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Q (Frank Staplin) Lyr Add: A Cowboy's Prayer (Badger Clark) (4) Lyr Add: A COWBOY'S PRAYER (Badger Clark) 30 Aug 14

Badger Clark, 1906
(Written for Mother)

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 hawse 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 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.

"In Katie Lee's classic book, Ten Thousand Goddam Cattle, A History of the American Cowboy in Song, Story, and Verse, she writes about "A Cowboy's Prayer"; "Of the hundreds of poems written about cowboys praying to the stars, this is probably the best. I've heard any number of cowboys recite it, but have never heard one sing it. The language is true to his free-roving spirit and gives insight to the code he lived by—the things he expected of himself."
According to Austin and Alta Fife, Clark wrote it while living on a ranch near Tombstone, Arizona, and it was first published in The Pacific Monthly, December of 1906.
John I. White, in "Git Along Little Dogies," notes that Tex Ritter used to recite the poem against the music of "The Cowboy's Dream," and that Clark had it stolen from him and put on postcards as "Anonymous" so many times that he made a collection of more than sixty thievings from his original."
Later published in his book, "Sun and Saddle Leather, 1915 and subsequent editions.
During President Coolidge's vacation in the West, "The Cowboy's Prayer" was read at a rodeo attended by the President, and Badger Clark was summoned to an interview.

Quotations in the above from:

You can hear Marilyn Nelson recite Badger Clark's poem at "Poems of American Identity," field recording, , has a few good photographs and Badger Clark's words; "Cowboys' Prayer."

Johnny Cash recites this on his album "American Recordings", and then segues into "Oh, Bury Me Not." has the words as spoken by Jimmie Dean, no attribution.
The Norman Luboff Choir sings "The Cowboy's Prayer;" not the Badger Clark poem. At ... album "Songs of the Cowboy."

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