Clark at his writing table in 1906 where he created
"A Cowboy's Prayer" and other classic verse
photo from Cowboy Poetry, Classic Poems & Prose by Badger Clark, used with permission
Preface, by Gregg Scott
from Cowboy Poetry, Classic Poems & Prose by Badger Clark
During a lifetime of viewing sunsets, some remain more notable than others. Many years ago while driving in Cochise County, I pulled off the road and stepped out of the truck to more safely enjoy a spectacular sunset. Even by Arizona standards, this was a very special evening. To the east, the entire Dragoon Mountain range was bathed in a golden alpenglow. To the west, five more ranges slowly became silhouetted against the brilliant and fiery colors of the setting sun. The entire sky was alive with intense bands of color. Too soon it was over and getting dark.
Nearly a century ago, a young Badger Clark wrote: "I don't need no art exhibit when the sunset does her best, Painting everlastin' glory on the mountains to the west." Obviously, he was as impressed as I with the glorious scene. And it was the same scene. I knew that Badger Clark had lived over in the Dragoons. I couldn't imagine the sunsets he was talking about were any different than the one that had pulled me (and I must say, other drivers too) off the road. As I finished my drive home, while the landscape became "...silver mounted by the touches of the moon," I decided that I would learn more about the cowboy poet who loved the desert and sunsets as much as I.
I was soon to discover where it was that Clark had lived. I was surprised to learn that I'd driven many, many times through the very ranges which Badger had ridden. I found that the ranch where Clark had lived was still a working outfit and the house he'd called home for four creative years was still standing. Eventually I would begin to visit the ranch and bring with me people who enjoyed Clark's poetry as much as I did. I visited libraries and museums. I traveled three times to South Dakota to study Clark's archive. I was determined to learn as much as I could about Badger Clark, the person and the poet.
I found, to my surprise, many fine poems by Clark which had never been reprinted. There were a few which had never been published. More than half of the short stories he'd penned had never been collected or reprinted. One day I visited Clark's old Arizona home with Mason Coggin, a mining engineer, poet and founder of Cowboy Miner Productions, which was busy reprinting classic cowboy poetry. After stomping about some old mine sites Badger had written about, I read some out-of-print poems to Mason and read from a little-known Badger short story. Mason agreed it would be a worthwhile idea to publish this work by Badger Clark.
Regrettably, we lost Mason before the project could ever get started. Happily, his wife and co-editor Janice was determined to go ahead. The result is a complete collection of Clark's short stories, most of his out-of-print and unpublished poetry and many of his best known, classic cowboy poems.
Come, strap on your chaps and your big spurs, too,
And wrangle your horse as soon as you're through;
Better catch up a dozen, for one won't do
For we're startin' today for the roundup.
Wah! the roundup!
There'll be Shorty and Frenchie and Bacon Rind Joe
And a rough-ridin' outfit from 7XO;
There'll be steaks that are juicy and beans that is rich
There'll be steers that is ugly and horses that pitch,
There'll be yellin' and hootin' and maybe some shootin'
And plenty of fun at the roundup.
We must crawl from our tarps at the breakin' of morn
And spend the whole day between cantle and horn.
Over hills and up gulches with never a rest
Till the day flickers out on the hills to the west,
There is lopin' and ropin' and no time for mopin'
It's work for good men on the roundup.
There is noise on the mountains and dust on the plains
And the cattle string out of the dry, sandy drains,
While the far-scattered punchers are urgin' them in,
With words that smell strong of original sin,
With a racin' and chasin' and often bout-facin'.
And that is the edge of the roundup.
A cavortin' and snortin' of horses gone wrong,
With a hailstorm of cusswords, a sprinkle of song,
And a bawlin' of calves that don't want to but must
And a smell of burnt hair and a swirlin' of dust
And a rattle of battle mongst long horned cattle--
And that is the heart of the roundup.
Wow! the roundup!
And when it is over the whole blamed force
Draws liquefied joy from its nearest source,
Then there's happiness, fights, and at last, remorse;
That's the end of a roundup.
Badger Clark, 1906
From the editor's notes: Pacific Monthly [Magazine]—October, 1906. This was Badger's third published poem. For whatever reason, he never included it in Sun and Saddle Leather. Clark does a good job of capturing the animated din of an actual roundup.
To the Lady of South Pass On Her Birthday Feb. 17, 1908
When our mortal trail has led us
Far beyond the Land of Youth
And we try to hide our birthdays
Or, at least, conceal the truth;
When our step grows slow and halting
And we often lose our pack
While we rest upon a milestone
And sit idly looking back.
