second that blamed drug store toilet set.

It was then began the shootin' -- no one seems to know jest how --
And 't was lack of ammunition that at last broke up the row;
And thirteen of us was hurted, but the worst blow that we met
Was in findin' that some bullets had gone through that toilet set.

But we plugged the punctures in it, and we plugged the wounded, too,
And agreed we'd arbitrate it, and the bunch 'd see it through;
So we sent a gift committee, but they came back sorer yet --
Fer the teacher'd fluttered Eastward -- so we've got that that toilet set.

From Out where the West Begins, 1917

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October on the Sheep Range

There ain't no leaves to turn to gold--
There ain't a tree in sight--
In other ways the herder's told
October's come, all right.

Jest like ten thousand souls, all lost,
The wind howls--ain't it nice!--
The water-hole is froze acrost
With crinkly-crackly ice.

The sheep bed down before the sun
Has hit the rim of hills;
The prairie wolves are on the run
To make their nightly kills.

But kyards are sayin', "Solitaire,"
The bacon's fryin' prime;
The old sheep wagon's free from care
In late October time.

From From Cactus Center, 1921

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Daylight Saving in Cactus Center

Down here in Cactus Center we believe in savin' time;
Unlike the waste of powder, wastin' daylight is a crime;
So we held a solemn meetin', down in Poker Johnson's place,
And agreed that here in Cactus every clock must change its face;
"For," Bear Hawkins said, reflective, "it will give one hour more
For the studyin' by sunlight of this here draw poker lore.
We are proud of all the sunshine that suffuses yonder range;
If we was n't boosters for it, it'd be almighty strange."

But a shadder fell upon us when old Pegleg brought the mail
And he stumped in, from his stage seat, with his customary hail,
For he said, when we had told him of our daylight savin' plan:
"This is rough on pore old Pegleg—you have got me on the pan,
For they've just sent word from Lone Wolf that the old-time schedule stays,
And they say I'll run this bus line just as on all previous days,
So I'd like to have you tell me how I'll land among you here
At the time I'm leavin' Lone Wolf.  Do I make my meanin' clear?

We are peaceful here in Cactus—it takes lots to stir our ire—
But this impudence from Lone Wolf set our fightin' blood afire;
So we 'phoned the Two-Bar foreman, and the Star, and Lazy Y,
And we got word to the round-ups and they let the brand-irons lie,
And the top hands come a-peltin' from the wide and dusty plain,
And we even took a sheepman, though it went against the grain.
Whereupon, when all assembled, we sent word: "Hunt trees to climb,
For we're comin' over, Lone Wolf, and we'll make you change your time!"

There's been battles over poker, there's been bloodshed over booze,
There's been men who've gone to Boot Hill 'cause of words that they would use;
Men have been turned into lead mines for remarks misunderstood;
Men who would n't drink have perished—men have died because they would'
But the fight of fights was started when we entered Lone Wolf's streets
And we carried daylight savin' to the uttermost retreats.
Though we lost some ten good gunmen, we was pleased, on takin' stock,
When we found that we had shot holes in each laggin' Lone Wolf clock.

From Cactus Center, 1921

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The Ostrich-Punching of Arroyo Al

I was broke in Arizony, and was gloomy as a tomb
When I got a chance at punchin' for an outfit called Star-Plume;
I did n't ask no wherefores, but jest lit out with my tarp,
As happy as an angel with the newest make o' harp.

When I struck out from the bunkhouse, for my first day on the range,
I thought the tracks we follered was peculiar like and strange,
And when I asked about it, the roundup foreman sez:
"You ain't a-punchin' cattle, but are herdin' ostriches."

Well, we chased a bunch of critters on the hot and sandy plain,
Though 't was like a purp a-racin' with a U. S. A. mail train;
But at last we got 'em herded in a wire fence corral,
And the foreman sez, off-hand like:  "Jest go in and rope one, Al."

Well, the first one that I tackled was an Eiffel Tower bird,
But that noose ain't pinched his thorax 'fore several things occurred:
He spread his millinery jest as if he meant to fly,
And then he reached a stilt out, careless, and smote me above the eye.

They pulled me out from under that millin' mass o' legs,
And the fed me on hot whiskey and the yolks of ostrich eggs;
And as soon as I was able, I pulled freight for Cattle Land,
And the ostrich-punchin' business never gits my O. K. brand.

From Out where the West Begins, 1917

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 The High-Heeled Boots

He stands upon the city street, keen-eyed, and brown of face,
He seems to bring a breath of air from some broad prairie space;
He’s perched upon a pair of heels that fit the stirrup’s curve,
That meet the bucking bronco’s plunge and counteract each swerve;
And of all the chaps with whom the gods are ever in cahoots
   Give me the cattle-puncher in the high-heeled boots.

He brings a hint of wider skies, of ranges that are vast,
Of manful vigils in the days when sweeps the wintry blast;
All out of step with things in town, he sees the crowd surge by;
The sage is in his nostrils still — he hears the gaunt wolf cry;
He rides as Alexander rode — the bell rings when he shoots —
   The gallant cattle-puncher in the high-heeled boots.

He is the last of that old guard defending Cattle Land,
Those knights who jousted for the cause — blood brothers of the brand;
But now they’ve fenced the water-hole, they’re harrowing the plain,
They’re changing all the sagebrush flats to fields of waving grain;
The cowmen will be gone, they say, and there are no recruits —
   Good-bye, brave cattle-puncher in the high-heeled boots!

From Out where the West Begins, 1917

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The Old Yaller Slicker

The old yaller slicker's the cowpuncher's friend--
His saddle is never without it--
It's rolled in a bundle and tied at each end,
But it's ready for service, don't doubt it.

When the sun bathes the hills in a dazzling flow
Across which the cloud shadows flicker,
Then the night-herd's asleep, where the round-up tents show,
With his head on his old yaller slicker.

But in days when the rain drives aslant o'er the range,
And the far hills the storm king is hiding,
Then the old yaller slicker gleams ghostlike and strange
Where the tireless cowboy is riding.

Oh, it's wrinkled and torn, and it never looks new--
In the town it would stir up a snicker--
But the style can go hang--it's a friend tied and true,
is the cowpuncher's old yaller slicker.

From Cactus Center, 1921

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Journalism in Cactus Center

Down here in Cactus Center we ain't much on splittin' hairs;
In the fancy shades of language we are puttin' on no airs,
But we're shy one young reporter--it was strange how it occurred--
Who mussed up a brilliant future when he chose jest one wrong word.

He hustled local items for the "Stockmen's Weekly Star";
He was young and plumb ambitious, and he made friends near and far;
He never knocked nobody, but he allus tried to boost,
And we thought he'd make a wonder on the journalistic roost.

But he wrote, with good intentions, as most every one allows,
"Our townsman, Poker Johnson, has gone South to rustle cows";
He meant to say that Poker was a-roundin' up his brand,
For he did n't know that "rustle" meant to "thieve" in Cattle Land.

When Poker Johnson read it he put on an extry gun,
And he came to town a-frothin' with his bronco on the run;
The reporter got a warnin' and he hopped a cowboy's beast
And he started navigatin' for the calm and distant East.

We got old Poker quiet when he'd busted up the press,
And had shot holes in the sanctum and had made the type of mess;
And we'd like a bright reporter who is broke to Western slang--
No more such babes shall money with out newspaper she-bang!

From Cactus Center, 1921

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Valentine Day in Cactus Center

Things is quiet, here in Cactus, and our bullyvards now lack
The brisk, upliftin' infloo'nce of the forty-five's loud crack;
There's three doctors and some nusses, all the way from San Antone,
And they're patchin' up the leavin's of a Valentine cyclone.

It was all because Bear Hawkins, who's some clever with the pen,
Drew a bunch o' comic picters of our foremost fightin' men;
He cartooned Windy Porter as a sheep in cowboy's clothes
And he handed worse to others 'fore he hails the stage and blows.

It was n't many minutes 'fore the post-office was filled
With a seethin' bunch a-thirstin' fer to see an artist killed;
They did n't think o' Hawkins, fer he'd covered up his play,
So they fell to argumentin', in a gin'ral sort o' way.

The wrecked the gov'ment boxes, and they bloodied up the floor--
It was freshly laid with sawdust, and the P. M. ripped and swore--
And they used the doors and shutters and then tore the big sign down
Fer to bear away the wounded when the smoke had left the town.

So we ain't too strong in Catcus on this comic picter bix,
And we're waitin' fer Bear Hawkins jest to tip off where he is,
But he keeps hisself in hidin', though he sent us this one line--
"I still love you, Cactus Center--won't you be my valentine?"

From Cactus Center, 1921

This poem is included in our Cowboy Love Poetry collection

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Men in the Rough

Men in the rough—on the trails all new-broken—
     Those are the friends we remember with tears;
Few are the words that such comrades have spoken—

     Deeds are their tributes that last through the years.

Men in the rough
—sons of prairie and mountain—
     Children of nature, warm-hearted, clear eyed;
Friendship with them is a never-sealed fountain;
     Strangers are they to the altars of pride.

Men in the rough—
curt of speech to their fellows—
     Ready in everything, save to deceive;
Theirs are the friendships that time only mellows,
     And death cannot sever the bonds that they weave.

From Out where the West Begins, 1917

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Easter at Cactus Center

You kin talk about your racin' with your horses neck and neck
We have had one here in Cactus that's the high card in the deck.
It was when a bunch o' punchers--must have been an even score
Were competin' fer a sky-piece down in Morris Levy's store.

It was decked with loads o' flowers, and a full-grown tree or two,
With a string of clingin' ivy windin' up and down and through;
It had come clean from Las Vegas, fer old Levy had a hunch
That the school teacher would get it from the Cactus Center bunch.

Bud Ender reached the counter, in about one rabbit jump,
With others clost behind him, in a howlin', cussin' lump;
Bud had paid two shinin' twenties, but he let it go at that,
Fer some hombrey broke the winder and stampeded with the hat.

Well, our shins was cruel punctured with each other's flyin' spurs
As we rushed out of the doorway fer to make that bonnet hers;
You could see the flowers noddin' on the head o' Skinny Sam,
And it looked like coin to doughnuts he'd be first to that schoolma'am.

But we heard a pony comin', and it passed us on a lope,
With Bear Hawkins in the saddle and a-swingin' of his rope;
He made a heel-cast perfect and old Skinny dropped, kerthud!
With his head, in that there bonnet, buried deep down in the mud.

We are fine at mendin' saddles, and we're pretty fair on pants,
But on patchin' millinery we don't stand a two-spot chance;
So we chipped in, after seein' that we needed somethin' new,
And we sent two boys to Vegas jest to rush another through.

They killed off six cayuses, but they got back jest in time
With a sky-piece flower garden any girl'd think was prime;
But they spent all Easter cussin'and small wonder that they did
Fer the teacher'd gone a-visitin', and her mother got the lid.

From Cactus Center, 1921

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The Magic Mulligan

A rider from the Two-Bar come with news from off the range:
He said he's seen a dust cloud that looked almighty strange,
So he rode his bronco over, and there, as bold as brass,
He seen a sheepman feedin' his flock upon our grass.
The rider turned home, pronto, and he got the boys aroused,
And they started, whoopin', for where them woolies browsed.
But I met 'em, on their mission, and I heard the hull bunch groan
When I said:  "Now, turn back, fellers, I must play this hand alone."

