Monday, November 30, 2009

A Black Hills bard

by Jerry L. Bryant

With historical societies just about everywhere you look, aimed at preserving the memory of just about every cause you can imagine, from stage coach robberies to memorable outhouses, I was in amazed the other day when I called the Whitewood Library, and they did not know the name Robert V. Carr. The person I spoke with had no idea of what I was even talking about! So, on a quest, I stood on a street corner in Whitewood to ask passersby if they had ever heard of Carr. The best answer I got was from a little boy who told me for sure that Carr was “that mean old guy that lived over behind the “Hole in the Wall” saloon.

After standing there for a while, I got the feeling that it might be a long time before anyone came by that had ever read anything by Robert V. Carr.

So, here are a few of the known facts about the man: Carr was born in Illinois in 1877. In 1890 his parents, brought him to Rapid City where he attended public schools and after graduation he attended the South Dakota School of Mines. Carr joined the South Dakota Infantry and served in the Philippines. While in the Philippines he contracted a disease, probably malaria, which hastened his discharge from the service. After returning to home Carr held various editorial jobs with the Denver Times, St. Paul Dispatch and the Chicago Evening Post. For a time Carr lived in Whitewood, SD, working as the Editor of the Whitewood Plaindealer. In addition to the Plaindealer Carr published a periodical called "The Jawbone." The small periodical was published in Whitewood, Sd. and combined Carr’s talents in poetry, prose and philosophy.

I first came in contact with "The Jawbone" while searching national newspapers of 1904 to find out what Carr had been up to; I began running into Carr’s poetry,
and quotes from The Jawbone in newspapers from all over the lower 48 states. In other words, he enjoyed a national audience. In the last several years I have encountered three copies of different issues of the Jawbone that I was fortunate enough to be able to purchase. The Jawbone’s following put Carr’s name in front of the American public which led Carr to produce a nationally syndicated column called "Character Cameo’s: Do you know anyone like this?" I first ran into this column in the Atlanta Constitution of 1913. In addition to his writing and editorial successes, Carr was considered a range rider and a livestock expert, editing a livestock journal in Sioux City, Iowa for a time.

Carr’s first book was published in 1902 and called Black Hills Ballads. In the Washington Post review of this book he was compared to Bret Hart. His second book was published in 1908 and was called Cowboy Lyrics, and his third and final book, Cowboy Lyrics, Round Up Edition. By the tine his third book came into print Carr and his wife, Estela had moved to the desert near Los Angles For his health. He then began writing Cowboy fiction for Western periodicals, such as True West, and Frontier. By the draft of 1918 Carr listed his full time employment as “magazine writer.” This proved to be his forte and he continued to produce cowboy stories until his death in January of 1931.

Editor's Note: The following is a brief example of Carr’s work: