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Volume 0951
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Jeddak and Princess of the North: Art by Thomas Yeates
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ERB's Favourite Poet
Henry Herbert Knibbs
Part II
Continued from Part I in ERBzine 0950

Copyright 2005: Knibbs Family Archive ~ Not for download or distribution

The western poetry of Henry Herbert Knibbs serves as a wonderful inspiration for all young aspiring poets. It also gives each of us in this genus, the challenge of a high standard to reach for.

---Dolan Ellis, Arizona Folklore Preserve, Hereford, Arizona

 Knibbs' sensitivity is impressive and inspirational. His imagery makes me feel like I am standing "Where the Ponies Come to Drink." I feel the wrath of "Maw", I ride with "The Bigelow Boys"  and I can smell the rain in "Rainmaker."

— Red Steagall, Western Entertainer, Fort Worth, Texas

Oh, my heart it is just achin'
For a little bit of bacon
A hunk of bread, a little mug of brew

by Henry Herbert Knibbs

I'm tired of seein' scenery
Just lead me to a beanery
Where there's something more than only air to chew

Now Mr. Boomer Johnson was a gettin' old in spots, 
But you don't expect a bad man to go wrastlin' pans and pots; 
But he'd done his share of killin' and his draw was gettin' slow, 
So he quits a-punchin' cattle and he takes to punchin' dough. 

Our foreman up and hires him, figurin' age had rode him tame, 
But a snake don't get no sweeter just by changin' of its name. 
Well, Old Boomer knowed his business - he could cook to make you smile, 
But say, he wrangled fodder in a most peculiar style. 

He never used no matches - left 'em layin' on the shelf, 
Just some kerosene and cussin' and the kindlin' lit itself. 
And, pardner, I'm allowin' it would give a man a jolt 
To see him stir frijoles with the barrel of his Colt. 

Now killin' folks and cookin' ain't so awful far apart, 
That musta been why Boomer kept a-practicin' his art; 
With the front sight of his pistol he would cut a pie-lid slick, 
And he'd crimp her with the muzzle for to make the edges stick. 

He built his doughnuts solid, and it sure would curl your hair 
To see him plug a doughnut as he tossed it in the air.
He bored the holes plum center every time his pistol spoke, 
Till the can was full of doughnuts and the shack was full of smoke. 

We-all was gettin' jumpy, but he couldn't understand 
Why his shootin' made us nervous when his cookin' was so grand. 
He kept right on performin', and it weren't no big surprise 
When he took to markin' tombstones on the covers of his pies. 

They didn't taste no better and they didn't taste no worse, 
But a-settin' at the table was like ridin' in a hearse; 
You didn't do no talkin' and you took just what you got, 
So we et till we was foundered just to keep from gettin' shot. 

When at breakfast one bright mornin', I was feelin' kind of low, 
Old Boomer passed the doughnuts and I tells him plenty :"No, 
All I takes this trip is coffee, for my stomach is a wreck." 
I could see the itch for killin' swell the wattle on his neck. 

Scorn his grub? He strings some doughnuts on the muzzle of his gun, 
And he shoves her in my gizzard and he says, "You're takin' one!" 
He was set to start a graveyard, but for once he was mistook; 
Me not wantin' any doughnuts, I just up and salts the cook. 

Did they fire him? Listen, pardner, there was nothin' left to fire, 
Just a row of smilin' faces and another cook to hire. 
If he joined some other outfit and is cookin', what I mean, 
It's where they ain't no matches and they don't need kerosene. 

Make me no grave within that quiet place 
Where friends shall sadly view the grassy mound, 
Politely solemn for a little space, 
As though the spirit slept beneath the ground. 

For me no sorrow, nor the hopeless tear; 
No chant, no prayer, no tender eulogy: 
I may be laughing with the gods--while here 
You weep alone. Then make no grave for me 

But lay me where the pines, austere and tall, 
Sing in the wind that sweeps across the West: 
Where night, imperious, sets her coronal 
Of silver starts upon the mountain crest. 

Where dawn, rejoicing, rises from the deep, 
And Life, rejoicing, rises with the dawn: 
Mark not the spot upon the sunny steep, 
For with the morning light I shall be gone. 

