The Cowboy's Christmas Ball,
Way out in Western Texas, where the Clear Fork's waters flow,
Where the cattle are a-browzin' and the Spanish ponies grow;
Where the Northers come a-whistlin' from beyond the Neutral Strip;
And the prairie dogs are sneezin', as though they had the grip;
Where the coyotes come a-howlin' round the ranches after dark,
And the mockin' birds are singin' to the lovely medder lark;
Where the 'possum and the badger and the rattlesnakes abound,
And the monstrous stars are winkin' o'er a wilderness profound;
Where lonesome, tawny prairies melt into airy streams,
While the Double Mountains slumber in heavenly kinds of dreams;
Where the antelope is grazin' and the lonely plovers call,—
It was there I attended the Cowboy's Christmas Ball.
The town was Anson City, old Jones' county seat,
Where they raised Polled Angus cattle and waving whiskered wheat;
Where the air is soft and bammy and dry and full of health,
Where the prairies is explodin' with agricultural wealth;
Where they print the Texas Western, that Hec McCann supplies
With news and yarns and stories, of most amazing size;
Where Frank Smith "pulls the badger" on knowing tenderfeet,
And Democracy's triumphant and mighty hard to beat;
Where lives that good old hunter, John Milsap, from Lamar,
Who used to be the sheriff "back east in Paris, sah"!
'Twas there, I say, at Anson with the lovely Widder Wall,
That I went to that reception, the Cowboy's Christmas Ball.
The boys had left the ranches and come to town in piles;
The ladies, kinder scatterin', had gathered in for miles.
And yet the place was crowded, as I remember well,
'Twas gave on this occasion at the Morning Star Hotel.
The music was a fiddle and a lively tambourine,
And a viol came imported, by the stage from Abilene.
The room was togged out gorgeous—with mistletoe and shawls,
And the candles flickered festious, around the airy walls.
The wimmen folks looked lovely—the boys looked kinder treed,
Till the leader commenced yelling, "Whoa, fellers, let's stampede,"
And the music started sighing and a-wailing through the hall
As a kind of introduction to the Cowboy's Christmas Ball.
The leader was a feller that came from Swenson's ranch,—
They called him Windy Billy from Little Deadman's Branch.
His rig was kinder keerless,—big spurs and high heeled boots;
He had the reputation that comes when fellers shoots.
His voice was like the bugle upon the mountain height;
His feet were animated, and a mighty movin' sight,
When he commenced to holler, "Now fellers, shake your pen!
Lock horns ter all them heifers and rustle them like men;
Saloot yer lovely critters; neow swing and let 'em go;
Climb the grapevine round 'em; neow all hands do-ce-do!
You maverick, jine the round-up,—jes skip the waterfall,"
Huh! hit was getting active, the Cowboy's Christmas Ball.
The boys was tolerable skittish, the ladies powerful neat,
That old bass viol's music just got there with both feet!
That wailin', frisky fiddle, I never shall forget;
And Windy kept a-singin'—I think I hear him yet—
"Oh, X's, chase yer squirrels, and cut 'em to our side;
Spur Treadwell to the center, with Cross P Charley's bride,
Doc Hollis down the center, and twine the ladies' chain,
Van Andrews, pen the fillies in big T Diamond's train.
All pull your freight together, neow swallow fork and change;
Big Boston, lead the trail herd through little Pitchfork's range.
Purr round yer gentle pussies, neow rope and balance all!"
Huh! Hit were gettin' active—the Cowboy's Christmas Ball.
The dust riz fast and furious; we all jes galloped round,
Till the scenery got so giddy that T Bar Dick was downed.
We buckled to our partners and told 'em to hold on,
Then shook our hoofs like lightning until the early dawn.
Don't tell me 'bout cotillions, or germans. No sir-ee!
That whirl at Anson City jes takes the cake with me.
I'm sick of lazy shufflin's, of them I've had my fill,
Give me a frontier break-down backed up by Windy Bill.
McAllister ain't nowhere, when Windy leads the show;
I've seen 'em both in harness and so I ought ter know.
Oh, Bill, I shan't forget yer, and I oftentimes recall
That lively gaited sworray—the Cowboy's Christmas Ball.
Footnote 1: This poem, one of the best in Larry Chittenden's Ranch
Verses, published by G.P. Putnam's Sons, New York, has been set
to music by the cowboys and its phraseology slightly changed, as
this copy will show, by oral transmission. I have heard it in
New Mexico and it has been sent to me from various places,—always
as a song. None of those who sent in the song knew
that it was already in print.