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Historically Speaking: A cowboy’s New Year, part 2

Photo Courtesy of the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico Archives — Kent Taylor photo This photo is part of the collection from the Taylor and Chandler families in New Mexico at the turn of the 20th century.

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

By Janice Dunnahoo

Special to the Daily Record

The story continues about a cowboy’s New Year’s dance, by N. Howard “Jack” Thorp, which was published in a book called “Songs of the Cowboys” in 1908. This dance took place in Roswell. In the first part last Sunday, Jan Dunnahoo shared the poem. In the second part, Dunnahoo shares some history about the poem, written by the late Elvis Fleming, in a Roswell Daily Record column dated Monday, Dec. 14, 1987 and some more information about N. Howard “Jack” Thorp, through Dunnahoo’s own research.

Following is what Fleming wrote about the poem and the poet in his Dec.14, 1987 article:

“The Cowboys New Years Dance” is a cowboy song which parodies the famous “Cowboys Christmas Ball.” Instead of Anson, in Jones County, Texas, the New Year’s song is set in “Roswell City, old Chaves County seat.”

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“This song was brought to the attention of the Chaves County Historical Society last March when Ann Buffington, and some other fine folks from Lincoln, presented a program in Roswell on ‘Cowboy Songs of Southern New Mexico.’ A tape of that program is in the Chaves County Historical Archives.

“‘The Cowboys New Year’s Dance’ was published in ‘Songs of the Cowboys,’ a little book of 23 songs published by N. Jack Thorp at Estancia in 1908. The words are credited to Mark Chisholm, but Thorp later indicated that he wrote the song himself. The book also contain the words to Thorp’s most famous song, ‘Little Joe the Wrangler.’

“Jack Thorp was a cowboy in Southeastern New Mexico. In 1889-90, he took a 1,500 mile trip to collect songs from other cowboys. He wrote some himself and later published two books of cowboy songs.

“… The reference to Abe Mulkey is about the famous evangelist who preached a revival at the First Methodist Church in Roswell in 1895, resulting in the purchase of that church’s noted ‘Cowboy Bell.’

“Charles Perry in verse six, was the sheriff of Chaves County in 1894-1896. He caught Bill Cook, a notorious outlaw, but Perry himself absconded with over $7,000 in county tax funds.

“The reference to Atkinson in verse 10 is W. M. Atkinson, early settler, cattleman, and local office holder. …”

“Elvis Fleming”

Following are just some of many articles of what I found in my research of N. Howard Thorp:

Las Vegas Daily Optic

Jan. 20, 1903

“N. Howard Thorp, merchant and stock owner at Duran on the El Paso and Rock Island Railroad in Valencia County, is an old acquaintance and friend of President Roosevelt. He belonged to the same polo club in New York City, and is a great admirer of the president.”

Santa Fe New Mexican

Aug. 28, 1903

“Howard Thorpe will have 25 horses for fiesta

“Howard Thorpe said today that he expected to have 25 horses for the Santa Fe fiesta. Mr. Thorpe has a dozen horses now on his ranch near the city. It is thought that there will be a big demand for horses for the fiesta parades. Many visitors expected here during the fiesta are also keen about horseback riding on the neighboring mountain trails.”

Santa Fe New Mexican

Jan. 26, 1923

“Thorp has sketch in the Country Gentleman

“In a recent number of the ‘Country Gentleman,’ published in London, N. Howard Thorp has an interesting sketch of old time life in ‘Old Man Rivers Gets Religion.’ The scene is laid in the cow country of New Mexico, and is a true bit from life. Mr. Thorp should do more of these sketches, for he knows the life of which he writes, and better yet, he knows the language ‘as she is spoke.’

“So few writers of the old west know the lingo, consequently, they fall short of giving the true picture of the old days. Jack has a book ready for publication, which is written around his old cowpuncher days.”

Clovis New Mexico, Evening News Journal

Monday, June 1, 1936

“Capt. Jack Crawford

“Lovers of Western poetry are familiar with the poems of Captain Jack Crawford, the poet scout. Many will recall his ‘Rattlin’ Joe’s Prayer,’  ‘The Burial of Wild Bill,’ ‘Only a Miner Killed.’ He wrote hundreds of great poems on life in the early days, a great number of which have a mournful, heart throbbing rhythm. One of his accomplishments was his ability to compose rapidly and on any subject.

“He succeeded Buffalo Bill, when the latter resigned, as chief of scouts under General Crook and Merritt.

“Like Buffalo Bill he also tried his hand at theatricals. He and his company appeared in Las Vegas, New Mexico, in May, 1880, in a play titled: ‘Crossing the Plains; or California Through Death Valley.’ The poet-scout also entertained with an exhibition of rifle and pistol shooting, which was advertised as ‘quicker than chain lightning.’

“His career as an actor was short-lived, however, for his theatrical venture was a failure. A month after his appearance in Las Vegas his troupe was busted, bankrupt, with its baggage held by the Grand Central Hotel of Santa Fe for a board bill. Friends came to his aid and his company disbanded and went their various ways. Captain Crawford then offered his services as a scout to General Hatch, who was then waging a campaign against the Apache warrior Victorio in southern New Mexico.”

Clovis New Mexico,

Evening News Journal

Monday, June 1, 1936

What’s Become of the Punchers?

By N. Howard Thorp

What’s become of the Punchers

We rode with long ago?

The hundreds and hundreds of cowboys

We all of us used to know?

Sure some were killed by lightning,

Some when the cattle run,

Others were killed by horses,

And some with the old six gun.

We know of some who have prospered,

We hear of some who are broke,

My old pardner made millions in Tampa,

While I’ve got my saddle in soak!

I’m tired of riding this trail boys,

Dead tired of riding along

Believe I’ll head old Buttons for Texas,

Towards my old Palo Pinto home!

Janice Dunnahoo is chief archivist at the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico Archives. She can be reached at 575-622-1176 or at jdunna@hotmail.com.


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