We receive a number of requests to find poems, and Pat wrote to us, looking for the photo poem that "references unions in the first part of the poem, and ends with the fact that you can judge a man by the way he treats his horses." We found that the poem was "No Rest for the Horse." Pat had told us she heard recite the poem she was seeking at the in 2006. (It is included on Randy's CD, .) The author is anonymous.
Randy's source for the poem was Songs of Horses, an anthology edited by Robert Frothingham (1865-1937) in 1920 (Find links to digitized versions of the book. The book is dedicated to :
HENRY HERBERT KNIBBS
Rider of the high trails,
equally at ease astride
Pegasus or the Roan Cayuse.
"Since we deserve the name of friends,
and thine effect so lives in me,
A part of mine may live in thee
And move thee on to noble ends."
Henry Herbert Knibbs dedicated his 1918 novel, Jim Waring of Sonora, to Frothingham. Frothingham also edited other anthologies, including Songs of Men (1918) in which he acknowledges the assistance of Knibbs and Eugene Manlove Rhodes, Songs of Dogs (1920), Songs of Challenge (1922), Songs of the Sea and Sailors' Chanteys (1924), and Songs of Adventure (1926). He wrote other books, including Around the World (1925) and Trails Through the Golden West (1932).
We found the same "No Rest for the Horse" poem under a different title, "To a Quiet But Useful Class," in a 1902 edition of Life magazine. There is no author attributed in that instance, either. You can see the poem in that Life magazine, in an edition that has been digitized by.
Thanks to for the book jacket image; she has a rare copy with a jacket in her collection.
They are mustering cattle on Brigalow Vale
Where the stock-horses whinny and stamp,
And where long Andy Ferguson, you may go bail,
Is yet boss on a cutting-out camp.
Half the doffers I meet would not know a fat steer
From a blessed old Alderney cow;
Whilst they're mustering there I am wondering here—
Who is riding brown Harlequin now?
Are the pikers as wild and the scrubs just as dense
In the brigalow country as when
There was never a homestead and never a fence
Between Brigalow Vale and The Glen?
Do they yard the big micks 'neath the light of the moon?
Do the yard-wings re-echo the row
Of stockwhips and hoofbeats? And what sort of coon
Is there riding old Harlequin now?
There was buckjumping blood in the brown gelding's veins,
But, lean-headed, with iron-like pins,
Of Pyrrhus and Panic he'd plentiful strains,
All their virtues, and some of their sins.
'Twas pity, some said, that so shapely a colt
Fate should with such temper endow;
He would kick and would strike, he would buck and would bolt—
Ah! who's riding brown Harlequin now?
A demon to handle! A devil to ride!
Small wonder the surcingle burst;
You'd have thought that he'd buck himself out of his hide
On the morning we saddled him first.
I can mind how he cow-kicked the spur on my boot,
And though that's long ago, still I vow
If they're wheeling a piker, no new-chum galoot
Is a-riding old Harlequin now!
I remember the boss—how he chuckled and laughed
When they yarded the brown colt for me:
"He'll be steady enough when we finish the graft
And have cleaned up the scrubs of Glen Leigh!"
I am wondering today if the brown horse yet live,
For the fellow who broke him, I trow,
A long lease of soul-ease would willingly give
To be riding brown Harlequin now!
"Do you think you can hold him?" old Ferguson said—
He was mounted on Hornet, the grey;
I think Harlequin heard him—he shook his lean head,
And he needed no holding that day.
Not a prick from a spur, nor a sting from a whip
As he raced among deadwood and bough,
While I sat fairly quiet and just let him rip—
But who's riding old Harlequin now?
I could hear 'em a-crashing the gidgee in front
As the Bryan colt streaked to the lead,
Whilst the boss and the riggers were out of the hunt,
For their horses lacked Harlequin's speed;
The pikers were yarded and skies growing dim
When old Fergie was fain to allow:
"The colt's track through the scrub was a knocker" to him—
But who's riding brown Harlequin now?
From starlight to starlight-all day in between
The foam-flakes might fly from his bit,
But whatever the pace of the day's work had been
The brown gelding was eager and fit.
On the pack-horse's back they are fixing a load
Where the path climbs the hill's gloomy brow;
They are mustering bullocks to send on the road,
But—who's riding old Harlequin now?
Harry "Breaker" Morant, 1897
Harry "Breaker" Morant (1864-1902) had his poetry published Australia's first national literary magazine, The Bulletin, as did his friends ,, and. Morant worked as a drover and earned his nickname for his skill with horses. You can read more of his poetry at an Australian site.
Reciter is recognized for her impressive rendition of "Who's Riding Old Harlequin Now."
Morant was executed in 1902 for alleged war crimes in the Second Boer War. The 1980 film, Breaker Morant, brought his story to a wide audience. There are a number of books about him, and about his war experiences, including Scapegoats of the Empire: The True Story of Breaker Morant's Bushveldt Carbineers, by Lieutenant George Witton, which is available for reading on-line from.
Ain't it the?