I was mad clear to my gizzard when I started for the camp,
And I thought of how I'd punish this vile, sheep-herdin' scamp;
I'd escort him to the deadline, where he'd run his sheep across,
And in case I had to kill him, why, it would n't be much loss;
And with such thoughts churnin' in me when I spied his wagon-top
I rode up to the herder as he watched his wooly crop.
But he simply grinned up at me, and he said:  "Now, pardner, say,
Let's set down and have some dinner 'fore we start to scrap to-day."

He had a stew jest ready and he dished a plateful out,
And I set and et that plateful and I heard far angels shout;
I could hear gold harps a-twangin' and my rough thoughts seemed to melt
As he dished another plateful and I loosened up my belt.
Then I laid aside my six-guns while the herder dished more stew,
And at least my foreman rode up, as I knowed that he would do,
And he set cross-legged with me, and he et, and more hands come,
And afore that sheepman's cookin' quite the loudest was struck dumb.

It was mulligan he made there, all alone out on the hills,
This here cook whose magic humbled all my fightin' Toms and Bills;
You kin talk of hotel dishes, made by chefs from furrin lands,
But I'll back this sheepman's cookin' 'gainst all European brands.
So I says, when we had finished:  "You kin make yourself to home,
You kin pick the choicest grazin' and allow your sheep to roam;
We will drive our cattle elsewhereyou kin have whate'er you seek
If you let us come to dinner, say about three times a week!"

From Out where the West Begins, 1917

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Arroyo Al on Worry

They'd make a rattlin' roundup, sure,
     The troubles known to man,
If we could gather all the kinds
     Since this old world began.

But 'mong the troubles on life's range,--
     The common and preferred,--
That critter labeled Worry is
     The orn'riest of the herd.

You think you've got him roped and tied
     And humbled in the dust,
But soon that critter's up again
     And raisin' clouds of dust.

You're feelin' fine--the sky is blue,
     Your laugh's a happy man's--
But Worry comes cavortin' in
      And stampedes all your plans.

Seems like, when this here world was made
     For me and you, old pal,
This Worry critter should have been
     Shut tight in some corral.

From Out where the West Begins, 1917

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Classic Dancing in Cactus Center

Down here in Cactus Center we have lived a life apart;
We've been far, we're frank in sayin', from the headquarters of art...
Our work has kept us humpin', roundin' up the festive steer;
We admit that things aesthetic find us bringin' up the rear;
All of  which has some small bearin' on a thing that's knocked us cold--
That has set the cowboys talkin' when the cigarettes is rolled,
And has proved to be the reason why the Two-Bar boss has swore
That this Terpsichory goddess gits his O K nevermore.

It started when a lady wrote Bear Hawkins from the East
That she'd like to rent a pasture, if he had one to be leased.
She said she wished to use it for her classic dancin'-school,
And Bear wrote back: "Dear madam, I am sure a locoed fool,
But I fail to see why pastures beat the schoolhouse dancin'-floor,
Which, of course, it ain't my worry, as it's grass you're payin' for;
So you'll find the pasture ready, right behind the main corral,
And I speak up for some lessons for my old friend, Cattle Sal."

Well, Bear's eyes stuck out like doorknobs when the dancin'-school arrove,
And jest thirty-eight young women to the cattle ranch he drove;
They was headed by a woman with a most determined jaw--
The kind who, in all comp'ny constitoots herself the law;
And she said:  "Now, Mister Hawkins, we have come here to the West
To create some classic dances that will give our art new zest.
For among those wild surroundings it will be no trick to find
Some stunts to make Pavlowa fade from out the public mind."

When Old Pete went out, next sunrise, for to rope his pinto hoss,
He thought he saw ghosts dancin', and he called upon the boss;
And the boss, though he'd been sober for a week, or maybe more,
Thought he must be seein' visions like he never seen before;
'Cause those dancers were disportin', all in robes of dazzlin' white,
And Old Pete says: "Boss, I'm quittin'--you kin pay me off to-night.
As it's me for Cactus Center, lest I feel disposed to prance
And to tramp down good alfalfa in this sort of classic dance."

