I always had an affinity for cowboys. The spirit of the old west as personified by these rugged, self reliant, and hard working individuals is one of the things that I have admired since my boyhood.
That being the case, I ran across this classic piece of old cowboy poetry in a collection of such that was compiled by Howard "Jack" Thorp in Songs of the Cowboys. Mr. Thorp claims that this particular poem was given to him by Wait Roberts, Double Diamond Ranch, White Mountains in 1898. The authorship of the poem was ascribed to the father of Captain Roberts, of the Texas Rangers.
The Cowboy's Dream
Last night, as I lay on the prairie,
And looked at the stars in the sky,
I wondered if ever a cowboy
Would drift to that sweet by and by.
I hear there's to be a grand round-up
Where cowboys with others must stand,
To be cut out by the riders of judgment
Who are posted and know all the brands.
The trail to that great mystic region
Is narrow and dim, so they say;
While the one that leads down to perdition
Is posted and blazed all the way.
Whose fault is it, then, that so many
Go astray, on this wild range fail,
Who might have been rich and had plenty
Had they known of the dim, narrow trail?
I wonder if at the last day some cowboy
Unbranded and unclaimed should stand,
Would he be mavericked by those riders of judgment
Who are posted and know all the brands?
I wonder if ever a cowboy
Stood ready for that Judgment Day,
And could say to the Boss of the Riders,
"I'm ready, come, drive me away"?
For they, like the cows that are locoed,
Stampede at the sight of a hand,
Are dragged with a rope to the round-up,
Or get marked with some crooked man's brand.
And I'm scared that I'll be a stray yearling,
A maverick, unbranded on high,
And get cut in the bunch with the "rusties"
When the Boss of the Riders goes by.
For they tell of another big owner
Who's ne'er overstocked, so they say,
But who always makes room for the sinner
Who drifts from the straight, narrow way.
They say he will never forget you,
That he knows every action and look;
So for safety you'd better get branded,
Have your name in the great Tally Book.
My wish for all cowboys is this:
That we may meet at that grand final sale;
Be cut out by the riders of judgment
And shoved up the dim, narrow trail.