I have seen them ride the ponies
In the sage-brush and the bad land;
I have seen them buck and beller
And turn almost inside out,
While the rider sat the saddle
And watched each snaky motion,
While the others yelled "Stay with him"
As loud as they could shout.
And often on the round-up
I have watched the cayuse antics,
When the devil got the upper-hand—
And I know he crawled inside,
And when you hit the saddle
You had just one thought before you:
To hook your spurs into the cinch
And settle down and ride.
But the wildest, meanest horses
That ever have been ridden
Or ever have been saddled,
Either here or anywhere,
As they rode and scratched them
They never once pulled leather;
They just quirted and hollered
And never once turned hair.
But this wildest riding
Was not done in the open
'Way out on the prairies,
Or in bad lands far away,
It was done right in the bunk-house
When the cigarettes were lighted,
And the Sibley stove was glowing
And life was sweet and gay.
Or when they hit the village
And lined up at old Pete's place,
With their foot upon the bar-rail
And a couple drinks inside,
They would loosen up their chatter
And climb upon those bronchos—
Those wild and wooly cowboys;
My God, how they would ride.
'Twas then they'd ride and quirt them
And rake them in the shoulders;
They'd fan them with their big hat
'Till you could hear them bawl.
But when you needed riders
And was out upon the circle,
They were a bunch of bone-heads
And could not ride at all.
But while sitting in my saddle,
Where I could see those riders
A-riding down the trail of life,
'Twas just as plain as day
That the ones who rode the bad ones
And drew the biggest wages
Were the ones who seemed the meekest
And had the least to say.
James W. Whilt, from Mountain Memories, 1925
James W. "Jim" Whilt (1878-1967?) worked at Glacier National Park as a dude wrangler, where he recited his poetry for tourists, and he lived on a ranch in Eureka, Montana.
Among his works are Rhymes of the Rockies (1922); Mountain Memories (1925); a children's book, Our Animal Friends of The Wild (1927), Giggles from Glacier Guides (1935), and Mountain Echoes (1951).
Kessinger Books has a of Mountain Memories.
The photo above is from Rhymes of the Rockies and is also in Giggles from Glacier Guides. There is an earlier photo of Whilt posted on a site.
sota rancher and poet, who introduced us to Whilt's poetry, sent along a 1925 clipping that was included in her copy of Mountain Memories:
JAMES WHILT SHOT ACCIDENTALLY BUT WILL RECOVER
James Whilt, trapper, guide and cowboy poet had a close call yesterday, when he accidentally shot himself in the abdomen with a 22 rifle while attempting to remove the gun from his saddle.
The accident happened on the Betts ranch, where Whilt was engaged in trapping for the government. Doctors Houston, Cockrell and Conway were notified, and Dr. Conway at once started for the ranch. Meantime, a car from the Betts ranch started for Kalispell with the wounded man, and was met by Dr. Conway at Lakeview. The patient was transferred to Dr. Conway’s car and brought to the city where an operation was performed at 10 o’clock last evening.
It was found that the bullet, a 22 long, had perforated the liver, passed through the stomach and lodged in the back. The patient stood the operation well, and Dr. Houston states today that there is every indication of a rapid recovery.
It is said that Whilt placed the gun on his saddle when he started out to make the rounds of his traps, and in attempting to remove it the gun was discharged. This is accounted for by the fact that the safety catch had become worn and frequently failed to work.”
An 1885 shows a James W. Whilt, age 8. James W Whilt The Montana Death Index shows a James W. Whilt, born about 1878, died March 10, 1967 in Flathead County, age 89. We'd welcome more biographical information about Whilt..
Whilt's preface to Giggles from Glacier Guides (1935):
In submitting this little booklet to the public I am doing so for the simple reason that every season when I arrive in the park my suitcase had not stopped rocking before some dude asked me why I did not put some of the park vocabulary into print so they could take back home some of the western phrases so they could show their friends to just what extent the English language has been roped, abused hog-tied and even murdered. So my pen started leaking and this is what leaked out.
The book begins:
There are two versions of a dude wrangler. One is that no man can wrangle dudes without going wrong in his bean. The other is, he has to be squirrel food for at least that long before he will even attempt the job of dude wrangler. But the last ruling in the park has helped the guide to a very great extent, viz: a guide is now allowed to tell the truth if he wants to.
So, with the last gleam of intelligence left in this weak but overworked brain of mine, I am going to set down a few facts about wrangling dudes, before my candle sputters out into utter darkness. First of all, a guide must dress Western—big hat, chaps, spurs, tough rag and what have you—be mannerly, courteous and, in fact, he should show a glint of human intelligence even though he is not housebroke. In the case of manners, that never bothered me individually as mine were as good as new, never having used them. As to looks, which has been a great help to me, for when a dude looked at me he or she could never exactly tell just whether I was laughing or crying. Being a beautiful child at birth, I was the envy of the whole countryside. In fact, the neighbors used to borrow me when they went visiting, locking their own offspring in the cellar.
