Skip to main content
Updated date:

E. A. Brininstool's "Christmas Week in Sagebrush"

While cowboy poetry is a genuinely American genre, cowboys worldwide share the same traditions & values of living close to nature & to God.

E. A. Brininstool

E. A. Brininstool

Introduction and Excerpt from "Christmas Week in Sagebrush"

Earl Alonzo Brininstool, (E.A.), was born in New York in 1870. He wrote and published many articles and books about the Indian Wars, including Fighting Indian Warriors, The Life and Death of Crazy Horse," and Fighting Red Cloud's Warriors. Professionally, he passed most of his life in Los Angeles, California.

Brininstool’s poem, "Christmas Week in Sagebrush," appeared in his 1914 book, Trail Dust of a Maverick: Verses of Cowboy Life, the Cattle Range and Desert. He died at his home in Hollywood, California, on July 28, 1957.

"Christmas Week in Sagebrush" plays out in five quatrains, and as many cowboy genre poems do, offers a delightful, rhythmic cadence in cowboy dialect, dramatizing the small town of Sagebrush as it fills with the cowboys and their families and friends during the week of Christmas.

The cowboy dialect gives the verse an Old West flavor. Its colorful images pop, as the speaker describes the events in perfectly riming couplets, with the traditional ballad rhythm pattern.

(Please note: The spelling, "rhyme," was introduced into English by Dr. Samuel Johnson through an etymological error. For my explanation for using only the original form, please see "Rime vs Rhyme: An Unfortunate Error.")

Excerpt from "Christmas Week in Sagebrush"

It is Christmas week in Sagebrush, and the old town's only store
Never had, sence it was opened, such a run o' trade before.
Ev'ry rancher is a-blowin' his "dinero" full and free,
Buyin' gim-cracks for the young'uns to put on the Christmas tree . . .

To read the entire poem, please visit "The Golden Spur Saloon," scroll down to "Christmas Week in Sagebrush."

Commentary

The cowboys and their ken do some shopping and also enjoy some entertainment during a week that includes the sacred holiday of Christmas.

First Stanza: The Town Store

The speaker sets the stage for the events as he first first focuses on the old town's only store. The establishment is doing a booming business this week, so big that its never seen so much buying and selling since it first opened.

All the ranchers and cowboys in the vicinity have come into town to spend their "dinero." And they will not return home until they have spent every cent. They won't forget their children on this shopping extravaganza as they are purchasing toys and trinkets—some of which are suitable for decorating the Christmas tree.

Second Stanza: Riding to Town

The speaker describes the cowboys as they ride into town; they are muffled in their wolf-skin coats and chaps. And their wives are all bundled up in "extry furs and wraps" because they don't want to get caught in a storm that might come whipping up as they make their journey into town.

Getting caught in a norther would be a devilish experience, "fer a blizzard on the prairys purty apt to raise the deuce." But traveling all wrapped up in their wintry best should protect them.

Third Stanza: As Horses Wait

As the cowboys, families, and friends do their gallivanting through town, the horses stand lined up "at the rack," and they are shivering, wishing to be on the move again: "they Champ their bits, and paw and nicker for their riders to come back."

And not only is the little general store busy, but the entertainment establishments are also full of activity. The poker joints are filled with revelers playing cards, as well as faro and roulette while the bars and saloons are welcoming as many customers as they handle, likely enjoy the booming business.

Fourth Stanza: At the Theatre

The movie theatre is full of viewers who are enjoying seeing cowboy actors perform their "stunts"—some of which strike the real cowboys as odd. The cowboy’s critical eye can detect the various deviations from reality, as they whoop it up and yell at the screen. They think some of the maneuvers are "monkey bizness" because they are seeing stunts that the real cowboys do not experience.

Fifth Stanza: Something for Everybody

Adult entertainment is also in evidence as the dance halls emit the echoes of a "squeaky violin" music and women with lots of make-up attract the happy cowboys, who are full of energy and eager to spend their money.

The town of Sagebrush during Christmas week seems to offer something for everybody, and no cow puncher will get back on his horse "to ride the wintry ranges" until he has spent every red cent.

More Cowboy Poetry by E. A. Brininstool | Poetry Corner

© 2021 Linda Sue Grimes

Related Articles