From the book's Introduction...
The "Songs of the Cattle Trail and Cow Camp" does not purport to be an anthology of Western verse. As its title indicates, the contents of the book are limited to attempts, more or less poetic, in translating scenes connected with the life of a cowboy. The volume is in reality a by-product of my earlier collection, "Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads." In the former book I put together what seemed to me the best of the songs created and sung by the cowboys as they went about their work. In making the collection, the cowboys often sang or sent to me songs which I recognized as having already been in print; although the singer usually said that some other cowboy had sung the song to him and that he did not know where it had originated. For example, one night in New Mexico a cowboy sang to me, in typical cowboy music, Larry Chittenden's entire "Cowboys' Christmas Ball"; since that time the poem has often come to me in manuscript form as an original cowboy song. The changes—usually, it must be confessed, resulting in bettering the verse—which have occurred in oral transmission, are most interesting. Of one example, Charles Badger Clark's "High Chin Bob", I have printed, following Mr. Clark's poem, a cowboy version, which I submit to Mr. Clark and his admirers for their consideration.
In making selections for this volume from a large mass of material that came into my ballad hopper while hunting cowboy songs as a Traveling Fellow from Harvard University, I have included the best of the verse given me directly by the cowboys; other selections have come in through repeated recommendation of these men; others are vagrant verses from Western newspapers; and still others have been lifted from collections of Western verse written by such men as Charles Badger Clark, Jr., and Herbert H. Knibbs. To these two authors, as well as others who have permitted me to make use of their work, the grateful thanks of the collector are extended. As will be seen, almost one-half of the selections have no assignable authorship. I am equally grateful to these unknown authors. "out Where The West Begins," by Arthur Champman and four poems by H. H. Knibbs, — "The Shallows Of The Ford," "Riders of the Stars," "The Cowboys' Ball," and "The Desert," — are published by authorization of, and special arrangement with, Houghton Mifflin Company, authorized publishers.
All those who found "Cowboy Songs" diverting, it is believed, will make welcome "The Songs of the Cattle Trail and Cow Camp." Many of these have this claim to be called songs: they have been set to music by the cowboys, who, in their isolation and loneliness, have found solace in narrative or descriptive verse devoted to cattle scenes. Herein, again, though these quondam songs we may have come to appreciate something of the spirit of the big West—its largeness, its freedom, its wholehearted hospitality, its genuine friendship. Here again, too, we may see the cowboy at work and at play; hear the jingle of this big bell spurs, the swish of his rope, the creaking of his saddle gear, the thud of thousands of hoofs on the long, long trail winding from TExas to Montana; and know something of the life that attracted from the East some of its best young blood to a work that was necessary in the winning of the West. The trails are becoming dust covered or grass grown or lost underneath the farmers' furrow; but in the selections of this volume, many of them poems by courtesy, men of today and those who are to follow, may sense, at least in some small measure, the service, the glamour, the romance of that knight-errant of the plains—the American cowboy.
J. A. L.
July 9, 1919
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