Cowboy poet Badger Clark will be celebrated in song and stories Sept. 2 at Custer State Park.
“This year marks three milestones in Clark’s life,” said Michael Lewis, president of the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation.
One hundred years ago, Clark’s volume of poetry ‘Grass Grown Trails’ was first published. It is also the 80th anniversary of Clark’s appointment as South Dakota’s first poet laureate, and the 60th anniversary of his death.
The Sept. 2 celebration will include performances and presentations by Pegie Douglas and the Badger Sett Band, Rex Rideout, Greg Scott and Kenn Pierson.
There will be music and stories of Clark’s life, along with the showing of Pierson’s film “Mountain Thunder: A Ballad of Badger Clark.”
All events are free, however a park entrance license is required.
Badger Clark was born Jan. 1, 1883 in Albia, Iowa. When he was just three months old, Clark’s Methodist minister father moved the family to a homestead south of Plankinton to recover from Civil War injuries.
Clark attended Dakota Wesleyan University before his restlessness took him to Cuba and Arizona, where he spent four years as a cowboy. After returning to South Dakota, Clark built a cabin in custer State Park known as Badger Hole, and became a cowboy poet.
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 Clark held until his death 20 years later.
In 2012, the Badger Sett Band was formed to keep the legacy of Badger Clark and his poems alive. Douglas, the leader, has set Clark’s poems to music and discusses Clark’s life.
Rideout is a historical musician and entertainer. He has studied 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.” A fourth generation Arizonian and retired history teacher, Scott has spent decades studying Clark’s life in Arizona territory and beyond. As a scholar of the Arizona Humanities Council, his most popular program was about Clark. He has presented programs about Clark around the country 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. Later, he was involved in 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, Calif., where he teaches English and American literature at Rio Hondo College.
A Celebration of Cowboy Poet Badger Clark is sponsored by the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation.