Cowboy Poetry Week: “I Ride an Old Paint”

An American Paint Horse at a horse show in the Czech Republic, from Wikipedia, photo by Karakal

The Death of the Old West

Depending on who you talk to, rumors of the death of the Old West, may be somewhat exaggerated. Some say it died when the railroads started carrying beef on the hoof to places like Kansas City and Chicago. Others say it died when barbed wire was invented. Even today, there are those that infer that the Old West lasted until the automobile and paved roads became the norm for transportation. And finally, there are those that believe that the Old West may still exist in small pockets, where a few determined herders somehow manage to work what’s left of the open range.

The Search

Back during the Roaring Twenties, when speakeasies and Jazz music were the rage, Carl Sandburg went on a search. He was looking for genuine cowboy songs from the Old West. To do this properly, the young Midwesterner dropped out of college, crisscrossed the western mountains and prairies, looking for old remnants of years gone by. Somewhere in the high desert of New Mexico, he came across this beauty of a song.

What’s an Old Paint

First of all, an Old Paint is a type of horse common to the American West. Basically, it is a stock horse with a “pinto” pattern of color. The splotched color separates this breed from the solid, American quarter horse. Except for the color pattern, the two types of horses are similar in size, build and stock. Nonetheless, they are considered two separate breeds, which are both quite popular among American horsemen.

About the Song

Too many, “I Ride an Old Paint”, embodies the spirit of the Old West, as well as any folk song. There are many wonderful elements to the horseman’s tale, but perhaps the unusual method of burial is most telling about the special appeal for this Western lament. I seriously doubt that many (if any) cowhands were treated this way after leaving the world of the living. Yet still, there is a communion with the outdoor range, rarely expressed in Western music,when the corpse of the main character is tied to the back of his horse and then set loose into the bush.

Carl Sandburg at age 77

Who Was Carl Sandburg?

Carl Sandburg was born in Galesburg, Illinois in 1878. After serving in the military in Puerto Rico during the Spanish-American War, Carl returned to the Midwest, where he worked a variety jobs before he began publishing his own poetry in 1916. As an offshoot of his poetry, he put out a recording of folk songs (1927), gathered from traditional sources. This landmark album included such noted American classics, as the “Sloop John B” and “I Ride an Old Paint”. Over the years, the Old Paint song has one of the most recorded songs in American music.

 

Earth Day, Cowgirl Poetry, Richard Nixon and the EPA

Since 1970, Earth Day has always been observed on April 22.

A Brief History of Earth Day

Earth Day was the idea of Wisconsin Senator, Gaylord Nelson, who came up with the idea in 1969, as a way to promote environmental awareness on a planetary level. In April 1970, the first celebration of Earth Day occurred with the majority of activities, occurring on college campuses and in large urban areas in the U.S. A year later, not only did President Nixon give Earth Day official recognition, but he made April 22 part of Earth Week.

Earth Day is still celebrated today, as over the years, the global challenges have changed and environmental legislation is nowhere as universally popular as it was back in the 70s.

The President and “the King” in 1970

Richard Nixon: Our Greenest President?

Richard Nixon was not much of a cowboy, but as an environmentalist, he did pretty good, signing 14 pieces of Environmental legislation during his tenure.This little known fact about our 37th president may come as a surprise to many political observers of that era, especially since he showed little or no interest in environmental issues before becoming president.

Nixon began his environmental legacy in 1969 by signing into law The National Environmental Policy Act, which created environmental impact statements.

Then in 1970, Nixon proposed and pushed through Congress the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, which was quickly followed by the Clean Air Act and the creation of NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration}.

By the time Nixon resigned in 1974, he had also passed the Clean Water Act (1972), the Endangered Species Act (1973), the Marine Mammal Protection Act (1972) and the Safe Drinking Water Act (actually signed by Ford in 1974).

Yes, folks that’s quite a legacy.

Cowboys and Environmentalists

Today, the rancher (and the Cowboy) have their backs against the wall financially, as they face increasing pressure from a changing world to their way of life.  Loss of grazing land is just one challenge, as other threats can come from growing populations in the New West and the a new kind of activism arising from radical environmentalists.