There will be one spot, I reckon,
Where our gaze will often stray
And we'll live the old days over
In a dreamy sort of way
Where the sun was ever shining
And the wind was in the grass
And the mocking-birds were singing
Back in old South Pass.
There we had no fields or rivers
Shady groves or sun splashed bars,
Just bare mountains, barren desert
And the sun and moon and stars
Yet our land was full of beauty
And its beauty never bored
For our only landscape gard'ner
In the country was the Lord.
It was fitting that the dwellers
In that quiet country there
Should be just a rhyming dreamer
And a honeymooning pair
Dreamers shrink from being jostled
In the struggling sweaty mass,
Love and poetry found comfort
Up in old South Pass.
Then we dressed ourselves for comfort
And forgot the "proper thing"
And we seldom thought of grammar
And we weren't afraid to sing.
There was nothing to remind us
Of the city's Crowded mart
Love, at time, Brother Wyatt
And his snorting devil cart.
Goodness there was no hard matter
Cheerfulness, what'er the luck
And the toughest looking caller
Always got a meal of chuck.
We were careless of traditions
Never thought of creed or class
Poor? perhaps, but free and happy
Up in old South Pass.
But what good is all this dreaming
We thus have our kingdom yet
King and Queen are John and Rita
I'm the "poet lariat."
And today's a gran' fiesta
In the palace here I stand
Offering my birthday greetings
To the lady of the land.
My your life be bright and sunny
As an Arizona noon
And the years that lie before you
Many as the flowers in June.
May the wine of your existence
To the bottom of the glass
Be as clean and clear as sparkling
As in old South Pass.
Badger Clark, 1908
Editor Greg Scott writes about the poem, first written as a birthday poem to Badger Clark's neighbor, Rita Langley: "Badger Clark used the first two verses as Christmas verse to his Arizona friends in later years. The first two verses stand alone nicely. The late Mason Coggin [of Cowboy Miner Productions, the publisher of Greg's book] and I visited the site of the the Langley's camp a couple of times. There had and has been mining activity there for many years. Badger enjoyed his visits with the Langleys. He told in a letter how they (the Langleys) raised a turkey for Thanksgiving. At night they put the bird under a heavy ore bucket to keep the coyotes from getting it."
Greg says the he found the entire poem in the archive of Badger Clark's papers at Dakota Wesleyan in the Layne Library (now the McGovern Library). He writes, "The archive had other material about the Langleys, a letter home to his parents describing his new neighbors and their turkey and later, their new baby. Badger worried in his letters and in his story 'The Gloria Kids' that maybe he was hanging around too much with them. When John Langley's sister came to visit, she caused much disruption among the bachelors in the area. He wrote a poem about her, too."
All for Nothing
an excerpt from the short story in Cowboy Poetry, Classic Poems & Prose by Badger Clark
The merry widow had been in the movies, and she had been married to a onsatisfactory husband that was in the discard somewhere, and she kept a complexion that looked as if it had never been hit by anything rougher than electric light. She was the very latest model in all ways. Her talk, especially, was all city made and dated down to the second before last. I often wanted to holler for an interpreter when I chinned with her, but she was a ondiluted darling, just the same.
That morning when Tuck Williams and I held up her and her uncle in their car on the road, we must have talked at her for an hour. Tuck happened to be shaved and had on a new pair of boots, and he hoped to make the impression go as far as it would. I had tore a knee out of my pants riding through the brush and I looked like an insulted porcupine, but I forgot about it while I stuck round and snapped up every word she tossed to me like a dog under the dinner table. When she smiled at me I went to Heaven in one hop, and when she smiled at Tuck I took a long drop in the other direction. And she did smile and she did joke and she did flash her eyes at us like lightning down the skyline on a hot night. Ay, Chihuahua, mi tierra! how she did flash her eyes! Her uncle had scrooched round in his seat and had lit a cigar and had throwed it away and had grunted and had looked at his watch about eleven times before I had sense enough to remind Tuck that we had twenty miles of wooly country to crawl over before night. When the car bumbled off down the road Tuck thumbed his mount up the shoulders and done a Wild West stunt, but I was leading the packhorse and had no chance ...
...continued in Cowboy Poetry, Classic Poems & Prose by Badger Clark
From the editor's notes: Sunset [Magazine] -- April, 1920. Clark changed the names of the local geography, but he is clearly describing the Dragoon mountains where he lived near Tombstone and an area which dominated his northern skyline known as Cochise Stronghold. The character "Spike" is Badger and "Tuck" is his friend Bob Axtell.
an excerpt from the essay in Cowboy Poetry, Classic Poems & Prose by Badger Clark
A college president once called me an introvert, and while I was considering the propriety of an assault upon a man of his age and dignity, he went on and explained the word, which was strange to me at that time. Then, after a glance at his office door, he confessed that we were brothers in spirit.
