Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, A RANGER, by CHARLES BADGER CLARK JR.



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A RANGER, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: He never made parade of tooth or claw
Last Line: And he labored with the sinners of the trail.
Alternate Author Name(s): Clark, Badger
Subject(s): Cowboys; Ranch Life; West (U.s.); Southwest; Pacific States


He never made parade of tooth or claw;
He was plain as us that nursed the bawlin' herds.
Though he had a rather meanin'-lookin' jaw,
He was shy of exercisin' it with words.
As a circuit-ridin' preacher of the law,
All his preachin' was the sort that hit the nail;
He was just a common ranger, just a ridin' pilgrim stranger,
And he labored with the sinners of the trail.

Once a Yaqui knifed a woman, jealous mad,
Then hit southward with the old, old killer's plan,
And nobody missed the woman very bad,
While they'd just a little rather missed the man.
But the ranger crossed his trail and sniffed it glad,
And then loped away to bring him back again,
For he stood for peace and order on the lonely, sunny border
And his business was to hunt for sinful men!

So the trail it led him southward all the day,
Through the shinin' country of the thorn and snake,
Where the heat had drove the lizards from their play
To the shade of rock and bush and yucca stake.
And the mountains heaved and rippled far away
And the desert broiled as on the devil's prong
But he didn't mind the devil if his head kep' clear and level
And the hoofs beat out their quick and steady song.

Came the yellow west, and on far-off rise
Something black crawled up and dropped beyond the rim,
And he reached his rifle out and rubbed his eyes
While he cussed the southern hills for growin' dim.
Down a hazy 'royo came the coyote cries,
Like they laughed at him because he'd lost his mark,
And the smile that brands a fighter pulled his mouth a little tighter
As he set his spurs and rode on through the dark.

Came the moonlight on a trail that wriggled higher
Through the mountains that look into Mexico,
And the shadows strung his nerves like banjo wire
And the miles and minutes dragged unearthly slow.
Then a black mesquit spit out a thread of fire
And the canyon walls flung thunder back again,
And he caught himself and fumbled at his rifle while he grumbled
That his bridle had weight enough for ten.

Though his rifle pointed wavy-like and slack
And he grabbed for leather at his hawse's shy,
Yet he sent a soft-nosed exhortation back
That convinced the sinner—just above the eye.
So the sinner sprawled among the shadows black
While the ranger drifted north beneath the moon,
Wabblin' crazy in his saddle, workin' hard to stay astraddle
While the hoofs beat out a slow and sorry tune.

When the sheriff got up early out of bed,
How he stared and vowed his soul a total loss,
As he saw the droopy thing all blotched with red
That came ridin' in aboard a tremblin' hawse.
But "I got 'im" was the most the ranger said
And you couldn't hire him, now, to tell the tale;
He was just a quiet ranger, just a ridin' pilgrim stranger
And he labored with the sinners of the trail.





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