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 Oh, that finger of Billy the Kid,
    What a heap o' harm it did.
But when Billy died the finger died too
An' was buried beneath the morning dew
....
                                
from "The Finger of Billy the Kid" from Rhymes of the Wild and Wooly

Below:

About Phil LeNoir
Poems
Rhymes of the Wild and Wooly, 1920

Two poems by Phil LeNoir (1882-1923) are included in Jack Thorp's 1921 book, Songs of the Cowboys, and he is mentioned in the book's acknowledgments. Thorp also credits LeNoir as the first to introduce him to Badger Clark's "The Cowboy's Prayer" ("Given me by Phil LeNoir, Secretary of the Las Vegas Round-Up...").

thorpsongslgz.JPG (28188 bytes)

Some of Phil LeNoir's poems were included in a 1920 edition of Poetry magazine. (Find a pdf of the magazine here). The biographical information offered in the magazine states:

Mr. Phil LeNoir was born in New Jersey, and went west just before Arizona's anti-gambling law went into effect. He saw something of the early and wilder life in the mining camps and along the Mexican border, and came to know many of the "oldtimers." He witnessed the first battle of one of the Mexican revolutions. For about ten years he was a Y. M. C. A. and Chamber of Commerce worker in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas; and for several years he worked among the punchers, riding fence principally, as he was not strong enough for the heavier work. He was one of the founders of the Las Vegas Cowboys Reunion, and was secretary of that organization for several years. During the war he was General Secretary of the New Mexico Council of Defense, and was also with the army Y.M.C.A. at Fort Bliss. For the past two years he has lived in Santa Fe.

(Writer, editor, and poet Alice Corbin Henderson edited Songs of the Cowboys, and was perhaps best known as assistant editor to Harriet Moore, founder of Poetry magazine. Henderson is sometimes credited as the magazine's "co-founder". Read more about Alice Corbin Henderson and one of her poems, Ten Thousand Texas Rangers, in our feature about Songs of the Cowboys.)

J. Frank Dobie comments in his Life and Literature of the Southwest (1942) "It would not take one more than an hour to read aloud all the poetry of the Southwest that could stand rereading...." He names a number of poets, mostly unfamiliar to today's readers, and continues, "Probably I would come back to gallant Phil LeNoir's 'Finger of Billy the Kid,' written while he was dying of tuberculosis in New Mexico...."

    Oh, that finger of Billy the Kid,
    What a heap o' harm it did.
    ....

An archive record from the City of Las Vegas Rough Rider Memorial Collection notes that an undated Cowboys' Reunion publication includes "An announcement and the text of the Association's resolution mourning the loss of Phil H. Le Noir..." The Cowboy's Reunion, established in 1915, was an annual event held in Las Vegas, New Mexico. According to Man, Beast, Dust, the Story of Rodeo (1987), it was "first staged by Theodore Roosevelt's Rough Riders." The Cowboy's Reunion was the "Las Vegas Round-up" referred to by Thorp above.

Historian and musician Mark L. Gardner (www.songofthewest.com) shared some of his Phil LeNoir research, and comments, "LeNoir came up with the Reunion's slogan: 'Get Fer Vegas, Cowboy!'  S. Omar Barker wrote a good article on the Reunion, which appeared in the December-January, 1968, issue of Frontier Times. Barker also wrote LeNoir's obituary in the Santa Fe New Mexican.

More information from Mark Gardner is included below. 

 


Philip Marion Hutchin Lenoir
1882-1923


photo courtesy of Linda Lewis Ezuka, via Mark Gardner

Historian and musician Mark Gardner (www.songofthewest.com) read an early version of this feature, which asked for any additional information about Phil LeNoir. He shared the only known portrait (above) of Phil LeNoir, which he had obtained from the poet's great granddaughter (and which we post with her permission). He sent a copy of the obituary below, written by writer and poet S. Omar Barker.

Mark Gardner, whose book about Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett, To Hell on a Fast Horse: Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett, and the Epic Chase to Justice in the Old West) was published in 2010, has written music for LeNoir's poem, "The Finger of Billy the Kid." He and musical partner Rex Rideout perform it at their shows. Mark Gardner is the author of many books, including Jack Thorp's Songs of the Cowboys (Museum of New Mexico Press, 2005). See our feature about that book and its accompanying CD, here.