Well, there was n't much work doin' in the round-up gang for days;
There was cows that went unbranded, and good steers was lost as strays;
The cowboys sat for hours on the top rail of the fence
And watched the classic dancers, as they flitted here and whence,
Till Bear Hawkins said:  "Dear madam, you must sure detour your freight;
While we like your classic dancin', we must hand it to you straight
That you've got our punchers locoed, and the case is just this size:
You must quit this cattle country, or the price of beef will rise."

Thought the leader was offended, Hawkins took his stand quite firm,
And the dancers started Eastward, cuttin' short their Wild West term;
But they've left a deep impression, and the boys don't give two hoots
In reels and clogs, and such things, for to agitate their boots;
And when the schoolhouse dances are given, now and then,
You can hear the whispered comments 'mong a lot of wall-flower men,
And you know that they are talkin' of the palpitatin' days
When we got our introduction to the classic dancin' craze.

From Cactus Center, 1921

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Moving Pictures in Cactus Center

The culture game in Cactus has been boosted quite a spell
By a gent with movin' pictures--and he played the show game  well;
But he had himself sure tangled, and the uplift game was messed
When he tried to show a drammer of the palpitatin' West.

The hall was filled with punchers when he turned up his machine,
And showed up what was labeled a real Wild Western scene;
There was mountains in the background, which was real enough, perhaps,
But you oughter seem them actors that cavorted round in chaps!

We stood it without knockin' till a bronk drifts in the play
And the cowboy and his sweetheart make their weddin' getaway;
Then we groans in chorus mighty, and we turns jest where we sits,
And it only takes one volley to reduce the lamp to bits.

Then we sought the frightened owner, and we paid the damage done,
But we cautioned him hereafter nary Western film to run;
"'Cause," we say, "it makes us nervous--nay, we may say, peeved and cross--
When we see an actor-cowboy mount the wrong side of a hoss!"

From Out where the West Begins, 1917

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Discipline in Cactus Center

We welcome folks in Cactus Center if they've got an honest lay;
If their game ain't too durn crooked, we never stop the play;
But a get-rich-quicker blew in, with a game we did n't like,
So we did n't waste the minutes in invitin' him to hike.

He advertised extensive in the papers 'way down East
That he run a school fer cowboys, and there were n't no bronco beast
That his graduates was 'feared of, and a feller was a fool
If he could n't learn rough ridin' in this correspondence school.

When Bear Hawkins heard about it, and about the tons of mail
The feller was receivin', his brown face near turned pale;
And he says: "Boys, now jest tell me, am I dreamin' or awake,
That our town of Cactus Center stands for any such raw fake?"

So we gathered on the quiet, and we yanked the feller out,
And we made him ride our broncos, till he'd qualified past doubt
Fer the title of Perfesser, which we give him then and there,
And we left him filled with needles from the festive prickly pear.

From Cactus Center, 1921

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The Diamond Hitch

When camp is moved, at break of day,
Then comes old Packer Bill--a king
Who rules, with most despotic sway,
The while he loads the pack-mule string;
"Now, stand off, fellers, give him room!
Now, let the critter buck and pitch;
That load will stay till crack o' doom
'Cause Bill has slung the diamond hitch."

The helpers stand in trembling awe
And watch the ropes weave round the pack;
The artist's lightest word is law
While strong and deft hands show their knack;
A false move condemnation brings--
"This noose must go jest thus and sich;
No tenderfoot must bobble things
When Old Bill slings the diamond hitch."

Old Bill is gone--and o'er the ways
His caravans trailed, in the past,
The engine thunders through the haze
That hangs above the prairie vast;
But ere the dawn of life is fanned,
Disclosing land of fence and ditch,
I seem to seek the pack-mules stand
While old Bill slings the diamond hitch.

From Out where the West Begins, 1917

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The Herder's Reverie

The sheep are down at the water, a-drinkin' their bloomin' fill,
An' me and the dog are dozin', as herders and collies will;
The world may be movin' somewheres, but here it is standin' still.

