Charles M. Russell,  Badger Clark  and  Gail Gardner


                 What you might be asking, do these three people have in common that would warrant grouping them  together on this page.  The answer is that all three contributed their artistic talents to the presentation of the same theme: cowboys roping wild animals or beings (other than steers or horses) for sport. It has been claimed by some that Gail Gardner's Sierry Petes  (about roping the devil) is a corruption of Badger Clark's High Chin Bob  (about roping a lion).  In  the words of a critic of Gardners:
 ". . . It's going to take a long time to convince me that the Sandy Bob poem is not a rewrite from Charles Badger Clark's "High Chin Bob." . . . It's hardly likely that two cowboy poets would have picked this rather unusual theme and treated it in such a similar way completely independently of each other. (Emphasis added.) Literary history contains very few such cases."

         The answer to that question goes back to the era of Charles M. Russell. Roping animals (other than cattle or horses) for sport, was not a "rather unusual theme" as the critic assumed. It was a common theme in Russell's paintings.

                 1. Capturing The Grizzly shows three cowboys roping a bear.
                 2. Roping  A Grizzly   also shows three cowboys, with one of the cowboy's loops on the bears front leg; and the other cowboy with his lariat ready to throw.
                 3. A Quiet Day In Utica shows a street in a town full of cowboys. The horse of one cowboy is bucking with its hind leg caught up in a rope, the loop of which is around a dog's tail.
                 4. Sagebrush Sport shows a cowboy looping a wolf.
                 5. Loops And Swift Horses Are Surer Than Lead  shows two cowboys roping a grizzly.
                 6. Cowboy Sport  depicts two cowboys chasing a wolf, with the lariat of one cowboy ready to be thrown.
                 7. Roping A Wolf   is a picture of a cowboy who has just roped a wolf, with two other cowboys in the background, with lariats raised and read to assist.
"Roping A Grizzly" by Charles M. Russell

                     There are at least these seven Russell paintings  featuring this common theme. Of particular interest is the fact that  Russell  labeled this activity, "cowboy sport".  (Russell's picture, Roping A Grizzly (right) was painted in 1904 .)

               Roping an animal, other than horses or steers, was a  common "cowboy sport". Badger Clark did not just dream up this theme when he wrote High Chin Bob. It was published in 1915 under the name, The Glory Trail. (This was 11 years after Russell painted "Roping A Grizzly".) To write a poem about a cowboy roping a lion was "unusual" only in the fact that the object being roped was a lion. And in that  Badger Clark was referring to a mountain lion, was it really any more bizarre or unusual than roping a bear or a wolf?  

            Gail Gardner wrote Sierry Petes two years later, in 1917.   Like, Badger Clark, he was retelling the old story of a common cowboy sport depicted in Russell's paintings, but with an original twist- the cowboy was roping the devil and not some animal.  Both Badger Clark and Gail Gardner were original in their approach to this common theme. One main similarity between these poems is the music that both of these poems were put to....both songs were a "rewrite" of "Polly Wolly Doodle".  Here are these two poems interspersed with the Russell paintings. Enjoy!!
                                                                                                                     Bette Wolf Duncan 2005

                

         (In his book, Songs Of The Cowboys, N. Howard "JackThorp" writes as a head note to the poem High Chin Bob, "This song was brought to Santa Fe by Henry Herbert Knibbs, who got it from southern Arizona, where it was sung by the cowboys. The song was written by Charles Badger Clark, Jr., and the original version is in his "Sun and Saddle Leather" under the title of "The Glory Trail".)
 

 HIGH CHIN BOB

Way up high on the Mogollons upon the mountain tops
A lion picked a yearling's bones and licked his thankful chops
When on the picture who should ride, a-trippin' down the slope
But High Chin Bob with sinful pride and a maverick hungry rope
"Glory be to me", says he, "and fames unfading flowers
All meddling hands are far away, I ride my good top horse today
I'm top rope of the Lazy-J. Hi! Kitty cat, you're ours."

The lion licked his paws so brown and dreamed sweet dreams of veal
'Till that circling loop sung down and roped him round his meal
He yowled quick fury to the world and all the hills yowled back
The top horse gave a snort and whirled, and Bob took up the slack.
"Glory be to me", says he, "I've hit the glory trail
No mortal man, as I have read, dare loop a lion round the head
Nor never horse could drag one dead until we tell the tale."

Way up high in the Mogollons that top horse done his best
Through whippin' brush and rattling stones from canyon floor to crest
But every time Bob looked, and hoped a limp remains to find
A red-eyed lion, belly roped, but healthy, loped behind.
"Glory be to me", says he, "this glory trail is rough,
But 'till the toot on the judgement morn, gonna keep this dally
'round this horn
For never any hero born could stoop to holler: 'nuff!'"

Three suns had rode their circles home beyond the desert's rim
And sent their star herds loose to roam the heavens high and dim
Yet up and down and 'round and 'cross Bob pounded, weak and wan,
For pride still glued him to his horse and glory drove him on.
"Glory be to me," says he, "he cain't be drug to death
And now I know beyond a doubt, the heroes I have read about
Are only fools who stuck it out 'till the end of mortal breath."

