In December 1873 the Smith County Pioneer published a poem by Brewster Higley. His friend Daniel Kelly wrote a melody to go with it. Luckily, Daniel didn’t need to change many words to make the poem and the music fit together. The song, mixing as it did, melodramatic and patriotic images was an ideal fit for the time and the place – the recently settled state of Kansas and the brutal and basic lives of the early farmers.
Brewster wasn’t the sort of person who, today, we would associate with this overly sentimental type of song. He was married five times. His first two wives died from some disease or other – there must have been plenty to choose from in those days. The third took their child and went back to her previous husband. His fourth was such a harridan that he ran away from her, taking refuge in Smith County, Kansas. Here he met and married his fifth wife – the one who, at last, gave him a reason to write poetry.
So, on behalf of those who, even under unimaginably harsh conditions, hold on to the belief that all’s well that ends well – lets have one more chorus. All together now. ‘Home, home on the range . . .’