It is standin' still as a picter, and even the clouds o'erhead
Look just like the clouds that are painted on the roof of a sky-blue shed.
And it seems if, to fill the picter, us and the sheep should be dead.

It's hard to think that in cities there's men who are goin' to mad,
Each strivin' to beat his fellows and get what the others had;
And from this here peaceful viewpoint, such doin's look bad, plum bad.

So the shadows lengthen and lengthen, in the long-drawn lazy day;
Has any one been any happier than me and my dog -- now say!
I wish, when it's time fer cashin', I could pass in my checks this way.

From Out where the West Begins, 1917

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The Cow-Puncher's Elegy

I've ridden nigh a thousand leagues upon two bands of steel,
     And it takes a grizzled Westerner to know just how I feel;
The ranches dot the strongholds of the old-time saddlemen,
        And the glory of the cattle days can ne'er come back again.
            Oh, the creak of saddle leather--
            Oh, the sting of upland weather
When the cowmen roamed the foothills and drove in ten thousand steers;
        Through the years, back in the dreaming,
         I can see the camp-fires gleaming,
And the lowing of the night-herd sounds, all faintly, in my ears.

There's a checkerboard of fences on the vast and wind-swept range;
     And the haystacks and the windmills make the landscape new and strange,
And the plains are full of farmers, with their harrows and their ploughs;
     On the roadsides loiter kidlets, who are "driving home the cows!"
          Oh, the quickly faded glory
          Of the cowboy's brief, brief story!
How the old range beckons vainly in the sunshine and the rain!
          Oh, the reek of roundup battle
          And the thund'ring hoofs of cattle--
But why dream a useless day-dream, that can only give one pain?

Where have gone those trails historic, where the herders sought the mart?
     Where have they gone the saucy cow-towns, where the gunman played his part?
Where has gone the Cattle Kingdom, with its armed, heroic strife?
     Each has vanished like a bubble that has lived its little life.
           Oh, the spurs we set a-jingling,
           And the blood that went a-tingling
When we rode forth in the morning, chaps-clad knights in cavalcade;
           And the mem'ries that come trooping,
           And the spirits, sad and drooping,
When the cowman looks about him at the havoc Time has made.

From Out where the West Begins, 1917

 

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The Debate in Cactus Center

Down in Poker Bill's old 'dobe, we was talkin', gent to gent,
On the subject of employment for our next ex-president;
We was sure that writin' stories would n't suit no such as he,
And at last on punchin' cattle we was ready to agree.

"The cow biz," says Bear Hawkins, "shore will test a feller's worth'
It's the noblest occupation on this good old Mother Earth;
And it's good enough for presidents, and it's good enough for kings,
And I'm here to back my say-so with the gun or knife, by jings!"

But while we all applauded, Loco Jackson, near the door,
Sez: "I see that I'm outnumbered, but I've gotter have my roar;
When it comes to occupations that ex-presidents should foller
The game of herdin' woolies skins the cowboy game all holler!"

Well, we set there quite dumbfounded while the snoozer had his say,
And he'd slid out in a minit, and had made his getaway;
And it discomposed the talkers, did the sheepman's jarrin' note,
So the dee-bate's still onsettled--for we clean fergot to vote!

From Cactus Center, 1921

 

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The Old Sheep Wagon

I have heard men long for a palace, but I want no such abode,
     For wealth is a source of trouble, and a jeweled crown is a load;
I'll take my home in the open, with a mixture of sun and rain—
     Just give me my old sheep wagon, on the boundless Wyoming plain.

With the calling sheep around me, and my collie's head on my knees,
     I float my cigarette smoke on the sage-scented prairie breeze;
And at night, when the band is bedded, I creep, like a tired child,
     To my tarp, in the friendly wagon, alone on the sheep range wild.

Music and art I am missing?—but what great symphony
     Can equal the harps of nature that are twanged by the plains-wind free?
And where is the master of color to match, though for years he tried,
     The purples that veil yon mesa, at the hour of eventide?

