PIERRE, S.D. – The latest edition of cowboy poet Badger Clark’s most popular volume has just been published by the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation.

“Sun and Saddle Leather” has been in continuous print since it was first published in 1915. The volume contains two of Clark’s most popular poems, “Ridin’” and “A Cowboy’s Prayer.”

Western photos from the South Dakota State Historical Society-Archives were used to illustrate the new edition of “Sun and Saddle Leather.” Financial support was provided by the South Dakota Arts Council and the Clarkson Family Foundation.

“Cowboys said of Clark’s poems that ‘his words rang true.’ Clark’s tales of the open range and the West still ring true, 100 years after they were first published,” said foundation president Catherine Forsch. “The new edition continues efforts to keep Clark’s works in print.”

The foundation is the nonprofit partner of the South Dakota State Historical Society and has headquarters with the society at the Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre. The foundation began overseeing the reprinting and distribution of work by Clark in 2015.

Clark was born on Jan. 1, 1883, in Albia, Iowa. He and his family moved to Dakota Territory when he was three months old. After being diagnosed with tuberculosis at age 23, Clark went to Arizona and was hired on a cattle ranch near Tombstone. Clark put his feelings of enjoying the open range and his fascination with cowboys into poems, many of which he sent to his stepmother. She sent a poem called “Ridin’” to Pacific Monthly magazine, which paid $10 to Clark when it was published. Clark began sending poems to Pacific Monthly and other magazines on a regular basis.

Clark’s stepmother is also said to have encouraged her stepson to write a poem reflecting the cowboy religion. The result was “A Cowboy’s Prayer.”

Clark returned to the Black Hills in 1910. “Sun and Saddle Leather,” Clark’s first volume of poetry, was published in 1915. It was followed by “Grass Grown Tales.” The two volumes were subsequently gathered into one book under the title “Sun and Saddle Leather.”

Clark was named South Dakota’s poet laureate in 1937, a title he held until his death 20 years later.

“Sun and Saddle Leather” and other works by Clark are available from the foundation by calling 605-773-6346 or at the website

Celebration of Cowboy Poet Badger Clark to Take Place in Custer State Park

August 16, 2017

PIERRE, S.D. – Cowboy poet Badger Clark will be celebrated in song and stories at special free events on September 2, 2017 in Custer State Park.

“This year marks three milestones in Clark’s life,” said Michael Lewis, president of the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation. “2017 is the 100th anniversary of the publication of his volume of poetry, ‘Grass Grown Trails.’ It’s the 80th anniversary of Clark’s being appointed South Dakota’s first poet laureate and the 60th anniversary of the cowboy poet’s death.”

The South Dakota Historical Society Foundation, the nonprofit fundraising partner of the South Dakota State Historical Society at the Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre, oversees the reprinting and distribution of Clark’s work as well as other materials about Clark.

Clark was born on Jan. 1, 1883, in Albia, Iowa, but moved with his family to a homestead south of Plankinton when he was three months old. Clark turned four years of being a cowboy in Arizona into a career as one of America’s most successful cowboy poets. His first volume of poetry, “Sun and Saddle Leather,” was published in 1915. “Grass Grown Trails” was Clark’s second volume of poetry and was later included in the reprinting of “Sun and Saddle Leather.” Gov. Leslie Jensen named Clark the first poet laureate of South Dakota in 1937, a title he held until his death 20 years later.

Performers and presenters on Sept. 2 are Pegie Douglas and the Badger Sett Band, Rex Rideout, Greg Scott and Kenn Pierson.

The Badger Sett Band formed in 2012 to present the life and music of Clark. Douglas, the leader, has set Clark’s poems to music and discusses Clark’s life.

Rideout is a historical musician and entertainer. He has been studying the song and verse of the Old West for more than 30 years. He was the cowboy fiddler in the movie “Cowboys and Aliens.”

Scott is the editor of “Cowboy Poetry: Classic Poems & Prose by Badger Clark.” Scott is a fourth-generation Arizonian and a retired history teacher. He spent decades studying Clark’s life in Arizona Territory and beyond. As a scholar for the Arizona Humanities Council, his most popular program was about Clark. He presented programs about Clark in Arizona, other states and at the annual cowboy poetry and music gathering in Elko, Nev.

