Poetry and the Human Condition, Pt 3. American Roads!?

Cowboys may not have been quite so glamorous as films portray...but, darn it! they could build a mean road!

"Cummon, Hank, slug it down: we got roads to build!" Photo credit Tribolet Flickr
"Cummon, Hank, slug it down: we got roads to build!" Photo credit Tribolet Flickr

How the US Road Sysem Really Began!

North America is part of one huge continent. Africa may be larger, Russia with Siberia and all the satellites may compete; Brazil, added to the other South American nations may give the ‘States (with Mexico, etc.,) a run for its money, but when you get to this much acreage - and you live in a tiny little place like Britain - the sheer size is dizzying, no matter which of the "Big Four" you are looking at.
There is nothing in the whole wide world (and perhaps the universe as well) to compare with the US Highway System. Many thousands of miles of almost pristine freeway criss-cross the country from North to South; West to East, and all the points between the Cardinals. But, once upon a time, crossing this mighty nation meant going without roads all together; following dry riverbeds and canyons, or heading up game trails made by animals and the Indian hunters who followed them...and the cowboys, of course.
Eh? Cowboys?
Yes, well, they weren't all cowboys but many would end up in that capacity while others would perhaps build railways and the roads which would one day, a couple of hundred years in the future, give us modern America.
You are still confused? The following poem from my “Charged Particles” anthology, based on Hollywood, my own liking of a drop ’o the good stuff, and a fevered imagination may make the subject even more puzzling!

The Cowboy Road-Builders (How it Really Was!)

"Before the 'dozer came to Boston
And the wild sage-brush was mowed,
The rolling cowboy drunkard
Made the rolling Yankee road.

A rolling road; a reeling road,
That runs around the 'States,
Behind him rode the posse;
The sheriff and his mates.

A merry road, a muzzy road,
And running true to form.
The night he rode to Florida
By way of Californ',

He'd heard no ill of Washington,
But plenty of the king:
So to fight the bloody British
Sure seemed to be the thing.

So he put some corns on 'Wallis,
Who departed much dismayed,
'Cause he couldn't tax the trails
The drunken victors made.

To celebrate their victory
They all got pissed as coots.
The night they rode to Mexico,
By way of Massachutt's.

Then the bleary cowpoke
Fought the grizzly Indian wars.
Then Yankees clashed with Rebels
To finish slavery's laws.

The victors drank from dawn to dusk,
Until they knew not who was which:
Their uniforms all seemed gray
When we hauled 'em out the ditch!

Then arm-in-arm, united -
'Though feeling rather ill,
They galloped off for Arkansaw
By way of Richmond Hill.

It's sad we'll never see again
The days when he was king:
That whooping, drunken cowboy
Who made the rafters ring.

Although we'll often drive along
The wandering tracks he made,
When fuelled with home-made moonshine
(well, it sure wern't lemonade!)

They returned his horse and rifle
When they threw him out of jail,
The day he rode to Paradise
Along old Chisholm’s Trail.”

I wrote this poem when I was in proximity to not a few cowboys of one stripe or another in Texas. I was exploring aliteration as well as all the true yarns of my hosts (ahem). Hope you enjoy.

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Comments 19 comments

GNelson profile image

GNelson 5 years ago from Florida

Very good read! I enjoyed it.

Motown2Chitown 5 years ago

I most certainly enjoyed this one - it has such an "American" feel that one such as myself who was born here and has never experienced another world, can really actually relate to it. Bob, you're almost a damn genius. I have to say also that while I may not be a HUGE fan of poetry, so it's always easier to get through when it rhymes. Thanks for this hub! UP and awesome!

diogenes 5 years ago

Thanks, G Nelson Glad you enjoyed this bit of fun nonsense

Well, I am a huge fan of the USA, to a fault, really. It is really the lucky country and worth fighting for; I am fascinated by the folklore such as is touched upon in the poem...Bob

Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

Bob, did you ever read the poem entitled, "Dangerous Dan McGrew"? My ex recited it from memory all the time and it's the funniest thing. This poem reminds me of it.


