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Open Range
Robert Fletcher

Western land was made for those
Who like land wild and free,
For cattle, deer, and buffalo,
For antelope and me;
For those who like a land the way
That it was made by God
Before men thought they could improve
By plowing up the sod.
I want the rivers running clean,
I want a clear, blue sky,
A place to draw a good, deep breath
And live, before I die.
I want the sage, I want the grass,
I want the curlew's call,
And I don't want just half a loaf,—
I've got to have it all.
These cities seem to ear* me down
And I can't stand their roar,
They make me have the itching foot
To get back West once more.
I hate the milling herds in town
With all their soot and grime,
I wouldn't trade a western trail
For Broadway any time.
Just give me country big and wide
With benchland, hills and breaks,
With coulees, cactus, buttes and range,
With creeks, and mountain lakes,
Until I cross the Great Divide,
Then, God, forgive each sin
And turn me loose on my cayuse
But please don't fence me in.
From Corral Dust (McKee Printing,1936).
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* To 'ear' an animal down is to grab him by the ear and either pull him down or twist his ear until he goes down on his knees and can be pulled over on his side. 
Thus, in cowboy vernacular, if something is earing you down, it is wearing on you and will finally get you down.  



Robert Fletcher (1885 - 1972) was an engineer, writer, and poet. Born in Iowa, Bob moved to Montana when he was 23 to work as a surveyor. Some years later, he went to work for the Montana Highway Commission, producing all of the state's tourism promotional material and, ultimately, creating more than 100 highway markers (many of which still stand today), along with picnic areas, visitors' centers, maps, and roadside museums. The author of a cowboy poetry collection called Corral Dust, Bob also wrote a nonfiction book called Free Grass to Fences, about the Montana cattle industry. This poem, "Open Range”, was the basis for the hugely successful Cole Porter song, "Don't Fence Me In.” Bob sold the rights to Porter in 1934, and received no further credit—either as the original source or as recipient of the resulting financial windfall—until Porter voluntarily gave him a portion of the royalties on the hit song a few years later.

Many thanks to Jon Axline, historian for the Montana Dept. of Transportation, for his help in compiling Bob's biography, and to the Montana Historical Society for providing his picture.


Post New Comment:
A delight to read....makes me hunger for the West again...thanks for sharing.
Posted 06/25/2015 08:32 AM
I live in a city, but I grew up in a very small town. I love this poem. Beautiful! Thank you Jayne, I remember "don't fence me in" and listened on you tube. What a treat to see trigger dance.wonderful poem and listening to Roy Rogers, what a start to my day. Thank you to Jayne and Robert Fletcher.
Posted 06/25/2015 05:29 AM

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