 


Below is our transcription, which may not be completely accurate; the original was difficult to read. Some questionable words are in brackets.

Phil Lenoir One of the Best Loved Men in the Southwest

S. Omar Barker

"Where there's a home-like feeling,
And it's easy to sing;
Where the air is healing,
And the sun is King.

Where life seems clearer,
And it's easy to pray,
Whose Heaven IS nearer,
Down Vegas Way."

With these brief and poignant lines, Phil Le Noir, poet, author, and beloved Las Vegan, whose recent death has brought grief to a host of friends, expressed his intense love for the west and for "good ol' Vegas," as he called it. Phil first came to Vegas [ten] years ago as general secretary of the Y. M. C. A. and in a great variety of executive and secretarial positions throughout the state since. [Unreadable] not only became one of the best known but also one of the best loved men in the southwest. The story of [unreadable] accomplishment in spite of [unreadable] sickness is one unequalled in the history of southwesterners and [unreadable] marvelous battle against ill health [unreadable] epic of bravery and unfailing [unreadable]. "Phil's" passing leaves an emptiness on the streets of Las Vegas and in the hearts of her people that cannot be filled.

Philip Marion Hutchins Le Noir was born in Beverley, New Jersey in 1882. His boyhood was spent there and in East Orange, where he attended the public schools. He was graduated in 1905 from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy with the degree of Doctor of Pharmacy. Later in the same year, Mr. Le Noir came west [unreadable]ing up work at the Y. M. C. A. in Douglas, Arizona. From Douglas he went on to Dallas, Texas, as assistant secretary of the Y. M. C. A. It was there that he met and in the summer of 1910 was married to Ella Storer Brown who, with their daughter Frances Sue, was with him at his death.

A break in health that same year brought Mr. Le Noir to El Paso, where he continued in Y. M. C. A. work, later going as secretary to Cle [unreadable]. It was in February, 1912, he was called to assume the office of [unreadable] secretary at the Y. M. C. A. of Las Vegas where he served for 10 years, having unusual success with the work of the boys' department. A resolution in the minutes of the Y. M. C. A. board commends his work highly and expresses regret at his resignation. This occurred in [1914?] when "Phil," as he was known to everyone, became the first full-time secretary of the Las Vegas Commercial Club.

He established the camp at El P[unreadable] Canyon, saw the Montezuma property turned over to the city of Las Vegas, assisted in the launching of the Chautauqua, began a campaign of publicity that has brought hundreds of Texas tourists here, and was one of the "daddies" of the Cowboy's Reunion, serving as publicity director in 1915 and 1916. His work there was responsible for his being [unreadable] to Albuquerque to handle the secretaryship of the State Fair, and the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce learned his worth and refused to allow him to return to Las Vegas, retaining him as secretary.

With the coming of the war, fighting at that time a whaling battle for health, sought to enter a branch of the service where his abilities could be best used, and so was called to Santa Fe to assume the duties of the Secretary of the State Council of Defense, which had active charge on the war work of New Mexico.

Devotion to duty at the sacrifice of [unreadable] brought on another breakdown and Phil came back to his beloved [unreadable] near Las Vegas to recuperate, to stay with "Hilda," as he affectionately called Mr. Hildebrand at El Porvenir. A gain in strength took [unreadable] back to work as a social and welfare worker at Ft. Bliss. This effort, a sacrificial one on account of his illness, proved too great and Phil Le Noir was forced to carry on his fight to the bed of a sanitarium.

Yet even here the spirit of the man could not be downed and he turned to authorship, having written and sold a number of moving picture stories during the dozen years preceding this time. With a typewriter on a device over his bed this little hero of the sanitarium produced a considerable volume of excellent verse, human stories and scenarios, much of which found publication.

