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SADDLE SONGS



SADDLE SONGS

and Other Verse



By

Henry Herbert Knibbs

Author of "Riders of the Stars," " Songs of the
Outlands," " Songs of the Trail," etc.




Boston and New York

Houghton Mifflin Company



1922



COPYRIGHT, 1922, BY HENRY HERBERT KNIBBS
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED



tE&e XUurrsfot J3rrgfi

CAMBRIDGE . MASSACHUSETTS
PRINTED IN THE U.S.A.






TO

EUGENE MANLOVE RHODES



Contents



A BRONCO SHOD WITH WINGS 8

NAMES 6

BEAVERKILL

UNDER THE JOSHUA TREE 11

DOWN ALONG THE DlM TRAIL 14

RIDIN TO THE BAILE 16

PUNCHIN DOUGH 19

FLOWER OF THE NIGHT 21

THE ROUND CORRAL 23

THE COWBOY AND THE CANON 26

SALVADOR 28

LONE WOLF S LODGE 31

DAN PRICE 33

SONGS OF MEN 35

THE BRONCO 39

SANDY RUE 41

OVER THE RIDGE AND HOME 44

SIGN-TALK 46

THE REATA 49

TWITTERING BILL 52

THE LOST RANGE 57

OLD BILL CO

RENEGADE 62

CLOSED FOR THE NIGHT 65

vii



Contents

THE BLANKET-STIFF 67

FLOTSAM 70

STALWART S HOUSE 72

THE TRYSTING TREE 74

OLD JIM 76

THE DARK STREET 79

ROLL ON, OLE RIVER 80

THE ANSWER 82

DON CARLOS 85

AN INDIAN PURSE 87

THE LAST SONG 89

A THOUSAND MILES OR So 91

RAIN-MAKERS 94

HERMIT S HOME 97

SONG OF THE GRAY STALLION 99

DRINK DEEP . .101



Acknowledgments are made to the Popular Magazine,
the Adventure Magazine. Romance, and the Short Story
Magazine, in which certain of these poems have appeared.



SADDLE SONGS



Saddle Songs



A BRONCO SHOD WITH WINGS

SING me a home beyond the stars, and .if the song be

fair,

I ll dwell awhile with melody as long as mortal dare,
But sing me to the earth again on wide, descending

wings,
That I may not forget the touch of homely human things.

Nor let my heart forget a friend, or turn from daily toil,

Though scant the measured recompense, the meal, the
wine, the oil;

Nor scorn the rugged way I came with hunger pressing
hard,

Before I knew the narrow gate or feared the breaking-
yard.

The ragged coat, the grinning shoe, the glance bereft of

pride,
And would I dare, who trod the mire, to thrust their plaint

aside?

My dog s affection chides my soul for that I may not be
One half the loyal gentleman his eyes have mirrored me.

3



Saddle Songs

The homely things, the human things, the things begat of

earth,
And least among them he who scorns the clay that gave

him birth:
My horse that nickers in the field and points his slender

ears,
Has taught me more of gratitude than all the singing years.

What friends the trees, the soil, the stone, the turning
grain, the flower!

House timber, garden, portal-step, bread, fruit, and fra
grant hour

When shred, the leaf is touched by fire, draws cool and clear
and clean,

And smoky spirals sing the praise of soothing nicotine!

The intimate companionship of saddle, spur, and gun,
The joy of leather, smooth and strong, of silver in the sun,
The grip of trout-rod to the hand, the play of jeweled reel,
The stock that fits the shoulder-curve .-the potency of
steel!

Forgetting not the rope and hitch, the steaming pack-
horse train,

The sliding shale, the ragged pitch, the thunder and the
rain,

The smell of coffee in the dawn that gilds the far divide;

Sing me a home beyond the stars but give me trails to
ride.

4



A Bronco Shod With Wings

And so my friend, because, my friend, our ways lie far
apart,

And I may never grip your hand, yet I may reach your
heart:

I ll drop the reins and slip the cinch, untie the saddle-
strings,

And carve a picture on the rock a bronco shod with
wings.