Far trails await me; valleys vast and still, 
Vistas undreamed of, canyon-guarded streams, 
Lowland and range, fair meadow, flower-girt hill, 
Forests enchanted, filled with magic dreams. 

And I shall find brave comrades on the way: 
None shall be lonely in adventuring, 
For each a chosen task to round the day, 
New glories to amaze, new songs to sing. 

Loud swells the wind along the mountain-side, 
High burns the sun, unfettered swings the sea, 
Clear gleam the trails whereon the vanished ride, 
Life calls to life: then make no grave for me! 

Henry Herbert Knibbs 


Where the Ponies Come to Drink 

Up in Northern Arizona
   there's a Ranger-trail that passes
Through a mesa, like a faëry lake
   with pines upon its brink,
And across the trail a stream runs
   all but hidden in the grasses,
Till it finds an emerald hollow
   where the ponies come to drink.

Out they fling across the mesa,
   wind-blown manes and forelocks dancing,
Blacks and sorrels, bays and pintos,
   wild as eagles, eyes agleam;
From their hoofs the silver flashes,
   burning beads and arrows glancing
Through the bunch-grass and the gramma
   as they cross the little stream.

Down they swing as if pretending,
   in their orderly disorder,
That they stopped to hold a pow-wow,
   just to rally for the charge
That will take them, close to sunset,
   twenty miles across the border;
Then the leader sniffs and drinks
   with fore feet planted on the marge.

One by one each head is lowered,
   till some yearling nips another,
And the playful interruption
   starts an eddy in the band:
Snorting, squealing, plunging, wheeling,
   round they circle in a smother
Of the muddy spray, nor pause
   until they find the firmer land.

My old cow-horse he runs with 'em:
   turned him loose for good last season;
Eighteen years; hard work, his record,
   and he's earned his little rest;
And he's taking it by playing,
   acting proud, and with good reason;
Though he's starched a little forward,
   he can fan it with the best.

Once I called him--almost caught him,
   when he heard my spur-chains jingle;
Then he eyed me some reproachful,
   as if making up his mind:
Seemed to say, "Well, if I have to--
   but you know I'm living single..."
So I laughed.
   In just a minute he was pretty hard to find.

Some folks wouldn't understand it,--
   writing lines about a pony,--
For a cow-horse is a cow-horse,--
   nothing else, most people think,--
But for eighteen years your partner,
   wise and faithful, such a crony
Seems worth watching for, a spell,
   down where the ponies come to drink.


Make Me No Grave 

Make me no grave within that quiet place
   Where friends shall sadly view the grassy mound,
Politely solemn for a little space,
   As though the spirit slept beneath the ground.

For me no sorrow, nor the hopeless tear;
   No chant, no prayer, no tender eulogy:
I may be laughing with the gods--while here
   You weep alone. Then make no grave for me

But lay me where the pines, austere and tall,
   Sing in the wind that sweeps across the West:
Where night, imperious, sets her coronal
   Of silver stars upon the mountain crest.

Where dawn, rejoicing, rises from the deep,
   And Life, rejoicing, rises with the dawn:
Mark not the spot upon the sunny steep,
   For with the morning light I shall be gone.

Far trails await me; valleys vast and still,
   Vistas undreamed of, canyon-guarded streams,
Lowland and range, fair meadow, flower-girt hill,
   Forests enchanted, filled with magic dreams.

And I shall find brave comrades on the way:
   None shall be lonely in adventuring,
For each a chosen task to round the day,
   New glories to amaze, new songs to sing.

Loud swells the wind along the mountain-side,
   High burns the sun, unfettered swings the sea,
Clear gleam the trails whereon the vanished ride,
   Life calls to life: then make no grave for me!


The Shallows of the Ford

        Did you ever wait for daylight
             when the stars along the river
        Floated thick and white as snowflakes
             in the water deep and strange,
        Till a whisper through the aspens
             made the current break and shiver
        As the frosty edge of morning
             seemed to melt and spread and change?

        Once I waited, almost wishing
             that the dawn would never find me;
        Saw the sun roll up the ranges
             like the glory of the Lord;
        Was about to wake my partner
             who was sleeping close behind me,
        When I saw the man we wanted
             spur his pony to the ford.