I have had my fill of mankind, and my dog is my only friend,
     So I m waiting, here in the sagebrush, for the judgment the Lord may send;
They'll find me dead in my wagon, out here on the hilltops brown,
     But I reckon I'll die as easy as I would in a bed in town!

From Out where the West Begins, 1917


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The Pony Express
The eddies swirl in the treacherous ford,
     And the clouds gather dark ahead;
And over the plain, where the sunlight poured,
     Scarce a gleam does the pale moon shed.

The pony drinks, but with gasp and sob,
     And wan is the man at its side;
The way has been long, past butte and knob,
     And still he must ride and ride.

Now the cinch is drawn and the plunge is made,
     And the bank of the stream is gained;
Eyes study the darkness, unafraid,
     And ne'er is the good horse reined.

And the hoof-beats die on the prairie vast,
     To the lone wolf's answering wail—
Thus the ghost of the Pony Express goes past
On the grass-grown Overland Trail.

From Out where the West Begins, 1917


Arthur Chapman wrote about the Pony Express in a well-received book,
Pony Express; the record of a romantic adventure in business, published in 1932.

A December, 1931 article here in the Milwaukee Journal newspaper tells about Chapman uncovering the name of the first Pony Express rider. Pony Express; the record of a romantic adventure in business is over 300 pages, illustrated with maps, contemporary prints, and photographs.

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The Sheep-Herder's Lament

The cowboy has his bunkie
     To share his tarpaulin—
To joke with him and smoke with him
     And listen to his chin.
But a sheep-herder doggone it!
     When lonesome breezes moan,
Must grit his teeth and stand it—
     He's got to fight alone.

The nester he is married—
     Contentment is his lot—
There's laughin' and there's chaffin'
     At his ranch (which here there's not).
For the sheep-herder, doggone it!
     Don't hear a human voice;
It's enough fer him to listen
     While the kyo-tes rejoice.

The city man is bothered
     With too many men around;
There's rushin' and there's crushin'
     Like when ants swarm o'er the ground.
But the sheep-herder, doggone it!
     Has miles of space to fill
And nary soul to help him
     Watch the sheep feed on the hill.

From Out where the West Begins, 1917


"Out Where the West Begins" Parody and other "adaptations"

We found this parody of "Out Where the West Begins" on an old clipping that was tucked inside of a book of Robert Service poetry. The introductory lines say it is, "...a poem you simply can't escape from as you pursue the setting sun beyond the Mississippi."

Vulgar Lines for a Distinguished Surgeon

Down at the place where we put the dinner,
     Where there's a pain in the parts called inner,
Down where we ought to be inches thinner,
     That's where the vest begins.

Down where we'd hate to have some one strike us,
     Down where the belt-buckle loves to spike us,
Down in the realm of the umbilicus,
     That's where the vest begins.

Down where I fear there's a terrible lot o' me,
     Down where some people are hippopotami,
In the department of laparotomy,
     That's where the vest begins.

Down where the form grows a little fatter
     Down where in youth we were somewhat flatter
Down where, in brief, there's too much matter,
     That's where the vest begins.

by Arthur Guiterman

Arthur Guiterman (1871-1943) was the co-founder of the Poetry Society of America, and served as its President 1925-26.


The poem appeared on postcards, and other souvenirs, and was set to music.

   

The poem was "adapted" on some postcards, without attribution, for particular states:

 

There's more about "Out Where the West Begins," including other versions, parodies, images, and history at this link.


Chapman's Books

T he Library of Congress lists these books by Arthur Chapman, all out of print:

You may find some of his books through used book sources or at your library.