NAMES

IT s when you name Cheyenne or Laramie,

Laredo, Magdalena, San Antone,
You set me thinking of what used to be:
I knew a blue-eyed girl in Laramie

But, somehow, I just drifted on, alone.

A man got shot in Laramie one night;

It was n t me. I fanned it out of town
And headed South. I reckon I did right

The Magdalena girl, her eyes were brown.

I did n t know the Southern country then;

I tried it for a year, then came away;
Homesick, I hit the trail for old Cheyenne

I recollect her eyes were warm and gray.

The sheriff came to town, so I rode South;

For every man, he likes a change of scene
Laredo? Well, she had a rose-red mouth,

And eyes you could n t read just cool and green.

Laredo it was heaven, for a spell,

Then hard-times hit the range and work was slack:
I would n t say that San Antone was hell,

But she was Spanish and her eyes were black.
6



Names

Some folks they settle down and make a home,
And some keep chasing after fame or gold;

And while it seems I always had to roam,
I m glad I did n t see their eyes grow old.

So when you name Cheyenne or Laramie,

Laredo, Magdalena, San Antone,
You re making music that sounds good to me;
I knew a blue-eyed girl in Laramie,

But, somehow, I just drifted on, alone.-



BEAVERKILL

As I rode down from Beaverkill one sunny summer day,
I met a horseman on the hill, a rider bent and gray;
The trail was never hard to find yet he was old and

almost blind . . .
Said he, "And I would take it kind if you would point the

way."

His eyes were agates dipped in milk, blue-dull, their bright
ness gone,

His hair like thin-spun silver silk from skeins of moonlight
drawn,

His face a lined and scribbled page his clothes the
wrinkled clothes of age,

Yet in that wistful hermitage his soul was shining on.

I told him that the mountain trail led up to Beaverkill,

And ended at the iron rail, the station and the mill;

I asked him where he wished to go : he smiled, a faint, a

fleeting glow,
And said it did n t matter so he were not standing still.

When questioned of his kin and quest, and where his vine

and tree,

He quavered, "They are all at rest except my horse and me;
And though the way lead up or down, we always find a

friendly town;

If Beaverkill have such renown, it s there that I would be."

8



Beaverkill

I warned him that the trail was steep, the river swift and

wide,
The ridges rough, the canons deep that he had best

decide
To tarry at my cabin where he d find a bed and ranger s

fare,
And in the evening I d be there, returning from my ride.

With stiff ning knees his gaunt cayuse set out against his

will;
I made a slackened cinch excuse to watch him up the

hill,
Then, riding in to Riley s Post, I wondered if the poor old

ghost
Would find a bed before his host got back to Beaverkill.

Dan Riley took me by the sleeve Dan Riley s face was

white
And told me, whispering, not to leave before the morning

light:
He gestured with a shaking hand: "The Tanner boys have

ambush planned
To kill you in the timberland below the ford, to-night."

"That talk," said I, "is Tanner s joke a threat I ve

heard before;
A little fire, a lot of smoke a wind that shakes the

door."

9



Saddle Songs

Yet Danny Riley urged me stay; lie fetched the cards, we

sat at play . . .
The sun was high upon the way when I set out once more.

Twas at the ford of Beaverkill my pony stopped and

drank.

I read a sign that held me still : along the farther bank,
Where swinging wide the stream comes down, a mile below

the mining town,
I saw a shape in sodden brown a hand that rose and

sank.

And then I bore a heavy load . . . the meaning of the

sign . . .
The ambush by the evening road mistook his horse for

mine :
Old, almost blind ... so blindly led to pay the forfeit in

my stead,
And I the host, and this his bed beneath the darkening

pine.



10



UNDER THE JOSHUA TREE

WAY out there where the sun is boss,

Under the Joshua tree,
Long came a man on a played-out hoss,

Under the Joshua tree.

Says he, " I reckon I m a ding-dang fool
For gettin het up when I might stay cool:
If you are a hoss then I m a mule,"
Under the Joshua tree.

"The sink s gone dry and the trail s gone wrong,

Under the Joshua tree.
"I m gettin weak and you ain t strong,"

Under the Joshua tree.