Indomitable will power pulled him through until the spring of [1920?] he was again able to leave the sanitarium, turning, immediately to "the town he loved"—Vegas, coming home in April and taking charge of the publicity and secretarial work of the Reunion Association. Here again he was in touch with the life of cowboys and cattlemen, whom he loved, and the result was that the 1921 Reunion
"came alive" as no other Reunion had ever done, though the organizing genius behind it all was himself, physically unable to see even an half hour of the
[unreadable] show. Phil remained here during the rest of the year, writing verse and stories, and the following spring again took charge of the Reunion work and put over a campaign for publicity that for originality, color, and results has never been equalled. Yet the cost to his ebbing strength was enormous and since that time the fight has been pretty much down hill—except in spirit, for Phil never gave up his work and his smile. Two weeks before his death, he lay in bed and conceived and began writing upon a tense western drama to be produced by the Neil Hart Picture company, and in the very face of death he found the Neil Hart Picture company now filming his [Mystery?] story, "The Man Who Wouldn't Remove His Hat." In the very face of death Phil found heart to write verse-greetings for Christmas and New Year's to his friends, some of which were never completed.

The name of Phil Le Noir was known to readers of western verse and fiction and to moving picture audiences all over the country. Much of his work has been published, but one book, the story, as he called it, "of his heart," is still to appear in print, first serially, and then in book form. It is "The Rainbow Kid" and is the story of intense heart interest expressive of the deeper feelings of its author. "The Rainbow Peak" of the story is "Old Baldy" whose [unreadable] were dear to the heart of the author. One of his last requests was to be laid to rest in sight of "the good old peak."

Others of his works are "Rhymes of the Wild and Wooly," a book of western verse, a number of which appeared first in "Poetry" of Chicago and later in the Literary Digest and Current Opinion. "The Man Who Wouldn't Remove His Hat," "The High Cost of Flirting," "Under the Cottonwood," "The Treasure of Ojo [unreadable]," "Their Special Feature," the last two collaborations, have all appeared as novelettes or short stories in well known magazines, and two have been produced as pictures. Phil was the originator of "The Joy Flingers," a department in all the sanitarium magazines of the United States. He contributed a long series, "T. B. or not T. B.," and "The Sayings of Ioway Ike" to the Journal of Outdoor Life, thus bringing cheer and laughter to thousands of invalid readers. His verses have appeared in half a dozen different anthologies and his miscellaneous work in a score of magazines.

The great pathos of his passing lies in the fact that his work in fiction was just beginning to receive national recognition and everything he produced found editors anxious to use it. Only yesterday a three-figure check came from Western Story Magazine, for a story, "Red Men," written in collaboration with Dick Halliday and with it a letter from E. Blackwell praising the story and explaining that he was paying double the usual rate for it.

For ten years Phil Le Noir knew and loved New Mexico, and in that short time did more for his adopted state and made for himself a warmer place in the hearts of its people than do most men in a lifetime.

The land where the Hope-Gods dance "'Tis Rainbowland—Tomorrowland" (he wrote)

"
The land where the Hope-Gods dance—
Where with a deep, sweet breath,
You can smile up at death,
God's land of a fighting man's chance!"

And now that Phil has passed it is a land bowed in deepest grief. Our truest friend—one of God's own heroes—has gone to his last rest.

Santa Fe New Mexican, 1922

 

See some interesting information about Neal Hart here, "A former cowpuncher, stage driver, city marshal, and member of the famous Miller 101 Wild West Show crew, American action lead Neal Hart entered films in 1916 on the strength of his kinship with Western star William S. Hart, reportedly his cousin..."

Read some these columns in Journal of the Outdoor Life, The Anti-Tuberculosis Magazine, Volume XVII, 1920, in Google Books. Search for "Lenoir."

According to the Fiction Mags Index here, "Under the Cottonwood" was published in Action Stories, August, 1922, and "Red Men and White at Sinking Creek [with Dick Halliday]" was published in Western Story Magazine, March 31, 1923.
 

In October, 2009, Mark L. Gardner located the grave of Phil LeNoir at the Mason Cemetery in Las Vegas, New Mexico, and shared this photo, which is also included in Picture the West:


photo courtesy of Mark L. Gardner
The stone reads:
Philip H. LeNoir, 1882-1923
He that overcometh shall inherit all things

 

 

 


Poems

The Finger of Billy the Kid 

Ol' Dynamite

Down on the Ol' Bar-G

The Puncher Poet

Eventide in Cowboyland
 

 

The Finger of Billy the Kid

    Oh, that finger of Billy the Kid,
    What a heap o' harm it did.
But when Billy died the finger died too
An' was buried beneath the morning dew
No more to pull his six-gun true,
    The finger of Billy the Kid.