"You've never been married?" he inquired?
"No, doctor, I never have," I replied in the properly apologetic tone.
"Don't!" he cried, slapping his desk to add momentum to the word. "It's not for men like us. I did. She was a good woman, and our children were good children. I was good, too, for that matter. Oh, yes, I stuck it out. She died three years ago, and I hope she never suspected me. The children are married and live at a distance. We're good friends. I visit them sometimes and stay as long as I can stand the grandchildren. But do you see that house across the campus? The red gable among the trees? I live there. Evenings I live. Books, an old chair, an old pipe and peace, peace, peace! Oh, the long, rackety years I hankered for it! In two years I retire from this youthful riot. I have a cottage beside a lake up north and I love to cook and do for myself. Think of it! Just think of it!"
It is strange that among a people so passionately gregarious as modern Americans, there are still such men as the Doctor and I.....
...continued in Cowboy Poetry, Classic Poems & Prose by Badger Clark...
From the editor's notes: Unpublished and undated. Badger wrote this essay after he'd moved into his small cabin in Custer State Park, South Dakota, in 1925. Some of the characters he mentions having known in Arizona are found in the short stories "A Wind to Heaven" and "Matters of Religion." Clark would live alone the remainder of his life, more than thirty years.
Cowboy Poetry, Classic Poems & Prose by Badger Clark
Badger Clark, The Cowboy Poet
from Sun and Saddle Leather
A Bad Half Hour
A Cowboy's Prayer
The Piano at Red's
A Border Affair
The Legend of Boastful Bill
A Roundup Lullaby
The Bunk-House Orchestra
The Glory Trail
The Christmas Trail
The Song of the Leather
The Old Cow Man
The Yellow Stuff
The Wind is Blowin'
The Long Way
Notes on poems
previously unpublished and long-out-of-print poems
The Roundup (above)
Exiled Black Hiller
Cowboy and Coyote
The Old Trailer
The Requiem of the Big Heart
The Rover's Toast
Good-Bye Old Forty-Five
To the Lady of the South Pass on Her Birthday Feb. 17, 1908
Ode to the Busted Comb
In the Smoker
The Canyon Trail
To Julia Elizabeth
Poem to Henry Kendall
Notes on poems
The Man Kind
The Gift of the Lamp
A Great Institution
All for Nothing (excerpt above)
The Little Widow
In the Natural
The Gloria Kids
The Sacred Salt
Hearts and Clubs
A Deal in Mules
A Wind to Heaven
Don't Spoil His Aim!
Tuck's Quiet Wedding
The Young Hero
The Price of Liberty
The Wise Man
Matters of Religion
The Gumbo Lily
The Guiding Star
That Was the Life!
Notes on the short stories
My Father and I
Mexico, Cowards and Fools--Fall in!
Hermitry (excerpt above)
Prose and Worse
Notes on the essays
About the editor
About the editor, Greg Scott
photo by Kevin-Martini Fuller, used with permission
Greg Scott is a retired, third-generation Arizona educator. Great-grandson of a pioneer rancher-farmer, Scott's roots go back to Territorial days. He is a graduate in History from the University of Arizona with advanced degrees from both Arizona and Northern Arizona University.
Scott is a member of the Speakers' Bureau of the Arizona Humanities Council and a former Traditional Music Roster Artist for the Arizona Commission on the Arts.
He has traveled throughout the state, and seven other western states, presenting programs of Cowboy Poetry and Music at museums, historical societies, libraries, and cowboy poetry events. Greg also writes regularly about Arizona cowboy music. He lives in an adobe home he designed and built himself on a small ranch in Elgin, Arizona.
Cowboy Poetry, Classic Poems & Prose by Badger Clark is available for $25 postpaid from:
528 W. Crawford St.
Nogales, AZ 85621
Cowboy Miner Productions published Cowboy Poetry, Classic Poems & Prose by Badger Clark. In June, 2010, their web site was no longer active we have been unable to reach the company.
Cowboy Miner Productions published award-winning classic Cowboy and mining poetry, contemporary Cowboy Poetry, Arizona history, and more.
Other features at CowboyPoetry.com on classic Cowboy Poets Henry Herbert Knibbs, Bruce Kiskaddon and D. J. O'Malley are based on Cowboy Miner books, made possible by their kind cooperation. We're pleased to have the poetry of many of the contemporary poets they've published, including Chris Isaacs, the late Larry McWhorter, the late Sunny Hancock, Linda Kirkpatrick, Dee Strickland Johnson, Carole Jarvis, DW Groethe, and Jane Morton.
See a tribute to Mason Coggin here.
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