Out Where the West Begins and Other Western Verses by Arthur Chapman, 1917

 

Includes:

Out Where the West Begins
The Changed Hills
Arroyo Al on Wealth
Arroyo Al on Worry
The Dead Prospector
Moving Pictures in Cactus Center
Christmas Shopping in Cactus Center
The Cowboys and the Prospector
The Cowboy and the Tempter
A Cowboy's Musings
The Cowboy's Homing
The Cow-Puncher's Elegy
Cow-Puncher Philosophy
The Sheriff's Report
The Diamond Hitch
The Dude Ranch
The White Man's Road
Jim
The Herder's Reverie
The Magic Mulligan
The Market Train
The Little Papoose
The Water-Carrier
The Old Dutch Oven
Old Home Week in Cactus Center
The Old Sheep Wagon
The Old-Timer
Out Among the Big Things
The Ostrich-Punching of Arroyo Al
The Westerner
Pete’s Error
The Man the Desert Got
In a Deserted Mining Camp
Ridin' the Chuck-Line
The Blanket Injun
The Pony Express
The War-Horse Buyers
The Sheep-Herder
The Sheep-Herder's Lament
The Sheepman's Plaint
At the Outposts
The Diamond Drill Man
Tex
The Traders
The Frontier Fort
The Border Riders
The Range Pirates
The Bunkhouse
The High-Heeled Boots
The Homesteader
The Kiddies' Play-Hour
The Indian Police
In Lonesome Land
The Invalid
The Mother Lode
The Meeting
Before the Gringo Came
Men in the Rough


Cactus Center  by Arthur Chapman, 1921

 

 

Includes:

Jim Bridger
The Hoss of Pecos Doyle
The Legend of the Sagebrush
Journalism in Cactus Center
Mother West
Graduation Day at Cactus Center
Classic Dancing in Cactus Center
The Call
The Heart-Gift
Daylight Saving in Cactus Center
Cactus Center and the Census
Cactus Center Learns Something
Cactus Center's Semi-Centennial
Easter at Cactus Center
Cactus Center's Marshall
Discipline in Cactus Center
Cactus Center's War Talk
Polo in Cactus Center
The Novelist in Cactus Center
Nature-Faking in Cactus Center
The Debate in Cactus Center
Golf in Cactus Center
Cactus Center's Telephone Girl
The Peace Conference in Cactus Center
Cactus Center and the Planet Mars
The Country Uplift in Cactus Center
Cactus Center's Beauty Squad
Aviation in Cactus Center
The Tariff in Cactus Center
Cactus Center's Sky Pilot
Arbor Day in Cactus Center
Cactus Center's Fire Brigade
Cactus Center's Slogan
Divorce in Cactus Center
Valentine Day in Cactus Center
The Freighter
The Sheepman's Story
The Last Drift
The Art Student
The Fifty-Eighter
Homesickness
A Frontier Drama
The Hill-Man's Lullaby
An Oklahoma Reminiscence
The Rattlesnake
The Remittance Man
Navajo
The Santa Fe Trail
The Cattle Rustlers
The Trail Bond
At the Cliff Dwelling
The Seagulls of Salt Lake
In Mesa-Land
The Forest Fire
Trail Song
The Fire-Fighters
The Geysers of Yellowstone
The Dude-Wrangler
The Old Yaller Slicker
October on the Sheep Range
The Hermit
Watering the Trail Herd
The Cliff Dwelling
The Camel Ride of Arroyo Al
Arroyo Al's Antediluvian Bronco
The Ballad of Prue Perkins
Prospecting Time
The Old Trapper Speaks
The Forester's Return
The Prospector's Homing
The Water-Hole


Additional Links

The Penrose Library at the University of Denver holds the papers of Chapman's son, John Chapman (1900-1972). John Chapman was also a columnist and reviewer, sometimes referred to as "Old Frostface," because he would not let on about the contents of his columns before publication. A description of the archive notes, "The collection also contains material pertaining to John Chapman's father, Arthur Chapman, such as his poetry and photographs of Arthur Chapman and his family." See one photography of Arthur Chapman along with the description of the archive's contents more here.


Bette Wolf Duncan's Range Writer web site includes a page about Arthur Chapman with an interesting photo, here. See that photo also here the Denver Public Library Digital Collections.

 


 

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