New Frontier, a Nostalgic Tribute to the Old West
This poem was originally written back in the mid-80’s, in free verse–most likely because I wanted to write a poem and was simply feeling too lazy to search for rhymes. It wasn’t until a decade later, when I was in the middle of my cowboy poetry craze and performing “the circuit”, that I decided to re-word it to it’s current form. Being a big fan of rhyming poetry, I much prefer it this way, although I will admit I have heard some nice free verse as well.
But you know what we performing cowboy poets used to call “free verse” back in the day? “Poetry that you write and don’t get paid for.”
Take that for what it’s worth.
Anyway, here is “New Frontier”.
They say this is the new age—they call it civilization;
Which simply means there’s not a free spot left in this great nation;
Towering buildings jut up high, dirty, gray, and tall;
The sight of this new age sickens me as I gaze upon it all.
Rockets, bombs, computers—they call it all technology;
It’s left me in a world of hurt—for all I know’s “cow-ology.
Those rockets flew so far away one landed on the moon,
A place I thought God had reserved for lovers to watch while they croon.
There are highways wider than a town, they tell me they’re called freeways;
Folks drive on them every day, but for me, there’s only three ways:
One is if I’m dead and gone and riding in a hearse;
Another’s when I’m heading west, because the east is getting worse.
The last way you will find me there, I must admit it now,
Is when I’m chasing after some stupid fence-jumping cow.
But I’d just as soon they broke them up and put them back in dirt;
I cried when I saw I-15 come through—it made my spirit hurt.
There’s a couple other words I’ve heard: one’s improvement and one’s progress;
But I’m a cowboy, and when I look on this all I see is one big mess;
Improvement conquered the Rockies, the Sierras, and Death Valley;
And by the time we sane folk knew, the time had passed to rally.
Where did this all start, I wonder? Was it with old Henry Ford?
He made a metal monster probably cursed even by the Lord;
They replaced those wagons and buggies folks used to hitch to horses
With sheets of unwieldy, if shapely steel, drawn by inner forces.
There’s no place on my sacred land, where if you glance back east
You won’t look upon a freeway and see some smoking beast;
They’re even going off-road, trampling stream and brush,
Going places they don’t know, but going in a rush.
The trails of jeeps and motorbikes cut across the hill and dale now,
Where years ago you’d only see a mule deer or a cow;
There was a time, upon this land, there roamed the grizzly and bighorn sheep;
The eagle nested in the crags, but forever they’re asleep.
I guess first the roving Indian and the mountain man saw their end,
When from the east the trails of a million settlers began to wend;
That’s been over a hundred years, and Jim Bridger now lies dead;
He never knew this civilization would be driving over his head.
Then in came the cowboy, the survivor who couldn’t die;
But settlers came and pretty soon death was glaring in his eye;
I guess that it’s ironic, the Indians looked over this nation,
And when the cowboy’s hold was strong, they called that civilization.
But pretty soon those cowboys found their time had come and went;
It made a lot of punchers weep when they saw their freedom spent;
The thirties came and then the forties, fifties, and the sixties;
And we got a bunch of crazy folks who think it’s all just nifty
To see a man land on the moon, to brave the last frontier;
But for me it clenched my guts and crammed my stomach full of fear;
For now, I guess there’s not but one place that is safe—
And that’s Heaven, where a lot of modern folks couldn’t show their face.
Yes, they call this civilization, and let them call it what they will;
But they killed the land and couldn’t leave one damn rock standing still;
I’m sitting in a city—Lord, tell me why I’m here;
Take me on to Heaven—they can keep their new frontier.
Dedicated to my daddy and the outdoorsmen of his generation and those before:
The men of the “Old Frontier”
—Kirby Jonas April 13, 1995
Speaking of “new frontiers”, if you have never read my 1998 novel Death of an Eagle, do yourself a favor and treat yourself to this tale of an aging Robert “Gray Eagle” McAllister, being forced by his twisted arm into a new frontier he has already seen too much of and which he wants nothing more than to escape. It’s for sale here on my “buy books” page, autographed to you or whomever you choose, or alternatively, if you’re one of those who has escaped into the “new frontier”, you can also purchase it on Amazon in e-book format.
You can also get the audio CD set, with the story read by my friend James Drury, “The Virginian” himself. If you would prefer that one, please comment and leave me your email.