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E. A. Brininstool's "Christmas Week in Sagebrush"

Updated on November 5, 2017
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

After I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962, poetry became my passion.

E. A Brininstool and Curley, circa 1913

Source

Introduction and Text of Poem, "Christmas Week in Sagebrush"

"Christmas Week in Sagebrush" dramatizes the activities offered in the little town of Sagebrush as the cow pokes, families, and friends do some shopping and spending.

E. A. Brininstool's, "Christmas Week in Sagebrush" appeared in his 1914 book, Trail Dust of a Maverick. The poem, as many cowboy genre poems do, offers a delightful, rhythmic cadence in cowboy dialect, dramatizing the small town of Sagebrush as it fills with the cowboys and their families and friends during the week of Christmas.

Christmas Week in Sagebrush

It is Christmas week in Sagebrush, and the old town's only store
Never had, sence it was opened, such a run o' trade before.
Ev'ry rancher is a-blowin' his "dinero" full and free,
Buyin' gim-cracks for the young'uns to put on the Christmas tree.

The cowboys ride in muffled in their wolf-skin coats and chaps,
And the rancher's wife is wearin' all her extry furs and wraps;
'Cuz nobody takes no chances on a norther breakin' loose,
Fer a blizzard on the prairy's purty apt to raise the deuce.

The ponies that are standin' all a-shiver at the rack,
Champ their bits, and paw and nicker for their riders to come back;
Ev'ry poker joint is runnin', and there's faro and roulette,
And the booze-joints are a-grabbin' all the punchers they can get.

The picter show is crowded full o' riders off the range
Who are watchin' actor cowboys doin' stunts that's new and strange;
Ev'ry film brings groans and hisses, 'cuz the guys upon the screen
Go through lots o' monkey bizness that a cow ranch never seen.

From the dance halls comes the echoes of a squeaky violin,
Where the painted dames are ropin' all the gay cowpunchers in;
For it's Christmas week in Sagebrush, and there won't a puncher go
Back to ride the wintry ranges when he has a cent to blow!

Commentary

First Stanza: "It is Christmas week in Sagebrush, and the old town's only store"

The speaker first focuses on the old town's only store, which is doing a booming business this week, so big that its never seen "sence it was opened," "such a run o trade before."

All the ranchers in the vicinity have come into town to spend their "dinero." And they will not return home until they have spent every cent. They won't forget their children on this shopping extravaganza as they are "Buyin' gim-cracks for the young'uns to put on the Christmas tree."

Second Stanza: "The cowboys ride in muffled in their wolf-skin coats and chaps"

The speaker describes the cowboys as they ride into town; they are muffled in their wolf-skin coats and chaps. And their wives are all bundled up in "extry furs and wraps" because they don't want to get caught in a storm that might come whipping up as they make their journey into town.

Getting caught in a norther would be a devilish experience, "fer a blizzard on the prairys purty apt to raise the deuce". But traveling all wrapped up in their wintry best should protect them.

Third Stanza: "The ponies that are standin' all a-shiver at the rack"

As the cowboys, families, and friends do their gallivanting through town, the horses stand lined up at the rack, and they are shivering, wishing to be on the move again: "they Champ their bits, and paw and nicker for their riders to come back."

And not only is the little general store busy, but the entertainment establishments are also full of activity. The poker joints are filled with revelers playing cards, as well as faro and roulette while "the booze-joints are a-grabbin' all the punchers they can get."

Fourth Stanza: "The picter show is crowded full o' riders off the range"

The movie theatre is full of viewers "watchin' actor cowboys doin' stunts that's new and strange." The audience is whoopin' and hollerin' at the screen because the actors "go through lots o' monkey bizness that a cow ranch never seen." The critical eye of the cowboy is sharp in detecting the levels of reality vs play-acting.

Fifth Stanza: "From the dance halls comes the echoes of a squeaky violin"

Adult entertainment is also in evidence as the dance halls emit the echoes of "a squeaky violin, and the painted dames are ropin' all the gay cowpunchers in."

Christmas week seems to offer something for everybody, and no cow puncher will get back on his horse to ride the wintry ranges until he has spent every red cent.

© 2015 Linda Sue Grimes

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