Charles Badger Clark, Jr., was born in Iowa in 1883, and as an infant his family moved to South Dakota, where his father served in various capacities with the Methodist church. Clark Jr. graduated from Deadwood High School in 1902 and, after some wandering, contracted tuberculosis and moved to Tombstone, Ariz., for the dry climate. It was there that he saturated himself in the cowboy lifestyle and began his poetry career. Later, he moved back to South Dakota’s Black Hills and lived in a cabin simply called “The Badger Hole.” It became his studio and today sits within the Custer State Park and is open to visits. 

His most famous poem, perhaps, is A Cowboy’s Prayer, which he sent to his mother from Tombstone, and she in turn sent to Pacific Monthly, which published the poem in 1906. 

The theological influence of his father is evident. The acrostic A.C.T.S.—standing for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication—was invented to help the faithful organize their petitions to God.

Clark’s poem adheres to these guidelines when he praises the Lord for His creation, asks for forgiveness of misdeeds, thanks the Lord for his place on the Earth, and petitions him for strength and guidance. 

Sadly, the poem was stolen from him, reprinted on postcards and credited as Anonymous. To this day, the wrong is perpetuated.

Regardless, prayer is an essential tool for any person of faith, and Clark wrote one that even the most independent of characters—cowboys—can easily identify with.

This article is from the American Cowboy Code of the West Collector’s issue. Purchase your copy here.

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