Thursday, January 15, 2015

On the Road: Uncovering A Cowboy's Prayer in New Mexico

Originally built as a brewery in 1854, Schwenk's Hall in Cimarron, New Mexico was converted into a gambling hall and saloon in 1875. Those wild west days are long gone and the place is now a curio shop.

One of the curious items that we discovered was a vintage postcard with A Cowboy's Prayer written on it. The author of the poem was listed as Author Unknown.

With our curiosity piqued we purchased the card and set about sleuthing this unknown author. Can a poet truly remain unknown?

A Cowboy's Prayer

Oh, Lord, I've never lived where churches grow.
I love creation better as it stood
That day You finished it so long ago
And looked upon Your work and called it good.
I know that others find You in the light
That's sifted down through tinted window panes,
And yet I seem to feel You near tonight
In this dim, quiet starlight on the plains.

I thank You, Lord, that I am placed so well,
That You have made my freedom so complete;
That I'm no slave of whistle, clock or bell,
Nor weak-eyed prisoner of wall and street.
Just let me live my life as I've begun
And give me work that's open to the sky;
Make me a pardner of the wind and sun,
And I won't ask a life that's soft or high.

Let me be easy on the man that's down;
Let me be square and generous with all.
I'm careless sometimes, Lord, when I'm in town,
But never let 'em say I'm mean or small!
Make me as big and open as the plains,
As honest as the horse between my knees,
Clean as the wind that blows behind the rains,
Free as the hawk that circles down the breeze!

Forgive me, Lord, if sometimes I forget.
You know about the reasons that are hid.
You understand the things that gall and fret;
You know me better than my mother did.
Just keep an eye on all that's done and said
And right me, sometimes, when I turn aside,
And guide me on the long, dim trail ahead
That stretches upward toward the Great Divide.

— Charles Badger Clark Jr.

As it turns out, Author Unknown was a well known poet. Not only was he known as The Cowboy Poet he would also become the Poet Laureate for the state of South Dakota in 1939.

Charles Badger Clark Jr. (1883-1957) is the "unknown author" of A Cowboy's Prayer.

Clark's most famous poem, A Cowboy's Prayer, has often been reproduced with Author Unknown. The poem is from his 1920 collection of poetry, Sun and Saddle Leather. Though he was the author of several volumes of poetry and short stories, Clark's main source of income was derived from speaking engagements. His cabin in Custer State Park is a South Dakota Historic Landmark.

PHOTO CREDIT: © Teresa Puente and used with the photographer's permission. Rodeo Cowboy is one of the photos to be included in Teresa's co-authored book of her 2014 travels across the United States entitled, Americans.

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