The Westerner, a Poem by Badger Clark

Badger Clark, sometimes known as “the cowboy poet,” was a resident of South Dakota from the 1880s to the 1950s and a “self confessed individualist, Badger…refused to become a slave to whistle, clock or bell, craving the freedom of the open skies.”  His poetry was admired by as diverse a collection of people as Calvin Coolidge and Ayn Rand (“Global Balkanization.” 1977).

His poems reflect his proud sense of the individual, of the enjoyment afforded by big skies and distant spaces, and of the possibilities open to a free man.  None do so quite as well as “The Westerner,” included in his 1922 book, “Sun and Saddle Leather” (which you can get at Amazon here).

The Westerner by Badger Clark

My fathers sleep on the sunrise plains,
And each one sleeps alone.
Their trails may dim to the grass and rains,
For I choose to make my own.
I lay proud claim to their blood and name,
But I lean on no dead kin;
My name is mine for the praise or scorn,
And the world began when I was born
And the world is mine to win.

They built high towns on their old log sills,
Where the great, slow rivers gleamed,
But with new, live rock from the savage hills
I’ll build as they only dreamed.
The smoke scarce dies where the trail camp lies,
Till rails glint down the pass;
The desert springs into fruit and wheat
And I lay the stones of a solid street
Over yesterday’s untrod grass.

I waste no thought on my neighbor’s birth
Or the way he makes his prayer.
I grant him a white man’s room on earth
If his game is only square.
While he plays it straight I’ll call him mate;
If he cheats I drop him flat.
Old class and rank are a worn-out lie,
For all clean men are as good as I,
And a king is only that.

I dream no dreams of a nursemaid State
That will spoon me out my food.
A stout heart sings in the fray with fate
And the shock and sweat are good.
From noon to noon all the earthly boon
That I ask my God to spare
Is a little daily bread in store,
With the room to fight the strong for more,
And the weak shall get their share.

The sunrise plains are a tender haze
And the sunset seas are gray,
But I stand here, where the bright skies blaze
Over me and the big today.
What good to me is a vague “maybe”
Or a mournful “might have been,”
For the sun wheels swift from morn to morn
And the world began when I was born
And the world is mine to win.

You can read more poems by Badger at the Cowboy Poetry site, and learn a little more about him at the Badger Clark Memorial Society.

Aducknamedjoe

"I need no warrant for being, and no word of sanction upon my being. I am the warrant and the sanction."

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