"As sure as my name is Jo Bill Jones,
AYe got to quit right here," he groans,
"And the buzzards 11 git our hides and bones,"
Under the Joshua tree.

Now that hoss wa n t much on family pride,

Under the Joshua tree,
But he aimed to save his ole gray hide,

Under the Joshua tree.
11



Saddle Songs

He says to hisself: "The world s gone dry,
But there s no sense quittin while you can try,"
So he cocked one foot and he shut one eye,
Under the Joshua tree.

Bill Jones went crawlin round and round,

Under the Joshua tree,
Diggin like a dog in the bone-dry ground,

Under the Joshua tree:

But the hoss stood still on his three feet,
Lookin like he was plumb dead beat,
Till he seen his chance and he done it neat,
Under the Joshua tree.

Ole Bill he riz right in the air,

Under the Joshua tree,
And oh, my Gosh, how he did swear !

Under the Joshua tree:

With a hoss-shoe branded on his pants v
He let three whoops and he done a dance,
While the ole hoss waited for another chance,
Under the Joshua tree.

Ole Bill stood up, for he could n t sit

Under the Joshua tree,
And he rubbed the place where the hoss-shoe lit,

Under the Joshua tree :



Under the Joshua Tree

Says he: "By Gum, I m a-seein red!
And I m blink-blank sure that you ain t dead
And it wa n t no cooler for what he said,
Under the Joshua tree.

He forked that boss like he d never been

Under the Joshua tree,
His head was thick, but his jeans was thin,

Under the Joshua tree:

He pulled out slow, but he made the ride,
With the ole hoss thinkin to hisself, inside,
"I put in a kick, and I saved my hide,"
Under the Joshua tree.

There ain t no moral to this here song,

Under the Joshua tree,
If you don t go right you 11 sure go wrong,

Under the Joshua tree:

But settin* and lookin at a ole boss-shoe,
And figurin luck will pull you through,
Don t always work there s hoss-sense, too,
Under the Joshua tree.



13



DOWN ALONG THE DIM TRAIL

DOWN along the dim trail, far across the plain,
Rode a waddie singing, heedless of the rain
Rattling on his slicker and dripping from his hat,
Gnawing at the cut-banks and spreading on the flat:

" Wrangle up the parson, don t forget the ring ;

Throw your fancy saddle on the old red-roan :
If you re feelin lonesome, shake yourself and sing,

When your girl is waiting down in San Antone"

Gloomy were the tall sticks, gusty was the night,
Mournful was the hoot owl calling from the height,
Chilly was the bed-roll, slender was the flame,
But the happy puncher kept a-singing just the same:

"Eighty miles behind me and forty more to go,
Forkin* from the old trail and figurirf my own ;

Baldy s doin noble but noble s mighty slow,
When your girl is waiting down in San Antone"

Trailing from the high peaks ran the morning mist;
Far below, the desert shone like amethyst;
Golden was the dim trail, glowing was the day,
Just the kind of weather for singing on the way:

14



Down Along the Dim Trail

" Yonder lies the old town, loomin on the sky,
Sleepy as a lizard dreamin* on a stone :

If you was an eagle, mebby-so you d fly,

When your girl is waiting down in San Antone."

Some one saw the rider long before he came;
Some one picked a red rose, some one breathed a name.
Lowered were her dark eyes, bashful, young, and sweet,
When she heard a faint song winging down the street:

" Mebby-so 1 9 m dreamin , mebby-so it s me,

And some one in the sunshine, watchin* all alone

Seem your eyes git blurry, like you could n t see,
When your girl is waiting down in San Antone."



15



RIDIN TO THE BAILE

SAN ANTONE s a Texas town:

Ridin to the baile.
Top your boss and rein him roun ,

Ridin to the baile.

Stars are shinin* big and bright,
Mebby-so a pretty night:
And everybody s feelin right,
Ridin to the baile.

Yonder shows the open door,

Ridin to the baile.
Seems I heard that tune before,

Ridin to the baile.

Watch em steppin , see em prance!
Like it was their only chance:
Say, let s show em how to dance,
Ridin to the baile.

Put your pistol out of sight,

Ridin to the baile.
Act like you was raised polite,

Ridin to the baile.