Motown2Chitown 5 years ago

Me too, Bob. Most Americans are proud to be American. I'm just grateful. :)

diogenes 5 years ago

Hi AS I have heard of it, I'll have a look. Bob

diogenes 5 years ago

Heck, Austinstar, no wonder you married that man! I guess you meant "The Shooting of Dan McGrew?" Fancy being able to recite all that! You got a keeper there!

WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

Reminds me of the tale of 'Pecos Bill'.

Good job!

diogenes 5 years ago

There was such a lot of marvellous characters in the old Wild West. I dislike all the reports about them being really just violent, cowardly scum, etc. Let me believe in the Clint Eastwood characters and all the rest...the world is so colorless in 2011, I'm all for vicarious and fanciful escaping. Bob

Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 5 years ago from TEXAS

My parents came to Texas when "motorized vehicles" were still a novelty. Soon they migrated from north Texas' oil fields to southwest Texas near the Mexican border when Dad ended up buying a Model T water-well drilling rig and a handful of contracts to drill in an uncharted area of West Texas, where I still own some of the land they ended up owning. The roads out there are still primitive and most of them run along the paths he blazed with that old drilling rig in the early 1920s.

In my youth the entire US highway system was much less pristine, too. Two-lanes were how it was, often traversing rather precarious places and with scant "shoulders", should one happen to veer off the narrow pavement going around a narrow mountain pass.

It is still pretty primitive in many areas of this continent, diogenes. Thank you for the delightful reminder of this heritage, which is all the more entertaining from your British perspective. I think you actually know something whereof you speak, too - perhaps better than many Americans! Hugs.

diogenes profile image

diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hi Nellieanna. I am sure a hub about your family's adventures in Texas would go down well. I don't really know all about the subject: just read a lot and lived in the US for several wonderful years: Californ' Florida and New Jersey, etc. I love all the folk lore of the cowboys, etc...Bob

writeronline 5 years ago

Hi Bob, (sorry, Howdy, Bob), I loved this.

When I was growing up, in NZ, I enjoyed cowboy movies at the local Saturday matinee, but my favourite TV show was Route 66, remember that? The open road, the whole idea that it traversed the entire US of A, two carefree guys (not cowboys, but free-spirited..)and of course that fantastic Corvette convertible!!

Now I live in OZ, and enjoy the fact that Queensland, where I am, is one of the few places in the world, that really IS 'Bigger than Texas'. But it doesn't have a decent road from anywhere to anywhere..


diogenes 5 years ago

Thanks WOL I remember the show: wasn't it a Ford T-Bird sports?

Route 66 is deserted now as you know...

I spent a few months in Queensland, too. Bob

WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

It was a 1961 Corvette. I used to own one!:


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 5 years ago from TEXAS

Thanks, Bob. Yes, their odyssey is pretty amazing. I've touched on it in several of my hubs but need to feature it in one too. There are so many facets to their long life here. So many subjects, so little time. . . .

They migrated from northern Indiana and Illinois and fell in love with Texas. Mother was really enamored with authentic cowboy songs and literature. As an artist, she also captured a lot of the scenery in her paintings. (Having lived in southern Indiana myself for a number of years, I tend to agree with Dad's assessment that he wouldn't return there if they gave him "the whole damn state". haha.) I like the entire Southwest of the US, though other areas surely are of interest.

I guess I figured you might be familiar with the area because your profile mentions you've lived in Mexico, too.

diogenes 5 years ago

Will and Nellieana...I yield to your superior knowlege, a Corvette it must have been!

Well, I have a love/hate relationship with Texas (I love, they hate!) It's definitely not part of the US, ask any Texan. Bob

writeronline 5 years ago

Sorry Bob, just wanted to thank WillStarr for including that link. The Corvette still looks as good today!! Cheers.

Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

Thank you for such a lovely poem and hub.

diogenes profile image

diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

OK, Guys, writeronline and Hanna: good on yer...Bob

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