        Saw the ripples of the shallows
             and the muddy streaks that followed.
        As the pony stumbled toward me
             in the narrows of the bend;
        Saw the face I used to welcome,
             wild and watchful, lined and hollowed;
        And God knows I wished to warn him,
             for I once had called him friend.

        But an oath had come between us--
             I was paid by Law and Order;
        He was outlaw, rustler, killer--
             so the border whisper ran;
        Left his word in Caliente
             that he'd cross the Rio border...
        Call me coward?  But I hailed him...
             "Riding close to daylight, Dan!"

        Just a hair and he'd have got me,
             but my voice, and not the warning,
        Caught his hand and held him steady;
             then he nodded, spoke my name,
        Reined his pony round and fanned it
             in the bright and silent morning,
        Back across the sunlit Rio
             up the trail on which he came.

        He had passed his word to cross it--
             I had passed my word to get him--
        We broke even and we knew it;
             'twas a case of give-and-take
        For old times. I could have killed him
             from the brush, instead, I let him
        Ride his trail...I partner
             flung his arm and stretched wake;

        Saw me standing in the open;
             pulled his gun and came beside me;
        Asked a question with his shoulder
             as his left hand pointed toward
        Muddy streaks that thinned and vanished...
             not a word, but hard he eyed me
        As the water cleared and sparkled
             in the shallows of the ford.

Riders of the Stars

    Twenty abreast down the golden street, ten thousand riders marched;
    Bow-legged boys in their swinging chaps, all clumsily keeping time;
    And the Angel Host to the lone, last ghost their delicate eyebrows arched
    As the swaggering sons of the open range drew up to the Throne Sublime.

    Gaunt and grizzled a Texas man from out of the concourse strode,
    And doffed his hat with a rude, rough grace, then lifted his eagle head;
    The sunlit air on his silvered hair and the bronze of his visage glowed;
    "Marster, the boys have a talk to make on the things up here," he said.

    A hush ran over the waiting throng as the Cherubim replied:
    "He that readeth the hearts of men He deemeth your challenge strange,
    Though He long hath known that ye crave your own, that ye would not walk but ride,
    Oh, restless sons of the ancient earth, ye men of the open range!"

    Then warily spake the Texas man: "A petition, and no complaint.
    We here present, if the Law allows and the Marster He thinks it fit;
    We-all agree to the things that be, but we're longing for things that ain't,
    So we took a vote and we made a plan, and here is the plan we writ:--

    "'Give us a range and our horses and ropes; open the Pearly Gate,
    And turn us loose in the unfenced blue riding the sunset rounds,
    Hunting each stray in the Milky Way and running the Rancho straight;
    Not crowding them dogie stars too much on their way to their bedding-grounds.

    "'Maverick comets that's running wild, we'll rope 'em and brand 'em fair,
    So they'll quit stampeding the starry herd and scaring the folks below,
    And we'll save 'em prime for the round-up time and we riders 'll all be there,
    Ready and willing to do our work as we did in the long ago.

    "'We've studied Ancient Landmarks, Sir; Taurus, the Bear, and Mars,
    And Venus a-smiling across the west as bright as a burning coal,
    Plain to guide as we punchers ride night-herding the little stars,
    With Saturn's rings for our home corral and the Dipper our water-hole.

    "'Here, we have nothing to do but yarn of the days that have long gone by.
    And our singing it does n't fit in up here, though we tried it for old-time's sake;
    Our hands are itching to swing a rope and our legs are stiff; that's why
    We ask you, Marster, to turn us loose--just give us an even break!'"

    Then the Lord He spake to the Cherubim, and this was His kindly word:
    "He that keepeth the threefold keys shall open and let them go;
    Turn these men to their work again to ride with the starry herd;
    My glory sings in the toil they crave; 't is their right. I would have it so."

    Have you heard in the starlit dusk of eve when the lone coyotes roam,
    The Yip! Yip! Yip! of a hunting-cry, and the echo that shrilled afar,
    As you listened still on a desert hill and gazed at the twinkling dome,
    And a viewless rider swept the sky on the trail of a shooting star?

Drink Deep

    Never twice in the world you find,
       A lad whose heart is the gold you spend,
    And his free hand of your heart, in kind,
       When the joy of each is to give, not lend:
    Yes one shall tarry and one shall sleep,
    So while you stand in the sun, drink deep.