Way up high in the Mogollons a prospect man did swear
A moon dream melted down his bones and heisted up his hair.
A ribby cow horse thundered by, a lion trailed along,
And the rider, gaunt, but chin on high, yelled out this crazy song.
"Glory be to me", says he,"and to my noble noose.
Stanger,tell my pards below, I took a rampin' dream in tow
And if I never laid him low, I never turned him loose."

                                                     The picture below is "Loops And Swift Horses Are Surer Than Lead".

Sierry Petes (Tying A knot In The Devil's Tail)                         

Away up high in the Sierry Petes,
Where the yeller pines grows tall,
Ole Sandy Bob an' Buster Jig,
Had a rodeer camp last fall.
 

Oh, they taken their hosses and runnin' irons
And mabbe a dawg or two,                                                     
An' they 'lowed they'd brand all the long-yered
                calves,                                                                         
That come with their view.                                                              

And any old doggie that flapped long yeres,
An' didn't bush up by day,
Got his long yeres whittled an' his old hide scorched,
In a most artistic way.

Now one fine day ole Sandy Bob,
He throwed his seago down,
"I'm sick of this cow-pyrography,
And I 'lows I'm a-goin' to town."

So they saddles up an' hits 'em a lope,
Fer it warnt no sight of a ride,
And them was the days when a Buckeroo
Could ile up his inside.

Oh, they starts her in at the Kaintucky Bar,
At the head of Whisky Row,
And they winds up down by the Depot House,
Some forty drinks below.

They then sets up and turns around,
And goes her the other way,
An' to tell you the Gawd-forsaken truth,
Them boys got stewed that day.

As they was a-ridin' back to camp,
A-packin' a pretty good load,
Who should they meet but the Devil himself,
A-prancin' down the road.

Sez he, "You ornery cowboy skunks,
You'd better hunt yer holes,
Fer I've come up from Hell's Rim Rock,
To gather in yer souls."

Sez Sandy Bob, "Old Devil be damned,
We boys is kinda tight,
But you ain't a-goin' to gather no cowboy souls,
'Thout you has some kind of a fight."

So Sandy Bob punched a hole in his rope,
And he swang her straight and true,
He lapped it on to the Devil's horns,
An' he taken his dallies too.

Now Buster jig was a riata man,
With his gut-line coiled up neat,
So he shaken her out an' he built him a loop,
An' he lassed the Devil's hind feet.

Oh, they stretched him out an' they tailed him down,
While the irons was a-gettin hot,
They cropped and swaller-forked his yeres,
Then they branded him up a lot.

They pruned him up with a de-hornin' saw,
An' they knotted his tail fer a joke,
They then rid off and left him there,
Necked to a Black-Jack oak.

If you're ever up high in the Sierry Petes,
An' you hear one Hell of a wail,
You'll know it's that Devil a-bellerin' around,
About them knots in his tail.

        (Photos and biographical data about Badger Clark appear on the preceding web pages.)
           

   GAIL GARDNER

Phot of Gail Gardner

     Gail Gardner, cowboy poet and songwriter, was born in Prescott, Arizona in 1892 . He lived in the same house where he was born for much of his life. Gardner's father was a successful merchant. He sent his son  to get an education at Philip Exeter Academy and then Dartmouth University, where he majored in math. When he returned to Prescott, he announced that he wanted to punch cows! He worked in his father's store for awhile; but eventually he got his wish. He hired on as a cowboy in Skull Valley.  Later Gail was postmaster of Prescott, Arizona for twenty-six years. This is the same town where the Whiskey Row of this song exists. Nevertheless, all his life he considered himself first a cowboy.

His trademark poem  "Sierry Petes,"  was based on a time when he and his saddle partner Bob Heckle were returning from a night on the town. They were riding horseback to their line came on the Dearing Ranch near Thumb Butte, Arizona. One of the drunken men joked that the Devil would surely get anyone who had been doing what they had been doing back there in town. And the other said that if the Devil tried to get them, they'd rope him and tie him to a black-jack oak tree, just like they did a steer. The poem was written on the Santa Fe Limited while Gardner was on his way to Washington D.C. to enlist during World War One.

                    It was written as a poem called "Sierry Petes" after the Sierra Prieta Mountains of Arizona. Rich and redolent with authentic cowboy lingo and lore, it quickly became popular. It passed into public usage with such suddenness that Gail Gardner struggled for years to reclaim his rightful authorship. It soon began to be sung to the tune of "Polly Wolly Doodle" and became a favorite of radio cowboy singers. So quickly, in fact, did it pass into popular culture that it was presumed to be an old folk song scant years after it was written. Among the several claimants to the copyright was Powder River Jack Lee, who popularized this and other classic cowboy songs in his career, including "Red River Valley" and "The Zebra Dun" .The poem was an immediate hit with all who heard it, and is still one of the best-known cowboy poems. 

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