The Cowboy at Church
Some time ago,—two weeks or more
If I remember well,—
I found myself in town and thought
I'd knock around a spell,
When all at once I heard the bell,—
I didn't know 'twas Sunday,—
For on the plains we scarcely know
A Sunday from a Monday,—
A-calling all the people
From the highways and the hedges
And all the reckless throng
That tread ruin's ragged edges,
To come and hear the pastor tell
Salvation's touching story,
And how the new road misses hell
And leads you straight to glory.
I started by the chapel door,
But something urged me in,
And told me not to spend God's day
In revelry and sin.
I don't go much on sentiment,
But tears came in my eyes.
It seemed just like my mother's voice
Was speaking from the skies.
I thought how often she had gone
With little Sis and me
To church, when I was but a lad
Way back in Tennessee.
It never once occurred to me
About not being dressed
In Sunday rig, but carelessly
I went in with the rest.
You should have seen the smiles and shrugs
As I went walking in,
As though they thought my leggins
Worse than any kind of sin;
Although the honest parson,
In his vestry garb arrayed
Was dressed the same as I was,—
In the trappings of his trade.
The good man prayed for all the world
And all its motley crew,
For pagan, Hindoo, sinners, Turk,
And unbelieving Jew,—
Though the congregation doubtless thought
That the cowboys as a race
Were a kind of moral outlaw
With no good claim to grace.
Is it very strange that cowboys are
A rough and reckless crew
When their garb forbids their doing right
As Christian people do?
That they frequent scenes of revelry
Where death is bought and sold,
Where at least they get a welcome
Though it's prompted by their gold?
Stranger, did it ever strike you,
When the winter days are gone
And the mortal grass is springing up
To meet the judgment sun,
And we 'tend mighty round-ups
Where, according to the Word,
The angel cowboy of the Lord
Will cut the human herd,—
That a heap of stock that's lowing now
Around the Master's pen
And feeding at his fodder stack
Will have the brand picked then?
And brands that when the hair was long
Looked like the letter C,
Will prove to be the devil's,
And the brand the letter D;
While many a long-horned coaster,—
I mean, just so to speak,—
That hasn't had the advantage
Of the range and gospel creek
Will get to crop the grasses
In the pasture of the Lord
If the letter C showed up
Beneath the devil's checker board.