Welcome to Western Poetry
This site features poetry and prose authored by Clark Crouch, Poet Lariat, who is the author/editor of more than twenty books of western and cowboy poetry. His writings reflect his experience as a youthful cowboy in the Sand Hills of Nebraska. They are also the result of the encouragement and tutoring which he received at age 12 in 1940 from Charles Badger Clark, Poet Laurette of South Dakota, who called himself a Poet Lariat
The Poet Lariat
The Origin of a Poet Lariat
The original poet lariat comes from the book, Innocents Abroad, by Mark Twain. The name was later assumed by Will Rogers during his rope-spinning days. It was a grand heritage adopted by Badger Clark to promote the West through cowboy poetry. Since then, a score or more of today’s poets have also adopted the title. Some are even cheating a bit by producing free form western poetry with no rhyme or rhthm in place of in traditional poetic forms as actually used by cowboys as they rode the range in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Some today even adopt the title as they write and publish nonwestern verses!
Meeting The Badger
It was my great pleasure to become acquainted with Badger Clark, the true Poet Lariat, in 1940 when I was twelve attending a week-long youth camp at Victoria Springs Nebraska State Park in Custer County Nebraska. He was the primary entertainer at the event and had reading sessions every day. I was totally captured by thecowboy theme and sought out The Badger numerous times when he was not performing.
Under his tutoring, I became even more enthused about true cowboy poetry which he described as
..featuring western life in modern or historic settings;
...using true rhymes (shove/love, not clove/love);
...using a consistent rhyming pattern; and
...having a consistent meter based on syllable count
An example using syllable counts of eight and six for the lines and a rhyming pattern of ABCB:
Sam, a backward cowboy poet
is challenged by a curse
because ev'ry poem that he writes
turns out to be inverse
During our last conversation, The Badger said I too had the basic talent to become poet lariat if I followed those rules. With that challenge and the approval then granted by The Badger, I finally accepted that title nearly twenty years ago when I was about 75 years of age and had already become a successful western and cowboy poet, publisher, and performer without bothering with the title of Poet Lariat.
At the youth camp when I was 12 he had really opened the door for me and as soon as I arrived home from the event, I wrote my first cowboy poem, Cowboys! It claimed first prize in poetry at the Blaine County Nebraska Fair that year and remained on my performance list throughout my appearances over the years. Here it is:
Cowboys used to wear guns at their side
and they the bucking broncos did ride.
They snubbed them down with a lasso rope
Bucked them out and went away at a lope.
When the ponies came back, they were tired and sore
But the cowboys were still ready for more.
To eat they had coffee, beans and jerky
And once in a while a fat wild turkey.
Round the campfire at night stories they told,
Stories of themselves, daring and bold.
On the guitar they played many chords
And sang of the prarie where they were the lords.
When I am grown, a cowboy I'll be
And most the west I'll be sure to see.
I''ll follow the ways of the punchers of old
Roping, riding and gallant as we have been told.
Getting an Education
I added to my base knowledge of the cowboy world by working from age 12 through 17 as a summertime cowboy for local ranchers. Despite my age, I was paid a man's wage of a dollar a day plus found (a rural word for "room and board." ). That $90 summer wage was enough to buy clothing for attending high school in town.
On my own economically, I also found work in town during the school year to pay for room and board. All four years of high school, each in a different town where I could find work, I had a weekly income of $7.50. That was enough to pay $5 a week for board and room and allow a third of my salary to be used for other expenses. The jobs generating that income were varied: clerk in a general store, Nebraska licensed cream tester, school janitor, printers devil for the county newspaper, telephone operator, and coal delivery driver.
In all of that, I was very fortunate...had there been today’s Child Labor Laws, I might not have received the educational opportunities which I had ..I just could not have afforded to go to school!