Nonetheless, the Cowboy poets are thriving, as larger audiences thirst for the old storytelling skills of bygone eras. Even though these modern-day bards may be out of sync with the urban reality of rap and slam poetry, they have caught the attention of many, who have never saddled a horse or roped a calf.

Sometimes Cowgirls Don’t Get the Blues

Today, cowboys and cowboy poets are generally pictured as having a close relationship and understanding of the land. However, in today’s complex world, they do not seem to be overly concerned about global warming or climate change.

Perhaps, this attitude is best summarized by Nevada poet and rancher, Carolyn Duferrena.

A Cowgirl Contemplates Climate Change

by Carolyn Duferrena

I have to say it’s kinda nice
Not to spend the winter
Chopping ice,
And to tell you the truth
When I wake up in the morning
The last thing on my mind
Is global warming.

 

Final Note

This blog has been also posted at my alternative site, Bluefoxcafe, which can also be found at WordPress.com. I am currently undertaking an experiment to determine which place gets more traffic.

Fire & Ice

Scoresby Sund, East Greenland, July, 1970
Scoresby Sund, East Greenland, July, 1970 from Wikipedia, J. Finkelstein

Fire and Ice  – a poem by Robert Frost

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Still Popular

This little jingle penned back in the twenties by one of America’s favorite poets, still remains popular, even today. Perhaps with the ongoing debate about global warming and climate change,  this nine-letter stanza is seeing a rebirth of its own. Even so, the short poem has turned out to be one of the most popular of all of Robert’s Frost work. I guess this goes to show that bigger is not better.

Ice Age Now

Not to long ago, while researching an article on underwater volcanoes for the content mill, I came across a website called Ice Age Now. This is definitely one place, on the web that sing the accolades of “Global Warming”. Instead, they put forth the proposition that the planet is about to enter a Mini-Ice Age similar to what was experienced a 1,000 years ago. Furthermore, climate on earth is controlled much more by the sunspot activity and the resultant radiation (or lack thereof), rather than man’s activity on the planet. Evidence is cited from around the world to back up their claim. For example just this week they mentioned a three foot blizzard in southern Chile (its winter down there), a blizzard in the mountains of China (that’s definitely odd and unusual) and earthquakes at the Katla volcano in Iceland (they were very small, 3.8 was the biggest. Absent from this weeks news flashes was the heat wave in the Central U.S.

“It’s a cycle, it’s a cycle, it’s a cycle”

No, this is not a quote from somebody watching the Tour de France, but rather the slogan from some observers of  our global weather at Ice Age Now. Nonetheless, predictions about world weather patterns and not something to be put forth lightly. Case in point is the famous Krakatoa volcano, which put so much ash into the atmosphere that the weather patterns around the world were affected.  Could man be capable of the same thing today. I think so, but pinpointing cause and effect in such matters is not easily accomplished. Some days like today when temperatures are sky high, I ponder whether the earth is getting too warm. Maybe a chain of monster volcanoes going off will cool the planet down. But then who knows what next January will bring.

Poor Poe

Statue of the Raven at the Poe House in Philadelphia, PA
Statue of the Raven at the Poe House in Philadelphia, PA

Twas A Hot and Humid Sunny Afternoon

Last Wednesday was a torridly hot day in Philly. The heat was oppressive and the humidity was just as bad. Somehow I negotiated the sizzling mid-afternoon walk from the Philadelphia Free Library to the historic literary site. Once I walked in the front door of the early 19th century brick rowhouse I was glad I did.  The main reason being the fully-functional air conditioning system and the ice-cold drinking water that came shooting out of the basement fountain. Oh, the joys of visiting a federally funded building. After attending the University of Virginia and West Point Military Academy (he had to withdraw from each due to lack of money), Poe set out on his own literary career as a writer, poet, editor and critic.

Modest Housing

Not only did Poe experience many tragedies during his lifetime( both his mother and wife died of tuberculosis), but  he also moved frequently. During his life time he dwelt in four cities, Boston, Baltimore, Richmond and Philadelphia, but during his six year stay in the City of Brotherly Love, he moved four times. One of these residences, located at the corners of 7th Street and Spring Garden Ave., is now a National Historic Site administered by the National Park Service. Poe moved to Philadelphia to take on a job of editor of a prominent literary magazine. The attractive brick house sits on a quiet tree-lined in a working-class neighborhood, just a few blocks from the downtown high rises. A walk through the house is a step back in time and according to the historians, a trudge down the stairs into the basement, is like a glimpse into the creative mind that penned “The Black Cat”. Much can be learned about how people lived before the Civil War by walking through the various rooms of the Poe house. Most noticeable is the small-size of the rooms and especially the stairways.