    Soon, too soon shall the sunlight pass,
       And one shall mourn in the starless night,
    As he snaps the stem of an empty glass,
       That brimmed of old with a brave delight:
    And one of you twain must the vigil keep,
    So while you stand in the sun, drink deep.

The Lost Range

    Only a few of us understood his ways and his outfit queer,
    His saddle horse and his pack-horse, as lean as a winter steer,
    As he rode alone on the mesa, intent on his endless quest,
    Old Tom Bright of the Pecos, a ghost of the vanished West.

    His gaze was fixed on the spaces; he never had much to say
    As he jogged from the Rio Grande to the pueblo of Santa Fè;
    He favored the open country with its reaches clean and wide,
    And called it his "sagebrush garden—the only place left to ride."

    He scorned new methods and manners, and stock that was under fence,
    He had seen the last of the open range, yet he kept up the old pretense;
    Though age made his blue eyes water, his humor was always dry:
    "Me, I'm huntin' the Lost Range, down yonder, against the sky."

    That's what he'd say when we hailed him as we met him along the trail,
    Out from the old pueblo, packing some rancher's mail,
    In the heat of the upland summer, in the chill of the thin-spread snow...
    Any of us would have staked him, but Tom would n't have it so.

    He made you think of an eagle caged up for the folks to see,
    Dreaming of crags and sunshine and glories that used to be:
    Some folks said he was loco—too lazy to work for pay,
    But we old-timers knew better, for Tom was n't built that way.

    He'd work till he got a grub-stake; then drift, and he'd make his fire,
    And camp on the open mesa, as far as he could from wire:
    Tarp and sogun and skillet, saddle and rope and gun...
    And that is the way they found him, asleep in the noonday sun.

    They were running a line for fences, surveying to subdivide,
    And open the land for the homesteads—"The only place left to ride."
    But Tom he had beat them to it, he had crossed to The Other Side.

    The coroner picked his jury—and a livery-horse apiece,
    Not forgetting some shovel—and we rode to the Buckman lease,
    Rolled Tom up in his slicker, and each of us said, "So-long."
    Then somebody touched my elbow and asked for an old-time song.

    Tom was n't strong for parsons—so we did n't observe the rules,
    But four us sang, "Little Dogies," all cryin'—we gray-haired fools:
    Wishing that Tom could hear it and know that we were standing by,
    Wishing him luck on the Lost Range, down yonder, against the sky. 

The Edge of Town

    The scattering sage stands thin and tense
    As though afraid of the barbed-wire fence;
    A windmill purrs in the lazy breeze
    And a mocker sings in the pepper trees,
    And beneath their shadows, gold and blue,
    Hangs the old red olla, rimmed with dew:
    Where the valley quail in the twilight call,
    As the sunset fades on the 'dobe wall,
    Just where the foothill trail comes down,
    I have made my home on the edge of town.

    A few green acres fenced and neat,
    By a road that will never become a street;
    And once in a while, down the dusty way
    A traveler comes at the end of the day;
    A desert rat or some outland tramp,
    Seeking a place of his evening camp;
    The door of my 'dobe is four feet wide,
    And there's always a bed and a meal, inside.

    And many a one of the wights that roam,
    Has stopped at my house and found a home:
    And many a tale of these outland folk
    Has furnished a tang to the evening smoke,
    While the stars shone down on our dwelling-place,
    And the moon peered in at a dusky face.

    Singers, they, of the open land;
    The timbered peak and the desert sand,
    Peril and joy of the hardy quest,
    Trail and pack of he unspoiled West:
    Though crowded back to the lone, last range,
    Their dream survives that will never change.

    When the hill-stream roars from the far-off height,
    And the rain on the patio dances white;
    And the log in my winter fireplace gleams,
    And my Airedale whimpers his hunting-dreams;
    Should a boot-heel grate on the portal floor,
    Should I hear a knock at the dripping door,
    Then I know that Romance has again come down
    From the high, far hills, to the edge of town.