Just a nip and that s enough.
Wheel But that is flamin stuff!
16



Ridin to the Baile

Nother nip? I call your bluff,
Ridin to the baile.



Now for steppin* off a Square,

Ridin to the baile.
What s that ruckus over there?

Ridin to the baile.

Shucks! We just got started grand,
Now my outfit s made a stand:
Skuse me while I take a hand,
Ridin to the baile.



That your husband that I sp iled!

Ridin to the baile.
Thought you eyed me kind of wild:

Ridin to the baile.

Shoo! That ruckus wa n t no fight!
Our boys always is polite:
W T hy, they wa n t a gun in sight!
Ridin to the baile.

Start the music let er squeal !

Ridin to the baile.
Shake your leg and stomp your heel!

Ridin to the bails.
17



Saddle Songs

Swing your pardners ! Do-se-do !
Bend your back and bow down low;
Dance till you can t dance no mo ? ,
Ridin y to the baile.



18



PUNCHIN DOUGH

COME, all you young waddies, I 11 sing you a song,
Stand back from the wagon stay where you belong:
I Ve heard you observin I m fussy and slow,
While you re punchin cattle and I m punchin dough.

Now I reckon your stomach would grow to your back
If it wa n t for the cook that keeps fillin the slack:
With the beans in the box and the pork in the tub,
I m a-wonderin now, who would fill you with grub?

You think you re right handy with gun and with rope,
But I ve noticed you re bashful when usin the soap:
When you re rollin your Bull for your brown cigarette
I been rollin the dough for them biscuits you et.

When you re cuttin stock, then I m cuttin a steak:
When you re wranglin bosses, I m wranglin a cake:
When you re hazin the dogies and battin your eyes,
I m hazin dried apples that aim to be pies.

You brag about shootin up windows and lights,
But try shootin biscuits for twelve appetites:
When you crawl from your roll and the ground it is froze,
Then who biles the coffee that thaws out your nose?

19



Saddle Songs

In the old days the punchers took just what they got:
It was sow-belly, beans, and the old coffee-pot;
But now you come howlin for pie and for cake,
Then you cuss at the cook for a good bellyache.

You say that I m old, with my feet on the skids;
Well, I m tellin you now that you re no thin but kids:
If you reckon your mounts are some snaky and raw,
Just try ridin herd on a stove that won t draw.

When you look at my apron, you re readin* my brand,
Four-X, which is sign for the best in the land:
On bottle or sack it sure stands for good luck,
So line up, you waddies, and wrangle your chuck.

No use of your snortin and fightin* your head;

If you like it with chili, just eat what I said:

For I aim to be boss of this end of the show

While you re punchin cattle, and I m punchin dough.



FLOWER OF THE NIGHT

DOWN a dark street where paper lanterns glow,

Like sullen poppies in the ocean mist,
Where pallid faces, fugitive and slow,

Turn in some dusky archway s amethyst,

The Lily of Formosa, Flower of Night,

Leaned from her window, dreaming mystic dreams;
Below, an island schooner s riding-light,

Shattered the sea with burnished golden beams.

The blue and silver of the Orient sky,
Tented the tall masts in the harbor slips;

Up from the shore he came; her happy cry
Wakened the cherished music of his lips.

Beneath her window, hesitant he stood,

While her light footfall fluttered down the stair,

The transient glory of her maidenhood

Lighting her eyes and glimmering on her hair.

"Flower of the Night, where falls the early bloom,
Unheeded in the reek of fevered hours;

Oh, passing fragrance, memoried perfume,
Born in the spring of long-forgotten flowers,
21



Saddle Songs

Formosa!" Though he spake in alien tongue,
Her heart, her glowing heart could understand

Such music, like a silvery cadence rung
On bells of magic, by a magic hand.

"Flower of the Night, the moonlit shadows fall,
Like lingering kisses on your dreaming eyes;

The slow sea drones along the harbor wall,
A flower upon her breast the low moon lies."

