Page:The Cambridge History of American Literature, v3.djvu/179

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
Cowboy Poets

When the last free trail is a prim fenced land,
And our graves grow weeds through forgetful Mays.

The country was becoming agricultural; the trails were being fenced in; the herds growing smaller for lack of vast, unpaid-for, free range; they were of necessity differently handled; and the cowboy's pistol was confronted by the sheriff's. In short, the wild cowboy was a wild cowboy no more. The quotation is from the admirable volume of poems of the West by Charles Badger Clark, Jr., Sun and Saddle Leather (1915), which contains "The Glory Trail" (known among the camps as "High Chin Bob") and another equally rhythmical, "The Christmas Trail," one stanza of which is:

The coyote s Winter howl cuts the dusk behind the hill,
But the ranch's shinin' window I kin see:
And though I don't deserve it, and I reckon never will,
There'll be room beside the fire kep' for me.
Skimp my plate cause I'm late. Let me hit the old kid gait,
For to-night I'm stumblin tired of the new,
And I'm ridin' up the Christmas trail to you,
                                 Old Folks,
I'm a-ridin' up the Christmas trail to you.

The man who wrote this, we may be sure, never "shot up" a Western saloon. Another volume of this delightful verse reflecting the freedom of the Western skies is Out Where the West Begins, by Arthur Chapman, and two more are, Riders of the Stars and Songs of the Outlands, both in ink of mountain hue, from the pen of Herbert Knibbs. These are the things we expect from men who have ridden the sagebrush plain, scampered up the painted cliffs with a horizon waving in the blue, or slept in the winter white under the whispering pines.

Besides this native poetry we have some excellent prose work in this field; Ten Years a Cowboy (1908) by C. C. Post; The Log of a Cowboy (1903) by Andy Adams, as well as The Outlet by the same author, the latter relating to the great cattle drives formerly undertaken from Texas to the North-west. Charles M. Russell, the "Cowboy Artist," who has preserved with his brush some of the thrilling pictures of this ephemeral and showy savagery, has expressed himself in a literary manner