Guide to the
Henry Herbert Knibbs Papers
Department of Special Collections and University Archives Stanford University Libraries

Scope and Content of Archive Containers: Highlights

Corresponence, documents, photographs and sketches, newspaper clippings, tearsheets, and Knibbs' death mask. The areas covered include works by Henry Knibbs, including novels, short stories and poetry; biographical data on Knibbs; and works by other authors.
Section I: Works By Henry H. Knibbs
Poetry, General File, Untitled, A - E. Including manuscript, typescript, carbon typescript, and tearsheet, (some with autograph correction) of the following: [Box 5, Folder 54]
  • Untitled (37 pp.)
  • "The Adventurer"
  • "An Mind Ye, Mither?"
  • "Apaloosie Bill"
  • "Arithmatic", See "Wayfarer"
  • "At This Farewell"
  • "Ballad Of the Herd Boy"
  • "Ballad Of Billy the Kid"; See also Folder 4 - 42.
  • "Ballad Of Boot Hill"
  • "Balland Of the Broomtails"
  • "A Barb Of Spain"; See also Folder 4 - 42.
  • "Barrowlea"; See also Folder 4 - 42.
  • "Benny Benito"; See Folder 4 - 42.
  • "Betty Jane"
  • "The Bigelow Boys"; See Folder 4 - 42.
  • "Bill McGee"; See also Folder 4 - 42.
  • "Bill Tandy"; See also Folder 4 - 42.
  • "Black Storm"; See also Folder 4 - 42.
  • "Blue Gene"
  • "A Blue-Grass Colt"
  • "Boomer Johnson"; See also Folder 4 - 42.
  • "The Border Land"
  • "The Bosky Steer"; See Folder 4 - 42.
  • "Boss Of Cinder Town"
  • "A Brachycephalic Dome"
  • "Burro"
  • "A Braided Bridle"
  • "Chang Chung Chang"; See also Folder 4 - 42.
  • "Charley Lee"; See also Folder 4 - 42.
  • "Cheeopah"
  • "Cherokee Strip"
  • "Christmas, 1906"
  • "Cowboy, What You Doin' Here"
  • "The Day Of Nine Books"
  • "Dirge Of the Indian Mother"; See also Folder 4 - 42.
  • "Don Carlos"
  • "The Drums Of Spain"
  • "Dust Of Gold"
  • "End Of the Road"
  • "The Earth and Us"

  • "The Edge of Town"

    Poetry, General File, F - Z: [Box 5, Folder 55]

    • "Fane Arden"
    • "Faraday Bill"
    • "The Frontier Doc"
    • "The Fugitive"
    • "Gabriel's Border Patrol"
    • "Gambler's Choice"
    • "Gifts"
    • "The Golden Leopard"
    • "He'll Make A Hand"; See Folder 4 - 42.
    • "The Herd Boy" xerox)
    • "His Enemy"
    • "I Have Builded Me A Home"
    • "If A Horse Could Talk"; See also Folder 4 - 42.
    • "Illilouettee"; See also Folder 4 - 42
    • "In Gratitude"
    • "Inland"
    • "The Irate Pilgrim"
    • "Joe Biddle"; See also 4 - 42.
    • "Julia"
    • "Just Over the Border"; See also Folder 4 - 42.
    • "Layman's Dream"
    • "Legend Of Mournful Joe"; See also Folder 4 - 42.
    • "Legend Of Navajo"
    • "The Little People"
    • "Lost Gold"
    • "Lost Ledge"; See Folder 4 - 42.
    • "Lyric"
    • "Man O' War"
    • "The Man Upon the Way"
    • "Marjorie Pickthal"; See also Folder 4 - 42.
    • "Men Of My Country"
    • "A Meeting in Bret Harte's Country"
    • "Manuel Escobar"; See Folder 4 - 42.
    • "Morningstar"; See also Folder 4 - 42.
    • "Mudshell"
    • "The Mule"
    • "Nameless River"; See also Folder 4 - 42.
    • "Ode To Anesthesia - Our Lady Of Mercy"
    • "The Old Alcalde"
    • "The Old Buccaneer"
    • "Old Timer"
    • "The Optimist"
    • "Out There Somewhere"
    • "Out Where the West Belongs"
    • "The Plant of Sara"
    • "The Plant of the Athenian Woman"
    • "Plant of The Chinese Woman"
    • "Pine Tree Trail (Up Cuyamaca)"
    • "The Plains"; See also Folder 4 - 42.
    • "Powder Bill"
    • "Prevision"
    • "Rain Makers"
    • "Renegade"
    • "Reguiem"
    • "Ricardo"
    • "Roll a Rock Down"
    • "Roll On, Ole River"
    • "Sappho"
    • "Seldom Joe"
    • "Silent Joe"
    • "The Silver-Shod"; See Folder 4 - 42.
    • "Song Of Mora"
    • "Song Of the Mule"; See Folder 4 - 42.
    • "The Squire"
    • "The Spanish Man"; See also Folder 4 - 42.
    • "Stallion Gray"
    • "Stallions Of the Storm"; See also Folder 4 - 42.
    • "Temescal Of Cabezon"
    • "The Tenderfoot"
    • "That Was Maw"; See also Folder 4 - 42.
    • "That Lila Lee Mare"
    • "A Thousand Miles Or So"
    • "Tonga Bill"; See Folder 4 - 42.
    • "The Toughest Man In Town"
    • "Trail To Glory"
    • "Tree By the Window"
    • "The Two Saddles"
    • Unidentified
    • "Valley That God Forgot"
    • "Walkin' John"; See also Folder 4 - 42.
    • "Wanderer's Highway"
    • "Wayfarer"
    • "We Aim To Please"
    • "Wherever"
    • "Which Way Is the Wagon?"
    • "Wife of Bath"
    • "Wild Horses"
    • "The Wind"

