|Yesterday Larry & I attended a concert at 'Badger Hole' in Custer State Park. Our friend Bonnie Exton came along as well, as we all wanted to hear Pegie Douglas and Rex Rideout celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Badger Clark's first book. Pegie leads the Badger Sett Band and has set several of Clark’s poems to music. She also created the show The Life and Times of Badger Clark. Rex Rideout has been studying Old West song and verse for more than thirty years. As the proprietor of Time Travel Music, he’s performed at countless historic sites and museums across the West playing fiddle, banjo, mandolin and other instruments. He also appeared as a fiddler in the film Cowboys and Aliens playing the fiddle.
Badger Hole, also known as Badger Clark Historical Site, was the home of Charles Badger Clark (1883–1957), South Dakota’s first poet laureate. He lived in Custer State Park for the final 30 years of his life. The cabin he built and lived in near Legion Lake is known as the Badger Hole. It was there that he wrote poetry and letters and read from his impressive personal library. He lived there until he died at age 74.
Clark lived what we now call a simple life in the cabin, without lights and running water. When he took ill shortly before his death, he was taken from the cabin for the last time. Today, the Badger Hole has been preserved as it was when Clark died. The Badger Clark Memorial Society formed in 1984 to make sure the cabin and Clark’s memory endure.
The stories of Clark’s life of independence are the stuff of cowboy poetry legend. His most well-known poem is “A Cowboy’s Prayer,” and his love of the West — the Black Hills in particular — is apparent in most of his writings. Dylan adapted Clark’s poem “Spanish is the Loving Tongue” and included it on his 1973 album “Dylan.” South Dakota's legendary cowboy poet published his first collection, Sun and Saddle Leather, 100 years ago in 1915. It includes some of his best-known poems including "Ridin'," "The Glory Trail," and "A Roundup Lullaby."
Badger Hole is open to the public from Memorial Day through Labor Day 10am-5pm. When you arrive a Custer State Park interpretive guide greets you with tales and facts about Clark’s life, poetry and cabin. You’ll hear about which president stopped by to meet Clark, the woman’s heart he broke and the deer he fed pancakes to through his open window.
It’s not your usual state park kind of stop, but it truly leaves an impression. It’s hard to imagine Clark building the cabin — two bedrooms, living room and kitchen — on his own during the time period that he did. And it’s easy to imagine him writing poem after poem, undisturbed in the heart of the Black Hills.
After touring the cabin, there is a one-mile Badger Clark Historic Trail, which gives you an even better sense of the poet’s lifestyle, both through interpretive signs and by taking you out into the woods Clark walked for so many years. So if you make it to the Black Hills, spend an hour or two exploring this unique spot. You won't be sorry!