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.

 

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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.

If Jesus Was a Cowboy

April 21 marks the beginning of Cowboy Poetry Week and is also Easter Sunday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easter Kickoff

Today is not only Easter, but also the kickoff for Cowboy Poetry Week. Since the former event is well covered by the churches and press, I will devote the next seven days to the ridin’, ropin’ poets of the Old (and New) West.

If Jesus Was A Cowboy

The present calendar year presents a small dilemma and unique challenge for fans of the Cowboy poetry genre. Since the first day of the poetry week coincides with the Easter holiday, the question might be asked, “What if Jesus was a cowboy?” On a preliminary note, this sounds kind of fanciful, but in reality a variety of Country and Western singers have pondered the idea and over the years recorded tunes with similar titles.

The short list includes Jesus was a Cowboy (Brady Wilson Band), Jesus Was A Country Boy (Clay Walker) and God Must Be a Cowboy (Chris Ladoux). All of these songs are find and dandy for a listen on Easter Sunday, but instead, I have chosen a sincere and thoughtful tune from an obscure singer/songwriter named Kevin Reid. Furthermore, the song is performed by David Glen Eisley, a California rocker of some note.

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 decide which place gets more traffic.