    • Notebooks Of Henry H. Knibbs.  Including one on architecture; and one with start of autograph manuscript autobiography, 6 pp.
      Miscellaneous notes and outlines(c. 60 items).
    Section II: Correspondence. Section VI: Oversize Misc. Periodicals: Tearsheets: Other Authors

    HH Knibbs was a regular contributor to POPULAR MAGAZINE
    For example:
    The Popular Magazine [v39 #4, February 7, 1916 - v41 #6, September 7, 1916]
    The Shallows of the Ford · Henry Herbert Knibbs
    Magic—of the Blue Mesa · Henry Herbert Knibbs 
    The Bug Man’s Anathema [Bug Man] · Henry Herbert Knibbs
    Chance · Henry Herbert Knibbs · pm 
    Homespun · Henry Herbert Knibbs · ss 
    The Reata · Henry Herbert Knibbs · pm
    Still-Going-North Stanley · Henry Herbert Knibbs · na 
    Quien Sabe · Henry Herbert Knibbs · ss 
    The Game · Henry Herbert Knibbs · ss 
     Pinguay · Henry Herbert Knibbs · vi
    Twinkle on Thirty-Three · H. H. Knibbs · ss 
    Pearl of the Atolls · Henry Herbert Knibbs · pm
    Bud Shoop’s Bondsman · Henry Herbert Knibbs · ss 

    Shelved elsewhere: Knibbs, Henry Herbert, Síla Zivota, Polish edition of work, 1932.

    Knibbs' "The Forgotten Land" was an 8-page short story published in The Popular Magazine - 1917.02.07
    The story is about the last white man and woman after the conquest of the US by Japanese invaders.
    Some believe that ERB had assisted HHK in the story's plot as a favour since he was such admirer of Knibbs' poetry.
    See The Mucker.

    Real Western: October 1935: 
    Gray Outlaw by Henry Herbert Knibbs

    Adventure May 1938 Volume 99, Number 1. 
    Stories by Henry Herbert Knibbs and more

    Sundown Slim by Henry Herbert Knibbs
    Sony e-edition published by B&R Samizdat Express.

    Sundown Slim


    Adventure: August, Aug. 1, 1930
     "Stallions of the Storm" (poem) by Henry Herbert Knibbs

    From Henry Herbert Knibbs
    to Nancy C. and Charles M. Russell

    Other ERBzine Features on H. H. Knibbs

    See the ERB Personal Library Project
    Shelf K2

    Read H. H. Knibbs in ERBzine

    A Novel and Poetry by One of ERB's Favourite Authors:
    Henry Herbert Knibbs
    Section I: 80 Pages
    Section II: 85 Pages
    Section III: 74 Pages
    Unformatted Text Version I
    Unformatted Text Version II
    Unformatted Text Version III
    Billy Byrde Schmucker's Appearance in the Ratnaz Files
    (ERB Parody ~ 17-page excerpt)

    Off-Site Refs:
    Cowboy Poetry
    Poem Hunter

    To Part I of this Two-Part Series

    Volume 0951

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