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!
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.
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.