Saturday, January 13, 2018

A song that can calm a herd of cattle or an infant

The little guy was sucking on a bottle when I got to the house.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department photo
“Thank you for taking care of him tonight, Daddy,” my daughter said as she handed the baby over to me. “I’ll be back in about two hours. Just burp him and rock him and he should sleep the whole time.”
My little girl, Lisa, took off, leaving me alone with my first grandson, Joseph Michael, who my Texas wife had immediately “bubbafied” to Joe Mike.
Lisa was working as a teller in a local bank, and she had a training class to attend. Her husband, Frank, was working on his still-new heating, ventilation and air-conditioning business, trying hard to build it into a thriving enterprise.
My wife was sick, so it fell to me to take care of Joe Mike, something I didn’t mind doing at all.
Joe Mike finished his bottle and then whimpered. I put the cloth on my shoulder and burped the boy. Then I cradled him in my arms.
And Joe Mike immediately started crying.
I rocked him.
He still cried.
I gently bounced him as he lay in my arms.
He still cried.
I put him back on my shoulder and patted him on the back again.
He wailed.
So I cradled him again, and I began to sing.
“Oh, give me a home, where the buffalo roam, where the deer and the antelope play,” I crooned softly. “Where seldom is heard, a discouraging word, and the skies are not cloudy all day.”
Joe Mike was silent.
Home,home on the range,” I continued. “Where the deer and the antelope play. Where seldom is heard, a discouraging word, and the skies are not cloudy all day.”
Joe Mike was asleep.
I kept on humming, and I imagined that I was a night-riding cowboy, calming the herd.
My herd of one was asleep as a I sang and hummed quietly.
“Home on the Range” is one of my favorite songs. It was originally a poem, written in 1872 by Dr. Brewster M. Higley, of Smith County, Kansas. In 1947, Kansans made it their state song. It is one of the top 100 Western songs, as chosen by the Western Writers of America.
Dr. Higley moved to Kansas from Indiana, loved the place so much that he wrote a poem titled “My Western Home,” in praise of his new home in a cabin near a creek. It was published in 1872 in the Smith County Pioneer newspaper.
Higley’s friend, Daniel E. Kelley, later set the poem to music.
The song has a most interesting history, and I encourage you to read about it on the Library of Congress website, where you will learn that President Franklin D. Roosevelt said it was his favorite song.
You’ll also find out that other people have claimed to be the author, but Dr. Higley’s authorship has been verified.
“How did this song spread so far, become associated with so many locations, generate so many variations, and have claims of authorship by so many people?” the Library of Congress website asks and then answers this way: “Part of the answer lies in the Chisholm Trail, a route taken by cattle drives from southwestern ranching states and territories to the railhead in Abeline, Kansas, from 1867 through the 1880s. A song sung in saloons in Kansas could be picked up and sung by cowboys departing for home, quickly spreading it far from its point of origin. The song itself, which praises the virtues of the west and is sung to a melancholy tune, fits well into the repertoire of cowboy work songs.”
It's a wonderful song. I recall hearing years ago on The History Channel that President Roosevelt wanted to make it the national anthem.
Grandson Joe Mike found so much comfort in the song that he fell asleep while I sang it. When he was sound asleep, I stopped singing and continued rocking in the chair.
He immediately woke up and started wailing again.
“Oh, give me a home, where the buffalo roam,” I sang, and Joe Mike fell asleep again,
I stopped singing, and he woke and started crying.
I resumed singing and he went back to sleep.
For two hours, I sang “Home on the Range” over and over and over.
When his Mama got home, I handed him over to her. He woke up and was quiet.
Joe Mike loved his Mama, and still does, and he also loved “Home on the Range.” I’ll have to ask him if he still likes that song now that he’s in seventh grade.

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