    But one day up Chicago way
   I heerd a sideshow feller say:
"Jes' step this way an' fer a dime you'll see
The trigger-finger of Kid Bill-ee
What has pulla a hundred massacrees,—
   The finger of Billy the Kid."

   Wall I knew that feller he lied like a snake
   An' that his finger was a fake

But I paid my dime to see the show
For I was a frien' of Billy's I'll have you know

He did me a favor in New Mexico,
   The outlaw, Billy the Kid

   I follered the crowd into the hall,
   Saw the finger preserved in alkyhall,
Then I pulled my gun so none could tell,
An' I blowed that
thing clar into hell,
An' gave a yip an' a mighty yell:
   "Hurrah for Billy the Kid!"

   Of course they threw me into jail
   From what a letter I did mail
To Sheriff Pat Garret who killed the Kid
An' I told him what I'd gone an' did
An' to tell me quick if he'd got rid
   Of the finger of Billy the Kid.

   Wall Ol' Pat came back quick an' hot
   An' in a few words he said a lot:
"The trigger finger of young Bill-ee
Is still upon his dead bod-ee,
I know, because I dug to see
   The finger of Billy the Kid."

   If Billy kin hear from his "dobe shack"
   I reckon he knows I've paid him back
Fer the favor he did me when my voice was stilled
By thirst an' hunger, an' my body he filled
With buffalo meat that had been killed
   By the finger of Billy the Kid.

by Phil H. LeNoir, from Rhymes of the Wild & Wooly, 1920

 

Ol' Dynamite

The outlaw stands with blindfold eyes,
   His feet set wide apart;
His coal-black hide gleams in the sun—
   Thar's killin' in his heart.

A puncher squats upon his heels,
   His saddle at his side
He's sizin' up Ol' Dynamite,
   Which he is booked to ride,

The cowboy rises, lifts his saddle
   A little tune he's hummin'

Walks catlike all around the hoss

   "Hold him, boys, I'm comin'."

Now up above the outlaw's back
   He lifts the load of leather;
Then care-ful-lee he lets it down,
   Like the droppin' of a feather.

Ol' Dynamite he stands stock-still,
   Plumb like a gentled pony.
A leap, a yell! an' Buck's all set

   "On with the cer-e-mo-nee."

The snubbers rip the blindfold off,
   The punchers yip and yell;
Ol' Dynamite gives one grand snort,
   Then starts his little Hell.

He plunges forward on his feet,
   His hind heels in the air;
Then up an' down he bucks an' backs
   Like a loco rockin' chair.

But now he stops—he spins around
   He brawls, he bites, he kicks!
He rares straight up into the air,
   Then down on two steel sticks.

But look! "My Gawd!" The crowd screams out,
   "He's boltin' for the stand!"
Then just as quick he jerks up short

   An' thar's Buck a-sticking grand.

Buck leaps to earth, lifts his hat,
   Bows to the whirl of cheers
Then turning slides his saddle off,
   An' quickly disappears.

by Phil H. LeNoir, from Rhymes of the Wild & Wooly, 1920 and included in Songs of the Cowboys, 1921

 


 

Down on the Ol' Bar-G:

The boss he took a trip to France,
   Down on the ol' Bar-G.

He left his gal to run the ranch
   Down on the ol' Bar-G.
She would n't let us chew nor cuss,
Had to keep slicked up like a city bus,
So round-up time was u-nan-i-mous—
   Down on the ol' Bar-G.

Our round-up cook he soon got th'u,
   Down on the ol' Bar-G.
Found his clay pipe right in the stew,
   Down on the ol' Bar-G.
But when we let that feller go
We married grief an' we married woe,
For the gal opined
she'd bake the dough,
 
  Down on the ol' Bar-G.

Wisht you'd seen her openin' meal
   Down on the ol' Bar-G.
We all blinked twict—seemed plumb unreal,
   Down on the ol' Bar-G.

We had figs an' fudge an' whipped-up pru-in
An' angel cake all dipped in goo-in,
"My gawd," said Tex, "My stomick's ruint"
   Down on the ol' Bar-G.

We quit that job an' cook-ladee,
   Down on the ol' Bar-G.

An' pulled our freight for the lone prair-ee
   Down on the ol' Bar-G.