Pierson adapted the stage play “Mountain Thunder: A Ballad of Badger Clark” from the letters and poems of Clark while attending Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell as an undergraduate. Later, he was involved in completing the filming of South Dakota Public Broadcasting’s version of “Mountain Thunder” on site at The Badger Hole, Clark’s home near Legion Lake, following the death of his theater professor and friend Darryl F. Patten, who portrayed Clark on stage and screen. Pierson lives with his family in Los Angeles, where he teaches English and American literature at Rio Hondo College.

On Sept. 2, all the presenters will take turns sharing stories about Clark or playing music beginning at 10 a.m. MDT at The Badger Hole.

At 3:30 p.m. MDT, there will be a viewing of “Mountain Thunder: A Ballad of Badger Clark” at the Peter Norbeck Outdoor Education Center. Pierson will discuss the movie.

The special events will conclude at 7 p.m. MDT with a program at the Tatanka Theatre at the Game Lodge Campground that will be mostly music. The Badger Sett band will be performing some of Clark’s poems set to music from “Grass Grown Trails” along with the other presenters sharing stories about Clark.

About the South Dakota State Historical Society

The South Dakota State Historical Society is a division of the Department of Education. The State Historical Society, an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is headquartered at the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre. The center houses the society’s world-class museum, the archives, and the historic preservation, publishing and administrative/development offices. Call 605-773-3458 or for more information. The society also has an archaeology office in Rapid City; call 605-394-1936 for more information.

About the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation

The South Dakota Historical Society Foundation is a private charitable nonprofit that seeks funding to assist the South Dakota State Historical Society in programming and projects to preserve South Dakota’s history and heritage for future generations.

Finish This Poem


Langwater 2009 – Herb Ryan


By Herb Ryan

Having survived 75 years on the spaceship earth
I wonder what the next minute will bring
Or even if I will get the next minutes worth
That will shatter me or let my heart sing

The small pleasures are easy gifts to receive
To escape the weight of the shallow light
That now cause me to grieve
And accept the beginning of the long night

By Hank Fridell

Is leaving a lonely, empty journey
Or a transition to a place I know, a return
We may never know, it is what it is, there’s no need for worry
Each moment teaches what I need to learn

By Meg Schwartz

Do you think that the night signals the end?
But what if the darkness is hiding the light?
Bodies will die, but souls can mend.
A new reality is already in sight!

Eight South Dakota High School Students To Compete In “Poetry Out Loud” Recitation Contest

February 22, 2017

PIERRE, S.D. – EighSD-Arts-Logo71216t South Dakota high school students from across the state will share their talents and the work of great poets while competing for the state title at the Poetry Out Loud recitation contest Monday, March 13, in Sioux Falls.

Poetry Out Loud, a national arts education program, starts in the classroom and encourages the study of poetry by offering educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition to high schools across the country.  South Dakota’s program is administered by the South Dakota Arts Council with help from Arts South Dakota and South Dakota Public Broadcasting.

The state finalists were selected from a preliminary, video round. The finalists selected include: Jennifer Sundermeyer, Flandreau High School; Marie McLaughlin, Greater Sioux Falls Homeschool Association; Shaina Determan, Hanson High School; Elizabeth Ocegueda, Harrisburg High School; Gabriel Pulliam-Sanchez, Little Wound High School; Maddie Lukomski, Sioux Falls Lincoln High School; Jane Walsh, Sioux Falls Washington High School; and Mikayla Kludt, Watertown High School.

Three students will also share their original poetry as part of a separate competition held in conjunction with Poetry Out Loud. Rosie Little Whiteman, Little Wound High School; Libby Murphy, Sioux Falls Lincoln, and Ethan Tasa, Sisseton High School, are being recognized for their poetry.

The contest will begin at 1 p.m., CDT, March 13, in the auditorium at Edison Middle School, 2101 S. West Ave., Sioux Falls. It is free to attend and open to the public. A live-stream of the event can be viewed at and at

Poetry Out Loud was created in partnership by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation with the collaboration of state arts agencies. It is intended to foster the next generation of literary readers by building on the resurgence of poetry as an oral art form. Through Poetry Out Loud, students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence and learn about their literary heritage.

The South Dakota Arts Council, an office of the South Dakota Department of Tourism, is a state agency serving South Dakotans and their communities through the arts with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and the State of South Dakota.

The South Dakota Department of Tourism is comprised of the Office of Tourism and the South Dakota Arts Council. The department is led by Secretary James D. Hagen.