The Case For Slam Poetry

Northern Lights Over Iceland, Credit: Stephane Vetter (Nuits sacrees)
Northern Lights Over Iceland, Credit: Stephane Vetter (Nuits sacrees)

Controversy At The White House

Just last week the White House invited a rapper, who goes by the name of Common Sense, to give a reading at a Wednesday Night poetry reading. Common Sense, whose real name is Lonnie Rashid Lynn Jr., has been on the rap scene for many years now. He still manages to draw White House attention, even though he has not recorded anything substantial, since 2000. Nonetheless, “Common Sense” managed to draw some fire this time from Sarah Palin, among others, due to his pass support of Assata Shakur.It should be noted that Common Sense has appeared before (notably the Christmas season) without drawing any fire.

Further Developments

The debate did not stop there, for just last night Jon Stewart appeared on Bill O’Reilly’s Fox News program, “The O’Reilly Factor”, just to exchange views with the host about Common Sense’s White House visit, rap music in general and the limits of free speech. It appears just by his appearance and ability to hold his own on the Fox News show, Jon have may benefitted more from the debate. Anyway the two pundits got to know each other much better, and left the show best of friends.

Pushing The Envelope

But why should the WH appreciation be limited to listening to one Chicago over-the-hill rapper. Why not sponsor a genuine Poetry Slam with numerous contestants, a panel of judges and a lively audience cheering on their favorite contender. Slam Poetry fests are a lively form of literary entertainment that could  use some more exposure. Although they display a verbal influence from Rap, they are very much different to sitting in a bar or state occasion getting bombarded with the latest lyrics du jour.

Super Bowl Haiku

Mt. Fuji and The Sea off Satta by Utagawa Hiroshige
Mt. Fuji and The Sea off Satta by Utagawa Hiroshige

Applying poetry to sports is not an unheard of event, but it is a literary activity that is not usually applied to football. However, an opportunity recently arose to write a piece of Haiku about the upcoming Super Bowl, which features a contest between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers. The popular sporting event is scheduled on Sunday and will be played at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas barring any unusual weather events or meteorites dropping out of the sky.

Haiku is an interesting form of short poetry, originally associated with Japan, but now popular in the English-speaking world as well. In this type of writing a short poem is created using just three lines of text. Each line has a designated number of syllables and rhyming isn’t necessary. The first and last lines each contain five syllables, while the middle phrase bears seven. Traditionally, Haiku portrays two juxtaposing images, which when combined, should reveal irony, humor and awareness.

In Japan, Haiku was often used to express some of the tenets of  Zen awareness, along with detached observations and comments on everyday life. In America, Haiku has become a popular method of reflecting our national past time, baseball, but associating this poetic structure with football is much less common. Perhaps this will change in the future.

Recently, I wrote several Haiku in honor of Super Bowl LXV, which is due to be played early on Sunday evening. One was published at Associated Content and the other two I have included with this post. Hope you enjoy.

Poem  #1

As the pack returns

Strong resistance heeds their path

The trophy is theirs

Poem #2

Heads clash in Dallas

The sound echoes everywhere

Then there is silence

A Plea For Whirled Peas

Whirled Peas
Whirled Peas

Soon the New Year will arrive to the East Coast of America. Already it has already passed through many nations from Japan to Ireland. As the East Coast of America gathers to ring in the New Year, I would like to put out a plea for Whirled Peas.

With warfare all too common  in many places across the globe, including Afghanistan and Iraq, I suggest to all parties that there is no time like the present to cease hostilities.

And there is no better time than now to enjoy Whirled Peas. Whirled Peas can make everybody appreciate how dear our human existence really is. Whirled peas can also help to appreciate the other species of life than share the planet with us and see how precious our existence really is.

Peace, joy and happiness to everyone.

Help Yeyeright Achieve Whirled Peas