National Arizona Day

Cowboy Poetry & Charles Badger Clark Jr.

While Charles Badger Clark Jr. was from South Dakota originally, his poetry was inspired by the alluring beauty of Arizona. Will cowboy poetry survive the 21st century? That remains to be seen. All I know is that it is easy to understand. Sometimes poetry is high-brow or elitist, but the cowboy’s poetry is a simple man’s attempt to make since of morality, tragedy, life, loss, love, and liberty.

Ridin'
There is some that likes the city--
Grass that's curried smooth and green,
Theaytres and stranglin collars,
Wagons run by gasoline--
But for me it's hawse and saddle
Every day without a change,
And a desert sun a-blazin'
On a hundred miles of range.

Just a-ridin', a-ridin'--
Desert ripplin' in the sun,
Mountains blue along the skyline--
I don't envy anyone
When I'm ridin.

When my feet is in the stirrups
And my hawse is on the bust,
With his hoofs a-flashin' lightnin'
From a cloud of golden dust,
And the bawlin' of the cattle
Is a-comin' down the wind
Then a finer life than ridin'
Would be mighty hard to find.

Just a-ridin', a-ridin'--
Splittin' long crack through the air,
Stirrin' up a baby cyclone,
Rippin' up the pricly pear
As I'm ridin'.

I don't need no art exhibits
When the sunset does her best,
Paintin' everlastin' glory
On the mountains to the west,
And your opery looks foolish
When the night-bird starts his tune
And the desert's silver mounted 
By touches of the moon.

Just a-ridin', a-ridin'--
Who kin envy kings and czars
When the coyotes down the valley
Are a-singin' to the stars,
If he's ridin'?

When my earthly trail is ended
And my final bacon curled
And the last great roundup's finished
At the Home Ranch of the world
I don't want no harps nor haloes,
Robes nor other dressed up things--
Let me ride the starry ranges
On a pinto hawse with wings!

Just a-ridin', a-ridin'--
Nothin' I'd like half so well
As a-roundin' up the sinners
That have wandered out of Hell,
And a-ridin'.

by Charles Badger Clark, Jr.
Sun and Saddle Leather © 1917

Emmlou Harris sings an adaptation of “A Border Affair” by Charles Badger Clark, Jr.

A Border Affair
Spanish is the lovin' tongue,
Soft as music, light as spray.
'Twas a girl I learnt it from,
Livin' down Sonora way.
I don't look much like a lover,
Yet I say her love words over
Often when I'm all alone--
"Mi amor, mi corazon."

Nights when she knew where I'd ride
She would listen for my spurs,
Fling the big door open wide,
Raise them laughin' eyes of hers
And my heart would nigh stop beatin'
When I heard her tender greetin',
Whispered soft for me alone--
"Mi amor! mi corazon!"

Moonlight in the patio,
Old Senora noddin' near,
Me and Juana talkin' low
So the Madre couldn't hear--
How those hours would go a-flyin'!
And too soon I'd hear her sighin'
In her little sorry tone--
"Adios, mi corazon!"

But one time I had to fly
For a foolish gamblin' fight,
And we said a swift goodbye
In that black, unlucky night.
When I'd loosed her arms from clingin'
With her words the hoof kep' ringin'
As I galloped north alone--
"Adios, mi corazon!"

Never seen her since that night.
I kaint cross the Line, you know.
She was Mex and I was white;
Like as not it's better so.
Yet I've always sort of missed her
Since that last wild night I kissed her,
Left her heart and lost my own--
"Adios, mi corazon!"

by Charles Badger Clark, Jr.
Sun and Saddle Leather © 1917

Range Fire

As Arizona is being ravaged by fires (Pipeline, Double Fire, Haywire, Wilson), I thought I would include a poem of a range fire as seen through the eyes of cowboy poet, Baxter Black.

by Baxter Black

Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
God will help it when the morning dawns.
The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Psalm 46

Further Reading

Saddle Up With Badger Clark, America’s Forgotten Cowboy Poet” by Carson Vaughan, Smithsonian Magazine 2020.

A Liturgy for Those Who Suffer Loss from Fire, Flood, or Storm.” Copyright 2017 by Douglas McKelvey

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