Thus sang her sailor, coming from the deep,
Of love sojourning for a little space

Among the shadows where lost flowers sleep;
Above the pensive beauty of her face,

The while she knew the valleys of delight,

And touched the heights, the deeps of melody,

Till stars grew wistful in the trembling night,
And dawn rode high upon the naked sea.

She begged a farewell gift the knife he wore;

That noon a silken figure climbed her stair,
Gliding beyond the unresisting door,

To shudder from the crimson lily there.



22



THE ROUND CORRAL

BUCK YARDLAW in the round corral leaned hard against
the rope,

His rigid muscles bunched from hip to straining shoulder-
slope:

Alone he fought the outlaw horse a lusty, dusty fight;

Threw him and forced the blind across red eyeballs ringed
with white.

Then let him up and saddled him, caught cinch upon the

swing,
And cautious-swift the latigo slipped binding through the

ring:
Set close the choking hackamore, drew knot and loop to

place,
Stepped back and wiped the running sweat from off his

weathered face:

Swung to the saddle, flicked the blind; then lunge and

plunge and rear,
While rope and rowel strove to break blind hate gone mad

with fear:
Rope slashed and reddened rowel stung: the outlaw

squealed and fell,
And Yardlaw lay, a huddled shape, still, in the round

corral.

23



Saddle Songs

The morning sun shone on the sage wide miles of dusty
gray;

Shone shimmering on the round corral on Yardlaw
where he lay;

Shone down upon the outlaw horse, red-trembling as he
stood

A mockery of conquering man s wild pride and hardi
hood.

Buck Yardlaw raised upon his arm and shaped his mouth
to curse

The stirrup where his foot had hung, the sun-swept uni
verse,

The outlaw, and the round corral when spake a gentle
Voice,

While, listening, Yardlaw grinned his pain, nor had he
other choice.

"Who rules with love of man for beast need never rule with

steel.

Beyond the need of conquering ye ply the roweled heel :
Red-raw ye plough the quivering flesh, or ring the tender

jaw:
Subdue or kill! Nor would ye teach the brute a higher

law."

"And I be down," Buck Yardlaw said, "yet I will stand
again,

24



The Round Corral

And break the bronco to my use or hide myself from men,
There is no law that I Ve heard tell to use a bronco mild,
But I 11 play square if he plays square, or wild if he plays
wild."

"Who rules with love of man for beast ..." So had the

Voice begun:
Buck Yardlaw wakened to the world, the sagebrush in the

sun;

His body was a rack of pain, his face was set and white;
"We ll try that Higher Law," he said; "perhaps the Voice

was right ! "

Then slowly to the horse he came and slowly raised his

hand,
Stopped as the outlaw flinched, but stood as gentle horses

stand,
W T hile Yardlaw loosed the slackened cinch, lifted the saddle

clear,
Watching the fixed and burning eye, the undecided ear.

Each knew the other s fighting pride, unconquered to the

end;

Yet often does the bitter foe become the stanchest friend.
"Of all the broncs I ve ever fought, I reckon you re the

best,"
And Yardlaw laid a fearless hand upon a fearless crest.



THE COWBOY AND THE CANON

"SOME Titan showed his anger when he made

That mark upon the world," the poet said.
A cowboy, loafing in the cedar shade,

Nodded and rose. "Last night I sort of strayed -
Let s get a real, wet drink; I m right near dead!"

The painter smiled and closed a humorous eye.

" We 11 go with you, and drink, before you die."

The great cleft drew apart as down the rut
Of sand and scattered torrent rock, the three
Plodded in silence. "Some steam-shovel cut!"
The cowboy murmured, swearing soulfully.

Then suddenly the western rampart threw

A shadow in the canon, cool and clean;

The ragged walls that bulked against the blue

Blotted the living world, while in between

Wavered three pygmies who had once been men;

The miracle of contrast burdening

Their journey with a vision-picture when

They came upon the mystery of a spring

Flooding a hollowed rock.

The cowboy sank
Prone on the granite, dipped his mouth and drank.



The Cowboy and the Canon

Grunting he rose, all satisfied, and stood

With boot heel grinding in a mound of sand,

Remarking that the drink was "mighty good!"

Rolling a cigarette with skillful hand,

He puffed content, watching the smoke rings where

They vanished wavering in the slumbering air.

The sunlight and the shadows seemed asleep;
No faintest sound awoke from rim to rim,
Save a thin trickle and the murmuring seep
Bubbling from hidden caverns cool and dim;
Till, from the barren edge against the west,
There thrilled the silvery plaint of some wee bird:
"Dear! Dear! Dear! When shall we make the nest?"
Then came the answer, clear as spoken word,
Out of the dusk across the canon furled:
"Dear! Dear! Dear! To-day we make the nest!"
And, "Dear! Dear! Dear! How beautiful the world! 9

Back in the cow-camp jest and laughter broke
The placid level of the evening cool;
The cowboy, frying bacon, turned and spoke;
"Perhaps you guys will think that I m a fool,
But while you swallowed that there canon sight,
A bird got busy with his little song,
As plain as talking, and he had it right!
Beer! Beer! Beer! But water tastes the best! 9
I got it straight, right from the canon crest . . .
Here come the boys don t tell or I m in wrong ! "

27



SALVADOR

THREE men rode out from Salvador across the desert sand,

And one was withered, old, and gray,

And one was young and mocking-gay,

The third a man who asked the way,
A stranger to the land.

"What name you this?" the stranger asked, as, glancing

far and wide
He sought for track of hoof, or trail, for range or hill to

guide,
Yet saw no haven from the sun, no rest for those who ride.

"The name is branded in your face," the withered rider
said:

" Fear, Thirst, and Madness, we be three . . .

The rifle slung beneath your knee

Could speak the name but let it be
The Journey of the Dead/"

"You gave your word to show the way, nor questioned

whence I came;
And now you know a hunted man " the stranger named

a name
"I follow, to the journey s end, and sanctuary claim."

Then Madness, who was mocking-gay, spake with the
stranger s voice:

28



Salvador

"I follow where my comrades ride;
Where they abide there I abide,
Well have you chosen us to guide,
You had no other choice."

Then he who fled the wrath of man, a stranger to the land,
Reined round and gazed toward Salvador, far miles across

the sand,
While Thirst and Madness waited still, hard by on either

hand.

"No other choice," the stranger said when far across
the plain

He saw a silver river rise,

And gardens like to Paradise,

WTiile Madness smiled with baleful eyes,
And gave his horse the rein.

Swift smote the hammers of the sun upon the stranger s

head,

As, nodding to his horse s pace, reiterant, he said:
"Jornado del Muerto. Aye! The Journey of the Dead."

Yet Christ, who pities hunted men, knew hunger, thirst,

and dole:

The stranger called upon The Name,
When, rose a cross of living flame,
That slowly vanished as he came
Down to a water-hole.

29



Saddle Songs

A tale is told in Salvador, when evening stars are bright,
Of one who rode, as from the dead, across the desert night,
A hunted man who had returned to bid his f oemen smite :

Who whispered as they shot him down beside the market
place :

"Only my body to the grave;

I have atoned and He will save;

And I forgive, as He forgave,"
And peace was on his face.



30



LONE WOLF S LODGE

THUS spake the Lone Wolf, thus and never turning
From the picture that he made on the canon rim:

"Out across the Sand Hills my fathers fires are burning,
Out across the Sand Hills, desolate and dim."

Floating in a pony s mane he drew an eagle feather,
Drew a lodge of bison-hide laced with many thongs:

Said: "My brother, when we go, we ll take the trail to
gether,
I shall paint my pictures and you shall sing your songs."

Straightway I answered him: "Name, and I will follow,
I will ride my white horse and you w T ill ride the roan,

Even to the Sand Hills, over ridge and hollow,

Brothers, we, on many trails, then why the last alone?"

Softly laughed the Lone Wolf: slowly by his magic
Color followed color and the desert of his sires

Grew upon the canvas, desolate and tragic,

And out across the Sand Hills gleamed their hunting
fires.

He painted then a low moon whose silver arrows slanted,
Burning on a white horse, burning on a roan:

Turning from his picture the Lone W 7 olf chanted :


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Online LibraryHenry Herbert KnibbsSaddle songs and other verse → online text (page 1 of 4)