December 03, 2016

“Out Where the West Begins”

On an early December night in 1911, journalist Arthur Chapman was trying to come up with a topic for his regular column in the Denver Republican newspaper, called “Center Shots.”

As he was thinking, he saw an Associated Press dispatch about an ongoing disagreement between the Governors of several Western states.

They were arguing over which state should be considered the state where “the West” begins.

The AP story gave Chapman a flash of inspiration. He sometimes wrote cowboy-style poems for his column and, in a matter of minutes, he wrote one on the topic the Governors were debating.

He titled it “Out Where the West Begins.”

On December 3, 1911 the poem was published for the first time in Chapman’s column in the Denver Republican. It was soon reprinted in other newspapers across the country.

Over the next five years, “Out Where the West Begins” became one of best known bits of verse in America.

In 1917, musician Estelle Philleo wrote music for the poem and turned it into a popular song.

That same year, it was published in a book collecting Chapman’s poetry, Out Where the West Begins and Other Western Verses.

“Out Where the West Begins” made Chapman famous and is still renowned as one of the greatest examples of cowboy poetry.

Here’s how he answered the question of where “the West” begins in his poem:

       “Out where the handclasp’s a little stronger,
       Out where the smile dwells a little longer,
             That’s where the West begins;
       Out where the sun is a little brighter,
       Where the snows that fall are a trifle whiter;
       Where the bonds of home are a wee bit tighter;
             That’s where the West begins.
       Out where the skies are a trifle bluer,
       Out where the friendship’s a little truer,
             That’s where the West begins
       Out where a fresher breeze is blowing, 
       Where there’s laughter in every streamlet flowing,
       Where there’s more of reaping and less of sowing,
             That’s where the West begins.
       Out where the world is in the making,
       Where fewer hearts with despair are aching;
             That’s where the West begins;
       Where there’s more of singing and less of sighing,
       Where there’s more of giving and less of buying,
       And where a man makes friends without half trying,
             That’s where the West begins.”

If you’d like to know other answers to question of where the West begins – and where the East peters out – see the post on my site at this link.

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