For out on the range we could chew an' cuss
An git real mean an' bois-ter-uss,
Whar apron-strings they couldn't rope us,
   Down on the ol' Bar-G.

by Phil H. LeNoir, Rhymes of the Wild & Wooly, 1920 and included in Songs of the Cowboys, 1921


The Puncher Poet

Jest onct, I was a temper'mental, sentimental poet.
Grew a mane like Colonel Cody's fer to show it.
     I'd write pomes in my dreams
     Then I'd sing 'em to the teams.
          Yup!
A sentimental, ornamental poet.

Wrote a pome onct about ol' Bloody Bill,
Told about the many humans he had killed,
     Took him through his entire life,
     Showed his love and showed his strife,
Then I hung up like a lunger on a hill.

I was near the happy ending of my tale,
Had ol' Billy ketched an' in the county jail.
     When them words plum petered out,
     Wouldn't flow, wouldn't spout.
Then I roared an' hit the temper-mental trail.

I went to pawin' an' a-clawin' fur them words,
Skeered the wife an' sent her roostin' with the birds,
     But they wouldn't come alive
     Though I raved till half-past five,
Then I quit the house an' joined the loco herd.

Now I only hear  on temper'mental call—
It's the rumble of the cattle's organ-bawl,
As fur the little tale
Bloody Bill is still in jail,
Which was a damn good place to leave him a'ater all.

by Phil H. LeNoir, Rhymes of the Wild & Wooly, 1920  

 

Eventide in Cowboyland
Wall, thar's the cowboy at his fire
     A-settin' lone an' han'some!
He's rode all day with the bawlin' steers,
     An' he's rarin' for to dream some.
 
Ol' Sol has made his last grand bow
     Behind them silvery crowns.
His sunset show has jest been pulled,
     An' the purple curtain's down.
 
The puncher boy lifts up his eyes,
    A smile his face is warmin',
Fur he seems to see in the mountain mists
     Familiar figgers formin'.
 
Perhaps 'tis a flash of Round-up Park
     Whar he rode, for first prize money,
That spinning, sinning, skillin' cuss—
     That homicidal pony.
 
Then again, fur you jest kaint never tell,
     A mother's gentle face,
Or a dear ol' pal
or a back-home gal,
     Who beckon from the space.
 
But now the purple picture fades,
     The filmy faces pass.
A chill descends upon the range
     The day has breathed its last.
 
The puncher sighsgets to his feet,
     Kicks out the fire with sand;
A yee-awn, a stree-etch
the blanket roll
     Then: "So long, Cowboyland."
 
The moon looks down on the cattle horde
     An' the cowboy's tawny head;
The star eyes blink at the valley's edge,
     While the night-winds softly tread.
 
A pony snortsa heifer bawls,
     But the sleeper never hears

He has hit the hay, an' the slumberous way
     To the land whar low no steers.
 
 by Phil H. LeNoir, Rhymes of the Wild & Wooly, 1920  


 

Rhymes of the Wild & Wooly, 1920


cover image courtesy Mark Gardner

From the back of the title page:

"Down on the Ol' Bar-G," "The Puncher Poet," and "Ol' Dynamite" first appeared in "Poetry: a Magazine of Verse (Chicago); "The Hangin' o' Wampus Pete" and "A Day in Desertland" in the Santa Fe Magazine (Chicago); and "Siesta Time" in El Palacio Magazine (Santa Fe, N.M.) the others bear the "P.L." brand only.

Humble apologies are due a certain New Mexico Sheriff for using in one of the "pomes" an incident of his official life, and to a w. k. southwestern cowboy bard for versifying one of his "musing" experiences.

Here also I render my sincere thanks to those kindly critics, especially A. Y. W. who encouraged the appearance of these rhymes on the printed page.

                                                                                      —P. L.

Copyright 1920, by Phil H. LeNoir, Santa Fe, N. M.
All rights reserved

Includes:

Down on the Ol' Bar-G
The Puncher Poet
The Hangin' o' Wampus Pete
Ol' Dynamite
The Finger of Billy the Kid
When the Sheriff from the East Met the Sheriff From the West
Eventide in Cowboyland
Bogged
My Name is Charley Siringo
Helltown's First Sky Pilot
A Day in Desertland
Killer Keller
Siesta Time

 

 

 

 

 

 

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