But at the age of four a large wart appeared on my face. My parents sent for a remedy, but after using two bottles my face disappeared but to my sorrow the wart stayed. Being the son of western pioneers, I just grew up. Sometimes the grazing was powerful short and they painted my legs green and I was roamed all over the ponds and marshes, taken care of by snipes. The other children, younger than myself, were cared for in a different manner. Red rags were tied on their heads and they were set up on fence posts and were fed by the woodpeckers. So growing up thusly fitted me for my present occupation.
And these are excerpts:
One time Diamond Dick was taking a party around the Devil's Elbow where there is a sheer drop of about eight hundred feet. One dude asked him if people fell off there very often. "Only once," Dick said. There was a time when they used long horses in the park, three saddles to a horse, but the park trail-makers put in the switchbacks on the trails and the long horses could not get their hind legs around the corners, so the horse company had to get shorter horses.
Speaking of sheep, we have the usual bighorn. Some old rams have horns so large they are unable to carry them them naturally. They have conceived the idea of putting two small wheels under their chins so as to support the weight of their horns. In winter they substitute runners in place of the wheels. We have two kinds of sheep. Every spring we have to round up the latter and shear them, for it is the iron sheep that furnishes the steel wool.
Whilt's preface to Rhymes of the Rockies (1922):
Having spent the major part of my life in the Rocky Mountains as timber cruiser, packer, trapper and guide, I have learned to love their beauty and grandeur; enjoy their solitude and feel that they are a part of me.
It is there one can breathe the air of the Great Out Doors and gaze on mountains and glaciers whose never ending chain stretches into space and to listen to the waterfall's laughter. Where the denizens of the wild roam unmolested as they did for ages past, when man first came to this Virgin Paradise. Where camp-fires still glow at eventide,—their smoke wreaths adding incense to the freshness of air.
While my words cannot express even in one detail the beauty as I see it, I truly and sincerely hope these few humble rhymes will paint in your mind a mental picture that time itself may impair but not erase.
With these thoughts ever vividly before me, I dedicate this book to the Rocky Mountains and their "wonder child"—the Glacier National Park.
James W. Whilt
May 25, 1922
The book includes 32 poems.
Whilt's preface to Mountain Memories (1925):
In submitting these rhymes to the public I do so with the most sincere effort to be true to the surroundings which have prompted my thoughts. Living in the mountains I love them, because here where the roads end and the trails commence life is most real. No matter what we may appear in our daily walks of life—no matter what cloak of indifference or hypocrisy may be forced on us thru associations, conventions, necessities or otherwise, here in the mountains and on the trails—the great out-of-door cathedrals where Nature reigns supreme—we realize the insignificance of man and man-made things and become just our plain selves.
I am dedicating this book of humble verse to the Great Majestic Mountains, the ROCKIES. I call them great for somehow they hold the mysteries that to me seem most sacred. Likewise I dedicate it to those men and women who have the strength and sincerity to at least periodically lift off the man-made mask of civilization and conventionalities to enjoy the beauties of Nature and look into their own souls as they would gaze into the shimmering waters of the deep pools and be just plain men and women as God intended.
Fully realizing the insufficiency of my ability to do justice to subjects covered herein, yet I hope some thought or verse may in future years cause you to recall some scene or pleasure when you were associated with these or other mountains. In such event our pleasure will indeed by mutual.
Yours very truly,
James W. Whilt
May 25, 1925
The book includes 48 poems and illustrations by F. M. Harrow.
wrote a song in 1888 called "Ten Thousand Cattle Straying (Dead Broke)." The song was written for a stage production of The Virginian. It became well known, and often was not attributed Wister. Read more in our feature. One sheet music version begins:
Colorado poet was impressed by verse she found that starts with a line identical to the title of Wister's song, but which has completely different words and a different tone:
Jane Morton read the lines in a 1956 book by rancher Leon V. Almirall (1884-1964), From College to Cow Country. The author ends the book with the poem, and notes the source as "unknown." Almirall wrote at least two other books, Coyote Coursing, in 1926 (J. Frank Dobie calls Almirall "a constant hunter of coyotes in the Northwest" in his 1949 book, The Voice of the Coyote); and Canines and Coyotes in 1948, about crossing the Great Plains in the 1920s and 1930s.
A 1957 review of From College to Cow Country tells that Almirall was born in the East and headed West in 1922 to work as a cowboy. With thanks to the Western History and Genealogy Department at the, we obtained Leon V. Almirall's obituary, which states, "He worked on ranches near Denver and Colorado Springs and in New Mexico, before running his own outfits in Grand and Douglas Counties."
The poem is also included in Charles Wellington Furlong's 1921 book, Let 'er buck, a story of the passing of the old West, about the Pendleton Roundup and the rodeo circuit. Let 'er buck also gives no source for the poem. Furlong lived 1874-1967.
Furlong's papers are archived at Dartmouth, and a biography tells he was the first American and the second white man to explore the interior of Tierra del Fuego. There's a photo of Furlong and more about his other works, where he is described as a "famous adventurer, world traveller, author, artist, photographer of Americana and of the West." You can view Let 'er Buck at Google books. was by The Overlook Press in 2007.
Neither Furlong nor Almirall were known as poets; the words were possibly familiar to many. We welcome any information..
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