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reata, and horse. His life is — cattle; but those who think this life prosaic overlook the hidden romance, the lonely and tragic and humorous events of the round-up, the long trail-drive, or the night-watch.
Whenever the cowboy poet deserts the actual world, it is to dream of a cowboy heaven. (And, after all, was not just such an arbitrarily arranged heaven the basic fabric of Dante's dream?) During the long night-watch, the cowboy looks up through the clear atmosphere to the star-besprinkled heavens and wonders about the Hereafter in terms amusingly translated from his daily occupation:
And I'm scared that I'll be a stray yearling,
A maverick unbranded on high, And get cut in the bunch with the " rusties".
When the boss of the riders goes by.
He carried the same terminology into his courtship songs, and indeed into all his songs, and thereby creates or perpetuates a new idiom. (In fact the cowboys have contributed a new idiom to our national speech. We never have a big party convention without certain headlines appearing: "Politicians 'milling around'; leaders afraid of a 'stampede.' ") About this idiom in his songs, the cowboy poet is far more exacting than about any question of rhyme or meter; and any departure from the correct vernacular or handling of the various leathers is at once detected as a mark of the tenderfoot poet.
The tradition is, then, intact in these cowboy songs, and we may accept them for what they are —